Paul expresses his joy and pride in his Philippian friends and encourages them again to be steadfast in their Christian life. Particularly, he encourages them to resist influences that would undermine their Christian stability. A 'gentle attitude' (v 5) is a key outworking of a Christ-like character, and God's proximity, provision and peace are assured.
Paul's concern in writing to the Philippian church was that they should be free of anxiety about the future because they were praying about their needs, and allowing the unimaginable peace of God to guard their hearts and their thoughts (vs 6,7).
In thought and action alike the readers are urged to concentrate on those things which are both good in themselves and beneficial to everyone (vs 8?9).
Today we conclude our sermon series on 'creativity' by looking at the way creativity is used in society, and especially at art, music, television, radio and so on.
Place a large portable radio in front of the congregation (make sure that it isn't tuned in to any radio station!). Comment that you enjoy listening to the radio. There are so many interesting programmes.
Show surprise that you can't hear one now. Shake the radio, and hold it to your ear Ask for suggestions as to why it isn't working. (Hopefully someone will say that
it isn't turned on!)
Now turn the radio on. As it isn't tuned in, it should make a hissing noise. Again, show surprise, shake the radio, and ask for help. When the suggestion to tune it in is given, do so. Talk over the programme so that you can't actually hear what's being said. After a few moments, make a comment such as, 'Bother, I haven't been 'listening!' Turn the radio off.
God made us and loves us. He is always there but he never forces himself on us. We need to turn on to God. When we do, it's great ? a real occasion for rejoicing (v 4).
Sometimes we have the radio on almost as background noise and may be unaware of what is being said or played. God is always there for us in the background, but there should be times that we set aside to concentrate on what he has to say to us..
Illustrate Hill Top, silent with arms folded.
But even if we're turned on to hear God, we still find that all sorts of other things try to influence us. Television, magazines, people ? they all try to tell us that they know the right way to live. Tune into good things, says Paul (v 8). Fill your mind with them. Then, when you have to make a decision, or you're not sure what to do, you'll be tuned in to God's way, not the world's way. How do we know what's good? Tune in to the Bible and check it out there! Ask 'What would Jesus do ?'
Philippians 4:8 can be used as a checklist to help us see beyond the surface of entertainment and find out whether it has godly values at heart. It can distinguish between what is true and noble but ugly (the sincere film that can only deal with the reality of human suffering by using stark images), and what is sweet and comfortable but dangerous (the music album that is technically praiseworthy but which promotes materialistic or godless values).
Why does Paul give the checklist? To guard our hearts and minds v (7), for entertainment can heighten sensibilities in a way that leaves our emotions and faith open to attack.
Years ago young Christians were warned against going to the cinema, the theatre or dance halls for fear that they would become corrupted. But film, drama and dance can be used for good. We saw that when we recently watched the 'Jesus' film in the church hall.
Dance is a tool of self-expression and communication and it can be true, noble and pure just as it can be provocative and demeaning. The distinctions between the two relate to the people involved, both the dancer and the spectator.
Our creativity is not something to fear, but something to present to God to use in his service. We saw this in the first week of this series when we looked at the building of the temple when Solomon was King.
We may make mistakes occasionally, but that is part of the risk inherent in any service offered to God. Which is worse - to make a mistake in our God-given task of using our creative gifts to praise him and to help others, or to make the mistake of never using the gifts that he has given us for fear of failing or getting something wrong?
Imagine the lame man in the temple (Acts 3:1-10) suddenly able, after years of
immobility, to walk, leap and dance, sitting back down in the place where he had been begging and saying, 'I'd better not move much, in case I trip and fall down or embarrass someone with my flamboyant way of moving.' It would have been ungrateful and stupid of him to react in this way.
And yet, day after day, Christians think, 'I'd like to use the gifts I have, but I don't want to put myself forward and anyway, it might turn out wrongly if I tried.'
Today some people fear that the internet will corrupt youngsters. But there are ways of preventing them having access to unsuitable sites, and a computer is just a tool and can be used for good or evil. As Christians we have to tune in in a sensible and godly way.
Paul picks out six attributes in verse 8 which are good and deserve praise. Some of these words overlap in their meaning and, therefore, together form a complete package that we should be aspiring to as Christians.
This is a warning against indulgence in fantasy. Some people find it difficult to discern the difference between truth and the way life is depicted on television or in films. For example, in films where the good guys use violence to achieve their aims by killing and maiming others. The philosophy behind this is that you can use any means you wish to achieve what you believe to be right. This is evil. It is the way of the terrorist. It is not the way of Jesus. He defeated evil and death by voluntarily suffering on the cross, not by inflicting suffering on others.
We should also ensure that we speak the truth. This means that we should not get involved in gossip. Perhaps we may have to question someone who is telling us something and ask them how they know this thing is true.
Of course, there are also some things which are factually true but are none of our business ! This type of intrusion takes place in the tabloid newspapers, and many people think this gives them the right to intrude into other people's business. So, whilst we may hear something that we are sure is true, it may be unhelpful to tell others about it, so we are called not to pass this on. So we ask ourselves, 'Is it true ?' and 'Is it helpful ?'
We also need to appreciate that things that are true have a moral uprightness and dependability that are real, not just an appearance. This means that, as Christians we should not tell someone part of the truth knowing that this will mislead them.
We might hear the word 'noble' and think of an upper class person who appears superior and knows which knife and fork to pick up at the right time.
Noble is a quality that makes someone worthy of respect. In 1 Timothy 3 it refers to the qualities that Church Leaders should exhibit. 3: 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
Being noble is about attitude. Not a superior attitude but one devoted to God's ways that causes people to respect that person and to bring praise and glory to God. Of course, not everyone will praise God whatever they see. If we look at the life of Jesus we see how his noble life and actions led to opposition, lies, and hatred.
Right, or righteous
This refers to what is right in God's eyes. God is righteous and loves righteousness in his people. We have just read in the letter to Timothy of the righteous life that church leaders should follow. This should apply to every Christian. It is not something that anyone can do in their own strength. It can only be achieved through the gracious work of God's Holy Spirit. Even then, none of us will be perfect this side of glory, but we should still pursue God's ways in our lives. The Bible says that without holiness no-one can please God.
The Greek word used here has the general sense of moral purity, innocence and self-control. We think of the purity of a child and remember that Jesus said that we have to become like little children to enter the kingdom of God.
Purity of thought and purpose is a foundation that leads to purity in word and action. Even when we are assailed by impure thoughts we still have the power to reject them through God's strength and guidance.
This is talking about things that are pleasing which show themselves by their intrinsic beauty, giving pleasure to all and distaste to none.
James 1: 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
As Christians we can look at something of beauty and rejoice in the gift of God that made it possible. This can apply to a beautiful work of art, or to a beautiful sunset or view of the countryside. The way of the world is to see a beautiful item and say, 'I want to possess that.' The way of Christ is to wonder and rejoice at the beauty that he gives and allows us to appreciate.
Something that deservedly enjoys a good reputation. It is praiseworthy, attractive, of the highest standards. This does not mean that Christians should be trying to live lives a certain way because we want to receive people's praise. We should be trying to live God's way so that this pleases him, and so that this brings praise to him, when people see the radical change that his Spirit brings about.
These virtues are not all specifically Christian, but in a Christian context such as this they take on distinctive meaning associated with the mind of Christ.
Turn on, Tune in and ...
Albert Schweitzer, was a musician, theologian, missionary, and winner of the Nobel Peace prize. He was at a railway station surrounded by reporters who were there to report of his arrival. He saw a woman walking towards a train struggling with a number of bags. He immediately went to help her. A number of the reporters imitated him and helped other passengers who were heavily laden with luggage.
Schweitzer shared that the inspiration for him to do this act was a time when he was having difficulty getting on a train with some luggage and an unknown, impoverished man who had nothing helped him.
Ripple effect, one poor man set example to Schweitzer, who set example to reporters.
We should turned on to God and tune in to God. We need to listen, and to watch, and to do. We can learn from the Bible. But Paul says don't forget other Christians too, (v 9). Watch their actions, listen to their words, imitate them. They can help us know what God requires of us when things get tough or muddled.
This reminds us that we have an obligation to live for God. Not only to Him. Not only to people who see us and are not followers of Jesus. But also to fellow Christians so they may see our lives and want to imitate us.
Turn on to God, tune in to good things, listen, observe and imitate other Christians. Then the God who gives us peace which transcends all understanding will be with us in all we do.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You came to earth as a human being.
help us to follow your way and example that we, too, may walk in obedience to God.
May our lives honour you and bring glory and praise to God our Father.