In going deeper in the study of walking in intimacy with God, I would like to spend a little time looking into the need for “meditation.” I am not referring to an eastern version of mysticism, nor “transcendental meditation” that became quite popular in the west starting in the 1960’s.
For those that are living the life of a Christ-follower, you, as I, have found that it is a life of learning. At 65, I find myself learning more today than ever before in my life. But, there must be a connector between “learning”, and “living”, and I believe this is a true “meditation” that God has taught us about in His Word. I pray that you can glean something to take with you from the things shared below.
We’ve looked much at worship, praise, thanksgiving, and will likely touch on these things again and again, but also important is meditation. Meditation is most successfully done when we regularly spend time alone with God as we have covered before in this study series. A hit-and-miss relationship with God does not provide for proper meditation on the things that God would have us spend some time thinking through. It takes set-aside time. We can’t allow ourselves to use the excuse that we don’t have time. We make time for everything else–including much that is not all that crucial to our existence. Meditating on the God who created us for His pleasure and for us to enjoy relationship with, iscrucial. With that in mind let’s look at Psalms 5:1-3:
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
This passage of course refers to several things that are important in our relationship with God, but the one that I would like to point out today is that King David was saying that he comes before God in the morning. The best way to start a day is with God–even if a person only has a few minutes before leaving for work. Don’t start the day without some moments with the One whose guidance you need for the day. And then, be sure to come back and spend some quality time so that you can actually meditate on God’s Word and what it is saying to you today, later when you have more time.
To meditate on something means that you take time to turn it over in your mind and let it begin to grow roots. In America we say to “chew” on something. This is the thought here. Take what God says and “chew on it!” It has to go beyond something that we just read about. It must become part of our life. That’s where the intimacy with God comes from. As we meditate on God and His Word, our thought patterns change. Actually, because of the background most of us have, our minds need a real “scrub!” We are heavily influenced by everything we hear, see, and have been taught previously–most of it quite contrary to what God teaches us in His Word. We live in a very ungodly world! Here in the west we are blasted with constant advertisements that push people into thinking about nothing but their own pleasure and possessions. Pleasure and entertainment become a god in our lives, and many don’t recognize how much control it has over our lifestyles. Even most of what we call “religious” around our world is a collection of thoughts put together by people who think they were giving insight by a “deity” of some kind. This tells us that, unless it came from the only One who rose from the dead after He had been crucified, it is nothing more than “doctrines of demons” as the Apostle makes clear in 1 Timothy 4:1.
Where do we find the things to meditate on? For the sake of our walk of intimacy with God, we find what we need in the Word of God. In the King James version of the Bible, the word meditate is used seven times in Psalm 119. We find it in Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 97, 99, and 148. It usually speaks of delighting in the Word of God or loving it. Psalms 1 has some important things to say about meditating on God’s Word. It reads like this in the NIV.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (NIV)
This psalm speaks of “delighting” in God’s Word, and meditating on it day and night. So, what does the Word of God give us to meditate on? Three areas that are important to meditate on are:
- God’s worth (Psalms 27:4; 63:6)–His character and glory
- God’s Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1:2; 119:97, 148)–The truth and accuracy of the Bible.
- God’s works (Psalms 77:11-12; 143:5; 145:17; 40:1-3)–His saving, sovereign, and creative works.
Joshua 1:7-9 reads:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
As we do what Joshua was told to do, we learn about God’s will for our lives, His character, and all of His sovereign workings. Some people experience God speaking to them individually in their spirits at times, but the majority of what God says to us is recorded in His Word. As we read it, the Spirit of God makes it come alive for us. Then we gradually learn to think right–the way God designed us to think and live. Thinking right comes from meditating on God’s Word daily. Psalm 19:7-14 gives us some insight into this:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
There is so much that could be said about that passage of Scripture but in order to go on with this study, I suggest that the reader take this passage and read through it slowly, taking it phrase by phrase, or word by word if necessary, practicing meditating on God’s Word. It is amazing the things that God will bring to mind as we do this. Another great passage of Scripture is found in Psalm 119:9-16 and reads:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
Once again, we have an excellent example of a passage of Scripture that is absolutely filled with subject matter that is worth meditating on. Again, I’ll leave this to you, the reader, but will add another Scripture passage, first of all in the New International Version of the Bible and then also in the “Message” version because I really like the wording for our day and age.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Message)
Here, once again, we find that God gives us a renewed mind through reading and meditating on His Word. We all need this renewed mind this passage is speaking of. Our world is a world of hatred, abuse, murder, theft, moral collapse, and everything opposite of what God intended for us. Our culture, whether east or west, will lead us astray of God’s intended purposes for us. In order to experience the peace that comes to the one doing God’s will, we need to learn what that will is. It is found in the Word of God. Another Scripture to read is found in 1 Corinthians 2:11-15:
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
It really is possible to live our lives with the mind of Christ ruling us! Many people don’t think this is possible, but we are the ones that cut ourselves short; it is not God! As we live lives of continued communion with the Lord, we begin to think more and more like Him. This is the way God planned it for us–and the world around us. Many so-called followers of Christ are not distinguishable from others around them who do make such a claim. How can this be? This can only be when we do not appropriate for ourselves what has been made available, as far as our relationship with God is concerned. We must become so serious about our walk with God that we actively pursue Him!
Philippians 4:8 also speaks to the importance of meditation:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
It is worth taking a few minutes to examine this verse. There are exhortations to think on seven things, including the three areas mentioned earlier that we need to meditate on: God’s Worth, God’s Word, and God’s Works.
- Whatever is true: The true things spoken of here are things which conform to Biblical reality and God’s standard. Most things in our world do not; in fact, they are opposite to the true things God is speaking of. In our modern world, truth is something that one has to prove. We have philosophies that are full of man’s thoughts, and not the those of God. Man tries his best to figure life out without looking to the One who created life to begin with. He will inevitably be wrong in his assumptions–because that is all man’s thoughts can amount to–assumptions, if the source of truth is avoided. Man is stuck with human reasoning–or what is much worse, the lies of the evil one. The only genuine, unfailing source of truth is found in the Word of God, because God was the One that had it penned. There is no other book like it, anywhere!
- Whatever is noble: Noble things are honest things. These are things that are honorable and worthy of our reverence, respect, and worship. Flippant and careless thoughts are best to be avoided because they will lead us the wrong direction. We are able to enjoy life to the full without allowing ourselves to go beyond what God considers right in our thinking process.
- Whatever is right (or just): Things that are right or just are those things that are upright, holy, and which conform to God’s standards of righteousness. I can’t help thinking of so much of television or what is shown at our movie theaters today. Most people don’t even think about the fact that society’s culture is being changed by what people watch as entertainment. We find Hollywood glorifying greed, selfishness, vanity, materialism, moral degradation, collapse of the family, homosexuality, divorce, and abortion, among many other things. Most of what is shown as “entertainment” does not fit within the list we find in this verse of Scripture. So what does fit? Just the opposite of greed, selfishness, vanity, materialism, moral degradation, and so on. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the “fruit of the Spirit”, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These things are “right” or just.
- Whatever is pure: In our western society, it is now, more than ever, of utmost importance that each of us makes a “covenant of purity” between ourselves and our Lord. This means that we consciously and consistently turn our hearts, our eyes, and our thoughts away from anything that is impure. It even means setting a guard at the door of our mouths against “off color” speech. Scripture warns us against “foolish jesting.” We try hard to explain away the things we find humorous and things we waste our time watching, but does that change it’s worthlessness before our Master? It’s His opinion that matters the most if we have any care about eternity.
- Whatever is lovely: By looking at the original Greek for this term, “lovely” has to do with two words that literally mean thoughts of “lovetoward.” Our thoughts must, and conversations must be grounded in love rather than criticism of others for the things we see as their flaws. Even if our “critical evaluation” is true, we must deal with the flaws in others in a way that Christ is still honored with our own thinking process and what we say to others. From the abundance that is in our heart, we are bound to speak. Scripture tells us this. This means that we need to clean up our thinking process. It has been said that some Christians have a degree in gossip! We must learn to promote love amongst God’s people, even while not being blind to the things that do not match up to God’s expectations within others. Let’s be pleasing to our Master, and let the Master “fix” others, instead of us trying to do it ourselves.
- Whatever is admirable: In the original King James Bible it uses the word “reputable” and also means well-spoken. This is speaking of things worth talking about. We already mentioned the Bible saying we should avoid foolish jesting (Ephesians 5:4). Dirty talk and gutter talk are again opposites to the definition of “admirable.” Nothing vulgar, immoral, or sexually suggestive fits within this definition either. Most of us remember the saying: “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.” That applies to the conversation of a true Christ-follower, whether it is talking about others, or just general conversation. We must be different, not only in name, but also by how we act and speak, not slandering anyone. Only God knows their whole story, and He is the only One who can judge another person’s heart as He is the only One who knows its real condition.
- Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy: The more we limit our thought life to things that are excellent or praiseworthy, the more our conversation will show it–and the happier we will be. It has been said that “many believers need a revised version of their thoughts.” It is unfortunately true that for many people, if they were to follow the command to think of things that are excellent or praiseworthy only, they would only talk about ⅓ as much as they do now. We inevitably speak the things that are in our hearts. If our thoughts are excellent or praiseworthy, so also will our speech be excellent and praiseworthy.
These things listed by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8 are things we should meditate on constantly. Proverbs 23:7 tells us: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”. I read a quote by Oswald Sanders that said: “Each of us is as close to God as we choose to be.” How close do you want to be to God?
We know that we are within the last moments of this age. The Bible teaches us not only to be awake and aware of this fact, but also to be preparing ourselves to stand before our King, the KING of Kings and LORD of Lords. What if He called us home today? Would you wish you had prepared a bit better? This is the time to decide how you want to finish out the last portion of your life on this earth. Think on these things.
Continued in Part 10 when we look at “Pursuing God.”