What Occupies Our Thoughts?

Philippians 4

"My head, " said one of the most famous men in English literature, "is like a tavern in which a company of low punch-drinkers have taken up the room that might have been filled with lords drinking burgundy." It was an arresting saying and many of us may have to confess that our heads are not unlike that. Having the flesh within us and the world around us it is easy for us to become carnal and worldly in our thoughts, and our characters and ways cannot be better than our thoughts, for the Scripture says of man, "As he thinketh in his heart so is he" (Prov. 23:7). If it is so with us, what a dishonour it is to God who has made us His children, and what a loss of present joy and blessing it is to us. The importance of our thinking cannot be exaggerated, everything indeed, whether of joy to ourselves, testimony to others, or glory to God, depends upon it. The Epistle to the Philippians was one of the last written by the Apostle Paul, probably the very last written to a church. It is a beautiful epistle, full of Christ, and of the wonderful effect that the knowledge of Him has in the lives of men upon earth. Paul wrote this farewell letter to that church that he loved so well that they might understand all this better, and we know that he was moved and inspired by the Holy Ghost to do this. He closes the Epistle with a series of exhortations, and the last of these is certainly not the least important. It comes down to us with all its force, and only as we heed it can we be kept from slipping away from our steadfastness and joy in the Lord.

"Finally, brethren, " he says, "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." We feel as we read this list of exalted things that our heads will not be like a tavern of low punch-drinkers if they fill our thoughts, but where are they to be found? We must have guidance if we are to get on the track of them. And Paul does not leave us to our own imaginations as to what they are, but continues, "Those things, which ye have both learned and received, and heard, and seen in me, do." In a former chapter he had written, "For me to live is Christ." So that these things that controlled Paul's mind and came out in his speech and deeds when he was at Philippi, whether by the river-side, in the house of Lydia, in the inner dungeon, the jailer's house or in the assembly, are all enfolded and disclosed in Christ.

But the heart lies at the back of the mind and that which we love most occupies our thoughts most. The low punch-drinkers love their punch, the sensual man thinks sensually because he loves sensuality, and the man who loves the Lord Jesus thinks of Him, and consequently, speaks of Him and he becomes like Him in his ways. It was so with Paul, and we are to be like him. I need not say that we love and rejoice in the Lord as we realize His love to us. But this exhortation as to thinking is necessary or it would not be given. We shall have to set our minds with purpose to it, and fill them up with Christ, or the "low punch-drinkers" will fill them, for none of our minds can be a vacuum.

There is a present result of this right thinking. So Paul writes further, "THE GOD OF PEACE SHALL BE WITH YOU." Not only shall we be able to hold converse with the very aristocracy of God's kingdom of peace, but the God of peace Himself will he with us. This is truly wonderful. We know of course that God ever found His delight in His beloved Son. He said so twice in the hearing of men when the Lord Jesus was on earth, but this word declares that He finds His delight in those who delight in Him also; if our minds are filled with the beauties and glories of Christ God will give us His company. It will be His joy to do so. We know that when we may choose our company, we go to those whom we love and in whom we can find our pleasure and with whom we have things in common. It is so with God Himself. He delights in the company of those who delight in Christ; and what a dignity this puts upon them, they are truly peers in His kingdom of peace and can drink with Him and one another the wine of His joy in Christ, for Christ is the "wine which cheereth God and man" (Jud. 9:13).

There will be no peace in that tavern that is filled with low punch-drinkers, and there will be no peace in the hearts and minds of those who are earthly, worldly, sensual; but if we have Christ as our portion and are rejoicing in Him, the Lord, alway, their will there be peace indeed within us and holy communion with the God of peace. And this will be to us a foretaste of heaven, and we shall be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, " among whom we shall "shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life" (chap. 2:15-16).