Approve What Is Excellent

During the first century AD there was no banking system as we know it today. Money was coins made from metal, and the metal itself was the value of the money. There were a couple of problems with this system. First, some unscrupulous people would make counterfeit coins, coins that were not 100% the metal they were supposed to be. Second, a lot of people would shave a bit of the precious metal off from real coins, making them less valuable than they should be while collecting a pile of gold shavings for themselves. Shaving coins was such a problem that Athens had more than 80 laws prohibiting the practice.

How was one to make sure his coins had the value they were supposed to have? You could take your coins to a “dokimos,” an “approved,” money changer whose job it was to separate full-value coins from less-than-full-value coins. The dokimos would scrutinize, test, and otherwise use their knowledge and experience to properly figure out which coins were valuable, and which were not. The approved (dokimos) money changer lent his title to the Greek verb “dokimazo,” to examine, prove, scrutinize – to determine if something is genuine or not.

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul tells the saints: “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve (dokimazo) what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)

We see in these three short verses, a partial* outline of Paul’s plan for helping the Philippian Christians come to fullness and maturity.

  • Love for God should lead us to devote our lives to God’s glory and praise.
  • Righteousness (our being in a right relationship with God) comes not through our own efforts, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  • Keep in mind the day of Christ (His return, His judgement), and wanting to hear the “well done” because we have been fruitful, pure, and blameless.
  • Fill your “renewed mind” with God’s knowledge, which will give you discernment.
  • And then employ that discernment to “dokimazo” (examine, prove, scrutinize, test, distinguish, and ultimately approve) what is excellent, and to reject what is not.

A while ago, I sat in on a Foundations Course that John DeWitt was teaching online. This was the talk on use of the media, where people are encouraged to limit the amount of time they spend engaging media, and to be carefully discerning what media they do engage. As John was leading the session this passage from Philippians came to mind. With what are we going to fill our minds? Will it be the lightweight, counterfeit stuff that typifies so much of the media, or will it be true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise (this list is from Philippians 4:8).

During times of stress – such as the Covid19 isolation – we face a number of challenges. One of these challenges is that many of the godly patterns that used to fill our lives (church, community gatherings, small group, fellowship, and service) are now greatly reduced. For many of us, media is consuming more and more of our time and attention. I believe the Lord would have us carefully evaluate how we spend our time, what goes into our mind, what feeds our spirit, and to what do we give our imagination.

Yes, doing so can be a struggle. It is much easier to simply devour whatever the world has to offer: to click the next link on Facebook or YouTube, to binge watch another season on Netflix, or to get lost in an online game. But it is by engaging the struggle for Christian maturity that we become mature. Let us keep our goal clearly before our eyes, and like the “dokimos” money changer, carefully examine those things that fill our mind and, quite literally, consume our life.

“I appeal to you… to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove (dokimazo) what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

* If you remove from Philippians Paul’s news about his situation, his sending others to visit, and his appreciation for the Philippian’s support, what you have left is a book about becoming mature and fruitful Christians: “pressing on towards the goal – the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 3:14)


Top photo credit: image of bible study group from lightstock.com

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