The Battle for Our Minds
8 Finally, brethren, 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 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you (KJV).
Watch how Paul concludes this section of the book of Phillipians. He does it with a summary of six items that are objects of a wholesome thought life. As we know Paul frequently had debates with the Greeks (Acts 17:22 etc.). The Greeks were quick to debate the foundations of virtue. They believing that God was unknowable frequently argued that one should simply be the best that one could be. The Greek word Paul used here for virtue is arête (Strongs G703), which to the Greek simply means excellence. The word is also linked with human knowledge and is used interchangeably by them with knowledge. Hellenistic thought concluded, “Virtue is knowledge.” Therefore they reasoned that the study of human knowledge is the highest form of human happiness and ability.
Paul in his debates with them asserted that God has revealed Himself to us, is knowable and all truth and knowledge emanates from Him, not from the human being He created. The Bible is revealed truth. God in Christ says that He is truth (John 14:6). The problem with the Greeks approach was, it was arbitrary or subjective. Consider the following quote of Aristotle from his Nicomachean Ethics:
“Virtue (arete) then is a settled disposition of the mind determining the choice of actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man would determine it.”
It is therefore important for us to see the struggle Paul had to bring Christ and revealed truth to the Philippians. The Greek scholars were debating him frequently and had several hundred years of scholarly thought to draw from in their arguments with him. We should realize that this Greek thought has influenced our western societies. They did not know from whence knowledge came or virtue either. It is clear from Aristotle’s comment that the so-called principle came about through a “prudent man”. Our present day legal system draws on this reasoning when determining what a normal response of a human should be in various situations. They refer to the so called prudent man by saying the normal response of any situation should be judged by what the “ordinary man of reasonable prudence” would do. So in any humanistic explanation for life and knowledge and especially virtue we are left with no specific definition. This is why Paul and us today must advance God’s Word as the only revealed truth. We can rely on it as it has been proved repeatedly to come directly from God and contain the highest standard for all thought and behavior.
Our minds are the battleground
The long war is actually between God and His archenemy Lucifer who became Satan when he defiled Heaven and God cast him out of exclusively serving Him in His presence. Paul made this quite clear in the sixth chapter of Ephesians.
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (KJV).
We must rely on the truth of God’s Word for our direction and walk through this life. It is only found in His Word.
Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (KJV)
In fact we have an example of Jesus telling Peter that Satan wanted to put him through very difficult times similar to what he did to Job, Jesus prayed that it not be allowed.
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me (KJV).
Simon Peter would not experience the conversion Jesus spoke of until the Holy Spirit came to them (John 20:22; Acts 2:4) through Jesus and they were baptized by the Spirit and regenerated. Jesus intervened so Satan would not abuse Peter and Peter thinking he did not need to be “born again” said he would be true to Jesus no matter what. Christ knowing this was folly prophesied, “thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”
Until one is actually born again of the Spirit we cannot understand how wonderful it is.
So a child of God must be born again and then will desire the Scriptures and want to live a life conformed to God’s Word. The battleground in the spiritual realm is our minds. Satan wants to sift them as wheat. The believer in Christ has protection that must be appropriated on a daily basis to be effective.
Paul knowing the issue well assembles the entire list of the components to guard our minds for a virtuous outcome.
- Truth: refers to facts that are in accordance with the reality around us. It does not refer to lies or deceptions. Truth is a characteristic of God.
- Honest: refers to what is dignified and worthy of respect.
- Just: refers to conformity to God’s standards of rightness.
- Pure: refers to what is wholesome, not mixed with moral impurity.
- Lovely: speaks of thoughts of moral and spiritual beauty.
- Good Report: (commendable or admirable) relates to what is positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.
He then says, “if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Paul is not saying that there might not be any virtue he is simply saying that because there is virtue it is praiseworthy!
Paul is simply not saying that we should just do things like this. He says that we must “think on these things.” This is the essence of success in the Christian life. We must prevail in the battle for our mind as Satan and his minions want to derail us from achieving peace in living for Christ. Solomon said several thousand years ago that a man’s behavior emanates from his mind, when he said “For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he” (Proverbs 23:7). Every action a human can and will do comes from the thoughts he has first and Satan is right in there influencing those thoughts.
The unsaved person has a darkened mind (Ephesians 4:17-18) and is incapable of resting on Spiritual matters. He may be able to discern highly complex concepts like advanced physics but is unable (darkened) about the matters about God. Paul explains it this way.
II Corinthians 4:3-4
3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them (KJV).
Man can only choose what is available to him to grasp.
If Satan can keep one’s mind blocked from the truth of the Gospel he has been effective in keeping that mind in Spiritual darkness and therefore away from truth. For some reason Satan has been given the leeway to influence and if he can get to a person before he is a believer he can keep him from getting to know God. This subverts God’s plan that we should glorify Him.
The natural mind is also naturally defiled since the Fall.
To the unregenerate unbelievers nothing is pure. Both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They might profess to know God but their actions make it apparent that they do not know Him. Titus 1:15-16 says that they are detestable and disobedient and worth less for any good deed. They are phonies who say one thing and do another. They are defiled. This defilement gets acted out in various immoral acts and licentiousness behavior. Some of these include sexual adultery, incest, bestiality and other perversions forbidden by God. Our television sets and the movies we see are primary sources of this corrupt material. If society were as concerned with the purity of what enters our mind as we supposedly are about the quality of our water, air and general environment it would demand that we would stop watching most of the television programming. We would also stop spending our money on unwholesome music and movies at the theaters. This is simply mind pollution. Much of it is obscene, blasphemes God, and pushes these things into our minds and the minds of our children. We must be careful to guard against this from entering our minds. What we allow to enter our mind will have an effect on us even if we do not think it will. It will alter our way of thinking and give us more tolerance for the impure things that are contrary to God’s way. When we let these things in God distances Himself from us and we lose some of the blessings He has for us. He cannot live with sin. This in no way means a loss of your salvation; just the full blessing potential you have available from God.
The natural mind is depraved.
Depraved means that it is corrupted, destroyed, ruined, spoiled or debased. The religious authorities of Jesus time used religion to raise one social status and increase one’s net worth. Paul recognized this and gave us this realization.
I Timothy 6:5
And constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (ESV).
Even if the unbeliever makes a contribution to the world in the areas of nice literature, poetry, music and other areas, their minds are sill depraved in God’s economy. They can’t please Him.
The natural mind is dead.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God (KJV).
The natural mind is totally set upon pleasing the flesh. It can be seen in the natural inclinations of those who are unbelievers. Their pursuits tend toward hedonistic activities feeding fleshly desires. They live for the weekend, sexual pleasures and never consider God because their minds are dead to recognizing Him. They will devise many inventive machinations to explain God in their own image so they then comply with what they want to pursue in their own lives. But according to God they are spiritually dead. Not many so-called experts of the mind in psychology or psychiatry will tell us what God says. Most are telling us that man is inherently good and only needs positive experiences and training to be perfect.
 Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, II vi 15, translated H. Rackham (1934: Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press)
Daniel E Woodhead