Our Sunday School lesson this morning was on making meditation on the Scriptures part of our lifestyle. Clearly, in a hectic and frenzied world, it behooves Christians to focus on God through prayer and His Word regularly.
In developing our daily walk with Christ, let me point you to a passage of Scripture that is immensely helpful to us.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8, ESV)
Growing in the faith requires pondering the good things in life. And so, I'd like to take a few moments this morning to talk to you about the benefits of biblical meditation.
I. BIBLICAL MEDITATION CONCENTRATES ON HEALTHY VIRTUES
- the practice of meditation is an issue not frequently discussed in the church
- it has been so closely associated with the Eastern Religions and cults that we've tended to shy away from it in the church
- and yet, there is much practical value to biblical meditation
- if there were not, Paul would not have told the Philippian believers to "think on such things"
- the Greek word is logēēzomai and literally means to ponder these things
- in 2 Corinthians 10:5 the Apostle Paul uses the word to describe bringing "every thought" under the authority of Christ
- let me say very quickly what Biblical meditation is not
- it is not the exercise of emptying our mind in order to get in touch with our inner self or to discover truth from within
- we never see Christ or any of his disciples sitting in a lotus position chanting some mantra
- that is the kind of meditation associated with Eastern religions or cultic mysticism
- the goal of Eastern meditation is achieving an altered state of consciousness that focuses on self
- any time meditation focuses on the self it has the potential to lead to pride or error and in some cases, even psychosis where contact with reality is lost or highly distorted
- you will never discover the truth about yourself by ‘looking within’ because human nature has a boundless capacity to lie to itself and convince one’s self that ‘I’m all right’ even when your not!
A. MANY BELIEVERS MEDITATE ON THE WRONG THINGS
- too often, our attention is focused on "things below" when we really need to be concentrating on "things above"
- “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3, NIV)
- instead, it focuses on virtuous things that compel us to praise God and to evaluate our lives in light of God’s virtues and attributes
- but how do quantitatively measure things like nobility, righteousness, purity, loveliness and honorableness?
- how do you appraise the beauty of a sunset, the babbling of a brook, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind or a clear evening sky filled with stars?
- these things cannot be measured or appraised and maybe that's why many in our society sniff at such things
B. BELIEVERS NEED TO PRACTICE ‘SACRED IDLENESS' ON A REGULAR BASIS
- ILLUS. Anselm of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk who lived in the late 11th century and eventually became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a great scholar and deeply spiritual. In regard to the Apostle Paul’s command to ponder these things, Anselm wrote: "Flee for a little while thy occupations; hide thyself for a time from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside now thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God, and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God and such as can aid thee in seeking him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, "I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek."
- in one of his Psalms, King David wrote: “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” (Psalm 4:4, NASB)
- where is the best place where you can be still in order to meditate upon the things of God?
- ... is it walking through a field of tall grass?
- ... is it sitting by the side of a pond?
- ... is it lying on you back in the grass to watch the clouds go by?
- where ever it is, it's a place you need to visit regularly
- and when you go there, concentrate on the attributes of God, the glories of our Christ, and the virtues of Godly living
II. BIBLICAL MEDITATION SPIRITUALLY STRENGTHENS THE BELIEVER
- “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3, KJV)
- why meditate on virtuous things like the laws of God?
- such meditation leads to moral education and spiritual discipline
- it trains the heart and mind toward goodness, Godliness and righteousness
- it nourishes our soul with an understanding of God and His revealed will
- when the believer meditates on virtuous things it reminds us that God is in control and He cares about his children which leads us to praise and joy
- “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, And dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9, NASB)
- notice how the psalmist begins with contemplation about the vastness of the universe
- his meditation takes him to the depths of humility when he considers how puny man is in comparison to God's universe
- yet the truth is that God has exalted man which leads the author to joy and praise
III. BIBLICAL MEDITATION RE-PROGRAMS THE MIND
- in his letter to the Christians at Rome, the Apostle Paul talked about the importance of putting "good things" into our minds
- “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2, KJV)
- the goal of the Christian life is that each of us become more Christlike with the passing of time
- that requires transformation
- literally the word is metamorphosis— the things that caterpillars do as they change into butterflies
- the word means to "change into another form, to transform, to transfigure"
- transformation comes through the renewing of the mind
A. WE OFTEN BECOME WHAT WE THINK
- research has pretty much confirmed what casual observation has told us for years
- what we watch and who we associate with and what we put into our minds affects our imaginations, our learning patterns, and our behaviors
- any mother could tell you this is so
- but it's true not just for children, but also for adults
- if we repeatedly expose ourselves to specific behaviors we will eventually view the behavior as "normal" since “everybody else is doing it”
- eventually we adopt those behaviors as our own
- ILLUS. Once upon a time a spider built a beautiful web in an old house. He kept it clean and shiny so that flies would patronize it. When ever he saw a fly whizz by he would always invite them in and many entered. Then one day this fairly intelligent fly came buzzing by the spider's web. Old man spider called out, "Come in and sit." But the fairly intelligent fly said, "No, sir. I don't see other flies in your house, and I am not going in alone!" But resently he saw on the floor below a large crowd of flies dancing around on a piece of brown paper. He was delighted! He was not afraid if lots of flies were doing it. So he came in for a landing. Just before he landed, a bee zoomed by, saying, "Don't land there, stupid! That's flypaper!" But the fairly intelligent fly shouted back, "Don't be silly. Those flies are dancing. There's a big crowd there. Everybody's doing it. That many flies can't be wrong!" Well, you know what happened. He died on the spot. Some of us want to be with the crowd so badly that we end up in a mess. What does it profit a fly if he escapes the web only to end up in the glue?
- the mind is a garden that can be cultivated to produce the harvest that we desire
- the mind is a workshop where the important decisions of life and eternity are hammered out
- the mind is an armory where we forge the weapons for our victory or our destruction
- the mind is a battlefield where all the decisive engagements of life are won or lost
- it doesn't have to be restricted to the Bible
- there are many good novels, books, movies, art, and yes, even some television shows, that are excellent and praiseworthy
- if, however, you really want to reach the heights of spiritual meditation let me offer you some practical insights:
- Make the Bible your primary focus for meditation
- Read it with a prayer in your heart
- Read it contemplatively every day
- As you read, occasionally read it aloud to yourself
- As you read, you might ask yourself some of the following questions:
- is there some truth I should know from this verse
- is there something I should stop doing in light of this verse?
- how does this passage affect a previously held belief or conviction?
- is there a practice I should change?
- is there a habit I ought to begin?
Make the commitment tonight to practice some sacred idleness. John R. W. Stott once admitted the truth that many of us are also guilty of: "The thing I know will give me the deepest joy – namely, to be alone and unhurried in the presence of God, aware of His presence, my heart open to worship Him -- is often the thing I least want to do."