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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scripture Meditation

In past months we have spent some time looking at the spiritual disciplines of Scripture memory and Bible study. Next, I’d like to go a step further and consider another discipline that I believe is vital to our spiritual health, referred to often in Scripture, and rarely spoken of today: Scripture meditation.

Some people can get a little nervous when a pastor starts to talk about meditation. Unfortunately, some pagan groups have taken that word and used it to refer to the dangerous practice of transcendental meditation. Scripture meditation is nothing like transcendental meditation. In fact, in several ways they are diametrically opposed.

First of all, worldly transcendental meditation requires one to empty his mind. The goal is to get the person to a state “beyond thought.” There is no purposeful thinking involved. In a sense, the mind is disconnected. It is completely passive.

If we search the Scriptures, we find no exhortation to empty the mind, no instruction to disengage one’s thinking. Instead, Scripture speaks of meditation as filling the mind with one thing – Scripture. One of my favorite verses is Joshua 1:8, This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Clearly, meditation can’t be the absence of thinking. Rather it is focused thinking on God’s Law.

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God. The reason for this is that we are engaged in a war with an unseen enemy, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. This passage commands the believer to gird your loins with truth...and take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When we empty our minds of everything, as is done in transcendental meditation, we are laying aside that truth and relinquishing the sword of the Spirit. Of course, that leaves us open to attack from the demonic forces mentioned in that chapter. This is precisely why, this brand of meditation is so dangerous.

Second, transcendental meditation is done twice a day, for 15-20 minutes, in the absence of any other activity. On the other hand, numerous times Scripture speaks of meditation as being done day and night, such as the verse above in Joshua. Psalm 119:97 says, Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Likewise, in Psalm 63:6 we read, When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Of course, this is poetic language. It is doubtful that the writer meditated on the Word 24 hours a day. The point is that it was his common practice to meditate on God and His word throughout the day and night.

I personally find that the best time to meditate on the Word is while I’m in the car, getting dressed, mowing the lawn, or doing some other menial task that does not require my absolute attention. If you try transcendental meditation that way, you could end up dead!

Third, transcendental meditation is completely self-focused, or self-centered. One web site (I'd rather not advertise it here) says this kind of meditation “allows your mind to settle inward, beyond thought, to experience the silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence found within everyone.” The benefits listed on the same site are all self-focused and man-centered.

Scripture meditation, on the other hand, is completely God-focused. In Psalm 63:6, referenced above, the psalmist says, “I meditate on You…” God and His Word are the total focus of this spiritual discipline. In Scripture meditation, we think God’s thoughts, not our own. We desire to comprehend what He has said (Ps 119:15), what He has done (Ps 119:27), who He Himself is (Ps 145:5).

Not only are God, His work, and His Word the focus of our meditation, but He is also the motive for our meditation. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD (Ps 104:34). Our meditation is ultimately an act of worship done for Him alone. I don’t meditate to "maximize my own potential", but simply to enjoy Him and please Him.

Psalm 1:1-3 shows a connection between the meditation of Scripture and the living of a godly life. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 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 that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The godly man is the one who avoids the evil, shaping influence of the world and focuses his life, day and night, on the Word. He is like a tree planted by streams of water. In other words, by filling his mind and attention with the Word of God, he is plugged into the source of spiritual fruit. He is wise. He is mature. He is steadfast. He prospers in every way.

Scripture memory and bible study are how we put God’s Word into our heads and hearts. Scripture meditation is how we work God’s Word into our thinking, our attitudes, our affections, and our actions. It is a discipline in the truest sense of the word, but if you will take the time and effort to do it, you will reap tremendous rewards.

So, how do we meditate? We’ll look at that next week.

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