How often do you think? I mean really think. Are you so caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day that you find yourself, like I do, at the end of a long day filled up with all sorts of stuff at about 10:30 at night wondering if you've thought about anything of eternal significance?

I had a professor in college who had interesting cartoons and sayings on his door. One of the sayings that I still remember went something like this: "Some people would rather die than think. Many do." I liked that saying; it made me think every once in a while!

But the pace and preoccupations of our lives, especially in our contemporary world, conspire together against deep thinking. They do that together by preoccupying us with the trivial so that we never get around to the profound and the permanent, and by filling up our minds with the trivial so that there's no room left for anything really important, and by keeping our schedules so packed that there's no time to do any deep reflection.

In this passage, Paul is going to teach us four huge truths about living the Christian life.

I. The Importance of Meditation in the Christian Life

The first thing that he does is he calls us to Christian meditation. Notice his words in verse 8: "...think about these things." This is a call to Christian meditation. He's saying you will not grow in the Christian life unless you are deliberately locked on to a pattern of mediating on and reflecting about and thinking deeply on the truths of God's word, and things which are true and commendable.

Now, notice that the kind of meditation that Paul is calling you and me to is entirely different than the kind of meditation that you most frequently encounter in programs on television and on the radio and in the self-help Psychology and Religion section of your local bookstore. Almost all of those practitioners of meditation will tell you that it is vital to empty your mind. You will never find that instruction in Scripture!

Notice that Paul's mediation is not about emptying the mind: it is about filling the mind up with God's word and that which is true and commendable, and then working that around, over and over. Forms of mediation and even a prayer that tell us that we need to empty our minds, to wait, to listen for God to speak to us, are assuming that God has not already spoken to us. And He has!

The problem is not that God's not spoken; the problem is that we're not listening!

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over and dwelling on and applying to yourself the various things that you know about the works and the ways and the purposes and promises of God, from God's word.

Paul is saying, "Christian, if you want to grow, you've got to have a plan for how you are going to think on these things." That's the first thing that he says.

II. The Importance of Cultivating Godly Affections and Desires

Here's the second thing: He calls you to the cultivation of your desires and affections by pointing your desires to that which is true and right and good. Notice what he says: Think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

In other words, when you are bombarded by a powerful desire that is enticing you to focus on and enjoy something that is either wrong or trivial, you can't fight something with nothing. The answer to fighting that powerful enticement to desiring something that is wrong or trivial is not to say "Stop it!" Chances are, if you are a Christian, you already know you ought to stop it. Your question is, "How?" And the answer is there has to be a desire that is opposite and greater than the desire that is enticing you to what is wrong and trivial if you're going to be able to fight that desire.

In other words, the very activity of meditating is so that you will begin to desire something better than that which is being offered to you.

The Puritans made it a practice of meditating on six great things from God's word: the majesty of God; the severity of sin; the beauty of Christ; the certainty of death; the finality of judgment; and, the misery of hell. And those six things they thought were absolutely essential for cultivating heavenly-mindedness.

Meditating on what is true and pure, and just and right, and lovely and commendable, and excellent, will lead you to reflections on the gospel. That's the second thing that Paul says.

III. The Pattern of Christian Discipleship

The third thing is this: Paul gives us a pattern for Christian discipleship here. Look at the words that are used in the exhortations: think; learn; receive; hear; see; practice.

Do you realize that in these two little verses Paul has given you a four-part pattern for Christian discipleship? Listen to it real quickly: Meditation; Instruction; Direction; and, Application.

The first thing he says is "think on these things" - last phrase of verse 8 - "think about these things." In other words, what's your first step in growing as a disciple? Meditating on the word of God.

Second, instruction. Notice that Paul does not think that our desires, that our affections, are innately right. They're not innately set on the right things. Therefore, what do we need? We need instruction. Our desires need to be instructed by what we have learned and received from the preaching of God's word.

Third, direction. Look again in verse 9, where Paul says "What you heard and saw in me, this practice." You have to hear and see the truth lived out. That's why a TV preacher can't show you how to live the Christian life. How did Paul show the Philippians how to live the Christian life? He taught the truth, and then he lived and suffered and died right before their faces, so that they could see how a real flesh and blood disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ lives and suffers and dies. They heard and saw the truth. They got direction.

And then there's application (end of verse 9). Put all this into practice. You do it over and over, and over and over again. You put the truth into practice.

So there it is, the pattern for Christian discipleship: Meditation; Instruction; Direction; and, Application.

V. A Promise

And then comes a promise. Follow these exhortations, and what does Paul say? "And the God of peace will be with you."

Did you catch that? It's really striking, this promise of the experience of the presence of the God of peace. Paul says it in the most shocking way: Practice these things and the God of peace will draw near to you, and you will know His presence and you will know His peace because He has drawn near to you as you obey His word.