Abiding in God's Word
If you abide in my word, you are my true disciple…whoever obeys my word will never see death (John 8:31, 51).
One of the central themes of the Gospel of John is the power of Jesus’ word. His word is His living presence and provides His life-sustaining power. His word is life, and His true disciples live in it and off of it. Jesus says His true disciples abide in His word and have His word abide in them.
But what does that mean? How can we have the word abide in us?
One of the best ways to have Christ’s word abide in you is through the spiritual discipline of meditation.
Christian meditation is different from other forms of meditation that are popular today; Jesus is not advocating a baptized form of transcendental meditation or a new-age mindfulness.
In Christian meditation, we are not seeking to empty our minds, but to fill them. There is an object: His word. We fill our minds with it, feast upon it, drink it in, chew it, digest it, dwell upon it. We are not passive, but active. It is a way of reading the Bible that is seeking to make the truth clear in our minds so that it can delight our hearts and change our lives.
True meditation is more than reading the Bible for information — it is reading for formation. It is reading in such a way that we experience His presence and hear His voice. It is reading with the mind, but also with the heart. In meditation, we seek to think deeply about a text, to turn it over and over in our minds, to probe it for significance, and then seek and pray to be transformed by it.
The classic passage on meditating on God’s word is Psalm 1, where we are encouraged to delight in His word by meditating on it “day and night.” The psalmist compares the person who meditates on the word to a tree that is planted by streams of water, fruitful in every season, always growing, never withering. Meditating on Christ’s word makes us like a strong, fruitful, stable tree. Think about that image; meditation is like the life of a tree in that:
1. It takes time — in terms of minutes and of years. You simply can’t meditate deeply on the word if you only give it five minutes. Deep roots and large trees don’t grow overnight.
2. It will lead to depth and stability. Meditating on the word is what will make your mind strong and stable,and your emotions alive yet anchored.
3. It is about tasting. The tree is to drink deeply from the stream. It is to seek the water, absorb it, delight in it, and be refreshed by it. True meditation helps you see and sense the beauty of Christ, His word, and His ways.
4. The result is fruit. It produces spiritual fruit for every season. It results in more love for God and His people, more joy in His word and His work, peace in the midst of troubles, patience in the midst of aggravations, kindness in the face of aggression, goodness in the midst of evil, gentleness in the midst of hostility, faithfulness in a world of duplicity, and self-control in a world that seems out of control. These are fruits the Spirit produces, and the primary way He produces these fruits is through meditating on Christ’s word.
So How Can You Do It?
The best way to begin is by channeling your inner spiritual four-year-old and ask lots of questions. Begin by reading a passage of Scripture, then pick out a verse or two to focus on, and then ask as many who, what, when, where, why, how questions as you can think of.
Here, we provide some ideas to get you started.
What truth is this passage teaching?
Why is God teaching us this?
How would my life be different if I really believed this?
Write It Down.
What strikes you about this passage?
What would you ask the author if he was sitting next to you?
What do you think God is asking you to do through this text?
What does this text tell me about God or Christ that should lead me to praise Him?
What does this text tell me about my fallen condition that I need to confess?
What does this text tell me about how I should live, rejoice, trust, or change?
What do these words actually mean?
What is the author’s original purpose in this passage?
What light do other Scripture passages shed on this text? Where and how does it fit into the total biblical revelation?
What truths does it teach about God and about man in relation to God? How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?
What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purpose do they stand in the Scripture?
How do they apply to myself and others in a current situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do? How would I be different if these truths were genuine realities in my life?
This story, written by Pastor Dr. Ben Bailie of Grace Lake Nona, originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Grace Magazine. Download the issue here.