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Philippians 4
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

LOVELY: The word for “lovely” here is made up of 2 Greek words. One is the word for “toward,” and the other is the word “love” (phileo). So a good translation would be to that which pushes you toward love or that which calls forth love.

To think upon that which is lovely is to think upon things that push us toward love.

But not just in an abstract feeling way. One of the problems with the word “love” is that it’s overused. 

  • I love chocolate.
  • I love that band.
  • I love baseball.
  • I love PSLs.

Love is not just a feeling. Love becomes real when you do something about it. Love is what you choose to do even when you don’t feel it.     

And there’s another thing about this word “love.” We use the one word “love” for everything. The Greek language has 3 different words for “love.”

  1. Eros – romantic love
  2. Agape – the highest form, self-sacrificial
  3. Phileo (the word used in this verse) – brotherly love

It’s easy to read this passage as thinking nice thoughts, thinking about nice things, or even thinking nice thoughts about God. But this is way more concrete and tangible.

Think of things that are lovely and build your life on things that drive you toward love. And not just the feelings of love, but the actions of love towards others.

Let’s work this idea out in another passage of scripture written by one of the other early church leaders, John the Apostle. He writes a letter that connects our faith in God and receiving the love of God through Jesus to how we love the people around us.

1 John 3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Have you ever gone to an all-you-can-eat buffet? Are you more generous or stingier when you realize something can't run out? 

Love lavished is like that never-ending buffet course. It’s not about our performance. It’s about us receiving a relationship. Love always has a relationship associated with it.        

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. The relationship you have upward directly impacts the relationships you live outward.

So, we receive the love of God, but then it flows outward to others. How we love should be something the world just doesn’t get. Not because we’re cold, but because we’re not playing from the same book they are.

1 John 3
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Living a life of faith is having hope – moving in the direction of that which we do not yet see. But it’s not an aspirational hope like:

  • I hope I lose 10 pounds.
  • I hope I win the lottery.
  • I hope I get an A on this test.

It’s more like a journey you take with a destination. You pack for the trip. You know what’s at the end.

1 John 3
4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

John is not saying that when you are a Christian, you won’t sin. That directly contradicts what he said earlier in his letter (if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves – 1 John 1:8)

There has been tremendous damage done by this idea that Christians don’t / can’t sin.

  1. Those who blind themselves to the effects of their own sin do damage to others and fail to take responsibility.
  2. Those who see the “sinners” as “those other people out there who do that other thing.”

You’ve heard it in churches – praying against “sin” and worrying about “sin,” but what we sometimes think is “other people’s sin.” And when we do that, we create a barrier that puts us on one level and the “other people” on a different one.

The ONLY difference between us is not our sin. It’s our Savior.    

What if we just concerned ourselves with our own sin?

1 John 3
7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seen remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

It's not about IF you sin, but about where you abide, where you’re hanging out, and what things you’re thinking or dwelling on.

For us, that’s supposed to come from a different source.

1 John 3
10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

So “loving God” is not this abstract feeling or ritual. It’s how we love the people around us, like our brothers and sisters – in the best sense. How you do that shows what literal family you’re in.

Think of the people who “sin differently” than you do to the extent that you can’t possibly imagine how they’d be in the family. What would change if you saw them as a brother or sister?

Christian maturity is not marked by how much you know. It’s marked by how much you love.  ~Carey Nieuwhof

“Think on these things” is not what you do in your head. It’s what you do with your life.

Think about it this way, what’s harder:

Sitting through another bible study or sermon or practically, daily, living out the way of Jesus – a giving, sacrificing, pouring out, even to the end, kind of love? Towards others. Towards the person or people you don’t think could possibly deserve it? Building your life there?

ADMIRABLE (or good report): The only time this word shows up in the New Testament is in this passage. It can be translated highly regarded, gracious, well thought of, or speaking favorably. But it’s one of those words that has a dual meaning.

The word was also used in surrounding pagan culture, where a moment of silence was taken before offering a sacrifice to the gods. That moment of holy silence. The idea is that what is spoken before a sacrifice is what the gods would hear. It’s a pause before a sacrifice, an offering, or an act of worship.

For followers of Jesus, your very LIVES are that sacrifice – continually offered up, continually poured out. They’re the act of worship. Not our church attendance, not our songs.

Think about the person you respect or are in awe of most in the world. What if they announced they were coming over to your house? You’d pull together the best you for that moment.

This can profoundly shift our interactions with others. Because our responses, our love,  isn’t even about them, or how they respond, or even if they deserve it. It’s about God. It’s how we worship.

Imagine if you paused and looked at the sacrifice or act of worship of your life. You look down at what you’re offering to God, offering to the people around you. What does it look like?

What does that look like when it comes to loving others, especially the difficult others or the others you don't think deserve it?

Because that’s how you offer the sacrifice. In the moment of Holy Silence, think on these things. 

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