For the past several years I’ve seen growing scientific research and evidence that meditation is good for your health. Apparently, taking at least 20 minutes per day to quiet your mind, focus on positive solutions, and breathe deeply has significant health benefits. This practice of meditating, attributed to eastern religion, reduces stress and with it, the physical damage stress brings. Meditation is recommended to reduce blood pressure, to improve sleep, to relieve anxiety, to increase focus and stamina, and to decrease inflammation (which is now linked to depression, heart disease, and chronic pain in a variety of forms).
A brief google search on how to meditate will provide ample instruction on “modern meditation” techniques (interestingly, these “modern” techniques are ancient). I read several articles on how to meditate, and they all seem to suggest taking time to concentrate on breathing to clear your mind and then turning your mind to focus on virtue, all with the goal of achieving inner peace that does not depend upon circumstances.
As Christians we understand that true peace only comes from a right relationship with God secured through the blood of Christ. Eastern meditation is evidence of God’s fingerprint on the hearts of all men. We ache to know the peace we forfeited in the Garden when we sought to be like God by following our own ways instead of his. Sadly, Adam and Eve failed to recognize we were already made in his image, we already bore his resemblance and carried his likeness.
Sin still drives us to find our own path to knowing God’s peace without knowing God. Sin still drives us to choose our own path to “be like God” rather than follow his instructions on how to rightly bear his likeness.
If there were no ache or longing for true peace, eastern mysticism would offer no hope. We search for peace because the fingerprint of God burns in our hearts.
Eastern meditation is one of those “alternate paths” we try to take to achieve what God has promised without submitting to him. But Eastern meditation, which delivers a counterfeit peace, borrows biblical truth to accomplish it.
There is a peace that does not depend upon circumstances, but it depends upon the virtue of Christ, not the circumstances of breathing and focus.
Let’s look for a minute at meditation from a Buddhist perspective:
During the initial “breathing” stage of meditation, the point is to clear your mind of distraction – and as distractions present themselves to practice putting those thoughts aside by focusing on your breathing. Each intruding thought is to be intentionally removed, set aside until later, as you pour all your mental energy into following your breathing. The whole idea behind breathing meditation is to learn to control your mind.
After you have achieved this state of mental clarity and control, you are supposed to focus on a virtue – things like kindness, love, and peace. By regularly removing negatives, adding merit, and receiving blessings through meditation, a perpetual state of peace is achieved. A peace that allows you to be happy even in difficult circumstances and without which even the most pleasant circumstances cannot satisfy.
According to eastern religion, we search for peace by learning to control our thoughts and focusing on virtues we’d like to display. In the search for peace there is a battle in the mind. In the search for peace there is a battle for the heart.
Does any of this sound at all familiar?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting we convert to Buddhism. I do think God’s truth is so universal that sometimes other people, other religions, or other systems pick up on those truths and misapply them (think about Paul in Acts 17:16-34, calling the Athenians to recognize the truth were suppressing was revealed in their altar to the “unknown god” in Acts 17:22.)
Perhaps the scientific evidence of our day and the Eastern Meditation from centuries past reveal the biblical truth we suppress (Romans 1:18-25).
Perhaps our search for peace begins and ends with meditation on God’s word.
Scripture calls us to meditate on God’s law. (Yes, the Bible actually uses that word!)
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. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. Psalm 104:34
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Psalm 119:97
My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. Psalm 49:3
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. Psalm 119:148
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. Genesis 24:63
Scripture calls us to take control of our minds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
Scripture calls us to train our minds to dwell on virtue.
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. Philippians 4:8
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:3
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
Scripture promises perfect peace independent of circumstances.
When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5b-7
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11-12
So, what does it look like to meditate on God’s law?
We must read scripture to engage with it. We must hide scripture in our hearts. We must apply scripture to our daily experience. We must take our thoughts captive for Christ and speak truth into our circumstances. We must preach the gospel to ourselves (and other believers) every day.
The next several weeks at Cultivate Grace, we will take a look at the structures and practices of biblical meditation.
And, if you’d like an opportunity to develop a habit of meditating on God’s word, let me invite you to subscribe to Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study by clicking on this link. This study is designed to take our hearts, minds, and lives captive for Christ during the weeks leading up to Easter. There will be a 2-5 minute scripture reading each day along with suggestions for hymns, memory verses, activities to include kids (if you have them), and a free “Advent of Easter” calendar printable (available February 14).