1. THINK ON WHATEVER IS TRUE.
The word means, “true as to fact … it denotes the actuality of a thing”. The “true” is that which corresponds to reality. God Himself is the only final test for truth. Since He is unchanging, the moral standards revealed in His Word, which stem from His holy nature, are also unchanging. They apply to every culture in every age. John 3:33 attests, “God is true” (see also, John 8:26; Rom. 3:4). As Paul writes to Titus, who was in Crete (the Cretans were notorious liars), “God … cannot lie,” and He made known His truth by “His word” (Titus 1:1-3). Jesus also claimed for Himself that He is true (John 7:18; also 5:31-32). Opposed to God and Christ, Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is a deceiver, and he uses sin to deceive those ensnared by it (2 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 4:22; Heb. 3:13).
Since as fallen creatures we are prone to Satan’s lies and deception, the only way we can know the truth and walk in it is to steep ourselves in God’s Word. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. We live in a day that is geared toward emotions and strongly influenced by the supposed “virtue” of tolerance. Our culture assumes that love means being tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything, even if God’s Word plainly declares that something is an abomination. If you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.
We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines the true by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it. Many of the “positive mental attitude” methods are effective in making you a successful sales person. But the question is, Are they biblical? We must test everything by God’s Word, not by feelings or pragmatism.
2. THINK ON WHATEVER IS HONORABLE (NIV = “NOBLE”).
The word means “that which inspires reverence or awe; dignified, worthy of respect.” It is a character quality required in deacons and deaconesses (1 Tim. 3:8, 11). Elders should keep their children under control “with all dignity” (1 Tim. 3:4). All Christians should “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2).
This means that Christians are to take life seriously. We are not to be silly goof-offs, who treat life as a perpetual joke. We live in light of eternity, keeping in mind the uncertainty of this short life and the reality of heaven and hell. This doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate clean humor. But our overall tenor should communicate to a lost world that they must stand before a holy God someday soon. Think on these reverent themes.
3. THINK ON WHATEVER IS RIGHT.
This word is used of God Himself who is righteous (Rom. 3:26; 1 John 2:29; 3:7) and of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1). Thus we are to be righteous people, as John writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8). To think on what is right means to think on the holy nature of God, especially as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, and to model our behavior after Him.
4. THINK ON WHATEVER IS PURE.
The word refers to ceremonial purity, but also to the moral purity that is pictured by the ceremonial. It especially means keeping our bodies undefiled by abstaining from sexual sins (see 2 Cor. 11:2; 1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 2:5; James 3:17; 1 Pet. 3:2; 1 John 3:3). In Ephesians 5:3-5 Paul warns, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” As Christians, we must say no to our sexually impure culture and focus on moral purity.
5. THINK ON WHATEVER IS LOVELY.
This word occurs only here in the New Testament. It means what is pleasing, agreeable, and attractive. At times we all find ourselves attracted to that which is evil. But this word must be taken with the context, meaning that which is both pure and attractive. Jesus Christ is inherently attractive, and so we should think often on our lovely Savior, who gave Himself for us on the cross.
6. THINK ON WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE.
This refers to something that “deservedly enjoys a good reputation”. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, love believes the best about another person, it refuses to believe an evil report about a brother or sister until there is certain evidence to establish it.
ANYTHING WORTHY OF PRAISE.
The word “praise” is used both of what is praiseworthy in God (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Phil. 1:11) and in people (Rom. 2:29; 13:3; 1 Cor. 4:5). Of course, every attribute and deed of God is praiseworthy, and so we should daily think about how great God is and on the marvelous works He has done, both in creation and in history. Toward other people, even toward those in the world, we should be gracious by focusing on their strong points and good qualities. Even though we all are depraved by nature, because of God’s common grace even unbelieving people can be kind, caring, and loving. Ultimately those qualities, even in unbelievers, do not bring glory to the person, but to God. So we should be appreciative and affirming toward people rather than negative and critical.
*THINK ON THESE THINGS.
Paul means to reflect on these qualities that stem from God and should be characteristic of us as children of God. Give them weight in your decisions. Allow them to shape your conduct. In other words, think on these things with a view to doing them.