If There Is Any Excellence – Over The Top Virtue

May 1st, 2024 – Early Thursday Evening

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise…” ~Philippians 4:8a-g

Part 1 of 2
Let us depart from our filtration system analogy for the next two devotionals…or, at least, let us modify our understanding of it. If the “whatevers” of this passage are filtration layers, the “if there is any” speaks to something(s) beyond the capabilities of the filtration system. Confused? Let me explain, starting with “excellence” for this devotional:
The Greek word that we translate “excellence (excellent)”  or “virtue” (in this context) has to do with something that is of “any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity”. Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, has a similar definition (among others) for “virtue”: “A particular moral excellence; as the virtue of temperance, of chastity, of charity.” For “excellence”, the end of his first definition is this: “In short, whatever contributes to exalt man, or to render him esteemed and happy, or to bless society, is in him an excellence”. Thus, in the context of Philippians 4:8 and our discussion on the mind, “if there is any excellence” speaks to something that sticks out a notch above everything else.
How does this fit into the first paragraph? Well, if the water coming out of the filtration system is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute, it must also be as crystal clear as the water from a pure mountain stream; that which is excellent is impeccable and without any form of stain or contamination. This may all seem like a reiteration of some of the previously mentioned qualities (and, in a way, it is), but excellence is over the top. The same word is used to describe the character of God (see 2 Peter 1:3 & 1 Peter 2:9); the “excellencies” of God is another way of saying the “perfections” of God.
How do we apply this to our thinking? First, don’t settle for what barely passes through the filtration system – and that is saying a lot given how meticulous these layers are! Sometimes we can make excuses for thoughts and thought processes that are borderline; that which is “excellent” leaves no room for such thinking. Second, remember and reflect on the excellencies of the God who has rescued and redeemed us for Himself through Christ Jesus! If we are focused on Him, He will help us focus our thinking on that which is excellent and full of virtue.
Don’t settle for second-best; think on that which is excellent in the eyes of God – be that about your circumstances, other people, or yourself.