In these verses Paul is explaining to his audience what they must do to witness and experience the presence of God about them.The list Paul dictates is the expected standard for what a follower of Christ should focus their mind and thoughts on. The first half of verse 9 can be read along with 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Paul says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." The point being that these are the things that Christ focused his mind and thoughts on and he walked perfectly, step-by-step with God throughout his life. So we should focus on them as well.
Paul is telling the Church of Philippi and now us, as we read his words, to focus our minds and thoughts on that which aligns with the heart of God. When we do focus our minds and thoughts on these things we will not just be aligned with God's heart, but we will be able to witness, experience and feel God's presence around us more and more. The more that we feel God's presence with us, the more we feel empowered by the Holy Spirit to overcome the temptation of sin in our lives. This then causes us to crave even more of God's presence in our lives. The result is a repeating cycle that steadily leads us to more and more Christ-like living, and all because of what we focus our thoughts on.
So here comes the hard part. Whenever your mind is tempted toward anything that contradicts the list that Paul mentioned in verse 8, I would encourage you to actively redirect your train of thought to align with this list. For example, when your roommate does something that you have asked him or her not to do several times, rather than thinking how insensitive and inconsiderate your roommate is, you could try to focus your mind on how much God loves them, or practice thinking of the redeeming qualities in your roommate. And then you could maybe even share those redeeming qualities with them. This is a powerful way to not only become more Christ-like in your own life, but to lead others to encounter God's heart for them as well.
I pray that God would empower us to have the discipline and focus to center our minds and thoughts on these topics of thinking. And out of that focus God would reveal himself to us more and more in our daily lives. I pray that we would all be able to put into practice the principles of Christ-like thinking and living that we have all learned and heard throughout our lives.
- Will Goodwin