Continuing to work through the last portion of chapter four and reflecting more on Phil. 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses have been ones worth savoring in the last several weeks. The hoopla surrounding you know who continues and it has been really easy to get distracted from everything else. In light of that, I’ve been considering the following question(s):
Despite the need and command to be extremely discerning (see Phil 1:9-10), is it possible to spend so much time focused on what is unpure, unlovely, lacking commendation, and unworthy of praise that you miss out on all the glorious things that God is doing around you, through you and to you? Do you need to be intimately familiar with evil to know what is good?
Discernment is essential, and I am grateful for the measure of it that the Lord has given me. But I’m also by nature something of a curmudgeon. This tends to make it very easy for me to focus solely on negative things rather than on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. And sometimes I wonder if this is what gets us into trouble when it comes to issues of discernment?
I know that whenever a pastor writes a book that says something either heretical or merely stupid (while all heresy is stupid, not all stupidity is heresy), there is a tendency to say “You need to read the book first before you can say anything about it!”
Now, to a point I agree. I do think we would all do well to guard our tongues, especially in making pronouncements without facts. But Philippians 4:8-9 have been reminding me of an important truth:
One does not have to engage with what is evil in order to know that it is evil.
In fact, Paul says the opposite: “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b).
In the same way that I don’t need to try heroin to know it’s bad for me, I don’t have to familiarize myself with false doctrine to know it is evil. If my focus is on what is right, true, pure and praiseworthy, if my focus is on knowing what God is saying to His people through the Scriptures, it’s easy to discern what is evil and avoid it—or, if necessary, confront it.
And truth be told, I’d much rather read my Bible than a bad book any day. Wouldn’t you?