Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meditation On Truth

A Devotion By Dan Guinn

As a Christian, one hesitates to even use the word "meditation," as it has a long history of being hijacked to imply so many things contrary to the teachings of scripture. Moreover, in practice the mystic often uses the term to mean a form or religious escapism. They imagine meditation as a tool to escape this reality and enter some dark realm of otherness. In most Eastern religious practice meditation is a clearing of the mind, in order that one supposedly can be open to true realities. Yet the problem with clearing the mind is that once this is done, there is nothing there, or at least usually nothing of substance anyway. It is one thing to seek clarity, it is quite another to seem mental vacancy. This is something that Christ will never ask you to do. You will never be asked to empty your mind of content or escape the reality which He has made.

"Truth is content, truth has something to do with reason. Truth has something to do with the rational creature that God has made us. The dilemma here in the internal world is not just some sort of grey fog, it is in relationship to content" ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 108

"Man[kind] lives in his head; this... is the uniqueness of man[kind]." ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 112

Since mankind lives in his head, he needs real truth content. He needs to dwell on the things of God. Yet in many forms of teaching on meditation the intent is to free one’s mind to a point of openness to the universe. Yet, once the mind is in a state of “openness,” what shall we put in it? The musician Steve Taylor once wrote, in his song Whatcha Gonna Do When You’re Number’s Up, “You say humanist philosophy is what it’s all about? You’re so open minded that your brain leaked out.” Truthfully, the mentality of the world on this is simply insufficient. In many ways, it sees the path to truth as some sort of mental mind trick (not to be confused with a Jedi mind trick, that’s a whole other mistake). Those of you who grew up in the 60’s know that this went even further, based off of the teachings of men link Timothy Leary, a professor at Berkley. He and many other, otherwise brilliant men such as Aldrous Huxley, combined these Eastern mystic teachings with drug use. They advocated the use of LSD and other drugs for the purpose of expanding the mind in meditation. Huxley’s famous book, The Doors of Perception & Heaven & Hell borrowed from a quote from William Blake that says:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

This was of course the inspiration for the psychedelic rock band, The Doors, who sought to live out this mode of thinking. Jim Morrison, the leader of the band literally destroyed himself and most every relationship around him with the abuses. This is really where we end up. Through these leaps of faith into a world of nothingness, through this mind tinkering and mental gymnastics in hopes of finding some Utopia, one merely finds tragedy.

“In Eastern mysticism—for which the West is searching so madly now, that it has lost the sense of history, of content, and the truth of Biblical facts—there is always finally a loss of personality" ~ Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg. 54 (1971), pg. 49 (2001)

This is so important to grasp! In this mode of thinking one loses their-self. It is tragic, it is ugly and it should invoke compassion on our part, to see the despair and pain that so many have inflicted on themselves.

As Christians we have answers! We have meaning that makes sense of reality.

"The experiential result [of Christianity] , however is not just an experience of 'bare' supernaturalism, without content, without our being able to describe or communicate with it. It is much more. It is a momemnt-by-moment, increasing, experiential relationship with the whole Trinity. The doors are open now: the intellectual doors, and also the doors to reality." ~ Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg 70 (1970), pg. 62 (2001)

"We do not need a dark room; we do not need to be under the influence of a hallucinatory drug; we do not need to be listening to a certain kind of music; we can know the reality of the supernatural here and now." ~ Schaeffer, True Spirituality pg. 54 (1971), pg. 49 (2001)

So Christianity gives a profound approach that is exactly the opposite of these conceptions of meditation. We are to be contemplating, and pondering truth, a truth full of rich content that nourishes our souls. There is no hope in vacant, bankrupt, anemic, starving emptiness where others unfortunately have been seeking.

But why use the word meditation? Surely there are other words we can use? Well, one has to wonder as the world continues to further abuse pretty much everything in it’s grasps, if the Christian will eventually lose his entire vocabulary. That is, if we give up every word that is abused we might one day have nothing to say. In my opinion, there is a need to redeem the word “meditation” from the mystical death claws others have placed on it and put it back in it’s proper Biblical frame. Not out of pride, but for the fact that the concept of meditation was first a Biblical one and it looked nothing like what it has been made to be. The Bible uses the words without restriction, unmindful of it’s current cultural moorings. Truly our culture has been scarred by the false teaching of meditation, yet we need to give and answer back, and we are called to do so. As Paul states in 2 Cor. 10:5, we are to be about...

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5.

Certainly “meditation” as it is defined today, falls into this category as a lofty imagination exalting itself against the knowledge of Christ. We should treat the word meditation in the same way we treat the word worship. Although we know that there are others in the world who worship in false ways and idolatry, this does not prevent right-worship and we have not stopped using the word. The principle is this: “abusus non tollit usum” or “abuse does not prevent right usage.”

Biblical Meditation is brilliant and meaningful. The first accounts of which come to us in the oldest book in scripture, the book of Job, where Eliphaz speaks to Job describing the custom of meditation in his day as the “fear of God” that “teaches the mouth” (Job. 15:5-6). In Gen. 24:63, we find an early account that says “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.” These are the oldest remarks in scripture, yet there are more. In closing I would like to briefly highlight the teachings of scripture on this subject, as it is not silent, and I think they will be edifying to you. I will preface this with Paul’s words on what our thoughts should dwell on, and as you can see there is no room for the distorted form of meditation.

“...the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~ Philipians 4:8

Meditation on Truth is Beautiful
  • “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire [literally meditate] in his temple.” ~ Ps. 27:4
Meditation on Truth is Nourishing Component of Prayer & Worship
  • "My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,when I remember you upon my bed,and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help,and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” ~ Ps. 63:5-8
Meditation on Truth is Help In Struggle To Remember God’s Goodness
  • "I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:"
  • “"Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes." ~ Ps. 119:23
  • “Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.” Ps. 119:78
Meditation on Truth brings humility and rejoices in God and His Provision and Promises to us.
  • “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord” ~ Ps. 104:3
  • “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” ~ Ps. 19:14
  • “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work,and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy.What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah” ~ Ps. 77:11-15

(Note here that the word Selah is literally a meditative prompt in scripture. Selah’s means to “stop and think on this” and the root word [calah] literally means to hang, and implies to measure. One might picture the hanging of a weight on a scale, as in “weigh this in your thoughts”.)

  • "My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise." ~ Ps. 119:148
  • "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands" ~ Ps.143:5
  • "On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate." ~ Ps. 145:5
Meditation on Truth rejoices in God’s laws and the wisdom it brings.
  • “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. “ Joshua 1:8
  • “With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” ~ Ps. 119: 13-16
  • "I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes." Ps. 119:48
  • “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” ~ Ps. 119:97, 98
Meditation on Truth brings understanding.
  • “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” Ps. 119:99
Meditation on Truth brings wisdom and turns to testimony and evangelism.
  • “My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.” ~ Ps. 49:3

So what can we conclude about meditation in Scripture? or Biblical meditation?

It is important to note that the Biblical description of meditation is not some dimly lit experience of self deprecating ritual. This is not the practice we get from scripture, rather from scripture we can imply that it is a regular, daily, moment-by-moment, practice of dwelling on the things of God and gaining understanding that turns to wisdom, worship, and testimony of God’s goodness. It is a natural component of Christian worship and payer which is the intentional reflection on the hope we have in Christ.