Saturday, March 28, 2020

Finding the Peace of God - Philippians 4:8-9 - March 29, 2020

These are the Sermon Notes for March 29, 2020. Watch our livestream service every Sunday at 9:37 am on our facebook page or watch the livestream recordings any time.

Philippians 4:8-9 Finding the Peace of God

I have heard over and over in the last few weeks the expression, “We are living in unprecedented times.” Are we though? The world has been wrought with plagues and pandemics before, quarantines and social shut downs aren’t new. Trouble on every scale has plagued mankind since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s how we respond to the trouble that will make all the difference.
Last week we touched just briefly on the concept of the peace of God, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
This often seems like an ethereal concept, something that is way out there, maybe even beyond our reach. In times like these isn’t this the kind of peace we want? The world is upside down and it’s unsettling, even frightening, what we want most is the peace of God, isn’t it? We don’t want to feel fear, we don’t want to feel unsettled and upset, right? We want to be at peace. I’ll tell you right now, peace is possible in these troubling times, it’s not going to be the restoration of what we consider to be “normal” that is going to bring peace back to our troubled hearts.
The good news is that the peace of God is not the kind of peace that only mountaintop gurus can achieve, it is not some far flung ethereal concept that we can only get by sitting cross-legged and humming with candles and incense. It is, however, something we must train ourselves to achieve, to train ourselves to hone our focus so that we might experience the peace of God.
This morning we are going to continue in Philippians 4 with verses 8 and 9, so please turn there with me. We are going to examine just exactly how to train ourselves how to experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

Search the Scriptures: Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
We are given six “whatevers” and two categories that sum them up, let’s look at them each.
What does Paul mean:
Whatever is true? Not just what is factually correct but what is morally true, in harmony with the objective rule of morality in the Gospels, that which is of integrity and good conscience, what is honest and reliable.
Whatever is honorable? These are  things of worthy character, that which corresponds to the essence of what is true, excellence as opposed to profane, dignified and worthy of respect.
Whatever is just? These are things that are in accord with God’s Law, things that do not injure or defraud anyone, things that conform to God’s standards.
Whatever is pure? As opposed to impure, that which is chaste, without moral defect, that which is wholesome.
Whatever is lovely? whatever is valuable and dear to the heart of man, good works which merit commendation, that which promotes peace not conflict.
Whatever is commendable? that which is positive and constructive, words and deeds that are praised and esteemed.
Any excellence? is a summary of the first four “whatevers,” meaning any moral righteousness in disposition and action.
Anything worthy of praise? this sums up the last two “whatevers,” moral judgments and virtue that calls forth praise. The praise of men is not the goal, living in such a way as to deserve it is.  
Paul gave the Philippians a model to follow, a model marked by this mindset, what is promised to those who follow it? The presence of the God of peace.
It’s been said that peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God. This is a true statement and we can experience His presence with us if we train our minds to focus on the right things.

Consult the Scholars
Robert Hall —There are very different virtues. If we would be complete in our Christian profession, we must attend to all the virtues of it;—whatsoever things are true, honest, just, or lovely, as well as those sublimer things which more immediately respect God and Christ, and heaven and eternity. The beauty of the Christian character is not formed so much by the gigantic size of one virtue, as from the harmony and consistency of all. Never, then, let it appear which virtue has been most approved by you, but cultivate every virtue.
Warren Wiersbe – What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” (careful) in Philippians 4:6 means “to be pulled in different directions.” Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart! The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.” If you have ever really worried, you know how it does strangle a person! In fact, worry has definite physical consequences: headaches, neck pains, ulcers, even back pains. Worry affects our thinking, our digestion, and even our coordination.
From the spiritual point of view, worry is wrong thinking (the mind) and wrong feeling (the heart) about circumstances, people, and things. Worry is the greatest thief of joy. It is not enough for us, however, to tell ourselves to “quit worrying” because that will never capture the thief. Worry is an “inside job,” and it takes more than good intentions to get the victory. The antidote to worry is the secure mind: “And the peace of God … shall keep [garrison, guard like a soldier] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). When you have the secure mind, the peace of God guards you (Phil. 4:7) and the God of peace guides you (Phil. 4:9). With that kind of protection—why worry?

Think Through the Issues: Mindset of Peace
If we are to grow in maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ we must take the responsibility for our focus, we must chose the objects of our meditation. I don’t mean yoga poses and humming, meditation is simply thinking over and issue, to chew on it in your mind.
If the objects of our meditation are everything that is wrong with the world, all that we disagree with, or all that troubles us, all that we think God should be mad about, we will not experience the peace of God nor the presence of the God of peace. This only leads to anxiety and worry, fear and doubt.
If we follow Paul’s example and the Lord’s instruction through him and choose whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable as the subjects of our meditation, that meditation will precede and determine our actions and attitude.
This type of meditation goes beyond just having a quiet place to sit and think, though that may be a good place to start, this type of meditation is to consciously look for the good in every situation.
It’s very easy to focus on the negative with all that is going on, but what about the true, and honorable, the just, and pure, and lovely, and commendable? Where are you seeing that? Where can you participate in that? Where can you BE that?

These are the types of things that Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3:1-2, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
And Isaiah 26:3, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
These virtues are God’s virtues, if we yield ourselves to this mindset, choosing to focus on the good instead of the negative, our attitudes and actions will follow and we will have the peace of God because the God of peace will be with us.

Apply the Principles
So now we get to the fun part! It’s not enough to just wrestle with these thoughts, we have to apply the principles that we have learned.
So here is your assignment, there are two parts, following the instructions in our text:
1. Think about these things
Design a prayer for your life based on this list of virtues, that they would be the subject of your meditations and that you would see where they are happening in the world around you.
2. Practice these things.
Find ways to celebrate any excellence and anything worthy of praise going on in your sphere of life and find a way to participate in it.