I took Argentinean Tango dancing lessons.*
Allow me to be blunt: I can’t dance. In fact I purposely did not attend dances or the prom when I was in school; so I too was a bit surprised when I said yes to the request. A good friend desperately needed a dancing partner in order to take the classes and she had asked everyone else to no avail. I was her last option.
Growing up I loved the beauty of ballroom dance, so when the opportunity presented itself, I decided try it. While it has been a decade since then, one thing still fascinates me: there is tremendous freedom and structure within the dance.
Tango has an easy basic step (which took us about three weeks to finally master since I can’t dance haha). As we got into more complicated lessons I was surprised by the structure and boundaries the dance contained. Yet, there was incredible freedom that resulted because of the boundaries. The structure created the form which allowed the man to lead the woman in a variety of dance moves based upon that structure. The beauty of the dance is created when the couple expresses freedom and originality but stays within the structure of the dance.
I found a word that has a similar concept:
Doesn’t it sound like something you’d hear a junior high girl mockingly say with a hand raised? “What-ev-eeer!”
What has become a popular phrase for teenagers actually is a powerful term. This eight-letter word often conveys the idea of lacking restriction. Simply put, whatever suggests that anything is possible.
For example, if I told you I would support your decision, whatever you decide, I would be telling you I won’t restrict your options but rather support your final conclusion. If I asked you what you wanted for dinner and you responded with “whatever,” I would assume you meant you didn’t care, every choice would be a good one.
In Philippians 4.8, Paul gives a list of whatevers. He writes:
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 on these things.
Paul doesn’t say to think about anything, he says to think about anything within a particular structure. The beauty of a Godly life and mind are found by allowing your mind to think and meditate within a set of boundaries. As odd as it may sound: freedom is created by the boundaries.
What is it that you as a Christian are allowed to think upon? Whatever you want … as long as it
- of good report
But how on earth are we ever going to think like that? Sure I can think that way some of the time, but it seems rather impossible for me to think like that all the time.
Oh the brilliance of the Christian life! You can’t. He can!
I love the few verses that proceeds Paul’s list of whatevers:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4.4-7)
We will look again at this passage in the future but for now look again at verse seven: … and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If you were to do a simple study of Paul’s understanding of the peace of God, you’d quickly realize it is not just something God has, it is a part of who He is. You never receive the peace of God separate from receiving Jesus, they are intricately tied together. In fact, Ephesians 2.14 states that Jesus Himself is our peace.
Paul is declaring that the peace of God, which is found in the Person of Jesus and goes beyond all understanding, will guard and protect your heart and mind.
Are you interested in having a Godly mind? Would you like to have the mind of Christ? Would you like your mind to be so full of Him that for some reason you found yourself only thinking about that which is true and noble and just and pure and lovely and of good report and virtuous and praiseworthy?
The only way you’ll ever think differently is when you submit and surrender every thought to Jesus and allow Him to guard and protect your heart and mind.
Could it be that Jesus wants to radically change your life and become the sentinel of your soul so that you are no longer conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God? (see Romans 12.2).
What is it that you dwell upon? What do you spend your day thinking about? Are you experiencing fear, worry, or anxiety over a problem? Are you concerned about your finances or about the plan of God for your life and where He might take you? Or is your mind saturated with and guarded by Jesus? Is He your focus?
Over the next several weeks, we are going to examine the attributes that Paul commends Christians to think and meditate upon—whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy—and what they mean for our lives as set-apart Jesus-focused saints.
I encourage you to spend some time today in prayer and the Word and allow Jesus to change your heart, transform your mind, and captivate your focus. For the reality is: whatever you focus on grows bigger in your life.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
*Before you get too worried about my morals, purity, relationship with Jesus, or my sanity, let me say that it was pure, above reproach, and if I could go back there is a good chance I probably wouldn’t redo it. However, while it was a ton of fun and produced lots of funny/embarrassing moments and stories, I have resigned all future dance lessons and experiences for my future wife.
Check out the other articles in this series: