Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are true. “Truth is an attribute of God. As such the term speaks of His integrity, His trustworthiness, His faithfulness” (Holmes, 827). As the psalmist declares in Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” The Triune God is the true and living God, not a mere idol, not a figment of the imagination, not a pipe dream.
Because God is true, the world which He has created reflects His nature and, therefore, it has a distinct and definite nature. Our calling as human beings, is to understand the way God has made us and the world and to conform ourselves to this reality. We are to live truly not falsely – to live in accord with the way the universe really is. This implies, of course, that the world has a fixed nature, reflecting God’s own nature. This fixed reality characterizes empirical observations, intellectual and mathematical principles, and moral obligations. Boys are boys; girls are girls; animals are animals; gravity is real; 1+1 does in fact equal 2; multiplying the length times the width of a rectangle tells you its area; if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then it follows necessarily that Socrates is mortal; murder, adultery, and theft are grievous crimes; love suffers long and is kind.
All these statements are true, and Paul calls us to meditate deeply on these things. He summons us to rejoice in the regularity of the world that God has made. We are to rejoice in empirical truths, intellectual truths, and moral truths. And we are to rejoice in these truths wherever and by whomever they are discovered. All truth is God’s truth and we are called to meditate upon it; indeed, to rejoice in it.
However, when we are in rebellion against God, we don’t like to acknowledge the truth. Paul declares in Romans 1:25 that in rebelling against God, we “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” Having given ourselves over to this first-order lie, we find ourselves tempted to lie in other areas. We try to hide from the truth – for truth points us inevitably to the Truth Giver. As Jesus declares, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth come to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:20-21).
This is why our culture has increasingly embraced the folly of relativism – whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. There is no such thing as absolute truth – except, of course, for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. So we have begun calling evil good and good evil; justifying to ourselves our sexual licentiousness, our slaughter of the unborn, our greed, our loss of a moral compass. We have set ourselves up as the standard of truth. The result? We can no longer tell the difference between male and female; we have announced that men are able to wed one another; we have declared that a woman can be trapped in a male body; soon we shall claim that pigs fly.
But all this is folly, all this is falsehood, all this is lies and deceit and a sham. And Paul calls us to see it as such and to meditate instead on whatever things are true. So have you? Are you meditating deeply on what is true, are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind, or are you being conformed to this world by meditating on falsehood and filth? Reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are true, let us confess that we often embrace what is false. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.