By Jesse Jost
Imagine if…every time after you ate, your food just went right through you? Suppose it never lingered in your stomach acid to get broken down, and the nutrients never got absorbed in your intestines? What would happen to your body? You would quickly grow weak and malnourished and you would not live long. It wouldn’t matter how regularly you ate, or what you ate, because without the process of digestion, you would die.
In a similar way, it is not enough to just “eat” God’s word by reading and memorizing it. For our souls to grow spiritually, we also need a process of digestion where we break down and absorb nutrients, applying them to our lives.
Scripture calls this digestion process “meditating.” Psalm 1 says that the righteous man’s “delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”
Here are some ideas that have enriched my meditation process. The Holy Spirit ultimately takes the text and uses it to bring us light, convict us, and comfort us, so none of these ideas should replace a prayerful dependence on Him.
Focus on each word
This is a simple but surprisingly effective first step. Each time you repeat the verse, put emphasis on a new word or phrase.
Let’s try it with Romans 8:1,“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NKJV)”
What is this referring to? Go back and read the context of chapter 7: It is about those who are struggling and failing in their walk. Their intentions are not lining up with what they are actually doing. So this good message of no condemnation is not for those who are perfect and successful, but for those who are failing.
No condemnation now, because of the very real act that Jesus did for us in history that has changed this present moment.
A state of deserved punishment, the wrath of God, eternal banishment from his presence. None of this applies to us who are in Christ Jesus.
I could go on, but you get the idea. I’ll leave it to you to try the exercise with the rest of the verse.
Ask a series of questions
Having a series of set questions to ask about the text is also an effective way to continue the meditation process. I’ll take you through two series of questions that I have found helpful. You don’t have ask every question about every verse. Often the Holy Spirit has used the answer to just one of these questions to feed my soul.
Question Set 1:
- What does this reveal about who God is?
- What does this reveal about who I am?
- What in my life needs to change so I can be aligned with the truth of this passage and receive its benefits?
I’ll continue using Rom 8:1 to illustrate. ,“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (NKJV)”
What does this reveal about God?
This verse reminds us that God is a holy God, who, because of His love for us and His hatred for what destroys us, must condemn sin. He must sometimes be ruthless with us. It also shows us that His heart is to save us no matter the cost, that God wants to walk with us through His spirit, and that He welcomes us to be “in” Him, where we are safe and protected.
This is just scratching the surface. God’s word is the powerful way He desires to reveal Himself. If we take His word, and the time to listen to Him illuminate it, we will be filled with wonder at what He reveals.
What does this reveal about who I am?
We see here that condemnation is a real threat we deserve. We see that some people are in Christ Jesus, and some people are not. We see that we do not receive the blessing of pardon because we earned it, but because we are “in” Jesus.
We also see that there are two ways to walk: 1. According to the Spirit: depending on Him, listening to Him, submitting to Him. 2. According to the flesh: living on auto-pilot, being led around by our impulses and sinful desires.
What in my life needs to change so I can be aligned with truth of this passage and receive its benefits?
Meditating with the last question leads to the next important step of application. James warns against being hearers only, and Jesus stresses that it is not enough to just to hear. We must act.
This is the time to be honest and vulnerable with God. Let Him show you areas of self-deception – blind spots you may have.
This verse challenges us in critical areas. Am I in Christ? Is He my identity? Am I boasting in who He is and what He has done? Or am I more worried about my reputation and what people think of me?
Am I living anxiously because I believe my relationship with God is dependent on my performance? Or am I resting in what Jesus has accomplished for me?
Am I walking according to flesh right now, or according to the Spirit?
When God reveals areas that need changing, we need to act on it immediately. We need to start new habits right away. If we delay, we forget. We believe that because we know how to live, it follows that we are living that way. But that is often not the case.
Change will only happen by continually abiding in Christ. Without Him we can do nothing!
The second series of questions is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”
Question Set 2:
- What in this passage is cause for rejoicing?
- What prayer needs does this passage highlight?
- What gifts are highlighted here that I need to be thankful for?
I’m going to use 2 Thessalonians 3:16 as an example: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.” (NKJV)
What in this passage is cause for rejoicing?
We are called to rejoice in the Lord always. This means looking for attributes of God that we can delight in, and turn them to praise. Tim Keller reminds us that praise is the fuel for our love of God. Telling ourselves to love God more will never work because our eyes are on us. But if we train our eyes to notice and savour God’s beauty, our hearts will naturally fall more in love with Him.
What cause for praise and rejoicing is in this verse? It says that God is a God of peace, and that no matter what storm is raging right now, the Sovereign Ruler of the universe will bring peace. He offers supernatural peace right now. We can praise Him for His power that will bring peace, for His wisdom that will bring lasting peace, and His love that desires peace. We can rejoice that God is with us; we are never alone.
What prayer needs does this passage highlight?
Here we are told God desires to give us peace, and this peace is available in all circumstances. If you are not feeling peace, but rather fear, anxiety, or guilt, ask God for peace. Take everything to God in prayer. Then start praying for peace for those around you. Ask that we would all have a greater awareness of His presence.
If you find your prayer life dry and dull, praying God’s word will dramatically enrich your prayer life.
What gifts are highlighted here that I need to be thankful for?
We can thank God for what He has done so we can find peace. We can thank Him for the sacrifice of the cross that removes our fear of punishment and makes us pure and righteous so we can enjoy His Holy presence without fear.
We can thank Him that He is with us always. We can look back at the times He met us supernaturally with a peace that went beyond understanding. I could go on and on.
Preach the word!
Paul commands us to be ready, in season and out of season, to preach the word. Another simple exercise is to meditate on the passage as if you had to preach a sermon on the text. This might include studying the historical context, looking up meanings of words, looking for ways to practically apply it to our present situation.
These exercises are not difficult, but the simple mental exercise of asking “how would I preach on this verse?” will activate the mind to dig deeper. And even if God never gives you a pulpit in the front of a church building, we still must always preach the word to ourselves.
I hope these ideas inspire you to dig in a little deeper and let God’s word delight your soul. If you are finding your time in the Bible dry and boring, you are not seeing what is there!
The more the Holy Spirit reveals His Word to me, the more I delight in it. The more I crave it. I pray you God will meet you as you set aside time to meditate, and will overwhelm you with love, joy, and peace.
Related: A More Painless Way To Memorize Scripture