Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
Socrates famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Obviously, Socrates did not say that one cannot learn since that would sabotage his career as a teacher and philosopher. Instead, Socrates meant one could not take what he believes for granted, understanding that his “knowledge” may be incorrect. Socrates told us always to investigate. There is a certain humility arising from this mindset.
Consider an example of two such people who questioned: Copernicus and Galileo. For how many hundreds of years were people taught that the earth was the center of the universe before Copernicus showed them otherwise? Even so, Catholicism banned Copernicus’ book after his death. Within a few decades, Galileo, who assumed Copernicus’ mantle, stood trial for teaching the same heliocentric model. Galileo was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his life’s work. Yet, we know how the story ends. The Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, embraced by Catholicism, would not withstand future scrutiny and would be abandoned, vindicating both Copernicus and Galileo.
This virtue of the investigative mindset should not surprise Christians engaged in a study of God’s Word. We are encouraged to be noble Bereans, checking what we hear by the standard of Scripture (Acts 17.11). Furthermore, we must test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4.1). There is a warning to us that we should reject even an angel’s message if it is contrary to the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1.8). The father of lies is Satan, who used one lie to murder humanity (John 8.44). Since he works to deceive, and his ministers can take on the appearance of servants of righteousness, Paul encourages us to take our confidence in our weaknesses, which highlight God’s strength (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 30).
Unfortunately, we seem to live in an era encouraging lockstep conformity in thought. There are those calling this “progress.” Critics rightfully call it “cancel culture,” pointing to a desire of “social justice warriors” to cancel contrarian viewpoints. If beliefs can only persist within an ideological vacuum, how is it any different from Catholicism forcing Galileo to recant? It is not. So, those ironically crying “fascism” in the streets act as the brownshirts of Hitler’s fascism in Nazi Germany. (I apply this truth secularly and politically since it is evident on the news and in the streets.)
In regards to politics, of course, the end is inconsequential for the Christian, since he or she must submit to the governing authority (Romans 13). Note we are not told to waste our time trying the political spirits, but those purporting to be spiritual. It may be that in making a stand against false religious doctrine, though, that we will enter into conflict with a political ideology glorifying what God calls abomination and permitting infanticide. However, that is not our principal task.
Praise God that our struggle for wisdom is much simpler than that of Socrates. After all, we believe in an infallible God who gave us His Truth within the Bible (John 17.17). We can admit our ignorance of what that Word says and test those things we hear from preachers, but we are not left to grope blindly for truth. Indeed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9.10 NASB). Ultimately, it comes down to adopting the mindset of Paul, who determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).
The concept of Biblical mediation is viewed as a mystery to many of us. The simple answer to “How do I do it?” can seem frustratingly vague. Common answers are—
“you read a passage that stands out over and over and then you think about it.”
“you find a verse and then pray about it.”
Here’s what you should know about true Biblical meditation.
Three Facts About Biblical Mediation
1. It does not involve emptying your mind, but rather filling your mind with God’s mind.
2. It’s not a complex ritual in which you must reach a higher “spiritual place” to accomplish. It’s a simple act that God intended for everyone to be able to do— in order to bring you to a better spiritual place.
3. It is an intentional act. You won’t find yourself meditating accidentally. We must make time for God.
Here’s why we should all be doing this.
Four Reasons To Meditate
1. For Improved Worship
2. For Perfect Instruction
3. For Needed Encouragement
4. For Spiritual Transformation
Here’s what you will need to accomplish it.
Three Tools For Great Meditation
OBSERVATION – What does the text say?
INTERPRETATION – What does it mean in context?
APPLICATION – What does it mean for me?
Note: Combine With Prayer before and after for best results.
Here’s what you will get out of it.
Ten Benefits Of Biblical Meditation
1. Proven to lower blood pressure
2. Decrease anxiety
3. Improve heart rate
4. It enables your to relax
5. It brings peace
6. It draws you closer to God
7. It gives us confidence
8. It offers an escape from temptation
9. It provides helpful correction
10. It makes us better Bible students (Psalm 119:11)
Finally, here’s an exercise to help us see the many categories on which we can mediate. Simply answer the questions in your mind, and try to develop a habit of asking yourself personal questions about what you’re reading.
A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…
On His rules (Ps. 119; look up in the ESV)
• What rules do you tend to break?
• Why do you break them?
• What’s the point behind His “rules”?
On His Promises (Ps. 119:148)
• Which of His promises bring you the most comfort?
• Has God kept His promises to you? How?
On His mighty deeds (Ps. 77:12)
• Which specific mighty deeds has God performed in the history?
• What mighty deeds do you believe God has performed in your life?
• What could God do with you today if you allowed Him to?
On His unfailing love (Ps. 48:9)
• There has never been a moment in your life when God hadn’t loved you.
• What does that tell you? What does it expose about yourself?
I hope this helps clarify what real mediation is— and how it can change your life!
Generalizations are almost always wrong. For example, just because you’re from Colorado doesn’t mean you smoke weed, or just because you’re homeschooled doesn’t mean you’ve never seen a person before. Just because you live in Alabama doesn’t make you an Alabama fan. Just because many people fall into a category, doesn’t mean that every person is the same.
There is one generalization that is true: the world is desperate. Without Christ, many issues in life go unsolved. Family problems are harder to overcome, job issues get blown out of proportion, and questions go unsolved. Over the next few weeks I’d like to look at three major issues that the world has no answer for. But these three topics are easily explained through God’s Word.
Each one of us has had these thoughts before. Every single person ever born at some point will have these questions. So number one, the world is desperate for Guidance (Psa. 119:105). Ever been lost? It is amazing how easy it is to get turned around. I’m terrible with directions, and even with maps up on my phone, I still find a way to get lost.
The world feels the same way–they’re lost. They don’t have direction in life. They float around going from one thing to the next looking for guidance. As Christians, our guide is God’s Word. It gives us a map for life. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, has to do with guidance. Each section in this chapter covers different aspects of keeping God’s Word. In the first eight verses, the psalmist says things like, “blessed are those who walk in the Law of the Lord,” and “I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.” The rest of the chapter sticks with this pattern.
If you ever find yourself questioning why you follow scripture, study this chapter and you will find reason after reason. Looking at verse 105, it says this, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Are you anxious? Turn to God’s Word. Are you hurting? Turn to God’s Word. Are you afflicted? Turn to God’s Word (119:107). Has your family disowned you? Turn to God’s Word. Have your kids left the Church? Turn to God’s Word. Did you lose your job? Turn to God’s Word. See, the world doesn’t turn to scripture when it faces these problems, and they are left without a guide, without comfort, and without something to rely on. There’s a reason God inspired men to write the Bible, and that reason is so that flawed man can have a guide through life.
This is a familiar phrase to most of us, usually used when responding to something so difficult to understand that it warrants saying. Advanced math brings this phrase to my mind (no one should never mix the alphabet with numbers, by the way). For most people, any topic or conversation with very difficult-to-understand components will prompt, “It’s all Greek to me.” We understand that it is used in good humor and not as a slight against Greek, but I believe that it has also discouraged the “average” Christian from studying the original language of the New Testament.
Before I continue, allow me a disclaimer: I am not a scholar, by any means, in the use of the Attic/Ionic-based ancient language known as Koine Greek. I am an enthusiastic student of the language, but not an expert. The purpose of this article is to hopefully knock down some of the myths surrounding the language and hopefully encourage us all to pursue a knowledge of it.
Myth #1: Greek Is Super Hard to Learn
This could not be further from the truth. Greek makes a lot more sense than English! This is not to say that it is easy (learning any language is difficult), but it is most certainly attainable. Start with the Greek alphabet and memorize it. Once you can sound out words, try memorizing as much vocabulary as you can. If you can, find a Greek New Testament with a lexicon in the back and memorize those. With that base, learning the more complex grammar rules and language structure becomes significantly easier.
Myth #2: You Need to Be an Expert to Get the Benefits of Greek Study
Regardless of what anyone says, the New Testament really comes to life when you can read it without the third party that is translation. You get the full emotional and intellectual impact of a writer when you can read his words first-hand. You do not have to be a Greek scholar to get some of that impact! Technology today can be an incredible tool. One such tool is Logos Bible Software. It is a free app that allows anyone to look up a word in the New Testament and understand more about its meaning. Another resource is a good lexicon like BDAG. This can be had (in an earlier edition) on abebooks.com for a couple of dollars.
Why study Greek? It will help you grow immensely in your spiritual life. It will help you understand truths more clearly. It will give you even more joy and excitement in your study. It will give you a better grasp of the English language. It will give you a firsthand look at scripture without the bias sometimes present in translation. This is not, by any means, necessary for salvation or even spiritual growth and maturity. It is, however, one of the most incredible tools any Christian will have for in-depth bible study. As an added bonus, you can chuckle a little more anytime someone says, “It’s all Greek to me.”
Click above to hear a sample of our latest project. We’re working on a new program which will air on the Gospel Broadcasting Network (watch GBN here) in the future. The premise is just as the program title suggests: “the Bible is not boring!” It is exciting and fulfilling to drill down and study God’s Word. Each episode will follow the same format, a general topic which the four of us (Gary, Dale, Carl, and myself) will break down and discuss. Our aim is to help encourage Christians and open a door for those who may be searching for God’s truth out there. This first episode explores how to approach the Bible itself. We hope you enjoy! –Neal
I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.
Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came among men and taught. I was not there when the Spirit-inspired authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?
Think about this carefully. From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear; God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, hundreds (if not thousands) of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).
Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.
What would you add?
“Big dummy!” That can be a derogatory statement or the description of a large mannequin. Context makes all the difference! So it is with matters of infinitely greater significance. So much religious error exists because of a failure to consider the context of biblical passages.
Our friends in religion who believe that Jesus is a created being rather than one of the three everlasting personalities of the Godhead defend their view with passages such as Colossians 1:15, which says, “He is the firstborn of all creation.” A further study of the use of the word “firstborn” shows that it is used literally (Heb. 11:28) and figuratively (Heb. 12:23) in the New Testament. Context determines the difference. What is it in Colossians 1:15? The context says that Jesus made everything that was made (16-17). Did He make Himself? No, He cannot both be literally, physically born and be the One who created “all things.” Logically, Paul is speaking in a figurative sense, that in His human nature Jesus is “at the head of His class.” He is first in order, preeminent among men (18). As a human, He is above us and first among all of us.
Others of our friends teach salvation by faith only. They appeal to a couple of passages to assert this idea. One passage is Acts 16:31, where the Philippian jailer is told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This is given as proof positive that salvation comes at the point of faith. Another text cited, the “golden text of the Bible,” says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This statement is made as part of a conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus.
In the case of the jailer, who saw the miraculous power of God in opening the jail doors and who asked what he must do to be saved, he is told to believe in Jesus. It is noteworthy to ask, “How much would the average Philippian jailer know about Jesus?” Thus, Luke adds the important detail that before we read of the man’s response, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him” (31). His response is found in verse 32, where he washes Paul and Silas’ wounds and is immediately baptized. This accords with the broader context of Acts, where believers are told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (2:38; 22:16).
In the case of Nicodemus’ instruction, Jesus’ makes the statement of John 3:16 in a certain context, too, a context that included talk of water (3:5) and an illustration from the book of Numbers. That illustration is very noteworthy for showing that more than belief is necessary for salvation. It concerns the serpents God sent upon the murmuring and complaining Israelites. Numbers 21:9 says, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” How did salvation come, simply by believing in God’s plan or by believing AND looking? Likewise, the broader context of scripture shows faith and works joined together. Israel did not earn the saving of their lives by looking any more than we earn salvation from sin by believing and being baptized. Yet, God makes it as essential to obey today as He did during the wilderness wandering. Context bears this out.
Let us never be “scripture isolationists,” those who peel a verse away from its context or who rest our confidence in doctrines that have been thus constructed. God saw to it that we would have His word and will preserved. How wise of us to make sure we properly study it in context!