The apostle Paul wrote that the Christians in Rome should not be conformed to the pattern of this world but should be transformed by renewing their minds (Romans 12:2). Paul seems to be saying that God has made a new way of thinking available to those who put their hope and trust in Jesus. And he’s also saying that we have to choose to take hold of it.
So, how can we do what Paul urges his readers to do, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds?
We have to feed our minds continuously with the things that God has said to us in his word, the Bible. Sometimes it is good to read the Bible in quite big chunks, just so that we can get to know as much of it as possible. At other times it is good to slow our reading down and to focus on just a verse, or a few verses. We may sense that God wants to speak to us through a particular passage or book of the Bible. We may feel a need to get to grips with what the Bible has to say to us about a particular topic or issue.
The longest of the psalms in the Bible, Psalm 119, is a hymn of praise to God for his word. The author writes:
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you Lord; teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees: I will not neglect your word.” (Ps 119:11-16)
So what can we learn from the author of this psalm, by the way in which he went about feeding his heart and mind with the word of God?
Hidden in the heart: the author wanted to hide God’s word in his heart, but not because he wanted to keep it secret. He knew that what filled his heart would affect his thinking and would be revealed by the words that he spoke. Jesus taught this too (Luke 6:45), and it is particularly true when we are under pressure. The author longed for his heart to be filled with God’s word, like an inner storehouse of wisdom and knowledge.
Reaching to God for understanding: he also asked God to teach him, as he read his word. As we read it is good to talk to God about what we’re reading. We can tell him about things that we don’t understand and ask for clarity and insight. We can thank him for the things that he is showing us. He is committed to leading and guiding us into the truth, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within us (see John 16:13).
Reading out loud: he spoke God’s word out loud. This may be speaking it to others but, in the context of this Psalm he is probably speaking it to himself. Psalm 103, one of the psalms of David, begins and ends with “Praise the Lord, my soul”, where David urged every part of himself to remember God’s goodness to himself, and to praise God for it. He does this by speaking to himself of the love, mercy and grace shown to him. The word of God is living and everlasting (see Hebrews 4:12 & 1 Peter 1:23), and so it is very powerful. Speaking it to ourselves can renew our minds and transform our lives.
Rejoicing: As he was doing all of these things, the author found himself filled with joy. When we allow God to speak to us through his word and as he responds to our prayers for more understanding, we discover new riches in it. We see more of the amazing love and mercy that is displayed in his word, and we realise even more what a wonderful foundation it gives us for life.
Meditating: the author meditated on God’s words. The dictionary definitions of the word meditate are usually something like “to concentrate the mind on one particular subject, in order to consider it carefully”. The Hebrew word used by the author could mean “commune”, “pray”, “talk to” “declare”, “muse” or “meditate”. It can cover all of the things that the author does in order to feed himself with God’s word.
Bible meditation should not be about emptying our minds, as in some philosophies or religions. It should be about focusing our minds on God’s words to us, shutting out distractions, so that we can know and understand what he is saying to us. It should bring us into a more intimate relationship with him. We each need to do whatever works for us as individuals. We have to find our place of calm, even if only for a few minutes within a busy day. It may be while walking or sitting in our most comfortable chair. It may mean being quiet and still, or it may involve being noisy. The goal is to take in what God is saying to us, in such a way that we are nourished and strengthened in our faith. It’s about becoming more like Jesus, so that we can reach out more effectively with his love to those around us.
The author finished this passage by declaring his delight in the things that he was seeing in God’s word. Having had a taste, he was hungry for more! So will we be, the more we meditate on God’s word to us.
- Tony Colthup