“The last thing, brothers, is that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is upright, whatever is holy, whatever is lovely, whatever is praiseworthy, if there is virtue and if there is praise, think on these things.”
As valuable as this admonition is, it seems wrong to pass it by to move to the next verse just yet. So, what are the things we are to set our minds upon? How do we apply this in a practical sense? These questions are worth exploring.
Paul says that we should begin by setting our minds upon that which is true. The term that Paul uses here is ajlhqh/ß (alethes), which refers to those things that are honest, in accordance with the facts, and real (as opposed to being imaginary). The term can also be used to refer to that which is upright or righteous, for righteousness is a kind of Truth in action if we recognize that we are made in the image of God and God is always righteous.
How often this, in and of itself, is an obstacle to Christians today. We live in a world that celebrates the notion that truth can be defined and redefined according to one’s preferences and whim rather than carrying the notion that it speaks of something that is genuine, absolute, and outside of individual human experience. Indeed, we can know truth, but what we know is only true in so much as it reflects the truth of God’s revelation to us…found in the ultimate source of Truth, the Bible.
But let us not stop there, either. What does it mean that we are not to set our minds on things that are not real. Should we not read fictional stories? Certainly not, Jesus often told stories to illustrate the Truth that he was revealing as stories are often a vehicle whereby which we can understand ideas. Instead, though, apply this notion to the untruths that we often tell ourselves. How often we create fictions about the way others view us (both positive and negative) and we either puff ourselves up or beat ourselves up on the basis of those imaginative depictions. This we need to divorce ourselves from. Further, how often the seed that becomes gossip is only that which is partially true. Again, this is something that does not belong to the life of the believer. These things destroy. Set your mind on that which is true and good.
Ultimately, though, if we are going to pursue truth we must pursue the source of truth…God himself. And God has revealed himself in his Word. Thus if we expect to know God, we must expect to know him in the context of his revelation. Yet, how many professing Christians go astray because they do not know the Scriptures and are thus misled by those who twist and pervert the scriptures. Beloved, if you are going to set your mind upon the Truth, that begins by committing yourself to a study of the scriptures and a pursuit of the God of Truth who reveals himself in them.