Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spirituality #3: How do I meditate?

Psalm 1

Spirituality #3: How do I meditate?

When I say “meditate” what images does that bring to mind? The Bible says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” [Psalm 1:2]

There are two words in the Old Testament that are translated meditate. The one means to rehearse (suach), the other means to mutter (hagah). “May the words of my mouth and the meditation (hagig) of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” [Psalm 19:14]

You already know how to do this: Ever get a song stuck in your head? Ever get a mental picture you could not forget? Ever worry? Then you know how to meditate... you do it naturally.

So let’s take a Biblical look at what it means to meditate.


I.         Meditation is directed toward God.


            A.        We are often confused about “meditation.”


                        1.         Sometimes, meditation is considered to be simple relaxation technique.


                                    a.         There is great debate over the necessity, value, and validity over the technique needed to “relax.”


                                                1.)       There are postures and breathing techniques that are supposed to help people relax.


                                                2.)       Old fashioned hard physical labor will also help a person’s muscles and mind to relax.


                                    b.         The real danger is when other religions make in-roads by selling themselves as something they are not.


                                                1.)       One false religion attempted to remake itself by giving modern America specific relaxation techniques. It claimed to be a non-religious/trans-religious technique.


                                                2.)       Many Christians buy into some forms of yoga (meaning “union”) which is Hindu and cannot be made Christian.

It has been tired... it is called “syncretism.” The idea is to mingle or borrow concepts of other faiths. Sometimes this is deliberate, sometimes it comes from unconscious cultural pollution. For instance, early Christians picked up Greek philosophy. The veneration/worship of Mary... Even the “church growth movement” has distinct non-Christian roots.


                        2.         The discussion about meditation is colored by a lot of false religious concepts and frightens us. How do we make the distinction?


                                    a.         Question #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of [every person]? Answer: “[The] chief end is to glorify God, (a) and to enjoy [H]im for ever. (b)”

(a). Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11 (b). Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4


                                    b.         The reality is a relationship with God. Not a specific technique.


                                    c.         Jesus Christ is in the believer.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” [Colossians 1:27]


                                    d.         The believer is in Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]


            B.        Sometimes this discussion exposes serious spiritual problems.


                        1.         Relationship with God requires a certain level of purity (holiness).


                                    a.         Divided hearts and dirty lives find it difficult to be in the presence of the living God (whom we do not control).

“Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” [Psalm 24:3 – 4]


                                    b.         Even “holy” people find the presence of God uncomfortable. (Which raises an interesting red flag on feel-good worship.)

“Woe to me! I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” [Isaiah’s reaction to seeing God, found in Isaiah 6:5]

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” [The Apostle John’s reaction to seeing Jesus, as recorded in Revelation 1:17]


                        2.         Relationship with God requires us to not be self-centered.


                                    a.         We are required to seek God.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” [Acts 17:27]


                                    b.         We are required to depend on God’s grace. (Grace does not exclude effort, it excludes earning...)

“When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” [Acts 13:43]


II.       What can we meditate on?


            A.        We can meditate on the characteristics of God.


                        1.         “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” [Psalm 48:9]


                        2.         “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” [Psalm 136:1] (His love endures forever occurs 26 times in Psalm 136)


            B.        We can meditate on the Bible.


                        1.         I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” [Psalm 119:15]


                        2.         “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” [Psalm 119:48]


            C.        We can meditate on God’s promises and actions


                        1.         “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” [Psalm 119:148]


                        2.         “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. [12] I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” [Psalm 77:11 – 12]


III.      Are there any other ideas on how to meditate?


            A.        We must “wait” on God.


                        1.         Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” [Psalm 37:7]


                                    a.         The idea of being “still” runs contrary to our “need” to be busy. Maybe we are busy because we are running from God.


                                    b.         Mental and emotional chaos hinders us from being in God’s presence. It’s a form of idolatry, because its more important than God.


                        2.         Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” [Psalm 46:10]


                                    a.         As we direct our minds and emotions towards God there is a trust that settles into our souls.


                                    b.         There is also a joy that matches the realization of knowing God.


            B.        We must “hope” in God.


                        1.         “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [30] Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; [31] but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” [Isaiah 40:29 – 31]


                                    a.         As we wait (KJV) and hope on the Lord, our strength is renewed.


                                    b.         Sometimes we get drained. The only thing that will revive us is to reconnect to God.


                        2.         “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” [Psalm 42:11]


                                    a.         Ever get “down” or “disturbed”? When we are self-centered, we do not have much to encourage us or energize us.


                                    b.         As we hope in God... we praise Him. We get over ourselves.


IV.      What you do with the Bible points toward your eternal destiny.


            A.        Lessons from Psalm 1:


                        1.         “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” [1 Corinthians 15:33] “A person is known by the company they keep.” [American proverb from Aesop’s fables]


                                    a.         The godly are NOT guided by ungodly counsel (advice, planning, ruling, principles).


                                    b.         The godly are NOT on the same moral path that influences behavior as the ungodly.


                                    c.         The godly are NOT in close chosen company with those who mock or scorn God, the Bible, Jesus, salvation, etc...

The godly do NOT “keep in step” with wicked/ungodly. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:25]


                        2.         The godly are unmistakably marked by an irresistible attraction to God’s Word (the Bible).


                                    a.         If sin is distinguished by self-will/rule then godliness are focused on a right relationship with God and making God’s will their will.


                                    b.         This is done by prayerfully reading and absorbing as much of God’s Word as possible.

“Acts fix habits, habits settle character, and character determines destiny.” [Unknown]


            B.        It’s a choice.


                        1.         What environment do you want to be in?


                                    a.         Influenced by those who do not know God. (Result: “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” [see Psalm 1:4])


                                    b.         Influenced by God. (Result: “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.” [Psalm 1:3]


                        2.         What eternal harvest do you want?

(Reference to “God” is no a generic “god” but God Almighty, Creator of the Universe... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

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