Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Becoming Like God...In His Word (Part 2, 2 of 3)

Part 1 shared some thoughts on the need to memorize. Today, we will look at two other aspects of Bible Intake.

MEDITATION my heart...

The heart is what keeps us living. When the heart stops, the body stops. If our heart is not healthy, then we are not healthy. But sometimes our heart may not be healthy, and we think we are ok. Then all of a sudden, cardiac arrest. Or a heart attack. Or angina. The problem is that our heart wasn't really healthy, but we thought it was. For those that live through such an event, the decision to make changes in one's lifestyle generally comes easier. Maybe eating better, exercising more, releasing stress, etc.

Well, the same is true for the word of God!

Most people hear mediate and think of some foreign practice like yoga. But meditation is squarely within God's Word. The difference is that Christian meditation isn't about sitting and realizing and clearing your mind. It is actively using your mind to focus on God and His Word. It isn't emptying your mind, it is filling it. And by filling our mind, it slowly seeps into our heart.

Donald Whitney defines meditation as a: “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.”

Read Psalm 1.1–3. Verse 2, His delight is in the Law of the Lord. The delight is not just a law or set of laws – it is the instruction of the Lord. Again, the Hebrew word can be translated here instruction. The psalmist meditates on God's instruction – God's Word. Why? Because he delights in it.

What do you think about most? Most of your thoughts probably pertain to one of two things. Either what you most enjoy or what you most fear. And probably a little of both. Am I right? Why do you think about these things? Either you are cursed by fear by what may or may not happen (fear) or you take pleasure in what you most enjoy! The psalmist wasn't worried about fear – now read Psalm 1.4–6. He knew what would happen to those whose delight was not God. But his delight was – and therefore his thoughts – his meditations – were of God and His Word.

One more reason we should meditate, not just hear, read, or memorize. God's Word tells us to. Colossians 3.16, “Let God's word dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, signing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – That verse could serve as a short blog series, but as it applies to meditation – let God's Word dwell in you richly.

If we don't meditate, if we merely hear, read, or even memorize, we may take in A LOT of God's Word, but how much sticks? It is like rain. What most people enjoy is a nice gentle rain that stops after awhile and gets soaked into the ground, moistening the soil, and preparing the ground fit for life. But a hard rain, or too much of it, simply runs off. It can cause damage. Why? It isn't getting absorbed. It is a like a person that knows so much Scripture, and spouts off verses all the time towards other people – yet doesn't really know the meaning of what s/he is saying.

The song, "Wonderful Words of Life", capture the idea of meditation? How do you know if something is wonderful? You have thought is about or compared it to something else. Of course, as we gain more experiences – both good and bad – sometimes we can determine if something is wonderful quickly. If you get really good news, “That's wonderful.” Why can you say that? Because you have knowledge of news that is less appealing – less wonderful, if you will.

But what is wonderful? Truly it means to be full of wonder. It means that something is worthy of wondering about. If that is a proper understanding of the word, then is there anything worthy wondering about more than God – and where does God most reveal Himself – in the Bible. So logically, the Bible is the place we can go to explore the wonders of God. And if we are exploring, we are thinking about, we are considering, we are developing our thoughts to better understand. And this is called – Meditation!

And as we meditate, we are now best prepared to apply God's Word to our life.


...THAT I might not sin against You.

The entire goal of the psalmist in storing God's Word in his heart was not so he could say how many verses he had memorized...not so he could sit and meditate all day...not so he could study all day...not so he could impress his friends with Bible trivia. No, the entire reason is so his life would be one of obedience to God.

Ezra 7.10 says, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, AND TO DO IT, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Mind you, Ezra was not living in Israel yet, he was still in captivity. But as I was studying this verse, I came across the following statement in a commentary:

God's people always need teaching. A great percentage of the work of the church is discipling, nurturing, training. More than just the imparting of facts, this involves training in righteousness and motivating believers to love and obey God. It includes learning what a biblical view signifies for practical life today. – (NAC, 130, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)

Anything we do regarding the Bible should lead us to better imitate Him. Remember that is our goal from this series on spiritual disciplines. Ephesians 5.1, “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly beloved children.” We should want to imitate God not because He demands it, but because He loves us as His very own children. And our theme verse for the series, 1 Timothy 4:7, that we should train ourselves for godliness is because His way is perfect and we want to be like Him.

Read Psalm 119.97–99

The psalmist says he is wiser than his enemies – v. 98, and has more understanding than his teachers – v. 99. Understanding implies more than knowledge. It implies recognizing something. But wisdom implies knowing what to do with what you know. It doesn't always mean we will do it perfectly, but ideally we will act in concert with our wisdom most of the time. And the reason for this understanding and wisdom – the ability to apply God's Word to the situation – is found in v. 99 – he meditates.

As we saw, last week, we are to do more than hear. In fact, we are to do what we hear. James 1.25 makes this clear.

The song, Ancient Words, captures this. The chorus contains the lyrics, "Ancient Words, ever true, changing me, changing you." God's Word is still as true today as it ever has been, but the change in us comes only if we allow them to do so. Jesus even prayed that God would do His part (John 17.17). The question is, will we do ours? Will we apply His perfect Word in our lives?

“I have stored your word in my heart THAT I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119.11.  You have memorized it. We have meditated on it together. But now we must each apply it on our own.

Last week, I gave you the following quote from RC Spoul:

“We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”

What was true regarding study, is true for memorizing and meditating. Applying is a bit tougher, but certainly worth it. The idea of laziness may not seem correct, but if there were a significant financial incentive for each verse you memorized, you would take it seriously. So, without financial incentive, why should we hear, read, study, memorize, meditate, and apply God's Word? Because this world will take us further from God unless we are intentional in our relationship with God. The following quote says it all.

David Hasselgrave says it this way, "I am fully persuaded that the farther our runaway world gets from the bible, the closer the church and mission must get to it..."

Again, this is not about earning anything from God, it is responding to what God has already done for us. It is realizing the Bible is this “collective love letter” from the heavenly realm as we heard Augustine's description from it earlier. So how will you respond?


Our letter for JOURNEY this week is E – Evoke. Normally, the E is that we need to Evoke in others God's message of the gospel so they will respond. But today, the E is specifically for you. How will you respond to the gospel message as it relates to a need to deepen your relationship with God, to know Him better, and to love Him more by engaging in the spiritual discipline of memorizing, meditating, and applying His Word?

Part 3 will provide some specific points of application for Memorizing and Meditation, and even Application based on the 4L Model of Discipleship.

This series of posts is adapted from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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