What is of Good REpute?
He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem…
Paul challenges us in Philippians 4 to dwell on whatever is of good repute. Good repute means having a solid reputation. We want to spend our time dwelling on and aligning ourselves with those who have a solid reputation, those who are spoken well of and speak well. We know today that our reputation is impacted not just by our actions but also by our words. So, being of good repute has a lot to do with what we say and how we say it. If we can find a way to live with good repute we will live in greater victory and with greater influence.
Daniel was a man who lived in such a way. He was actually a Jew who was being held in captivity to the Babylonians. But, because he was of such good repute he made his way to the top and was almost put in charge of the entire kingdom. Talk about great influence and great victory, even in a land that was not his own!
Daniel was able to accomplish this without compromising his relationship with God. That is the first step to living in good repute, to not waiver in our faith. He made a decision to not allow anything or anyone to defile him and the way he went about making that decision earned him a tremendous amount of respect. We can remain faithful to God, even in defiance of the rest, and still maintain our respect.
Daniel did it by showing respect. He spoke respectfully. He lived respectfully. He even showed compassion for those who had taken his people into captivity. Daniel was an authentic follower of God, which is ultimately led to his great reputation. If we want to have great reputations today and be people of great influence then we first have to make a decision – are we fully surrendered to God? Are we willing to live for Him no matter what the rest are doing? That is where good repute begins.
What Is Lovely?
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
Have you ever experienced that feeling of lose when you finally realized what you had, but it was too late, and now it’ gone? I am sure we have all been there. That is where this Psalm is coming from. It is attributed to the sons of Korah. Korah was a man/family that had been entrusted with caring for the things of the Tabernacle. Think of them as the custodians. It isn’t a very glorifying job, but still a necessary job and one that everyone appreciates but they don’t say much until it isn’t done right. Well, Korah grew disgruntled with his job, wanted another one, rebelled, and was destroyed. Only his sons survived and they became the custodians. They, however, recognized the loveliness of their position and celebrated it – how blessed to be on the door step of the house of God!!
In this life we have to be careful to not miss the good God has given us because we get too focused on the good God gave someone else. Paul tells us in Philippians to dwell on whatever is lovely. It is a good challenge for us. Dwell on your lovely – not someone else’s. That lovely you dwell on should be what ever stirs up a love for God in your heart and a love for others in your life. If what you find yourself dwelling on is stirring up an attitude of resentment, contempt, or envy then that thing for you is not lovely.
God has given you lovely things and lovely people to dwell on. Those things will draw you closer to Him, not pull you further away. Find those lovely things and people – cling to them. Better to spend a day with them than a thousand somewhere else.
DIscernment: What is Pure?
Jesus gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
One of the things Paul tells us to dwell on is purity. To be pure means to be undefiled, to not be contaminated with anything. To be a pure person means to not be mixed up with anything that corrupts the soul. It is a pretty tall order, especially in the world we live today. It is a lot easier for us to settle for the impure than to search for, or strive after, the pure. If we aren’t careful we end up settling for something less than what God has promised us.
When God created He called it good. His creation was pure. That is what He is at work redeeming us to. He isn’t redeeming us to something less than perfect or less than good. He is a holy God who demands that we too be holy (Lev. 19:2). At first we might want to push back and say that is too high of a standard, there is no way we can ever live up to that, or feel as if it is an unrealistic expectation. But, would God demand something of us that was impossible for us to achieve?
Well, in our own strength, it is impossible. That is why God sent Jesus – to purify us. When we settle for anything less than pure we are ignoring the work Jesus accomplished on the cross. It is possible for us to live a life free from slavery to sin. It is possible for us to live a life of integrity. It is possible for us to live a life completely sold out to God. It’s possible because of Jesus. So, don’t settle for anything less than what God has promised. Strive and search for the purity God has for you.
Discernment: What is Just?
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
I want justice! Do you ever find yourself demanding justice? Stop for just a second and seriously consider what it is your are asking for and whether or not that is really the good God defines in Micah and the rest of the Bible. When we want justice we are usually asking for someone to be punished, right? Are we asking for justice or are we demanding vindication? In demanding punishment/vindication are we taking up the position of judge and jury and saying we know all the fact and therefore know how this situation should play out? Are we demanding justice all the time, or only when it suits us (which isn’t justice at all)? Really, is that the good we should be doing? Probably not.
God’s idea of justice isn’t just about punishment, it is about setting things right. Justice is about things as they ought to be. God declared His creation good – that is the standard. So, getting back to that is the just God is looking for. That is right, that is good. Go wouldn’t say “no justice, no peace.” God would say, and has in Jesus, declared “no peace, no justice.” God’s justice and our justice are very different from each other. If we want good, really want it, then we must pursue His justice and not our own.
God’s justice looks like injustice to us. Think about it. The very thing we want the most – forgiveness, salvation, heaven – has been made possible through an unjust act – the crucifixion of Jesus. We find our justification in the unjust death of Jesus. If you want justice, it starts with Jesus. It starts with living in Him and for Him. It starts with forgiveness, love, and grace.
Discernment: What is Honorable?
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
What is deserving of honor and respect in our world today? Is it people who have achieved a certain status? Is it people who have been able to live by a certain standard? It is those people who agree with us? Is it the people who live in tremendous integrity? Just like it is hard to determine truth, it is also hard to discern what is honorable and where our focus should be.
According to Psalm 8 humanity has been crowned with glory and honor. That means it doesn’t matter what our status is or what the world says about us, we are honorable because God has give us honor – some of His honor. Genesis tells us that when He created us He did so in His image. God’s image is definitely worthy of some honor.
When we think of what is honorable in our world, we should start with the image of God. Where do you see God in this place? Where do you see God in people’s lives because those are the honorable things we should be dwelling on. Now, it might be hard to find that image, but even in the places we do not see His image we have a hope that God is at work restoring that image.
You are honorable today because God has bestowed on you that glory and that honor. We might be struggling to actually live in that honor and to live out that image (by image I mean all the things God is – goodness, love, grace, mercy, etc..) but that is where Jesus comes in. Sin has corrupted God’s image in us, but through Jesus that image can be restored. Look to God today for what is honorable and trust Him to restore that honor in your life.
Discernment: What is True?
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
You would think living in the digital age that we are that it would be easy to discern truth from lie, but it actually seems to make it harder. Everyone seems to have their own truth and we are left trying to figure out whose truth is the real truth or the full truth. Who really knows what is true anymore!? It gets very frustrating and exhausting not knowing who to trust or believe.
Jesus tells us that He is the truth (John 14:6) and then here He tells those who believe that they should listen to His teachings to find the truth. What that tells me is that if we really want truth then we need to look to Jesus – the life He lived and the things He taught. Jesus has revealed and given a lot to us. Not only through His teaching but also through His spirit – who guides us in truth.
So, even during these uncertain times we can know truth. The truth we have access to isn’t just a list of facts, but it is a person. It is a truth that we can live in and have a relationship with. The truth Jesus offers us is one that can change us and free us. Jesus even prayed to The Father asking that we would be set apart (sanctified) in truth. The truth of Jesus is powerful and life changing!
There is no need to live this life in fear and uncertainty. We can be set free from the power of sin and also from the lies the world keeps telling us. We can live free of all of it when we continue in the truth of Christ. I am praying for you, that you might come to know the freedom in the truth of Jesus Christ!
Discernment: To See
Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
The first time Nathanael met Jesus, Jesus acted like He knew him. He described Nathanael as a good man, one in which there was no deceit. This was a surprise to Nathanael because the two had never met. That is what led to this exchange between them and when Nathanael learned that God was very aware of him, who he was, and what he was going through.
Sitting under a fig tree was probably not all that uncommon in those days. Don’t you like to sit in the shade too? But, the way Jesus said it leads us to believe that He was talking about a specific moment, one that was apparently deeply personal to Nathanael, and he picked up on that right away. This moment that Jesus referred to was a secret no one else knew about. Jesus didn’t put his private information on display, He just said enough to get Nathanael’s attention.
Nathanael immediately recognized this moment for what it was and recognized Jesus for who He was. He didn’t try to explain anything away or run and hide. He allowed himself to be seen by Jesus. Jesus then assured him that he would see even greater things. It is amazing to me that once we allow Jesus to see us, fully see us, and we accept that and Him, how our eyes can be opened to the good things God has for us.
I want you to know that God sees you today. He sees the “fig tree” you are sitting under. He knows what no one else does and isn’t judging you for it, but is ready to comfort and redeem you from it. Accept that reality, accept Him today, and look for the good God has for you.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.