Everyone meditates. Really? Yes. Our minds are constantly dwelling on something. Sadly, many of us allow our minds to wander dangerously into the realm of alluring thoughts, discouraging thoughts, distracting thoughts, worrying thoughts, etc. What we really need is biblical meditation whereby we fix our restless minds on God’s Word so that it governs our lives.
Biblical meditation isn’t merely reading or studying God’s Word but musing and mulling over God’s Word whereby it grips our heart. In other words, its goal isn’t to fill the head but improve the heart.
It’s important for us to acknowledge the difference between knowing with the head (theoretical or notional knowledge) and knowing with the heart (practical or inclinational knowledge). Far too many of us fail to close the gap between the head and the heart – hence, the need for biblical meditation. As we patiently steep the tea bag so that its flavor permeates the hot water, even so we immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that it permeates us. We bring the truths of God to remembrance, and seriously ponder them and apply them to our lives.
Water is naturally cold, but fire makes it hot, causing it to boil. Likewise, our hearts are naturally cold, but biblical meditation makes them hot, causing them to boil with love for God. Again, this isn’t a mere reading or studying of Scripture, but a purposeful reading and studying of Scripture. When we meditate upon God’s Word, we digest it; that is, we bring its truths to remembrance and consider them until they’re impressed upon our heart. Here’s a very simple approach:
1. We pray for God’s blessing: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18).
2. We read Scripture, following our daily reading plan.
3. We select one truth that arises from our reading – something related to the attributes of God, the works of God, the promises of God, the offices of Christ, the character of Christ, etc.
4. We ask two very simple questions (from Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 3). What should I believe concerning God? What response does God require of me?
5. We apply these answers to our lives. How am I living? What have I done? What do I need to change?
6. We resolve to act according to God’s truth. What will I change today? How will I live today?
7. We pray for God’s help: “Incline my heart to your testimonies” (Ps. 119:36).
That’s a very simple approach, but a good starting place. As we work through these steps, we dwell upon the truths of God’s Word whereby they grip the three main faculties of the soul. First, we ponder God’s Word in the mind, applying our thoughts to sacred subjects as they appear in God’s Word. Second, we impress these truths upon our affections. If we remove the pot of water from the fire before it boils, it will quickly cool. Similarly, if we leave off biblical meditation before the affections are fully engaged, our enthusiasm will quickly wane. Biblical meditation stirs three principle graces: thoughts of God’s power produce fear; thoughts of God’s wisdom produce faith; and thoughts of God’s goodness produce love. Third, we express the truth of God’s Word with the will. When our love is set on God, the motions of the soul function properly. As a result, we take God as our happiness, His Word as our rule, His holiness as our desire, and His promises as our hope.
This brings us to the fruit of biblical meditation: obedience. As we struggle with sin, we face a constant dilemma. It arises from our knowledge of two truths. First, we know sin feels good, and second we know sin displeases God. When we face temptation, we act upon one of these two truths. Which one? The answer is determined by which of the two is most attractive to us at that particular moment. For this reason, a large part of the duty of sanctification is seeking to make sin unattractive to us. This is done through biblical meditation. It opens the door between the head and the heart, whereby the Holy Spirit makes deep impressions upon our affections. He cultivates love for God, thereby making sin repugnant to us.
All told, this means that biblical meditation has a transforming power in it (Ephesians 4:23; Philippians 4:8). It cultivates knowledge, our intellectual apprehension. It cultivates discernment, practical application for our lives. It deepens repentance, encourages mortification, inflames devotion, produces maturity, imparts comforts, and creates joy and thanksgiving.
Whatever rules our hearts will control our lives. For this reason, we must seek to be “trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6). Metaphorically, the expression “trained in” (or, “nourished up” in the Authorized Version) means to digest inwardly. The verb is a present participle, indicating an on-going process. In short, we must continually feed upon God’s Word. Biblical meditation is like digestion. We don’t simply put food in our mouths. It does us no good unless we swallow it. Likewise, we don’t keep putting God’s Word into our lives without digesting it. We must make it part of our lives, because all knowledge serves a purpose: life-transformation.