As I was writing my last post on a weekly scripture meditation, it occurred to me that I need to define what meditation means from a biblical perspective.
When I speak of meditating on scripture I AM NOT advocating any form of contemplative spirituality now so popular in many of our churches. This form of meditation calls for emptying the mind of all thought and entering an altered state of consciousness. There are many other aspects to it of course, but it has its origins in paganism, eastern religions and Roman Catholicism.
Apprising Ministries by Pastor Ken Silva is an excellent resource for sharpening your discernment about this spiritually devastating practice. Keep your eyes open, contemplative spirituality may be coming to a church near you!
Sigh! It disturbs me that every time I want to discuss a biblical concept it seems I first need to recover the original definition of the term from the clutches of heretics before proceeding!
When I speak of meditating on the word, I mean it in the way the Psalmist prescribed it when he wrote:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Meditate is the Hebrew word ‘Hagah’ and its meaning here primarily is ‘to ponder’. In other words think upon these things which were written for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness. Meditate does not mean to empty your mind of all thought and wait for subjective emotional experiences. We are never commanded in the scriptures to pursue such disciplines.
‘Hagah’ also means ‘to study’. Don’t just read a passage and memorize it but digest its full meaning within the context it was written. Dust off your Strong’s Concordance or similar study tool (If you don’t have one, GET ONE!) and do word studies. I know in some Christian circles ‘study’ is a dirty word. It is routinely discouraged in favor of walking experentially by the Spirit. This is a doctrine of demons and should be exposed for what it is; a lie sent straight from the pit of Hell to lure believers away from God’s truth. You may hear people justify their lack of rigorous study by quoting a holy text. For example, I often hear 2 Cor 3:6 cited in defense of a light reading of scripture.
who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.
Advocates of this view believe that being led by subjective impressions, feelings and words of revelation from the Holy Spirit through the still, small voice of God, prophets and modern day apostles are much more important and authoritative than God’s written word. But doesn’t the scriptures themselves say:
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
In context, the Corinthians passage is contrasting believers being made ministers of the new covenant, which is by God’s grace with the old covenant which is of works. ‘The letter’ then, doesn’t refer to the God-breathed scriptures themselves, but to the law of commandments which the Israelites were bound by covenant to keep or else perish. Christ himself fulfilled the righteousness of the law by His perfect, sinless life. His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection now has given the elect the right to become Sons of God by repentance and belief in Christ as the Savior from all sins. Believers are given the Holy Spirit in order to come to God and be reconciled, living holy and pure before the Lord.
When Paul writes ‘for the letter kills‘, Paul is simply saying that the law of Moses could not make one right with God, it only reveals our corrupt, sinful, and helpless state. Trying to keep the law is impossible because of the sin nature which drives man to break the commandments. The law can only kill. It brings a death sentence to all who try to keep it. ‘The spirit makes alive‘ speaks a great doctrinal truth that only the Holy Spirit is capable of imparting spiritual life into a dead vessel. Becoming born-again is completely a work of God, apart from any action or desire on man’s part.
2 Cor 3:6 in no way speaks against a disciplined study of God’s word. Study is not even the subject matter of the text. The next time you hear this proof-text casually thrown out by a supposed bible believing Christian, call them to the carpet for it. Brethren, we have no excuse for ignorance in this high tech information age. Electronic bible versions and word study tools abound. Be good Bereans who:
…were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.
The Apostle Paul has put a high premium on bible study. He admonishes all believers to:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)
Lets break this verse down:
- ‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God‘. Study is a fruit of salvation showing our acceptance by the Father. Those who love God, will love His word. Only by studying through the scriptures do we grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him. Theology is simply the ‘Study of God.’ While many Christian circles wrinkle their noses at the word, I cannot conceive of a more noble, worthy pursuit than to know the creator and redeemer of all things.
- ‘a workman that needeth not to be ashamed‘. A believer labors in his study of the scriptures so that he may stand at the ready with a reason for the hope that He has in Christ Jesus. Demonstrating a lack of knowledge and understanding for the very Savior of the soul is shameful, giving unbelievers all the more reason to mock and reject a believer’s testimony.
- ‘rightly dividing the word of truth‘. One who studies God’s holy word grows in spiritual maturity, for he is able to discern truth from error and good from evil. In the present times of great apostasy, spiritual maturity is essential in anchoring our ship; lest we drift away into a sea of heresy, shipwrecking our faith on the jagged rocks of doctrinal confusion.
Lastly, to fruitfully profit in meditation on God’s word you must pray. Holy Spirit illumination is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth, for moving from milk to meat. I pray for wisdom and understanding through the light of the Holy Spirit every time I study through scripture. Failure to do so would be a great act of presumption on my part. I cannot come to a fruitful understanding of my own intellectual powers. Paul wrote:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The Holy Spirit is what makes a Christian to differ from the sinner in his approach to God’s word. It is imperative that every believer invites the Holy Spirit to the table every time he studies God’s precious word.