NLT Phil 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
KJV Phil 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I’m currently reading a forthcoming book by David Murray titled The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Christian in a Gloomy World. In the second chapter he takes the familiar scripture above, and turns it on his head by looking at the opposite of the things named in the verse…
…our educational, political, and business culture rewards negativity experts, those who can pick out a single negative in a sea of positives.
We ask our children, “What’s wrong with this picture?” We set class assignments, “Critique this passage,” or “Find the flaws in this article.” We mark mistakes with red ink but don’t waste blue ink on the correct answers. We scan our garden for weeds. We admire politicians and debaters who can punch holes in their opponents’ arguments. We promote lawyers who can detect a loophole from a hundred miles away. We love journalists exposés. We are drawn to watchdogs and discernment ministries. We honor theologians who can destroy a heretic with one devastating put down.” (p. 25)
It’s into that environment that Murray offers a response. To do justice to this would mean excerpting the entire chapter, but I want to share his outline in this chapter. The first section that he calls “Media Diet” simply looks at the opposite of each of the things named in Phil. 4:8. (Eugene Peterson is on the same track with the translation of this verse in The Message.) The second section, he calls “Ministry Diet” and follows the same pattern.
- True, Not False:”Whatever things are true”
- Noble, Not Base: “Whatever things are noble”
- Right, Not Wrong: “Whatever things are just”
- Purity, Not Filth: “Whatever things are pure”
- Beautiful, Not Ugly: “Whatever things are lovely”
- Praise, Not Complaint: “Whatever things are of good report”
- More Salvation Than Sin
- More Truth Than Falsehood
- More Wooing Than Warning
- More Victory Than Struggle
- More Celebration Than Lamentation
- More Life Than Death
- More Strengths Than Weaknesses
I hope that outline leaves you wanting to read the book, which releases February 24th in paperback from Thomas Nelson. (I’ll have a review later on!)
You can do a similar study by looking at I Cor 13, what we call the love chapter, and from each of the things listed, you can compose a picture of “love’s opposites.” If I were to combine these together and incorporate it into your character not to manifest each of these negative traits, I would certainly be a much better person… and so would you.