Thursday’s Column: Third’s Words
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!
There’s a part in Sleeping Beauty where the Prince slays a fire breathing dragon with his sword. This is at the climax of the movie, so this entire time the story has been building up to this one, final moment. It’s pretty epic. In our lives, we have many “Fire Breathing Dragons.” At this moment I would like to talk about three of them and how to “kill” them.
First, notice with me the “dragon” of lying. If you look at Colossians 3:9, it says, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all it’s wicked deeds.”
Lying in Colossians is labeled under “evil nature.” If we have stripped our old ways, why do we continue to lie? Because much of the lying that we do is for personal gain. For example, someone could come up to me and ask, “How much can you bench?” and I might say “850 pounds.” That’s a classic example of lying for personal gain. From now on that person will believe that lie I told them and possibly tell others. We can slay this dragon by telling the truth. Challenge yourself to tell full truths, and not half-truths.
Second, there is the “dragon” of Hate. Luke 6:27 says, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The hardest part of this verse is the second half. Trying to love those who hate us is extremely difficult because in our minds they started it so we have the right to hate them back. If you look at Jesus, our example, He says to love those who hate us. How do we do this? It requires a change of vision. We should try to look at those who hate us as a lost soul that needs saving. Looking at them this way might help us to love them more.
Third, and finally, is the “dragon” of Gossip. This one can be very dangerous because it might tear apart a friendship, a person, and the church. If you look at Ephesians 4:29, It reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Instead of tearing down someone or spreading rumors, let’s try to build up one another! To keep from letting something slip about someone, let’s try to practice what our parents told us from day one: “Think about what we say before we say it.”
Now there is one more thing we can use to slay “dragons.” The ultimate Two-Edged Sword is for slaying any kind of “dragon.” This Two-Edged Sword, the Bible, can slay any dragon that Satan sends our way. Today we only looked at three of the dragons that Satan uses against us. There are many more, and we must study Scripture to see what they are, and how we can slay them.
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.
Everywhere, each generation tries to figure out the why and how of living. Most will not find the right path (Mat. 7:13-14). Almost all are convicted, even passionate, about the way they wish to live life. They may be fiery about politics, social issues, relationships, and even religious ideals, and to be consistent they must appeal to some ultimately, overarching authority that makes right right and wrong wrong whatever their point of view. Will it be feelings, friends, the majority, the minority, the church, family, a teacher, culture, or something else? The Bible claims to be the arbitrator by which all matters are judged. But if not the Bible, there has to be some universal absolutes with an adequate origin to compel people to follow it. Whether the issue is rape, murder, stealing, or similar norm that stands between order and chaos, there has to be adequate reason to submit to it.
This inevitable standard helps us decide whether or not a Creator exists. If there is nothing (no One) greater, bigger, wiser, and stronger than us, why can’t we decide right and wrong as our whims determine? Why would we desire civilization and peace? Why would we wish good will or at least peaceful coexistence with each other?
The inevitable standard helps us decide which god (God) is to be followed. Do their alleged writings and teachings cohere and show consistency? Do they adequately answer the great questions of life?
The inevitable standard helps us decide whether or not Bible doctrines taught by men are consistent with and true to what the Bible actually teaches. How do we know how to worship, be saved from sins, what roles to play in life, what our purpose is, and how to reach a desirable destiny? The nonsensical claim that you have your truth and I have mine is unacceptable in every other discipline (building construction, medicine, physics, mathematics, etc.). Even falling back on “you have your interpretation and I have mine” is a dangerous slope since there are matters of life and godless ( Pet. 1:3).
The inevitable standard helps us fulfill our roles in the home, the church, and the world. How should we live and how should we help our physical family, spiritual family, and communities live? It matters!
It may gall us to think we all must concede to a standard of right and wrong, of absolute truth. To say that all of us are accountable to the same standard may be construed as bigoted, small-minded, or narrow, but everything falls apart if each of us follows our own set of rules. Imagine an interstate where every driver followed whatever they thought they should and ignored whatever they felt they could or should. All of us are on the road of life heading somewhere. How will we get there? There is an inevitable standard, given by God to us through men He moved to write it down (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Bible claims to hold the answer to your greatest problem. Not only that, but it helps you to identify what that problem is which you may or may not even know about. In Romans 6:16-18, Paul talks about a “form of teaching” given to those at Rome.
Paul writes this powerful epistle to emphasize that salvation is by faith and not by works of law, but faith in what? One might say, “Faith in Jesus,” and Paul makes that point repeated in Romans (3:22; 3:26, for example). But how do we have faith in Jesus? He says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (10:17).
Elsewhere, Paul reminds us that there is “one faith” (Eph. 4:5), so a purely subjective faith (what we think we should believe) is not the faith commanded in Scripture. So, we’re looking a t a faith produced by reading, learning, and following God’s Word.
No wonder, then, that Paul emphasizes the importance of obedience in this text. Does God want you and me and everyone else to obey the same thing? Or can you pick what you want to obey while I pick what I want to obey and everyone else do the same? Paul talks about an objective standard of teaching that is for everyone, everywhere, for all time. Look closer at what he says in this brief passage of Scripture and what it means for us today.
THE FACT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17)
Paul talks about a form, a kind, class, or thing that suggests a model or pattern (BDAG 1020). It is the word used in the Greek Old Testament in Exodus 25:40 and quoted by Stephen (Acts 7:44). Translators chose the word form (“standard,” ESV, or “pattern,” NIV) in this verse.
For those who pour concrete, you use “form boards” to cause it to conform to their shape in width, length, and height. Without some way to hold the concrete, what a waste of time and money! The concrete would be totally useless. It’s the same concept for those who bake and use cake moulds, muffin pans and cookie cutters. If you put dough or mix into a round pan, you don’t expect a rectangular finished product.
Paul talks about a teaching that conforms to a certain form or pattern, having definite, identifiable structure. So, the Romans received teaching that was meant to produce the same result in every case. A growing number of people look at the Bible as basically shapeless and formless. They reject the idea of pattern theology, the very thing Paul appeals to in Romans 6:17. The alternative to there being a pattern for salvation, worship, church leadership and organization, sexuality, morality, gender roles, and all teaching is that we have no pattern.
Without a standard to appeal to, how do we determine right and wrong? Historically, when humanity rejects an absolute standard, we choose what we think is right and wrong (cf. Jud. 17:6). This is a fatal way to live (Prov. 16:25), and it destroys societies (Prov. 14:34). But everyone is going to appeal to something as the final say and authority, even if it’s only self. There is a “standard of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). It must be retained and it carries with it the authority of Christ Jesus.
THE FRUIT OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:17-18)
Since there is a pattern of teaching, what are the consequences? Paul implies that we must obey it and commit to it, just as the Romans did. The end result of such obedience is that we become slaves to the right master. Everyone will inevitably be enslaved, whether to sin or righteousness. This pattern shows us the right choice to make. We’re not just talking about information, but rather information which leads one to do something and become something.
THE FREEDOM OF THE PATTERN (Rom. 6:18)
Ironically, those who reject the idea of pattern theology claim that such unfairly restricts and inhibits us. But, Paul draws a different conclusion. Obeying the form of teaching and committing themselves to it led them to be free from sin. Sin brings spiritual death (5:12), condemnation (5:16), enslavement (6:6), and deception (7:11). If we understand the true nature of sin (which biblical teaching defines), we will want to be free from the burden of it. The form of teaching shows us how to do that. Anyone who wants freedom from sin can have it, but anyone who wants freedom from sin must follow the pattern.
Obeying Christ’s teaching is not legalism. It is faith in His power, but also submission to His will. There is truth. We can know it (John 8:32). We must obey it (Rom. 6:17). It will free us (John 8:32)!
It is of no little concern to me that men who are supposed to be gospel preachers, many of them men tainted by a corrupted higher education at denominational theology schools, have a poor opinion of the doctrine of inspiration. Like little hungry lambs, these men are led by their “scholarly” shepherds who are eager to bring them to the poisoned waters of the “Q” theory and the documentary hypothesis. They consume the rancid food of deutero-Isaiah and trito-Isaiah.
Their erudite educators push them to believe extrabiblical theories rather than internal claims. Where they get their sermon material and on what they preach would be quite interesting to know, and to what authority they appeal even more so. What does it take to simply accept that the Bible is completely, inerrantly, and plenarily from God through inspired men?
A Belief In A Personal God, Able And Willing To Communicate With Man. If we can accept that the Creator God continues to care and be interested in us and what becomes of us, can we also trust that His love would lead Him to accurately, honestly communicate His will–a will He would accurately supervise from beginning to completion and preserve through the process of transmission through the ages?
A Belief In Divine Omnipotence. Is God powerful enough to give us the Word as the Bible claims and is He loving enough and of character sufficient to let the Bible be what it claims to be? Could He provide for us in the 21st century His complete will? Do we have trouble with the idea that God is able to breathe out His Word to and through men and then preserve it for all time?
A Belief That The Bible’s Claims Take Precedence Over Man’s Criticisms. Humanistic thought is quick to accept man’s opinions and conclusions over what the Bible simply says. What qualifies any man to do that? Are we better off to accept the claims made by the most tested, assaulted, yet exonerated book of all times, which, when followed, leads man to the greatest and highest life, or the claims made by men, which repeatedly prove to lead man to emptiness, misery, and hopelessness?
It is frustrating to hear arrogant, though feeble, frail, finite, and flawed men taking cheap shots at scripture, undermining the divine inspiration of the Bible. Herein lies a very critical rub. John 12:48 says the words of Christ will one day judge us. Revelation 20:12 speaks of the books and the book of life being opened, judging mankind.
What will be the standard of judgment? The words of Q, deutero, and JEDP? It just does not make sense, and swallowing such a low view of inspiration will undermine the faith of many. May we have the humility and trust to accept the Bible at face value, believing it to be what our capable God claims that it is!
“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!
Ashley Despain now holds a dubious, ignominious distinction. Visiting an inmate in a Nevada, Missouri, jail, Ashley tried to sneak him marijuana and methamphetamines by sticking them into the binding of the Bible. Officials say they have seen many ways used to smuggle drugs to prisoners, but it’s the first time the Bible was the means chosen (via http://fox2now.com/2018/03/29/).
File that under “truth is stranger than fiction.” As incredible (and audacious) as that sounds, Ashley was not the first to misuse the Bible. How many have tried to use the Bible as a means of enriching themselves? Peter speaks of false teachers who exploit listeners with false words because of the teachers’ greed (“make merchandise of,” KJV, 2 Pet. 2:3). How many have tried to use the Bible as a means of defending personal sin or a sinful lifestyle? How many have tried to use the Bible as a billy club to pound their own hobbies, convictions, and opinions over the heads of others? How many have tried to use the Bible to peddle some false doctrine? Peter experienced that, too (2 Pet. 3:16). How many have tried to use the Bible to manipulate others into doing things they themselves aren’t doing? Jesus warned against that very thing (Mat. 23:4). How many have tried to use the Bible to tempt others into disobeying God? That’s literally a Satanic trick (cf. Mat. 4:6).
James warns potential teachers to be careful, examining themselves in light of the judgment (3:1). This is not meant to scare potential Bible teachers away, but instead should help us consider carefully how we use the Bible. Paul mentions some that misused the Bible, even if what they said was true. From prison, he writes, “ Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment” (Phil. 1:15-17).
Like Paul, we have a stewardship (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:1-2). Let’s be faithful stewards! None of us will probably try to smuggle drugs with a Bible. But, in every sense, let’s be sure to be “accurately handling” it (2 Tim. 2:15)!
Recently, I received some feedback on a recent article (Truth Is Truth, No Matter Who Disagrees With It). Negative feedback is not rare, but expected when we put ideas down on paper (or on electronic media like blogs). This feedback was not personal, nor unkind. Yet, it reflects the thinking of so many who shun the idea of absolute, objective truth. Consider the major arguments made by the one who wrote:
—No matter what you believe, the majority disagrees with you.
—You are no smarter or more sincere than those who disagree with you.
—Everyone is certain their religion is right, but this is a function of the brain and proof of nothing
—Conflicting views within the “Restoration Movement” shows the fallacy of being certain about truth
—Certainty is dangerous because it does not allow for change
The last three arguments seem more of a confrontation of certainty than arguments against truth, but consider each of these individually.
Does the inevitability of disagreement nullify the idea of absolute truth? If someone argues our answer that two plus two equals four, and were able to get a majority to side with them that the answer is five, does that nullify the truth of what two plus two equals?
If a person with demonstrable intellectual capacity and apparent sincerity nonetheless avers that two plus two equals five, do we rewrite the laws of addition and reprint the textbooks? If not, why not? Is it not because we can take two of something, add it to two more of the same something, like integers or apples or books, and find the inescapable, universal truth that now there are four?
Can any religion be certain that they are right, but be wrong? Universalists believe everyone will ultimately be saved. Those who believe that murdering those they deem “infidels” pleases their God and they teach others that this is truth. Cults often dub their leaders the Messiah. On what basis would we object or oppose any religious tenet, like these, without an objective standard of truth?
Does the imperfection of people in applying revealed truth impugn the reality of absolute truth? It will never be suggested that anyone is perfectly interpreting or applying the perfect standard of truth, including those trying to restore New Testament Christianity (which, incidentally, implies belief in a perfect, objective standard of truth). But, does that mean restoration can or should be rejected for ideas which clearly contradict what the New Testament says (i.e., “sinner’s prayer’ versus how the New Testament teaches people were saved)?
If there is a conflict between the certainty of New Testament teaching and the desire for change, which is to be preferred and chosen? The religious world has changed a myriad of things that the New Testament explicitly teaches must be done or taught a certain way. Isn’t it a faulty premise to choose change proposed by men, when it assaults a certainty revealed by God?
That there is religious confusion and division is indisputable. It is disheartening. The Bible warns that articulate, polished religious leaders would teach things contrary to the revealed truth of the New Testament (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19). Let us never put confidence in man, but let us ever put confidence in the truth of Scripture.