Justin Bieber and Marcus Aurelius

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Justin Bieber and Marcus Aurelius

November 16, 2011 - Jim Denison, PhD

Justin Bieber performing at the Sentul International Convention Center in Jakarta during his My World Tour, April 2011 (Credit: Adam Sundana via Flickr)

You know it’s a strange news day when Justin Bieber becomes a topic for my morning essay.  When Mariah Yeater filed a lawsuit two weeks ago claiming that the pop star had fathered her child, her allegations made global headlines.  Bieber fought back vigorously, asserting that he had never met her and offering to submit to a DNA test.  This morning we learn that she has dropped her lawsuit.  Bieber claimed all along, “I know that I’m going to be a target but I’m never going to be a victim.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  Our most insidious enemies don’t attack from without but from within.  That’s why Isaiah’s roadmap to peace is so critical: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  In claiming that promise this week, we have learned that our “mind” is “steadfast” when we trust God with our attitudes, thoughts, worries, and decisions.  Yesterday we learned what it means to submit our attitudes to the Holy Spirit.  Today let’s discover ways that our thoughts can lead to his perfect peace.

Scripture instructs us: “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” (Philippians 4:8).  God calls us to thoughts that are “true” (with no falsehood), “noble” (worthy of honor and respect), “right” (giving just due), “pure” (morally undefiled), “lovely” (attractive to others), “admirable” (praiseworthy or appealing), “excellent” (a comprehensive term for a virtuous person), and “praiseworthy” (that which can be complimented with integrity).

We are to “think about such things” always.  Paul’s syntax indicates habitual practice, a kind of reflective, meditative process of thought and reflection.  We must measure our thoughts by these standards.

Can we really do this?  Absolutely, as Paul’s example proves: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice” (v. 9a).  Because Paul was submitted to the Holy Spirit each day (Ephesians 5:18), his mind was empowered to be godly.  With this result: “And the God of peace will be with you” (v. 9b).

I have often quoted a little plaque that my wife keeps at home: “Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child.”  No matter our circumstances, when we think about that which is godly and good, our minds partner with the Holy Spirit to produce God’s “perfect peace.”

Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, was right: “The happiness of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts.”  How happy are you this morning?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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