Get Smart

Title: Get Smart

Bible Book: Philippians 4 : 8

Author: J. Gerald Harris

Subject: Wisdom; Thinking; Christian Living



In a day when opportunities for learning abound, ignorance is still rampant. For example, there was a dear, sweet lady who was standing beside her car with her hood up, evidently in trouble. A kindly gentleman driving by saw her in her dilemma, pulled his car over and got out to see if she needed some help. He said, “What happened to your car?”

She said, “I don’t know. I was just driving along when it stopped. I don’t know what happened.”

So the man looked under the hood. He tinkered around for a few minutes. He got in the car. He turned the key. He turned it back off again and said, “Lady, this car is out of gas.”

The dear woman said, “Will it hurt to drive it home like this?”

Then there was the young man who wanted to sell his car, and he talked to his uncle about it. He said, “I need to get rid of this car. It’s no good. It’s got 100,000 miles on it.”

The uncle said, “I wish you luck, but there is no way that you're going to sell a car with 100,000 miles on it.”

The young man said, “What do I need to do?”

He said, “Well, it’s not right, but many people turn back the odometer and make it look like it doesn’t have as many miles. Maybe you need to do that.”

They didn’t see each other for a few weeks, and then they bumped into each other again. The uncle asked the young man if he had sold his car. He said, “Why should I sell it? It only has 2,000 miles on it.”

In a day when we are inundated with ignorance, how we need tonight to hear the challenge that Paul gives us in his eighth verse of the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Philippians. If you will look at this chapter, you will notice in verse one that Paul said to the Christians at Philippi, and I believe to the Christians of Marietta, “Stand firm in the Lord.” In verse two Paul said, “Live in harmony in the Lord.” In verse four Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord.” And now in verse eight Paul challenged the Christians at Philippi, and he challenges us tonight, to be smart in the Lord.

Look at verse eight (read).

Now the one word around which the whole verse revolves is that word “think.” If somebody tells you not to use your mind, friend, they are leading you astray. There are people today who will tell you to meditate, to just put your mind in neutral, to get in a yoga position and to relax by not thinking. But I want to tell you that an unoccupied mind is the devil's playground. Have you ever noticed what happens to an abandoned house? The vandals can move in. The subculture can move in. It can become the habitat of drug addicts. It’s the same way with your mind. If you put your mind in neutral, then all kinds of devilish thoughts and philosophies and ideas will flood your mind. And so Paul says, “Think. Get smart.” That’s the challenge he gives us. Let’s consider it for a moment.

I. The Product

He identifies for us; he defines for us the ultimate product of the Christian life. In those final phrases of verse eight, here is what he says, “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise” - there are the two key words. The first word is “virtue.” This is the only place in Paul's writing that that Greek word is used. But it was quite common in pagan circles in that day. It referred to that which was considered to be excellent in the eyes of the world; something that would catch the attention of those in the world and they would praise it as being excellent or worthwhile.

The other word, the word translated “praise”, is a word that was more commonly used in Christian circles. It was a word that Paul used in one form or another on at least twelve occasions in his letters. It is a word that in almost every instance referred to that which was excellent in the eyes of God; that which was praiseworthy before God.

So Paul said, “This is the desire that should be in the heart of every believer. This is the goal for which every Christian should strive. We should strive for moral excellence in the eyes of the world and spiritual excellence in the eyes of God?”

In a day of mediocrity, every Christian here should hear that challenge and respond by saying, “I want to achieve that which is excellent in the eyes of God.” That is the product. But how can we experience that excellence? How can we have that sense of rightness in the presence of God?

II. The Principle

Paul suggests in this verse a principle that is so simple, and yet it is one that is repeated over and over again throughout the New Testament. It can be stated in a simple phrase. Paul said, “Think on these things.” He said, “You are what your thoughts make you. You are what you think.”

Jesus said something like that Matthew 12:34. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” Now in biblical anatomy the heart was that which was the center of one's being. We consider that today to be our mind. What Jesus was saying was, “That which comes out of the mouth is that which is in the mind.” Our thoughts determine our words.

Then Jesus took it a step further in Matthew 15:19. He said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” In other words, Jesus said our thoughts not only determine our words but they also determine our actions.

Paul took it even a step further in I Corinthians 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.” In other words, Paul said, “We will ultimately be judged by our thoughts.” Do you know why? Because our thoughts not only determine our words; they not only determine our actions, our thoughts also determine what we become.

As you think in your mind, you speak. As you think in your mind, you do. As you think in your mind, you ultimately are. Our thoughts not only determine our words and our actions, but ultimately they determine destiny.


Sow a thought, reap an action,

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

That principle is ingrained into the ebb and flow of human life as we know it. That’s why Paul said in our text, “If you want to achieve that which is, excellent in the eyes of God; if you want to reach that place where you have excellence in the eyes of the world, here is the principle to follow. Get your mind right. Think on the right things. Be smart.”

Now we have considered the product and the principle. Let us now look at…

III. The Pattern

Now he’s talking about the pattern by which we can put into practice that principle, and ultimately achieve that product. He is suggesting a sixfold pattern for right thinking.Look with me at these words which Paul uses. First of all, Paul said that we need to concentrate. We need to think. We need to let our minds dwell on the truth as opposed to falsehood.

Satan, the Bible says, is the father of lies. He is the great deceiver and there is nothing he would like better than to lead Christians away from the truth after a lie. That is why Paul says, “Concentrate on that which is true. Concentrate on the word of God which is the truth. Concentrate on the One who is the truth incarnate, even Jesus Christ.”

Paul said, “Concentrate on the truth as opposed to the falsehood.”

A popular comic strip is “Mama” by Mel Lazarus. One of his strips shows Mama entertaining her perpetual suitor, Mr. K. Frankly. He’s not much of a catch, but he is persistent. And as the two sit on the couch Mr. K says, “Mrs. Hobbs, I am at a low ebb psychologically. My ego is flattened.” Mrs. Hobbs responds in an affirming way and says, “Mr. K, let me hasten to state that you are a fine, interesting and attractive man.” Mr. K perks up at this and asks, “Oh, Mrs. Hobbs, is that the truth?” Mrs. Hobbs says, “No, but there'll be plenty of time for the truth when you’re emotionally stronger.”

Sometimes the unadulterated truth is painfully harsh, but it is true that the truth will set you free. And there is something wonderfully liberating about the truth as it is embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. And we need to think upon the truth and the things that are true, not upon the things that are false and in error.

Secondly, he said we're to concentrate upon the things that are honest. Every time I think about honesty I think about the young lady who was soaking up the sun’s rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel came up to her and asked, “Do you believe in God?”

She was extremely surprised by the question, but she replied, “Why yes I do.”

Then he asked her, “Do you go to church every Sunday?”

Again her answer was, “Yes.”

And then he asked, “Do you read your Bible and pray every day?”

Again she said, “Yes.” But by now her curiosity was very much aroused.

At last the lad sighed and said with obvious relief, “Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?”

Now, that is honesty. Actually, in the Greek language the suggestion that Paul is making here is that we concentrate upon the things which are serious rather than upon the things which are frivolous. The word that is translated in the King James “honest” and in the New American Standard as “honorable” is a word which is used to refer to that which has to do with worship or the reverence of God. So what Paul is saying is that we need to concentrate on those things that speak of God; those things that relate to worship; those things that inspire reverence.

Have you ever known somebody that you wanted to say to them, “Grow up. There’s more to life than playing games.” I think that’s what Paul is talking about here. He is saying that we need to concentrate our minds on the serious, important matters of life. We need to concentrate on the serious as opposed to the frivolous.

Third, he says to concentrate upon the things that are just or right as opposed to the convenient. “Dikaios” is the word that is used here and it refers to that which is just; that which has integrity; that which is right. Henry Clay was a famous American statesman often spoken of as having a desire for the presidency. On one particular occasion in history he took an unpopular stand. His advisor came to him and said, “Mr. Clay, if you take this stand you will never be elected president.” Henry Clay said, “I would rather be right than to be president.” That is what Paul is talking about here. Concentrate upon the right as opposed to that which is convenient.

Then Paul says that we are to concentrate upon the pure, or the clean as opposed to the dirty. This is an admonition to live a life of moral purity and physical chastity. Will Rogers used to say that you need to live in such a way that you wouldn’t be afraid to sell your parrot to the town gossip. Actually, the word that is used here is a word that speaks of those things that were so pure and so holy that they could be brought into the very presence of God. In our sex-saturated, X-rated society nothing is anymore difficult than for us to concentrate on that which is pure rather than that which is dirty.

Then Paul said that we're to concentrate on that which is lovely as opposed to the discordant. And the word that he uses here is the word ‘phileo.’ It is the kind of love that produces brotherhood, unity, harmony, friendship. It is a word which is the very opposite of confusion and disharmony and discord. At the end of a tough year of internal conflict and church struggles, the pastor addressed his deacons and announced that he had become convinced that he was to accept the invitation of another church to become their pastor. He further explained that he was convinced that Jesus had told him to make the change. One of the deacons quickly stood and said, “Well, if that’s the case I move that we all stand and sing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’ Now that deacon simply was not thinking thoughts of love at that point in time.

This word is a word that means to call forth love from other people. It’s the opposite of those who create confusion and strife. Paul said that we’re to put our minds on those things that create brotherhood and fellowship and goodwill rather than on those things that create strife and confusion and havoc.

Then Paul said we’re to concentrate on the positive in contrast to the negative. The phrase in the King James ‘good report’ means “fair speaking,” and it translates a word which means to put the most favorable interpretation possible on a person or an event. It means to find the best in others rather than the worst. It means to build up rather than to tear down. It means to see that which is good rather than that which is bad. Paul said we’re to concentrate on that which is positive as opposed to that which is negative.

The true, the honest, the just, the pure, the lovely, the positive are the things of good report. Paul said, “Let your mind dwell on these things. Concentrate on them. Think about them. As you put your mind on these things it will determine your actions and then you'll begin to have in your life the mark of excellence.”

There was a pastor who went downtown one night and he was on an errand of mercy. As he walked down the sidewalk in the city where he served, one of his church members came stumbling out of a bar inebriated and ran into him. When the man realized it was the pastor, he began to moan and he said, “Oh, Lord, I just can’t believe that my pastor saw me in this condition.”

The pastor said, “I don’t know why you should be so upset that I saw you. God sees you, you know.”

The man said, “Yeah, but God is not such a big blabber mouth like you are.”

Apparently neither the pastor nor the church member had been practicing the principles that produce the products for which we should strive.


Paul wants us to be a genuine Christians. He wants our faith to be real. Let me tell you how A. W. Tozer put it. He said, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen. Talks familiarly every day, to someone he cannot see. Expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another. Empties himself in order to be full. Admits he is wrong so he can be declared right. Goes down in order to get up. Is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels the worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away in order to keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth understanding.”

In essence, that's the challenge for us today. Be a real Christian. Amen


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