Thoughts on Meditation Adapted from John Owen
Too focused on self, on your problems, on your struggles, on your sins, and on this world? Is Jesus Christ too small for you right now? Are your thoughts of God orthodox and true, but not experienced in your emotions and in your heart? Do you believe that God is big, powerful, and good as the Scripture reveals, but you are not experiencing these truths from your souls, within your own heart?
John Owen’s encouragement to meditation may be particularly helpful. I have found many hard days, even joyless, discouraging days, where through meditating on Scriptural truths, I am able to be filled with joy inexpressible because of God’s goodness (1 Peter 1:8). Now we want to be careful here. We seek God because He is God, and worthy of all of our praise! We are not merely seeking God for an experience, but by seeking God, we can have a truly joyful and lovely experience in communion with Him that will encourage our tired, joyless and weary souls. Here is the way John Owen explained this experience of meditating:
“Let us rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” in the grace of God that has been given to us in Jesus Christ! (1 Pet. 1:8). What we find in Christ will make our hearts leap within us, and all of our affections will overflow with delight and joy. Holy admiration of God consists in our affections and emotions being touched experientially by His grace. We are not to have barren, fruitless, mere intellectual knowledge of biblical truths, but we are rather to stir up our hearts in all our meditations on the grace of God, and not rest until we find them affected, moved, satisfied, and filled with a holy joy and contented resting in Jesus. This is the most eminent evidence of our union with Christ and His benefits.”
Meditation on God’s truth until we experience this emotionally (through reverence, awe, joy, etc.) is one aspect of what it means to love God with not only our minds, but also our hearts, souls, and strength (Mark 12:30). We are promised joy by our Lord Jesus as we abide in Him (John 15). In fact, the Lord Jesus wants us to experience the truth of God’s love in our hearts through joy:
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Ask the Spirit of God, who studies and knows the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:8ff) to shine on these truths of God from Scripture, and lift you up to heaven (2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6). You already dwell in heaven in union with Christ (Col. 3:1-4). Why not seek to live like it?! Use the verses below, and the truths about God to aid you in meditating unto rejoicing in the LORD!
Think about these thoughts (various verses from Hebrews 2:5-9): “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” …At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
John Owen wrote: “Let us exercise ourselves unto holy thoughts of God’s infinite excellencies. Meditation, accompanied with holy admiration is the fountain of this duty. Some men have over busily and curiously inquired into the nature and properties of God, and have foolishly endeavored to measure infinite things by the miserable short line of their own reason, and to suit the deep things of God unto their own narrow apprehensions. Such are many of the disputations of the [Medieval theologians] on this subject, wherein though they have seemed wise to themselves and others, yet indeed for the most part they have ‘waxed vain in their imaginations’.”
Our duty lies in studying what God has revealed of Himself in Holy Scripture, and what is evidently suitable thereunto, and that not with curious searchings and speculations, but with holy admiration, reverence and fear. In this way, serious thoughts of God’s excellencies and properties, His greatness, immensity, self-sufficiency, power, wisdom and goodness are exceedingly useful to our souls.
How shall we meditate upon God today from Scripture?
God is great. “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). His greatness is infinite. The heaven of heavens cannot contain our God! (1 Kings 8:27). “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” God asks (Jer. 23:24). God is always present with us; He is omnipresent. Let us admire, reverence, and adore Him. What are we as dust compared to a Being who is immense whose greatness we cannot measure, whose nature we cannot comprehend?!
God is infinitely self-sufficent. God’s understanding is infinite. “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to God be the glory forever!” (Rom. 11:33-36). God needs nothing or no one outside Himself. He is all-sufficient and eternally blessed in the contemplation and enjoyment of His own excellencies. All the blessedness that we as creatures may attain unto is dependent, derivative, and communicated graciously by Him. He is absolutely blessed.
God has eternal power. God’s power is revealed in everything (Rom. 1:20). God upholds everything that exists by the word of HIs power (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17). He gives life, breath, and everything (Acts 17:28).
God is Infinitely Wise. In wisdom, He has created all things (Psalm 104:24). His power gives all things their being, but His wisdom gives them their order, beauty and usefulness. All things have a purpose. God even uses evil and sin as instruments to bring Himself glory and bring good to His people.
God is Infinitely Good. He does all things powerfully, and wisely, but He is also good. If God were merely all powerful and all wise, He might not necessarily be good. God is powerful, wise and good. Let us worship and adore Him!
When these excellencies of God have filled us with wonder, when they have prostrated our spirits before Him, and laid our mouths in the dust, and our persons on the ground, when the glory of them shines round about us, and our whole souls are filled with holy astonishment, then consider man—that God is mindful of him.
Let us now view ourselves: We are creatures. We are frail, poor, sinners, undeserving of God’s goodness. We are mere blind beggars waiting for the next handout. If there is an infinite distance between the Creator and creatures, how much more is that distance infinite as sinners who have offended a holy God?! What is there in us, we who are but dust and ashes, that would cause God to notice us, to be mindful of us?!
Although we as sinners are by nature at enmity with God (Rom. 5:6-9), and refuse to give Him the glory due His name (Rom. 1:25; 3:23), nevertheless in God the Father’s supreme and infinite power, wisdom and goodness, covenanted with His Beloved Son and Spirit to redeem sinners and make them His sons.
Let the results of these thoughts about God, lead us to holy admiration of God’s infinite love, care, grace, and condescension in having any regard for us.
“We see Him…namely, Jesus” (Heb. 2:9)
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, who became man, and revealed the power, wisdom and goodness of God to us. Let us admire and thank God for Jesus who we see with eyes of faith, and behold the glory of God in His lovely face (2 Cor. 4:6).
Let us rejoice in Jesus today!
Let us ask the Spirit of Jesus to give us eyes to see this glorious display of God’s wisdom, power and love to sinners in Christ. Let us ask the Spirit to help us to have wisdom and discernment in our knowledge of Him, and to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened so that we might know the hope to which we have been called, the glorious inheritance in the saints, and the unsurpassable/unbelievable/awesome/immeasurably great power for us who believe! (Eph. 1:15-23).
Meditate upon this, and may you be filled with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory! (1 Peter 1:8).
Remember what Owen said: “What we find in Christ will make our hearts leap within us, and all of our affections will overflow with delight and joy. Holy admiration of God consists in our affections and emotions being touched experientially by His grace.”
In Christ’s love,