Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Tobacco manufacturers put a warning on cigarette packages that smoking may be hazardous to your health. I want to tell you, in the same way, that wrong thinking can be hazardous to your health. Here's a spiritual test to help you gain control of your thought life so you can live a holy life.
The Reliance Test — True
Is the thought you are having right now true? Can you rely on it? We live in a generation today that doesn't ask, "Is it true?" Instead, we ask, "Does it work?" Don't let anything consciously dwell in your mind that isn't true. Don't dwell on it, don't entertain it. Don't let it be a part of your thought patterns if it is not true.
The Respect Test — Honest
Is your thought an honest thought? Now the word "honest" literally means honorable. We are to be thinking things that are honorable. Do you let dishonorable things get into your mind? Are there things you think about that are not worthy of your respect? Some things are not bad because they are vile. They're bad because they're inane. Just silly, stupid thoughts and not worth our time, but we entertain them anyway.
The Rightness Test — Just
We're to be thinking about things that are "just." This word means straight as opposed to crooked. Don't let any crooked thinking enter your mind. In my Bible study, preaching and devotional life I try to think in a straight line. Paul says there are certain thoughts that are not to get through the gate — anything that is unreliable, disrespectful, or not right should not come through the gate. Is that thought right?
The Reverence Test — Pure
We are to be thinking about things which are pure. This word means free of contamination. Originally, this word was used to describe whether an animal or object was pure enough to be used in worship? That is, could it be offered to God? Could I take this thought and say, "Lord, I worship You with this thought"?
The Relationship Test — Lovely
The word lovely here doesn't mean beautiful. It literally means causing you to love. Does this thought cause you to love? Or does it cause you to criticize unjustly? Or bring division between human beings? Then, it is wrong. We are to think about things that cause us to move out in love toward our others.
The Refinement Test — Good Report
The Greek translation of "good report" literally means for us to think about things which are high-toned. That means that it sounds good. It is refined. This kind of thinking will shut down a gossip mill. Gossips spread bad reports. We are to be people known for spreading good reports — and this comes from thinking good reports.
Let me close with this final thought, the way not to think bad thoughts is not by trying not to think bad thoughts. Let me illustrate. Try not to think of a submarine right now. Are you sure you're not thinking about a submarine? The only way not to think about a submarine is not by trying not to think about a submarine, but by thinking about something else.
Romans 12:21 says, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Learn to think God's thoughts after Him. And use Paul's standard mentioned in Philippians 4:8 as the grid through which everything must come before it finds lodging in your mind.