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Phil 4:8 Test

From time to time I will have someone approach me asking what I think of a certain book or movie. I may even have some ask me about their choice in music and other forms of entertainment. I am not always the best judge of art and literature simply because, like everyone, I have my biases and personal interests. If only there was a rule of thumb that I could pass on that would help my friends establish their own weights and measures for this kind of situation.

Oh wait, there’s that thing called The Bible…

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Consider what we watch, read or listen to through this filter. It’s not an easy task, I was surprised at how much I watch or listen to that doesn’t actually pass the ‘Phil 4:8 test.’ In fact, my surprise has moved quickly to conviction and that brought me to ask forgiveness and write this post.

I know, I know, you’re probably reading this and thinking about Romans 14 and the freedom mature believers in Christ enjoy. You wouldn’t be wrong to do so, in most circumstances. Why is it that we have a graduated scale of acceptable material for children and yet as adults, we seem to be free to embrace chaos? What would Jesus do if He were chilling out on a Saturday night?
It would be a pretty lame idea to suddenly live without any form of entertainment. I just think we have to be extremely careful.

I was asked once by a Mother in our church to talk with her son about his pornography addiction. I sat with this intelligent kid and listened to how he had first been exposed to it. Not long into the conversation, I found out that his own Dad simply viewed it as fantasy, that it wasn’t real and therefore harmless. I decided I needed to have a talk with this Dad and get to the bottom of it all. I can’t always take one side of a story, this guy was a regular attendee of the church I belonged to at the time. Maybe the kid was simply blame-storming to avoid any sense of guilt.

About a week later, the Dad and I met for lunch in a busy restaurant; I really didn’t think this would be a long conversation. I shared with the Dad that I had been hanging out with his son recently. Instead of relaying what the kid had said about his Dad’s view on pornography I decided to keep it light and ask a lot of leading questions. Lo and behold, the Dad came out with the ‘it’s just fantasy, there’s no harm in it’ commentary. Anything I could say to this kid to help him was now completely shot. I explained the reality of harm that comes with addictions in general, how they master our spirits and have our character surrender to the enemy. I then moved on to the specific harms that come with a pornography addiction, but, sadly, it all fell on deaf ears.

What can I possibly do to teach others to live a life pleasing to God? I am far from perfect, a sinner saved by grace, What can I do in my own life to model holiness? I can’t make up my own moral code of acceptable practices, I need God’s Word as a compass and guide. Philippians 4:8 tells me that if something is not true, dishonourable, unfair, impure, awful, not worth recommending if it is teaching us to make bad character decisions if it is something shameful to watch or read and needs to be done in secret, we absolutely must run from it.

If you think you are strong enough to play with fire and not get burned, you are wrong. If you believe that the Phil 4:8 test is only for younger Christians, you are deceived. I don’t mean to be harsh or too bold here, I mean this with as much love as I can find. The journey to holiness is not a journey to perfection. The journey to holiness is one of submission, it is a journey of giving The Lord our will and perceived rights.

We are far from perfect. I think, at the very best, we need to get good at falling down in the right direction. We will make mistakes, but we have an incredible saviour. The next time you want to listen to that new song, watch that new movie or read that book you’ve heard so much about, ask yourself if it passes the Phil 4:8 test.

By Earl Buchan
Lead Pastor, Radiant Church in Winnipeg

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