Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.
–Philippians 4:8 NET
I have been a Trekker for as long as I can remember. (Interestingly, I was born within a few days of the first episode of Star Trek being shown on CBS back in 1966.) Star Trek greatly influenced me and my perspective, especially when it came to science fiction. The idea of a utopian future on a cool starship with lots of cool gadgets was…fascinating! My model of leadership was Captain Kirk who always seemed to intuitively know what to do (including when to violate the Prime Directive). And who wouldn’t want to be beamed quickly from place to place!
I later came to learn that Captain Kirk, and the whole worldview of Star Trek, while fun, was not necessarily what I wanted to emulate. If you are what you dwell on (which the Bible makes clear is true—read Romans 12:1-2), then I needed a better model to follow!
Any effort to “keep it…good” is measured by what we define as good. In the Christian world, Philippians 4:8 is often used as that better model. Paul’s list in 4:8 provides us a clear list of what is good—of what we should make it a practice to think about. Yet my tendency was to make it an almost legalistic list that I had to check off, one that I often failed to live up to. While a better guide than, say, Star Trek, the way I used the list fell short of the freedom we have through the Gospel.
Then, last year, I heard a sermon that revolutionized how I looked at this text. It grounded this list in the good news of the Gospel while still challenging me in what I dwelled upon. In summary, here is what Pastor Brandon Levering said: If we want to dwell on what is good and true and beautiful, we must listen to scripture and look to Jesus to let the Gospel—the good news of who God is and what He has done in Christ—shape our perspective.
I still sometimes watch Star Trek in its many forms, but now it is through the filter of Philippians 4:8. I no longer dwell on (okay, obsess over) it like I once did. Instead, as with everything I read and watch and enjoy, I focus on what is true, pure, lovely, etc., and look for how it compares to the good news that I am a sinner who, through no goodness of my own, was rescued by my Savior. Keeping it…good is not about avoiding anything imperfect in our culture, but rather choosing wisely what consumes most of my time and thought life.
ACTION: What are you dwelling on? How intentional are you making time to listen to scripture and look to your Savior? What change should you make this week?
If you have time, listen to Pastor Brandon’s full sermon, A Gospel Shaped Perspective, on Philippians 4:8-9. You will be challenged and encouraged!