It is sometimes said of folks, especially politicians, that they don’t have a moral compass. Basically meaning that there’s nothing in them that points out the difference between right and wrong. Not true, everyone has a moral compass of some sort. The problem is that their moral compass may be pulled in a direction other than north. So a lie, for instance, is only judged on whether it achieves its purpose and not on the inherent value of truth. Our next dwell on attitude found in Philippians 4:8 helps us “tune” our own moral compass to what really matters.
Welcome to our next installment taken from Philippians 4:8. In this series, we are reThinking48. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, 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, NASB95) So often we see this verse as a kind of filter to help us determine what we shouldn’t watch or do. There is value in that, but overlooked is Paul’s intent to see and seek that which does display these attributes. So far we’ve covered true, honorable, and right. They are available on our website – lambchow.com – if you missed them. Today we look at, whatever is pure.
We all have some idea of what the word pure means. From the standpoint of the Bible pure contains two thoughts. The first thought considers moral purity; thinking, saying, or doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons and intentions. The second thought considers that which is holy or set apart. Consider the desert tabernacle as the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. It was made of material both common and precious yet all was considered holy or set apart to only serve God. Those who follow Jesus are likewise now set apart for Him. Consider this from John’s first letter, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2–3, NASB95)
Fusing these two thoughts together displays not only moral purity but a touchpoint that anchors it and the magnetic north to guides the way. Or look at it this way, something can be either pure manure or pure gold. Both are pure but only one is desirable. Didn’t Jesus say, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34–36, NASB95) Purity in Christ is not necessarily purity of doctrine but of love that desires to flee from sin and run after Christ.
To better understand something it is often beneficial to look at its opposite. In this instance the opposite of pure is corrupt. Think corrupt like a wormy apple or a public office holder that is serving self more than the public. The outside may look desirable, but the intents and motives are rotten.
The end result is a lack of function. The apple cannot be eaten. In the sense of spiritual matters, it means moving in a direction other than towards God. A church or movement can look wonderful and attractive but if it is inwardly corrupt it will move in a direction other than towards God. The focus shifts from following God to growing in numbers, to impacting society, to maintaining tradition, or to gaining power or wealth.
Reading the Compass
Dwelling on whatever is pure requires discernment. Jesus warned, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–16a, NASB95) And Paul advised, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NASB95) This is not a call to judgment but to wisdom. Not all that appear clean on the outside are clean on the inside and likewise, not all that appear dirty and broken on the outside are corrupt on the inside. While God sees the heart we are invited to observe and discern by their actions. Not for the purpose of judgment but of discernment.
However we must keep one truth in mind – only God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are truly pure. Everyone we encounter has some level of corruption, even the face we see in the mirror. We all have areas where our fruit is pure, and others areas we’re still working on. Dwelling on whatever is pure means seeing those points of purity in each other and dwelling on them while praying for what still needs God’s touch.
Setting our Compass
Dwelling on whatever is pure helps us tune our own compass. It helps us see those areas in ourselves that still need God’s touch. But also provide hope and a firm place to stand as we recognize how God has changed us. We need to be slow about assigning the motivations and intentions of others. We can’t really see their hearts, only the fruit they leave behind. We can, however, observe our own intentions and motivations.
We may see all our failures and the garbage that remains in our lives, the question is whether we’re heading towards God or going our own way. You’re the only one that can answer that question. If you think you’re off-course, steer towards whatever is pure.