Thursday, March 24, 2011
I have been thinking for some time about the practice of meditating on Scripture. When I wrote out these thoughts, we had just started the book Loving God with All Your Mind in our ladies' Sunday School class, and the first verse we dealt with was Philippians 4:8. I spent some time meditating on that verse to help with my understanding of the lessons. At the time, I started typing out my thoughts, with the idea of sharing them here on my blog. That post never got finished. I came across it today in my "blog posts in progress" folder, then easily located the rest of my notes so I could finish typing them out. The fact that I found my notes so quickly is, to me, a good indication that I am meant to share them here. So, here goes:
The word translated “think” in Philippians 4:8 is the Greek LOGIZOMAI. In this verse, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, this verb means “make these things the subjects of your careful consideration”, or “carefully reflect on them.”
J. Dwight Pentecost explains, “The word translated ‘think’ really means
to meditate’ -- to dwell on, to give continuous attention to, to mull over, to be occupied with, to continually focus attention upon.”
As Elizabeth George reminds us in the book Loving God with All Your Mind, meditating on Scripture involves asking questions about its meaning. She suggests, "For instance, think about how each of the 8 'virtues' fits into the meaning of Philippians 4:8. Why is each one important? Which one is your favorite and why? Which virtue do you admire more when you see it in someone else’s life? Take a minute to answer any or all of these questions... or ask and answer your own questions. The most important thing in meditating on Scripture is to think -- to ponder -- on the verse."
I decided to do just that. My first thought was that this verse is a list of the sorts of things God wants me to think about. Each one of the virtues is important, it seems to me, because the Holy Spirit moved Paul to include each one in the list. As I thought further on this list, I thought about how each of the virtues are true of Christ.
* He is truth.
* He cannot lie.
* He is just.
* He is pure.
* He is “altogether lovely.”
* He is worth talking about to others.
* He is possessed of every virtue.
* He is worthy to be praised.
So then, it seems to me that thinking on all of these things and making them a part of our lives will help to make us “more like the Master.”
Also, if we look down to verse 9, we see that as we think on these things, and apply what we learn, the God of peace will be with us. That’s certainly a huge incentive!
Next, I took a list of questions I have, one designed to use when meditating upon Scripture. I have put my answers to the questions in italics.
* What does it say?
1. Summarize: The sorts of things God wants us to meditate on.
2. Paraphrase: "To sum up, my fellow Christians, think seriously about these things: things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, excellent, praiseworthy."
3. Ask questions:
Who wrote it? Paul
Speaking to whom: the believers in the church at Philippi
What are the major ideas? The verse enumerates the sorts of things God wants believers to be thinking on.
When was this written? 60 A.D.
Why was this written? To encourage the Philippian believers, a group of people especially dear to Paul's heart
4. Look for patterns; repeated words or phrases -- The phrase "whatsoever things" is repeated six times and the word things is used seven times. Again, this is a list of things which Paul is instructing these believers to think upon.
5. Look for cross-references. For the word "true" the cross reference given is Ephesians 4:25 -- "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor." For the word "honest" the cross reference is 2 Corinthians 8:21 -- "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." For the word "just", the cross reference is Deuteronomy 16:20 -- "That which is altogether just shalt thou follow...". For the word "pure", the cross reference given is James 3:17, which tells us that the wisdom which is from above is pure. For the word "lovely", the cross reference is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, those marvelous verses that tell us how Christian love ought to manifest itself in our lives.
* What does it mean?
1. What does the passage teach me about God? That He wants me to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, excellent, and praiseworthy.
2. What does this passage teach me about man? That man doesn't naturally think this way, but that this is possible with God's help.
3. Are there promises to claim? If I think on these good things and make them a reality in my life, the God of peace will be with me.
4. Are there any commands to obey? Think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, excellent, and praiseworthy.
5. Are there examples to follow? Paul's example in thinking on these good things and in living them out. Verse 9 says believers are to do the things which they have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in his own life.
6. Are there any sins to avoid? If we are to think on these good things, then it stands to reason that we should not think on things that are their opposite. That is, we should not think on things that are untrue, dishonest, unjust, impure, ugly, of ill repute, etc.
Next in my Scripture meditation exercises comes this one:
Record your responses to the Word of God
* What should I do? How does this truth apply to my life? I need to obey this command and think on these worthy things.
* In view of this truth, what changes need to be made in my life? I must actively think on what is true about God and His Word-- and not on things that are displeasing to Him, including "what if" and "if only" thoughts.
* What practical steps can I take to apply this truth to my life?
• Pray and ask God to help me think only on things that are pleasing to Him.
• Spend time studying the character of God as revealed in His Word.
• Memorize verses which emphasize important truths about God.
• Turn to God's Word (and to Him in prayer) when tempted to think about things that do not please Him.
* You may want to write out your response in the form of a prayer.
"Lord, I thank You that Your Word is so clear as to how You want Your children to live. Help me to think only on the things that please You, and to place the truths of Your Word above my all-too-human thoughts and feelings. Help me to grow ever closer to You, so that my thinking becomes more and more pleasing to You. Amen."
I hope that these meditations are helpful to someone else today!