Sadly, the days of heroic knights riding in on majestic steeds, scaling castle walls and rescuing fair maidens is no longer in vogue. It appears that everything was far simpler back then: you stood for truth, protected the weak, fought evil, and took life at a bit slower pace than we do now.
Yet several centuries before honorable knights came on the scene, Paul exhorted believers to have a mindset of nobility, honor, and dignity.
We’ve been studying Paul’s “whatever” statements in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate (think / dwell) on these things.”
Paul is outlining the boundaries of what our mind is suppose to dwell upon. Every aspect he states is a focus on Jesus. Jesus is the fullness of truth, nobility, purity, love, etc. He must be the consumption and focus of our lives!
As we discovered last time, our minds are to be guarded and bound by Truth. Not just correct facts, but Truth itself. How will I know if something is true? I must become so intimate with Truth (Jesus) that anything that doesn’t look, smell, feel, or sound like Him, I immediately know is a lie (the $100 bill test).
… is noble
Now Paul says we are to also think upon whatever is noble. The word noble is often translated honorable, respectable, reverent, and dignified. It is only found four times throughout the New Testament and its emphasis is always on someone’s character.
Your character characterizes you. Obviously. People know you by your character. Sure, they may recognize you because of your physical features, but once they spend a little time with you, they know more about you than you may realize—for your character is constantly yelling in their ears.
Not long ago I received a phone call from a couple in my town who is always needing something. The man has been in a lot of pain the last few months due to a continual kidney stone problem, and needed a ride to a different hospital a couple towns over.
As I picked up he and his wife, I pulled out my proverbial salt shaker. When they talk you don’t take it with a grain of salt, you keep the salt shaker pouring. In the few years that I have known them, most of what they say is either embellished talk, outright lie, or manipulation. That is their character showing forth.
And then there are men like my friend Philip Hartman. Philip has impeccable character. He lives his life with a high level of honor, always puts others first, only speaks what is edifying, does whatever is asked (often before it’s asked), and lives a life of simplicity and humility (which means he is probably uncomfortable that I’m saying this). Just like in our own lives, Philip can’t help but display his character.
You can’t escape your true character. You may hide it for a season, but inevitably it will be seen in full color.
Paul says we are to think and dwell upon that which is honorable. The key to having a life of honor, nobility, and character is not to take horseback riding lessons and tackle the knight-proving gauntlet, the key is to have a mind that is focused on Christ. For whatever is in our heart and mind will show itself in our actions.
Jesus is the Standard
Jesus is our standard for honor and character. He displayed the decorum and honor of heaven and proved it is possible to live upon this earth with such a life. And now that same Jesus, through His Spirit, lives in you! It is imperative that our minds stay focused upon Him! The boundary for our minds is not just what is true but what is honorable, respectable, reverent, and dignified.
How has your mind been recently? Are the thoughts you dwell upon filled with honor? Are they reverent? Are they dignified—a thought process that is worthy of respect?
16 Marks of Honor
If I may take the concept one step further, we know as Christians we are not called to mediocre and shallow lives. There is to be a confidence in our step, a smile upon our lips, a seriousness in our soul, and agape within our lives. The life of honor we are called to live is nothing short of impossible without the Spirit of God sourcing and producing it within our lives.
But what does such a life look like practically?
One of my favorite teaching sessions at Ellerslie is called Manly Honor. In it, my friend Eric Ludy talks about what honor is and gives the “Code of Wallace”—also referred to as the 16 Marks of Honor. I want you to read Eric’s 16 Marks of Honor* and realize that it is not some abstract action we hope to emulate, rather it is a lifestyle that naturally spills out of us when our heart and mind are focused on what it should (Philippians 4:8).
1. Dead to Self-Interest
A man (or woman) of honor must first die before he might ever live. As a prerequisite to a life of distinguished valor, he must forsake all personal rights and demands he once inherently held. All personal demands on the length of life must be let go—and he must be willing to die this very day for the honor and glory of Heaven’s errands. All personal demands on the quality of his life must be given up—if he is to have but the necessities and nothing more, he shall be content. And all personal demands that he may have regarding his reputation and desired legacy must be forsaken—he must only have eyes for the renown of his rightful King.
A man of honor must prove dead to this world, its fashions and cultural laws. He must prove dead to its good favor, its enticing comforts, and its applause. A man of honor must live only as the Divine wills, only as the Almighty commands, only as the Prince of Heaven dictates. A man of honor must prove loyal to the divine revelation, to follow God’s command, whether it be to ruin or to triumph.
A man of honor must be moved by a Kingdom priority. He must be dead to self-interest, and he mustn’t connive for position or personal benefit, but must trust that if he seeks the King’s interests alone, the King will add unto him all that is necessary for life and godliness.
2. Confident in Battle
A man of honor must be sure in his step. He must know that if the Almighty has issued the command to march, then the God of battle will go before him. He must not hesitate, even for a moment—for honor demands the instant obedience of a soldier.
3. Courageous Under Fire
A man of honor must prove courageous, unmoved by obstacle, undettered by seeming defeat, dauntless and bravehearted though all have fled and he must stand all alone against ten thousand.
A man of honor must hold courage in high esteem. He must rise up to defend, to fight, to engage the enemy, even when the enemy he must rise up against would seem outwardly to best his strength. And a man of honor esteems similar courage, nobility, and moral strength in others and is quick to champion its formation and full-development.
4. Trained for War
A man of honor must be a workman approved for battle. His hands must be trained for war, his soul trained for endurance in battle. A man of honor must be prepared for all manner of warfare, for there is no greater disgrace then a soldier that flees in the midst of the fight.
5. Restrained to the Nature of God
A man of honor must never attack one who is unarmed. He must fight his battles with the same decorum with which God fights His. He is governed by the noblesse oblige of heaven.
6. Upholder of Decorum
A man of honor must never speak ill, even if it be true, of one whose honor he has covenanted to keep. He must never endanger or degrade one he loves in order to preserve his own life, and/or reputation.
7. Harnessed of Soul
A man of honor is singleminded in priority and undettered by the charm of sexuality or the enticement of alcohol. A mighty man must prove harnessed in his soul, unavailable to the enticements of flesh, closed to the invitation of compromise—clear minded and strong of presence at all times. The adulterous woman mustn’t be looked at, listened to, or entertained even for the slightest moment, lest her charms create a breach in the armor of uprightness.
8. Cannot Violate Conscience
A man of honor holds sacred his conscience. Every word spoken must be weighed before the bar of heaven; every action lived must demonstrate the divine pattern of love, courage, and faith; and every motive of the man’s soul must be measured against the selfless sacrifice of Calvary. A honorable man’s word is his bond, it’s his unbreakable covenant. He cannot lie. He cannot, and must not, transgress his conscience for any price.
9. A Protector of the Weak
A man of honor must hold children, women, the aged, and the disabled as more valuable than his own life. Those more fragile and vulnerable on this earth claim his priority, his concern, and his sincerest attentions. A man of honor’s body and blood are reserved for the rescue of such as these.
10. Marked by Purity and Virtue
A man of honor must lead by the animation of virtue. He must demonstrate the regal disposition of heaven. He must be bold in speaking truth and ally with truth no matter if he must stand against the world in doing so. He must inspire with his confidence and spirited dedication to the cause. He must garner respect with his purity of conversation and with his courageous action. And he must forthrightly rebuke those of his closest fellowship that are veering in their journey down the narrow path. He must be quick to forgive and unwilling to retain a grudge.
11. Unafraid of Death
A man of honor smiles upon death, is ready to perish, is prepared to let go of his earthly life—however, he will not submit to death and he will not let go of his earthly strength until Heaven invites him to do so.
12. Unwilling to be Subjugated or Debased
A man of honor refuses subjugation and enslavement to any, but the Almighty. A man of honor may endure prison, but not as a slave of a tyrant, but as a slave of righteousness. A man of honor is never beneath the thumb of man’s tyranny. He submits only to the Divine command and heeds no man. The cuffs of imprisonment can only hamper the outward body, but the soul of a man of honor is never imprisoned, is never defeated.
13. Last to Sleep, First to Rise
A man of honor leads his troop with fatherly attentiveness. He is the last to sleep and the first to rise. He watches over the ones in his care and refuses to see a single man, woman, or child lost to the wolves of warfare.
14. Untouched by Men’s Opinion
A man of honor refuses praise and adulations, but rather deflects it heavenward and toward those that surround him. He must never claim the glory that is rightfully due his Heavenly King. He must never heed either the earthly reports of his greatness or the earthly reports of his inadequacies. He must only heed the opinion of the Almighty, who delights to prove the mettle of his soul and daily test his heart and reins. A man of honor finds his confidences in the smile of his God and from no mere human countenance.
15. Possessing Great Inner Stability
A man of honor must possess a stable core. He must be able to feel emotion at great levels, but never for a moment, lose his composure. He must be able to weep, but never be controlled by the weeping. He must be able to feel compassion, but never be swept away by the pity. A man of honor must be of sound mind, and sound inward order at all times, in the gravest and most severe of circumstances.
16. Rightly Prioritized
A man of honor cares that his wife is properly adorned. He is attuned to the needs of his household and never without thought for their care and instruction. A man of honor must never place the value of battle over the value of family or the value of God’s glory. But rather, he fights his battles on behalf his family and on behalf of God’s glory—not in spite of them.
* Taken from Eric Ludy’s session “Manly Honor”—copyrighted Ellerslie Mission Society. Used by permission.
Check out the other articles in this series: