Dallas: “Gracious and Almighty Heavenly Father, we are thankful for the opportunity to come and open your Word and to be open to your Word. We pray that the Mighty Logos will come into our midst and restructure our minds and our bodies and our total personality, evermore unto confirmation with the image of Christ.
This evening as we study “study” and “meditation,” we are conscious of special needs. We are conscious that somehow this is perhaps not as attractive a topic as we might find and we are led to reflect on why it is that study becomes bad news and a drag and a bore.
We pray this evening you will help us to understand it better as we seek to understand the disciplines whereby we can enter into a proper engagement with your Kingdom. So now we pray that on behalf of everyone who is here wherever they may be coming from or whatever things are in their minds or wherever they may be going. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. [1:21]
We are studying those activities, which we call spiritual disciplines in which we may consciously choose to enter and wherein we find the power of God to live in the character of God. And if you have your lesson plan before you on the series of lessons, you will see that this evening, we are moving to what I have called in that plan, Disciplines of Engagement. We need now to say just a word about that transition because in fact we are moving to a different type of activity and it’s important for us to understand the difference of type.
The previous studies have all dealt with activities which are essentially activities of abstinence—abstaining from food, abstaining from noise, abstaining from company, abstaining from sex, abstaining from various things and I have given you as the slogan for that type of discipline, Peter’s words, “ . . . abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11) [2:37]
We have studied many passages including Paul’s statement that “ . . . the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” (Galatians 5:17) They are contrary to one another and what Paul and Peter and anyone who has thought about it at any length, whether they are Christians or not have come to understand, just on the basis of good common sense is if you do not restrain your desires, they will ruin you. Period.
That isn’t even religion. That’s just brains. Right? I mean, if you don’t restrain your desires, they will ruin you in every respect—the whole name of the game of human life is restraint. All positive power comes out of restraint.
It has often been said, with reference especially to the sex drive that there has not developed in human history on the face of the earth, so far as we know, any high civilization without strong restraints on sexuality and it seems as if almost the human soul were like a stick of dynamic. You lay it out in the middle of the road and set it off and it will hardly do anything but make a noise but you pack it in against a rock and set it off, it will move a mountain. [4:12]
You see, this wisdom was part of what Paul was talking about as we discussed last time when he said, “I pummel my body. I keep my body under.” There must be restraint but there must also be engagement.
A religion of pure negation is at best though necessary only half of the story. There comes a time when not only do I restrain myself but I say, “I must act.” I have taken as the verse to go with that, Mark 2:11 where Jesus says to the man lying on the bed unable to walk, He says, “ . . . Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way . . .” That is an act of engagement, not an act of abstinence. [5:07]
We have to find those activities, which we purposively can enter into and know therein the triumph of God’s grace—positive activities. Moses, throw down your stick. Moses, put your hand into your bosom. Moses, GO, and lead my people out of bondage. And in every case of those who have known and walked in the path of faith, and especially as we later come to see people walking in the faith of Christ, it is primarily an act of engagement. “Take up thy cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) It is no good to get rid of your bondage if you are not going to do something with it.
So now we come this evening to study the first of the disciplines of engagement and I have lumped together the disciplines of study and of meditation. They are somewhat different but I want to consider them together because they are very closely related and it’s profitable to look at them in relationship to one another.
But before I come to that, I told you a story last week about a tree and so I want to tell you a story about us again. We talked about this right at the outset but I wanted t talk a little more about human nature. You will remember the first time we met in this series, we talked about spirit, soul, and body—about the spiritual, about the psychological, and about the physical and this evening, in leading up to the importance of study and mediation, I want to go back to that scheme and just say a few words about it. [7:06]
Those of you who are here and I know a number of you here who are quite sophisticated about the natural sciences and social sciences and perhaps there is a medical doctor or two or a nurse in the crowd, I’m going to say things that you may find outrageous. I hope you’ll find them interesting and if you find them wrong, I hope you will instruct me, okay?
I do want to talk about the relationship between the spirit, the soul, and the body and I want to tell you upfront why and that is, because I believe the fundamental control of the conscious life of the human being lies in the domain of thought and understanding or conception. I think that the soul and the body together are joined by the presence of the spirit and that the spirit is basically the independent, self-sufficient logos, the word of God, which was incarnated in a special form in Jesus Christ Himself. But as I said to you the first evening, basically, God is Spirit. God is Spirit and He imparts to us an element of Spirit, which is in a fashion ours until we give it back to Him and when Jesus died He said, “ . . . into thy hands, I commend my spirit . . .” (Matthew 23:46) [8:50]
In the creation story, we are told that God formed man out of the dust of the earth; however you want to image that, it’s all right with me. I don’t think He really got down and dug His fingers into the mud and shaped a little mud doll and then got over and gave it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. However you want to think about it is all right with me.
The fact is, God formed the body of man out of the dust of the earth and however He did it, He breathed into it the ruah, the spirit of life, the breath of life, the wind of life and man became, not a body, not a spirit, but a living soul. Man became a living soul. [9:43]
I wish I had time and you had the interest to spend a lot of time just talking about what that means and relating it, for example to the great thinkers of the Christen church, like St. Thomas Aquinas or even to some of the non- Christian thinkers that have been present in the history of the Western world. Plato, for example but we don’t have time for that and I am afraid you would not find it interesting, but what I want to say to you is this. Man fundamentally is not a body and is not a spirit but is a soul, and this soul consists of a set of abilities, which for this earthly life are conjoined with a body and the connection between the body and the soul is the Spirit of God—the Spirit of God. [10:40]
God holds the life of every living thing including man in His immediate hand because He is in relationship to the world, the Creative and Redemptive Logos and Paul says in Colossians 1:17, “ . . . in him;” that is, in Christ, “ . . . everything hangs (holds) together.” The reason your nose stays on your face is because Christ holds it together in His imminent presence throughout all creation. Hmmm?
It’s difficult to find words to express the magnificence of Christ and the New Testament is nothing but a continuing attempt to get a hold on this awesome reality of The Logos, the Christ. “By Him was everything made and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:3) In Him, everything hangs together. All right! [11:55]
Now then, the thing I really want to focus on is the connections and I want to say that the primary connection between the spirit and the soul in the conscious life of the individual is truth and truth relates directly to the concept and the belief in the individual life. Jesus said, “ . . . the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, they are life.” They are life. (John 6:63)
That has a two-fold dimension of His presence, as the all-encompassing and creative logos and then His presence in the truth, which is told about God Some people don’t believe what is said about God. No one has seen God, only the Son. Only the Son knows what God is like and he had shocking things to say about God. And very few people could receive Him and they wouldn’t have been able to receive Him if it had not been for a thousand years or so of grinding Jewish history. It was only in the fullness of time at the point in human history where there would be at least a small group of people who could look at the lowly Nazarene and say, “You are the one.” Only then did He step forth because He had to come in redemption of free spirit at the point where His words could enter their minds and transform them and a small percentage of a prepared people was able to do that and then that small percentage formed the foundation of the church as we know it. [13:53]
But, back to this, the primary connection is concept and belief, not affective, not sensate, not vital. The primary connection between the spiritual and the psychological in the self-conscious free human personality is the concept and the belief. How do you think [He says “think” but probably means “feel”] about this? It’s what you believe about it. That determines your feelings. Your feelings have no function without some kind of conceptualization. [14:23]
If your house has burned down, you will not be in the least distress until you hear about it and when you hear about it, you are really going to feel and you are going to have sensations and you are going to act. You will act at a level far below your conscious mind. It will enter into your very viscera and you may have a sick stomach and your heart may jump out your throat because that thought, “my house has burned down” has entered. The connection is through the concept. [15:01]
Now, between the psychological and the physical, this is the part where the medical people may think I am completely crazy which is within the realm of possibility, [Laughter] but there are some interesting people at least in the history of Western thought who are on my side that the primary place where the psychological impinges on the physical is the glandular system or in general—well, this is from my limited point of view—the whole metabolic system is a mysterious kind of thing but it is primarily the glandular system which controls the operating human body.
It is the one which squirts the right kinds of juices in there and makes the chemical processes go one way or another to create and maintain tissue, to create and maintain organs which together create and maintain the body and provide the realm in which human personality exists and acts and creates a society and all of that sort of thing. [16:08]
So, the controls of human life come from the top. They come from the thoughts and glory be; we have some choice of how we are going to think about things, of what we are going to think about. Hmmm?
That’s where the discipline of study and meditation comes in. Study is the direction of your thoughts. Meditation is the direction of your thoughts and as far as Paul is concerned, the work of redemption was one, which involved the complete sanctification of all of these realms. [17:00]
I want to give you a verse—1 Thessalonians 5:23— and I hope you will meditate on this one and think about how it applies to each of us individually and what a glorious possibility is set before us in this prayer of Paul. 1 Thessalonians 5:23—“And the very God of peace sanctify you entirely. . . . “ (or wholly as the old version says). Now, not sufficient with that, he goes ahead to enumerate the parts. “ . . . and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So, the total framework of human nature is the field of redemption for those who would walk after Christ and engage in the particular activates in which they would meet God in this totally redemptive way. You whole spirit, soul, body—every bit of it would be set apart, sanctified, made wholly by the purposes and activities of God in you. That was Paul’s prayer.
That of course is confirmation to Christ. This is exactly what was true of Christ. He was set apart entirely in His spirit, in His soul and in His body by the presence of God in and through Him. He was God in the flesh because of that identification. [18:40]
Now, the renewing of the mind is primarily a conceptual change and thus, it results in a restructuring of our belief system and from there, filters down to all of our tendencies; so much so, that our very heart beats and our digestion come into line with the purposes of God; but, that requires a lot. Jesus was constantly running into this problem of restructuring the way people think about things. [19:18]
For example, in Matthew 15:2—here is a typical situation which Jesus found Himself in. Now we have the elevated question, “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” This looks trivial to us because we don’t share the belief system and the set of habits in which these people were raised but it was a very important thing for them and it was hard for them to find out how anyone could possibly be holy or right and allow people to sit down with unwashed hands.
Now, this is not the case that the disciples’ hands were dirty, like you might say to your kids, “Go wash your hands.” No, no, this washing was a ritual washing. It was not because they hands needed washing; it was just for the washing sake itself. You did this ritual because it was the right thing to do and if you didn’t do it, that just proved, not that you were dirty but you were not holy. Jesus then had to face the restructuring of these people’s beliefs. He says in verse Matthew 15:8, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Their hands did very well but their heart was another thing. [20:51]
And He goes on to say, in explaining this to His own disciples, in verses 17-20 (Matthew 15)—“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the drought? But those things, which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts . . . “ and so on. These are the things which “ . . . defile . . .”
You see, Jesus is re-working the entire conceptualization about what defiles and this was a very hard thing for Him to do. He was constantly encountering objections to His own ministry because He lived as a defiled person. He sat down with the unclean, the sinners, the ungodly—He sat down with them. You didn’t sit down with them. He lay with them. You didn’t eat with them. You didn’t touch them. You stayed away from them and in general, He had to resist the entire tendency that is pervasive in human religion to identify holiness with times and places—staying out of the wrong places and being in the right places—doing things at a certain time and not doing things at another time. He had to re-orient holiness entirely toward the inner character. A part of that of course was the re-orientation of values in human beings. [22:15]
In Mark 9:35-36, you find the teaching about servant hood, which we are going to be looking at later on. I believe it’s two weeks from tonight. No, it’s next Wednesday. And He says here, “ . . . If any man here desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them . . . “ and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me . . .” Totally inverting things and the slogan that He used over and over is, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:16)
So, now what Jesus was doing was, He was trying to turn the conceptualizations around that people had—inverting their ideas of God, inverting their ideas of man, inverting their ideas of the Messiah, and inverting their ides of who the proper Jew was. One of the most shocking things in all of the Gospels is where He tells the Jews that they are not children of Abraham because if they were children of Abraham, they would do what Abraham did. He said, “You are the children of the Devil.” And they had prided themselves upon their biological connection with Abraham and had overlooked the fact that Abraham’s Jewishness was not a biological thing at all. It was a matter of his faith in God. [23:57]
Well, all right, now. I hope that that will give you some hold on the importance of this business of conceptualization and changing conceptualization into the right pattern so far as the ministry of Jesus was concerned. We could go on endlessly and illustrate it. We wouldn’t have to get out of the Old Testament. We find many great changes there, for example. We find in the earlier books, Joshua, for example, we find people being killed for the sins of their parents. By the time of Ezekiel, we find that that is forbidden which was a huge jump forward—the correction of the conceptualization. [24:45]
See, out of your mind, whereas the Proverbs says, “As a man thinketh in His heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Your thoughts govern your life. Your feelings do not govern your life. Your will does not govern your life. It is only as your feelings and your will find a basis for their own action in the thoughts that occur to you that they act at all. Without thought, your will has no options. Without thought, your emotions have no direction.
All right, so what are you going to do about your thoughts? Wait until someone comes along and re-wires you, huh? [Laughter] Let’s be honest about this. What most folks do is kind of drift. They sort of live until they die, you know? Right? They sort of come in and they get bopped around by whatever happens to them, you know—theirs parents, their family and so on—and they swim this way and that and drift this way and float that way, and maybe a big thing happens. Maybe they read a novel or go to a movie and they get a revelation. Normally, we are governed, almost totally by the people around whom we are raised. Their ideas are injected into us just like their blood and the food that comes from them and we just believe what they believed. Hmmmm? And we are victimized by that and this is why Peter places such great emphasis as he does on being redeemed from the vain traditions of your fathers. [26:45]
See, it is human to say, “Oh, we are right. We are the people. We all know the way to live. I mean, my mommy and daddy knew everything and what they didn’t know, my grandpa and grandma did.” Now, that has been under mined and we have taken our ideas from a larger scale, by in large in modern society and I must say, I don’t think it’s all been good. But, my central point is this; that generally, people just kind of drift through—whatever happens, happens. [27:20]
You see, the fads that sweep the country—the Beatles, Bob Dylan, whoever it may be comes along and they provide a set of words with associated ideas and then, you see Eleanor Rigby and Mr. Jones and whoever it is happens to get involved in those songs, they become a part of the furniture of the mind and people live their lives governed by those images. Hmmm?
- Well, I thank God, God doesn’t leave us entirely alone even though we do as Romans 1 says, generally refuse to retrain knowledge of God, He sends people to us. As the old prophets used to say, “He would send prophets rising up early and late.” (Jeremiah 7:25) God sends a message. He sends a message through nature. The firmament speaks His word and we have opportunity to see and to hear if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. So often, we don’t because you see, we are so caught up in the circle of ideas. [28:33]
Sometimes as you grow older you can look at young people and say, “Good night, why do they behave that way? What could they be thinking of?” See? Well, they are caught in the mesh of their minds and they think that they are looking starkly at truth and realty and then of course, you are the one that’s all goofed up in your head, hmmm? And the adults keep saying, “Well, they’ve got beans in their ears.” There’s a little song about—why do all the teenagers have beans in their ears; they can’t hear. And so you have problems between the generations because they are caught in different meshes of ideas and God keeps speaking. God keeps speaking.
Very often, we don’t know who is speaking. We are like Samuel in the temple. We hear the voice and we think it is somebody else and we may go to Eli as Samuel did and say, “What did you want?” And very rarely, do we have someone like Eli who will finally say, “Now, the next time this happens, you just lie there on your bed and say, ‘speak, Lord for thy servant heareth.’” [29:54]
Perhaps one of our ideas is that God does not talk to us. Hmmm? Anyone here been hit with that one? God talks to the preacher. God talks to people who write books and sing songs, but He doesn’t talk to me.
See, there is a whole conceptualization of God in that; probably modeling him after a President or a Governor or someone like that who doesn’t have . . . [Went silent at 30:20 to 30:30-Change of tape] . . . and what I suggest is that there is a rather different function called “meditation” in which we come to understand the significance and the meaning of the things we already know. Did you ever have that experience of knowing something for a long while and not realizing what it was you knew? Life is filled with that. Yes? [31:00]
Question: Can you give us a definition of study?
Dallas: Of what?
Comment: Of study.
Dallas: Of study. Well, I don’t know that I would want to call it a definition but in study, we are enlarging the range and number of our ideas. In other words, we are getting a lot of information we didn’t have before, to put it very simply, right? [31:19]
Whereas in meditation, now by contrast—in meditation, we are coming to understand the things we already know. I mean, let me just give you a couple of cases that we know about long before we begin to have any understanding of what it is we know about. Just go back to the topic of last week—sex. One of the problems with our knowledge of sex and in general the sex education as it is sometimes called—which is a terrible misnomer—I’m not sure what it is they educate the kids about but it sure isn’t sex. [31:58]
Everybody knows in a sense about sex but very few people have any understanding of its significance. Because I was raised out in the sticks, I used to hear people say things, “Well, you were raised on a farm, you ought to know about sex.” Well, for goodness sakes. [Laughter] Sure! But what am I to make of it? I don’t know what to make of it. I hope no one will take what you see on the farm as an indication of what the sexual life should be like, huh? All right.
Now, here’s another one—death. OK? That’s a tough one. Everybody knows! Little kids learn about death very young; their puppy gets run over or something like that. They lose an aunt or a parent or something of that sort and its very difficult but young people do not in a sense, do not believe they will ever die. They do not have a realization of that like some of us who have gone so far as to see the process in action—when you look in the mirror, hmmm? Then, we say, “Yes, yes, I am going to die.” [33:19]
Now you see, these things—same sort of thing with prayer—I know a lot of people who believe in prayer but they can’t make it work. If faith in prayer would move mountains, they would move mountains before breakfast but they can’t pray a prayer of faith. They have faith in prayer but they cannot pray a prayer of faith. You see, they have a knowledge of it, but they don’t know what it is.
And now, let’s try to take on something that really is bigger and that is, for example, our position in our social group. We have ways of identifying ourselves—a mother, a brother, a father, a teacher or whatever we do, a doctor or a truck driver or a politician or whatever it is we do. All those little ways of pigeon holing people. In a sense, that says who we are but that is very far removed from an understanding of what effect we have on people and it is possible for us to be blind and blundering through life leaving wounded and broken people by the wayside and have no knowledge of it at all. [34:38]
Now, what we need in that case is not so much, new facts as the capacity to look at what we already know. That is meditation. That is meditation.
I want to try to help you get ahold of that by talking about the word. Let me give you some other words to go with it—medi-ter-ranean—what’s The Mediterranean? What does that word mean? Anyone know what Mediterranean means? Middle of the earth, right? Middle of the earth. Medi-ter-ranean. It’s the middle of the earth.
Medi—ever hear of medi-ocre? Mediocre? It’s the same prefix as medi-ter-ranean and in fact, though I don’t want to hang a lot on the etymology, I think there really is a connection with medi-cal. Medical has to do basically with measuring, proportion, balance, middle and what we are talking about you see, when we are talking about medi- is centering on something. We center on something. Much of the problem with our knowledge is that it is diffused in 35 million directions and centered on nothing and this is why study has a bad name in our society, and it does. We have to be honest about this. It’s got a bad name in church, all right? [36:25]
What we normally call a Bible Study is not a Bible Study at all. It really isn’t. From the viewpoint of the people who come, present company accepted, it is an opportunity to listen to somebody talk. It isn’t a Bible Study. Not a Bible Study at all. We call it a Bible Study. It isn’t a Bible Study. It’s an opportunity to listen to someone talk. That’s why I am so glad to see you people buying up these books and devouring them. That means you are doing something. That’s a study, right? That’s a study.
One of my greatest grief’s as an evangelical Christian is that in so many churches where they profess to believe the Bible, no one knows anything about it because they haven’t studied it and they don’t study it. They are consumers of talks. [37:19]
I hope your toes aren’t hurting but you know, we just have to just say these things. Now, it isn’t an opportunity to make anyone feel guilty because guilt is absolutely worthless as a motive. That’s my opinion, okay? You can have yours and I don’t believe that we ever do anyone any good by scolding but sometimes it helps to say something, you know. It helps to sort of put our mental equipment in gear where we can look at it and say, “You know, that’s right.” That’s right. I don’t study the Bible. No condemnation; just what are the facts of the case?
I’m sure there are all kinds of good reasons if one doesn’t but the point is that if you want your mind transformed, you’ve got to come to the place where you can study the Bible. That means where you can just get the facts. What’s in the Bible? What is said in the Bible? And then we come to the place to where we can sit down and medi-tate on it. Focus in on what we have learned. [38:32]
Meditation needs study in order not to be trapped into a narrow obsessive framework of ideas. Study needs meditation in order to understand and appreciate what it is one has found, and especially in the way it bears upon ones own life. Meditation involves a kind of thinking where we take things apart and we distinguish and put them in relationship to one another so that we can come back to that fact which we know and look at it and better understand it and see it for what it is.
Every child knows that 5 + 8 = 13, but very few people can explain why; and as we meditate on the spiritual truths and on the way of Christ, we come to understand better why. As we look at the law and we dwell upon it, we come to understand better why. As we understand why, our minds are founded and the truth begins to penetrate and come down all the way through our soul and into our body. By study, we know; we are aware of the law and of the truth generally. By meditation we understand what we know and come to appreciate its significance. [40:11]
When we speak of significances—I have several times—I want to especially emphasize the important thing there, is understanding what it means for our lives. What does it mean for our lives?
Now, let’s just take a little time to look at the law and its place in study and mediation by looking at a couple of passages in the Psalms. Nearly everyone knows Psalm 1. Let’s start there and see if we can’t meditate on it a little bit and bring out something. [40:46]
Psalm 1—“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.” If you wish, you could say, “That’s abstinence, right?” You notice? Doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly? Doesn’t stand in the way of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Okay, now here comes the engagement. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
Now again, I hope you understand I just don’t scold. I save that for my cat and my son [Laughter] but if you would rather meditate on General Hospital, you have to recognize that there is a problem. I’m not saying don’t watch General Hospital but I hope that you get around to meditation in the law of the Lord. [41:52]
You have to see, just think now, if I really don’t delight in meditation in the law of the Lord, I am missing something and probably we miss it because it has come on like bad news for so long, right? And you go back, way into your childhood or wherever you first encountered it and it might have gotten pretty heavy, much ground into you and maybe you had to learn to enjoy the law of the Lord in order to get prizes or something of that sort. Well, I think that does some good but there is a point to grow on to something else. [42:31]
This fellow “delights in the law of the Lord.” Sometime, go through and count the times “delight” occurs in the Psalms; delight, and see how often it is a delight in the law.
Look what this fellow will be like—Psalm 1:3—“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” What you are looking at there at is a person who the truth has soaked all the way down to his toes—all the way down to his toes.
Look at Psalm 119 with me a moment now to give some similar matters. Like verse 9 and following. This is all about men but you know it doesn’t leave you out ladies, it’s generic men speaking to you too and we can read verse 9 equally well—“Wherewithal shall a young lady cleanse her way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wonder from thy commandments. (Psalm 119:9-10)
Look at verse 11—“Thy word have I hid in mine heart . . .” How do you do that? By study and meditation. “Thy world have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This fellow knew enough to know that he couldn’t avoid sinning by trying not to sin. Right? He had to get the anecdote to sin in himself, in his heart. [44:15]
“Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.” (Psalm 119:12-14) Why “fie” on General Hospital. This fellow says, and of course he didn’t have to watch it, did he? This fellow says all riches don’t compare—all riches don’t compare. “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” (Psalm 119:15-16)
Delight occurs nine times just in this Psalm itself. I hope you will go through and notice them. [45:02]
Well, there is so much more in this Psalm that we could just bring forth in this way. Now, I do want to add this that the Psalmist did not believe when he spoke of the law that he was referring only to the Pentateuch—the written law. He thought of himself as referring to the law of God which prevails in the motions of the stars, in the functions of the weather, and the cycles of animal life including human life as well as what is written in the books of Moses. The law was precisely the Magnificent Logos—the manifestation of the transcendent spiritual God in relationship to His creation and the redemption of it.
If we had time, I would like to take you to the Gospels, to Jesus, to the parables and to the person of Jesus. Jesus taught in a meditative manner. He did not teach in a study manner at all. [46:03]
If you will notice, He practically never gives you an exposition of a Scripture. A text for Him is something to depart from and He got in great trouble by doing it. I am not speaking against expository teaching. What I am saying is that we need the other kind also and Jesus majored in meditative teaching. He stung people’s minds. He would say things to them that they could not escape and they had to meditate on. They had to dwell upon those things.
Now, I’d like to conclude the discussion this evening by saying a few things about how we might go about it or some of the important things to watch in going about it and the motivation to take up the disciplines of study seriously.
We study primarily the Scriptures and we study life and we have to study them both. Let me say that one of the most liberating things you can do for your Christian experience is to study the lives of the great Christians—a wide range of different kinds.
Sometime make a project for several months of just studying Luther or St. Augustine or St. Paul. Not just in the pages of the scripture but get some good books on him. Get James Stewart’s book, A Man in Christ on Paul. Study the lives of the great Christians. Study some women; don’t just study men. Study to find out what’s wrong as well as what is right. Be big enough to accept them for what they are and to understand that God did that and you can too. Learn from their truth and from their mistakes. It will liberate you and as you turn back to read the Scriptures, you will read it with new eyes. [48:12]
Don’t believe the scripture is an easy book to study. The scripture is a hard book to understand. Anyone who tells you anything but that is fooling you. Scripture is hard to understand and you can hurt yourself on it.
1 Peter 3:16—and if you never looked at this verse, it’s time for you to look at it. I said 1st Peter but I believe its 2 Peter is what I want. 2 Peter 3:16—he’s talking here about Paul’s epistles and in the 15th verse he’s remarking on the importance of the wisdom of Brother Paul. [48:55]
But, look at verse 16 (2 Peter 3)—“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable rest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” Jesus said to the people of His day, “Search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life and you will not come to me that you might have life.” (John 5:39) Hmmm? You have to think widely. You have to study widely. You have to look at life as well as the scriptures. You have to meet God in the totality of your personality and your experience and there your study can be profitable. [49:49]
Study the Bible! Study the great lives of the Christians. Study a wide range of them. Find someone who is a member of the Eastern Church, the Greek Orthodox Church—read their lives. Read the early Fathers—St. Ignatius, Polycarp, Tertullian. You are going to find that they were very different from what you may have thought them to be. Indeed, if you go back and read the life of John Wesley or more recent Christians: Billy Sunday is apt to stand you on your ear, but it will be good for you and when you come back, you will read the Bible with a new pair of eyes. You will find things in it that you never saw before. [50:37]
Now, the next thing I want to say is—you have to take large blocks of time to do this. You cannot engage in study or meditation five minutes a day. How much water would you think it would take for a shower? Does anyone have a figure? 20 gallons? 15 gallons? I don’t know. [Laughter] Depends on whether you are one of these persons that think you are returning to the womb when you take a shower, right? Ahhh! Just stay there! [Laughter] You take the amount of water that would give you a good shower and put it on you one drop at a time, every 10 minutes, you will never get a shower, will you?
You take the notes of Beethoven’s Appassionato sonata and play them five minutes a part; you will never hear a sonata, will you? If you pronounce the words in an ordinary sentence one every 25 minutes, you’ll never say a sentence and if you read and study and meditate without sufficiently large amounts of concentrated time, you will never study or meditate. It just won’t happen. [52:14]
You can’t bake a cake by spreading the required heat—amount of heat applied to it over a day. It just won’t gel. The functions of the whatever you put into it just won’t work. You can’t develop your muscles by lifting a weight every two months. See? [52:43]
OK now, I hope that makes the point! If you want to profit from the discipline of study, you have to have sufficiently large amounts of concentrated time. Boy, that means you’ve got to plan. That means you’ve got to say, “Next weekend, I’m not going to do anything but study.” Don’t say study. That will kill you. All right? [Laughter] Say, “I’m going to read these wonderful books or something like that.”
Do you know, many people have been in the church all their lives and have never read a Gospel at one sitting? The cumulative effect of that is awesome when you sit down and you read these things at one shot. You have to have that time and you have to plan for it. And by the way, this is where you better have your disciplines of abstinence in good order because you see, you will want to jump up and turn on the TV or you will want to do this, that and the other but that will break the concentration that is needed.
You have to understand that study has parts. You saw something of that in Richard Foster’s book but I like to give a slightly different emphasis. The acts of study are repetition and concentration; that is a distinct act. Understanding and then also the engagement of the body. Educational psychologists tell that writing something once has the educative effect of hearing it or reading it eight times, I think it is and the reason for that is that it engages your body in the act of learning. You have to engage your body. [54:39]
We are going to have to quit because we are out of time and this evening I would like as we close for you to do some thinking as we pray in just a moment about how you could engage in this discipline. What in the next week could you give to the practice of these positive disciplines of engagement—study or meditation?
Now, if you are about God’s business, you want to have His direction and the way you get His direction is by study and meditation and prayer, as we will later discuss it. That’s the way you get His direction. If you are not about God’s business, what are you about? [55:24]
Let’s pray. “Lord, we are thankful for this opportunity to open your word. We believe that you have opened our minds and our spirits to some new thoughts. Plant them in us. Help us to gather ourselves to meditate on them that we might direct ourselves more in conformity with your Kingdom. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. [55:48]