One of the hardest things to do is to control one’s mind. It is a dark labyrinth full of endless allies, none leading to solace or answers but only more questions and despair. When one isolates himself within his own mind, he is bound to go astray (Proverbs 18:1). This is because the fallen mind is broken and darkened by sin. Left to itself, it mulls over matters of hurt and distrust, or moves into regions of lust and vice, or dreams of personal triumphs over others and imagines scenes of glory. Let’s face it, the last thing we would ever want anyone to know about us is our own thoughts. Our problem is that as sinful creatures with darkened minds, such thinking is our modus operandi; that is, what I have described is the way our minds work when left in neutral, only worse. Granted, some nurture these thoughts and can truly make monsters of themselves, but we all have natural thinking patterns that make decent people shudder when they examine their thoughts even in the light of corrupt nature and certainly under the light of the word of God.
So Paul directs our thoughts in verse eight: Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise—think on these things. Note that this is something we must strive to do. To borrow a term from the world, we must be “proactive” with our minds; we must intentionally think on the matters the Apostle just mentioned since we will not do so otherwise. And we are not talking about positive thinking; we are talking about godly thinking. Paul is not telling anyone to feel good about themselves; he is telling believers to think about those virtues which we see in the Lord, in his saving work in our lives, and in his saving work in the lives of others.
I cannot overstate the importance of controlling the mind for the Christian, for our thoughts determine so much of our actions, and if nothing else, our countenance. People with debased thoughts do debased things or speak in debased ways; that is, such manner of thinking is bound to express itself and come seeping out. But the good news is that godly thinking will also express itself in actions as our new nature in Christ takes more control over our lives. And how do we do this? By filling our minds with God’s word, contemplating the life of Christ, glorying in the salvation he has given us, meditating on the teachings of the faith regarding his grace, forgiveness, intercession for us at the right hand, or blessings bestowed upon us. Exchange the labyrinth for peace of mind, a peace that comes from God.