Why is he wearing tennis shoes to church? Oh no, not that same ratty old hoody. How embarrassing. These are some of the thoughts that go through my head often and take my mood from peaceful to angry so fast. The Bible says to think about whatever is lovely, however, to keep my peace. How do we do that?
Whatever is Lovely Bible Verse
What Scripture says whatever is lovely? In Philippians 4:8 we see the word lovely. This word is only used this way once in all of Scripture.
Paul says, “Whatever is lovely think on these things.” The idea seems simple enough, especially when you put it together with the entire idea of Philippians 4:6-7.
What Philippians 4:8 Means
This year, we began studying Philippians 4:8 because it is the key to peace of mind for Christians. (Click on any of the words to go back in the study 😉
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NASB).
The meaning behind it is a simple one. Our thoughts have the power to bring peace or destroy peace, to stoke the fires of sin or quench them. The Philippians 4:8 meaning is, control your thoughts if you desire peace with God.
What Does Lovely in the Bible Mean?
The Greek word for lovely in Philippians 4:8 is prosphilēs. This word means – acceptable or pleasing.
As you take your thoughts captive, examining each one, you will need to ask some questions about them to discern if they line up with God’s will.
- Is this thought lovely?
You could also ask, “Is there an acceptable, pleasing quality to this thought about that person or situation?”
However, we have such a low idea of pleasing and acceptable, that I want to challenge you to shift that question to:
- Would Jesus see this thought as lovely?
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Whatsoever Things Are Lovely Meaning
Lovely. Acceptable. Pleasing.
These are words that bring different images to mind for each of us, no doubt. A well-kept flower garden and a freshly painted room are what I think about. But what does God see as lovely and acceptable and pleasing?
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB)
Repeatedly in Scripture, we see that people look at the outside appearance of others and judge them, while God looks deeper.
The way to apply this whatever is lovely Scripture is to practice looking toward the inside of a person.
Whatever is lovely Whatever is Pure
While trying to understand this whatever is lovely verse we must consider the things around it as well. Before the word lovely, we were told to think on whatever is pure. Whatever is pure whatever is lovely go together.
Remember that purity of thought had to do with clean thoughts, sinless thoughts.
- Moral purity
- Sexual purity
- Spiritual purity
A lovely thought will be a pure thought. A clean thought. Think sinlessly to think on what is pleasing and acceptable to the LORD.
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Pure and Lovely Thoughts Are A Challenge Today
We live in a society that thrives on darkness and sin. Everything the Bible warns us as Christians to avoid… it fills our screens, it pops into our music, and the news glorifies it. Sin. Things like witchcraft, murder, adultery, drugs, and alcohol…
We can’t avoid seeing it, or hearing about it and so these dark and even sinful things slip into our thoughts unaware. The dark, sinful things are so common and have so saturated the world we live in, that most Believers struggle to know where to draw lines to protect holiness.
In fact, we are so inundated with the darkness, that when someone points to the Scripture that says to be like God, holy and light, they call us names, and accuse us of being self-righteous.
A Plea For Lovely Thoughts
This is not a new thing, though it feels new. There was a time in my life I would only listen to Christian music and watch musicals or animated movies. I came out of so much darkness that I needed to safeguard my thoughts to avoid more of the same. Everyone in my world teased me and excluded me.
But I tell you this… I have peace and most of them do not! This is what the Lord says about that.
“Do not let anyone fool you by telling you things that are not true, because these things will bring God’s anger on those who do not obey him.
So have nothing to do with them. In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth.
Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the things done in darkness, which are not worth anything. But show that they are wrong.
It is shameful even to talk about what those people do in secret. But the light makes all things easy to see, and everything that is made easy to see can become light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper!
Rise from death,
and Christ will shine on you.”
So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times.” (Ephesians 5:6-16 NCV)
Sin Is Always Cool Until It Leads To Hell
So here’s the thing, we think all these dark things are so cool. It is popular to watch things rated R and filled with sin. In fact, we almost glorify it. Once you are 13 you’ve reached the maturity to handle some mildly sinful content on a screen. By 18, you can handle everything sinful under the sun.
But God doesn’t put an age on sin. This sin is okay to watch or practice at this age… NEVER! That is a lie from the pits of hell, vain and empty arguments created by the ruler of this world.
We think pure and lovely things are childish. Beauty and kindness are for children’s programs. They are NOT cool. They are not really entertaining. Why?
Because sin stirs in us something we like… it does feel good… it is entertaining… but it is not godly or pure or lovely.
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What Would Jesus Choose?
Something to ask yourself the next time you choose entertainment. If Jesus were sitting right beside me – in a form I could physically see and talk with – would I choose this? Would it contain something that nailed HIM to the cross?
Then remember that HE is always right with you and make a more wise choice.
Things can be pure and lovely and entertaining and of good quality. And the more you choose to say no to sin and yes to purity and loveliness with entertainment, the more you vote to have more of that content made.
And if you truly can’t find something that Jesus would enjoy… turn it off and find something more productive to do with your time!
How To Think About Whatever Is Lovely
There was something surprising to me when beginning to study, “What does Philippians 4 6 & 7 mean?” Do you know how so many Bible translations have different words for similar things? It drives me crazy at times if I am honest. The word lovely is the same in every translation I found!
Look up Philippians 4:6-9 in any translation and you will see it too:
ESV and NKJV are usually very different, but they both say pure and lovely! Surprisingly cool!
Now, to think on lovely things in the same way Jesus does, we must learn to see past the outside of people. I love that about God’s character, he looks at the inside of a person (our heart, intention, and character).
But how do we think that way in a world filled with darkness and sin?
- Intentionally capture critical, sarcastic, and negative thoughts
- Recognize anxious thoughts
- Choose forgiveness
Intentionally Capture Critical, Sarcastic and Negative Thoughts
We have to be intentional to make a plan because the world will keep sucking us back into its darkness and sin.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5 NASB)
One intentional way to guard against darkness and protect acceptable and pleasing thoughts is to see warning signs that we are focused on the outside appearance or behavior.
- Negativity, sarcasm, and criticism are our red flags here.
There will always be things to think negatively about and criticize. Always. We have to look more diligently to find the good in people and situations. To see people and situations through God’s eyes.
What is interesting about this is that the more I seek out the good in others, the more easily I find it.
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Recognize Anxious Thoughts
Anxious, fearful, and worrying thoughts also lead away from acceptable and pleasing thoughts.
Now, I personally battle an anxiety disorder. There was a time in my life that it controlled what I did and what I refused to try to do. Anxiety can be crippling but it can also be managed by learning to take captive every thought.
I have to choose to set aside negative/anxious thoughts deliberately or peace won’t happen. Instead, I will choose to control everything and everyone and no one will have peace.
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It is easy to be anxious about the next situation when I have not forgiven whoever hurt me or ruined the last situation.
It is easy to be critical of that person if I have not forgiven them for that thing they did thoughtlessly or even intentionally that hurt me or caused me harm.
An Example of Forgiveness and Lovely Thoughts
I grew up in a small old-fashioned country church where the girls all wore their prettiest dresses and the men were in a suit each Sunday morning. It was expected that you brought your best self to the LORD’s house, clean and dressed well, just like you would if you were meeting a human king.
Now, my family was poor. My best dresses were worn and ugly compared to the other girls. I was relentlessly teased and picked on by the other kids and the adults. I learned that it is embarrassing to come to church that way.
Fast Forward a Decade.
My husband was newly saved (another time we will discuss the pain of being unequally yoked but would dress like a slob when he came to church. My thoughts were judgmental and critical and so were my words.
I was that woman losing her religion in order to get the family into the Church building – every week!
Now, did God care what my husband wore to church? I don’t believe the Bible teaches us that we must come to church in our finest clothes. In fact, James 2 tells us not to prefer the rich or clean or well-dressed in church, but to love all without partiality!
So the problem was not his attire, but my thoughts about his clothes.
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A Change Of Thought Pattern
Once I understood the truth from the Bible’s perspective I had to make some changes to keep the peace in our home and my mind.
FIRST: Intentionally Capture Critical Thoughts
It began by taking captive all those critical thoughts and stopping all my sarcastic words about how my husband dressed on Sunday morning.
I had to pray to stop those thoughts, asking God to help me look deeper!
Instead of quickly noticing that hubby was wearing beat-up old tennis shoes to church I chose:
- To be grateful that after working a graveyard shift he got up and got ready for church in the first place.
- Then God helped me see that Bud’s heart wanted to be in God’s house, while his mind was not really thinking through my preferred wardrobe choice.
Second: Recognize Anxious Thoughts
I had to ask God to show me why I was so anxious about Bud’s clothing choice. The LORD showed me that I was remembering being teased as a child and assuming it would happen again.
God showed me that I had not forgiven those well-meaning church people for the pain of being humiliated for our poverty. They were wrong, but holding onto the pain of those years was only hurting me and God could change them in time if it is HIS will.
So I forgave them.
Can I be very honest with you? Forgiving them wasn’t easy. It took hard work, repeated times of prayer and confession, and railing at God. But I was able to love my husband better throughout the process!
Refusing Forgiveness Destroys Other Relationships
Part of my struggle with criticism and negative thoughts was that I had not forgiven some things… I was holding onto them. I was stuck in my faith walk because of it and unable to think pure and lovely thoughts.
As a result, I was destroying so many relationships in my life with the toxic bitterness I was trapped in.
Learning to forgive was critical in growing in my faith and having healthy relationships. Learn how in this series:
Will You Think on Whatever is Lovely and Please HIM Today?
Something to think about as you decide what kind of thoughts you allow space to dwell in your thoughts… Our thoughts either glorify the LORD or they do not.
Will you think on whatever is lovely today? Think about the things that are on the inside, pleasing, and acceptable to HIM.
These are thoughts that are both pure and lovely and will lead to peace of mind for you.
in His love,
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