Watching the news nowadays can be so disheartening. Daily charts showing the pandemic's toll. Yet another gang shooting. Political conflicts and threats of escalation. Systemic patterns of discrimination. Ignorant, prejudiced "Karens" in our grocery stores. And the list goes on.
And then we remember that as God's people, we have been called out of darkness into God's wonderful light. Called to live our lives here on earth different. Holy. Separate. As "sojourners and exiles."
But what makes holy people holy? And unholy people unholy? To a large degree, it is what they fill their hearts and their minds with. What they invite into their thoughts. And what they deliberately keep out.
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:8,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
Notice what Paul doesn't say: "Finally, brothers, whatever is reasonably accurate, whatever isn't too outrageous, whatever is minimally unjust, whatever isn't exceptionally filthy, whatever isn't absolutely vulgar, whatever doesn't make you too uncomfortable, if there is anything that isn't way overboard or not completely without virtue, think on these things — go ahead, fill your mind with them and let them influence you accordingly." (Again, just to be sure, this is what Paul DOESN'T say.)
This is a daily battle for holiness isn't it? Because there is a constant flood of influences coming at us, whether we want them to or not. How much more we need to ponder and pay attention to things that God approves and that can shape our minds to be like his.
I love what Jerry Bridges writes in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness:
As Christians we are no longer to be conformed to the pattern of this world but we are to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 4:23; 1 Pet 1:14). Holiness begins in our minds and works out to our actions. This being true, what we allow to enter our minds is critically important. The television programs we watch, the movies we may attend, the books and magazines we read, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have all affect our minds. We need to evaluate the effects of these avenues honestly, using Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Are the thoughts stimulated by these various avenues true? Are they pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?
We cannot escape the complex realities of this world. But we can guard our hearts and minds by filtering what comes to us through Philippians 4:8. Such that our invisible yet distinct holiness (in thought) may overflow into a visible difference (in our good deeds), both to the glory of our Father in heaven.