This series of blogs on “MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM” is our invitation to you to come along and slowly think through these words so that we conform to the nature and character of God. We present them here in one post rather than multiple posts for you to read, meditate, think about the meaning, and then conform to the kind of life God has for you.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “MEDITATE”
The word in terms of the world in general means to ‘turn from the world and empty self.’ Turning from the world is important. Emptying self is important. Emptying self to remain separate from stress is needed. There is also a sense that this humbles a person in life and keeps them on track. Dictionary definitions have religious bends and also other aspects, but it is seen primarily as a ‘religious practice.’
Most of the time ‘meditation’ is seen as pagan or worldly by those who do not understand meditation is in the Bible (Judeo-Christian understanding). In general, Christians are not taught how to meditate properly on God. Meditation is considered mystical and abstract. It is a spiritual discipline often seen as part of natural religions and paths in religions that lead us away from God.
In addition, we get bored easily and we want to be entertained. Sometimes the Bible is used as a self-help book which is a terrible practice and perspective about the Word of God. Most churches/denominations have a tendency to ‘do it wrong’ in our focus and in our needs. We focus on what we need rather than on God. Some churches are better than others.
Prayer is seen as a form of meditation. Prayer is focusing on God and is therefore meditation.
Human beings are part of nature and the crown of God’s Creation. Meditation is part of spiritual discipline as presented in the Bible. It is indeed turning from the world. It is indeed separating us from our arrogant nature and leading us to humbleness.
When focusing on Scripture, specifically the Psalms, we find meditation is manifesting into the physical tangible world what already is in Heaven.
Psalm 77 speaks about denying self and emptying self and diligently searching for God. Key words are: ‘remembered’ and ‘ponder.’ This meditation allows us to be led by God and be His representative.
Psalm 119:15-16 speaks about focusing on God’s precepts and focusing on God’s nature. The precepts we focus on lead us to God’s ways and so we understand Him. In verse 16, we find a joyous experience for those that love God and don’t forget His Word.
Three more verses emphasize the meaning and goal of meditation in the Bible: Psalm 111:2 says it’s a delight to study God’s works. Psalm 143:5 focuses us to remember, meditate, and ponder God’s actions. Psalm 145:5 directs us to remember the very majesty of God and what He does should be on our minds.
Joshua 1:8 speaks to the blessing of meditation on God’s word. This passage (among others) shows us to be centered on something that does not leave us in the midst of the chaos of life. God keeps us therefore we should be constantly thinking of Him and be careful to keep God in front of us. Joshua points out this leads us to success.
Philippians 4:8 assures us that wholeheartedly embracing meditating on God’s word frees us because the Word of God is true. When we go forward and meditate on God with our whole heart, there is a covering formed from Truth that sets us free. Meditation is guarding our hearts in our relationship with God.
Meditation is a personal relationship with Wisdom. Meditation is emptying our human ourselves and filling ourselves with the Word of God and thoughts of His Nature. It is a purification.
Meditating is learning about God from the Biblical account of God’s relationship with humans. The Bible is the best Source in considering Who God is and how we should practically respond to Him in our chaotic world. Theologically stated, we meditate to see how God’s word can be incarnate through us.
Biblical Meditating practically means seeking to bring forth wisdom from God. We want to live out (‘to incarnate’) God’s wisdom since God alone is complete in His ways.
- Read the Bible slowly and do not rush. Look at certain words and think through what they mean and how they impact your life. Let the Word change your heart and how you face the day.
- Throughout the day when frustrated by people… focus on God’s character and serve them based on Him rather than based on self.
- “Me time” means prayer and Bible reading and fill up with God’s perspective on how to deal with the world. Hiding in prayer is important, but meditation leads us to proper action in relating to the world.
- Meditation is not devotional, but is constantly cognizant of God in all our words, decisions, and action.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “TRUST”
‘Trust’ you would think is a straightforward word. To ‘trust’ means to believe in the reliability or the ability of someone or something… and there you have it… right? That is as far as it goes. People trust what they are familiar with and with relationships even if the person or group is not trustworthy. We define the word as an intellectual state of belief in the mind.
The old hymn “Trust and Obey” (1887, Public Domain) is a good example. We must add ‘obey’ so we understand what the word means. It is an action word. There is depth to the word that the English word does not have on the surface. With obedience, the trust is not reality but dips into experientially learning in a relationship (this is important below). For us, the word is fused with loyal, responsibility, and ability. These words most always intermingle because words are just pointers to meaning.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Trust in this passage means (1) leaning towards God (2) leaning away from ourselves (3) and believing/acknowledging Him in all our ways. The end result is a straight path designed by God. This is a trusting and faith-filled relationship that creates a framework to understand trust.
There are many other words associated with trust (117x in the Old Testament). Believing faithfulness. Covenant faith. It is all about relationships. Scripture narratives show us the trustworthiness of God and our need to participate with Him in a relationship to discover trust.
A few Scripture stories of trust (think big picture and think relationship!):
Joshua and the Battle of Gibeon (Joshua 10)
Young David facing off against Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Trust is tied to covenant and marriage and in how God relates to humanity. God can be trusted. Only God can be trusted. Only He has shown Himself to be trustworthy. Trust is revealed to us in a narrative way in the Bible rather than a simple definition. Bible passages show how trust is proven by God and in relationships with Him. A right relationship produces trust.
Your degree of understanding of trust in God is probably based on your level of relationship with God. This is true in human relationships but is very true in our relationship with Christ. This word ‘trust’ moves us towards our relationship with God in how we are adapting to Him. We must lean into Him and away from ourselves.
Do you participate in trust? To what extent do you participate in trust? Who don’t you trust? Why?
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “SANCTIFICATION”
“Sanctification” is by its very nature a religious word and arguably a Christian word. The word comes from Church Latin from a root word meaning “holy.” It means “to make holy.” Usage of this word, as far as one can tell does seem to indicate some kind of move towards completeness or fulfillment even when not used in a Christian context. A notable exception (from a Goodreads search) from a Christian use would be the romance/erotica that uses the word in a manipulative fashion highlighting ‘bringing together’ and ‘fulfillment.’
Hymn #263 ‘Bring Your Vessels, Not a Few’ (Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1972) is listed under the theme of sanctification. The hymn shares the need of the worshipper to fill their hearts to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. The person is sinful, but “clean thro’ Jesus’ precious blood” (verse 2) and because of this can stand before the throne of God. Interestingly, the word ‘sanctification’ does not appear in the hymn. The only other hymn listed in this particular hymnal under ‘sanctification’ is #45 ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ also does not mention the word. The beginning of verse 4 is telling however: “Finish then Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be; let us see they great salvation perfectly restored to Thee.” That is indeed sanctification.
Jesus’ act of justification while we were sinners is making available a means of sanctification for us. Sanctification is the making of something right. For us, Christ does have a sanctifying act, but then we participate in the sanctifying nature of the cross. It is a process of human beings abiding in Him (to what He did). This participation changes the human being and is sanctified.
Sanctification of humanity is seen clearly in Romans 5. In Roman 5, just as Adam came into the world and brought sin, so Christ comes into the world and cleanses of sin. Only in Him is there sanctification of humanity. Only under Christ’s lordship (abiding in Him) can we be made right and whole and holy and come together with God.
The reason God did this is to bring together estranged parties (God and humans) and does so by an act of heroism (the cross) because of His love for us. Jesus is the only One Who can do this. Therefore, humanity through Christ Jesus sanctified and made right. Without the sanctifying act and accepting the Lordship of Christ, we die (Genesis 2:17).
Sanctification is then the cleansing of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ for our relationship with God the Father and thereafter is personal conformity to that cleaning lifestyle. The offer then in a living power and abided in through relationship with and flowing from that personal power… namely… Jesus the Christ. That is then an offer to us under the confines of turning away from sin, a turning dealt with through relationship by the process of personal growth conforming to the Lord Jesus’ living standard.
The practical side of this is that believers need to faithfully abide in Christ and connect in purposeful fellowship with other believers to partake in what Jesus has done for us.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “JUDGMENT”
The word means to discern or separate between something good or something bad. The word is similar to ‘discernment’ which tends to be a positive word. The word is also related to ‘judgmental’ which tends to be a negative word. Judgement (spelled ‘judgment’ more properly) is the opinion of someone’s deeds whether good or bad based on evident appearance though not necessarily on agreed moral grounds.
Being ‘judgmental’ is akin to ‘stereotyping’ which is seen as completely negative. Even non-Bible readers can probably half quote “Do not judge or you too will be judged” which is Matthew 7:1. Judgment is opinion. Judgment in our minds is negative for everyone because it is based on our flawed system of thoughts and imperfect views of morality.
Judgment is a well-established opinion or in God’s case a decree. It has to be something more than opinion since it comes from the all-knowing God. We find a conflict often with social norms which influence judgment because they are based on sin-soaked opinion. The Bible used to be the biggest influence on those norms which itself is not opinion. Keep in mind the three most prominent religions in the world are based on Biblical values and thus so are a large percentage of the nation’s laws.
Even in churches the half-thought from Matthew 7:1 prevails and judging others is looked down upon or at least is viewed as very cautionary. By the way, the thought does not end in 7:1, but continues in 7:2 and indicates the measure and knowledge used in judgment is important. The complete standard is ultimately important. The problem is that people have incomplete knowledge and sinful opinions and human-centered philosophies that impact our opinions.
The negative aspect of judgment prevails in churches because it is connected with Hell. The Bible presents eternal life and eternal death as a judgment because of the sinful nature. God has judged this. Christians do not often see the judgment for life, but only see the judgment of sinfulness to remain apart from God for eternity.
Judgment means I need to accept Jesus and once I do… I’m good, be quiet. It is more than that!
Bible teaches God Nature is the ultimate good or standard to judge. God’s nature is revelatory (patient, kind, holy, righteous) and sheds light on His judgment. This is expressed in His Word. The Bible reflects the character of God and His judgment of right and wrong. Because of His nature it is not opinion… but rather true. God is the Ultimate Judge.
On the positive side, Christ’s resurrection is a judgment for humanity against sin and paved a way for righteousness. We can share in this positive judgment when we accept Jesus. This judgment shows God’s character and what is good and right and then also evil and destructive.
On the negative side, in the Bible wickedness is destroyed. We often just think of Hell when we think of judgment, but it is more than just a place… but rather behind all of it is the righteous perfect nature of God.
Judgment is a decision or decree that comes from God Who is all-knowing and all-seeing. It is His decree based on truth and is more than an opinion and it is final… this is eternal judgment. This leads human beings to judge/distinguish between what is good and evil.
We need to end up at Jesus. Judgment is revelatory of God’s character expressed perfectly in Jesus Christ. God does not take pleasure in judging, but conforming to Christ brings liberty and life. Judgment teaching in the Bible reveals God’s character in His fullness. Escaping judgment means resting in Christ and denying self. Count on God for life.
When it comes to personal issues, we still need to end up at Jesus. Ultimately God will judge and we need to help others be pulled from the ‘fires of judgment.’ We need to deny ‘self’ and seek the Lord’s Truth when it comes to people and morality for their good. We must seek the ultimate good of others and be willing to sacrifice to make it happen. We must learn to love without fear of condemnation.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “AUTHORITY”
Authority is tied to power and the right to give orders. It is also tied to obedience, decision-making, influence, and even control to some degree. It is not only a political term, but is heavily used with regard to laws, political office, and government employees.
Authority can be used for good or for ill; meaning power can be used for good purposes or bad purposes. The motivation of the authority bends the influence to either side of the spectrum.
A normal view is that an order is put in place and it is to be followed. Everything is set up this way unless you are an anarchist… who is only an anarchist until they remove who is above them and then they take over.
In churches in general, the Bible is seen as authoritative, though this is waning as time passes. Authority with some churches also rests with creeds, church traditions, denominational decisions, the writings of particular Christians or church offices, and even the opinions/ teachings of people in certain roles in the church such as pastors.
A normal view by Christians of authority in the world is that authority is given by God and the order should be respected even if the individual/organization is not worthy of respect. All of the above authority mentioned is derived from God and the Word (what He says and directs). Others confuse church-authority as given by God and elevate Church over the Word. This creates confusion among different flavors of Christians.
Sin creates authority confusion because of the influence of Satan away from God’s authority. Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan twisted the authority of God to fit his own ends and created a system where the created took authority reserved for the Creator (the Source Authority) who wanted to extend authority through us.
The world has a plethora of influences (authority). God’s authority leads to truth and life. All other sources of authority lead to experiences that end terribly in sin. We are born into a world where we choose between good and evil and we are deciding what is authoritative.
Authority is in the Word. From the start, God spoke to Adam and Eve what the revelatory truth about existing meant… His authority. His authority is manifest best through those who will extend God’s will on Earth by obeying His Word, rather than heirarchy of lords ruling by force. Without God, all that is left is force.
Authority rests in God’s Word or mob rule.
Authority comes from God or from the consensus of sinful experts.
God’s established order of authority is a relationship of love and submission. God is the greatest Being and the One Who serves all. God is the ultimate Creator and Influencer.
The disciple of Christ looks like a family member with the interest of God’s kingdom in mind and so exercising God’s Word on earth. We follow His lead. We follow His order. We recognize He is the Source and He is Lord. A disciple follows that lead. The Church and thereby humanity should then be family-based reflecting the authoritative order God set up.
Therefore, the Bible teaches that no person should walk in authority of which they don’t have the fruit of obedience according to God’s Word. We may sin in the midst of authority, but the basic truth about God remains.
We must always remember authority in terms of Christ’s Kingdom order. The servant is king. Christ is the greatest servant. All others follow according to role and integrity. Their role in the authority is based upon integrity as representatives of God (not just ‘know how’). The hierarchy should reflect God’s character because life is based in Christ’s gift. Their place in the kingdom order is based in their deeds and maturity.
Authority is influence and is derived only from God for He is the ‘source’ of all authority. By ‘source,’ we mean that with God rests all headship over humanity and all Creation and thereby God has ultimate authority and sovereignty over all things in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth. He is where everything begins and He creates the spectrum on which all authority derives.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “RIGHTEOUSNESS”
Righteousness is the quality of being morally right or morally justified. Rightness or wrongness depends upon that which defines right and wrong in a society or group. Righteousness is considered a ‘religious’ word in that a person is righteous who follows religious laws or is upright in one’s religious tradition… whatever that tradition might be. This seems to cover most religions.
It is not a word that most in the world are concerned with and is seen as the result of ‘just being a good person in general.’ Righteousness is connected with the words good, right actions, and positive vibes.
Even in slang… ‘that’s righteous, man!’ the element of the uniqueness or specialness of the item is present. From a religious perspective, it is an abuse of the word, but it does speak to the uniqueness of something that is not common. There is a shared meaning in something uncommon.
Righteousness is holy and upright living according to God’s standard of behavior. It is tied to behavior, actions, and attitudes. When one conforms to God’s standard presented in the Bible, then one is righteous. God is the Source and Definer of righteousness.
In day-to-day life, we must follow God and this is the righteous path. Following/conforming to God leads us to live without sin. In day-to-day life, righteousness is related to our actions.
Related Words: Blameless, Follow, Trust
Abraham, in the Old Testament, trusted in God’s provision (faith) and followed through and this was credited to him as righteousness. He trusted in all that God would do. He trusted in the character of God. He trusted in God.
The sacrificial system (See Leviticus) is set up to show people’s need for righteousness and to provide a way to have righteous terms with God. A right relationship with God (and with other people) is dependent on this system. This system relies on the character of God to forgive and make things right.
In the New Testament, the cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol and public demonstration of the fulfillment of all the Levitical Law tried to do and provides permanent righteousness for those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. People are not good. People are only seen as good because of Jesus. The act of Jesus as one of us (human) justifies and makes righteous. People then must trust in Him.
In the middle of all of this, faith in God and the character of God remain the same throughout the passage of time and the change between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
Blamelessness (a keyword related to righteousness based on Jesus) comes because of the sacrifice of Jesus and is how God sees us. We have faith and it is credited to us as righteousness. We must trust in the One who had no sin and leads us to righteousness. This leads us to conform to Him.
Practically, a believer follows after Jesus and conforms like Him. The following is trust which is faith-action in the example of Jesus. We must step into the unknown for us, but known to God. Jesus made it possible for us to walk in His steps and become righteous, but only because of Him. We must follow Him in an ongoing manner and our righteousness is an ongoing process as well.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “INJUSTICE”
The world and society tell us that “to violate someone’s rights” is “injustice.” In our world, the word means “social justice” and is all about someone’s rights. It is now a political word. It is a societal word. It is an injustice for men and women to be paid differently. It is injustice for one human being to own another and by extension, racism is an injustice. It is injustice for one to kill another (sometimes). A person wrongfully imprisoned for a crime not committed is injustice. There is a sense of inequality at the core of injustice.
Christians (and some others) would look at some of the societal issues above and include abortion, for example, as an injustice. Others would argue that abortion is a right and perhaps even health care and so in the world the definition of ‘injustice’ changes with the morality of the person defining it or their political party.
In the Church, many folks have thought and prayed and studied injustice and in many ways become champions against injustice. In general, the Church is an adversary to injustice and those actions, attitudes, and social ills that fall into the category of injustice.
Thomas Aquinas, in “Summa Theologica, Question 59, Of Injustice” devotes some good effort in thinking about injustice and states (in summary here):
Injustice is inequality (justice is equality) and therefore is a sin.
Injustice is contrary to all virtues.
Injustice is against the common good and leads to all kinds of sin.
A person who does an unjust thing should be called unjust.
A person may do something unjust unintentionally and in passion and this is not unjust. Intentionality and choice make injustice.
Suffering injustice is an act of another’s will against our will.
Injustice is contrary to the Law of God.
Augustine of Hippo in “City of God” chapter 36 states: “Now every man who lies commits an injustice; and if any man thinks that a lie is ever useful, he must think that injustice is sometimes useful.”
So traditionally, in the Church, it is not as personal, but more abstract. We do not always think about what “we” do to others, but it is indeed the same thing. Injustice is seen as on a societal level which is a mistake. Stopping one’s own sin is the emphasis that needs to be made. We do not understand how unjust we are on a daily basis. Sin is the root of injustice. People must keep their foundation in God and resist sin for this leads to injustice… all the time.
The Bible says in Proverbs 22:8 “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” Wise King Solomon shares with us that the action of iniquity causes injustice. The embrace of corruption is our default failed state. People deal with the sinful nature and at all times are dealing with injustice. We actually see this take place in the life and death of Jesus… He reaped calamity… but He did not fail to act justly in the middle of it.
NOTE: Jesus Christ did not consider equality with God something to hold onto but humbled Himself and in the midst of sin… injustice… acted justly every single time. It was a hard road. Jesus did point out injustice, but He acted rightly and showed the way to justice.
If you want a handle on this, we are better off focusing on what the Bible says and the example of Jesus. We need to de-politicize the word and Biblicize it. Injustice is fallen-ness. Injustice is sinful. To change ways, mercy and grace and right living must be emphasized to build back better. Jesus shows mercy and is the core example of fighting injustice.
Injustice is in fact NOT loving your neighbor as yourself in any manner. Injustice is the act of not being far, but even deeper it is the act and attitude and way of living that is selfish. “Self” is at the core of injustice. Injustice covers purposely being cruel to get ahead or knowingly being hateful, but also any situation where ‘self’ impedes another.
Psalm 22, quoted by Jesus Christ on the cross, recounts for us in a prophetic way the greatest injustice. Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 and cries out in the midst of God the Father forsaking Him on the cross. The Son of God was put to death and this is the greatest injustice. He died for our sin. He died for our selfishness. It was Jesus Who showed the way as He personally acted justly in the midst of injustice. Christ is justice and the example of fighting against injustice. Even more, He is merciful.
The best way to counter injustice is by personally being just.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “PEACE”
Peace means “freedom from disturbance” and is also known as “tranquility.” Most of the time peace is divided between personal inner peace or a state of ‘no war’ between nations. Peace is freedom from the opposition. People can be led to peace by governments or politicians or educators, but it is not a lasting peace.
Peace in the Church usually means peace with God and He will “not send you to Hell.” Peace with God is seen as the product of being saved and is based on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Jesus is seen as the Prince of Peace (Old Testament and New Testament). Jesus is the source of peace in a relationship with God. Faith in Christ leads to peace with God. This is a normal Christian belief to have freedom from disharmony with God through Jesus. Here is where “peace” becomes an active part of a person’s life as they seek wisdom and Bible teachings to conform to the way of life God presents in the Bible.
Things that fight peace:
Following the wrong worldview
Overly-anything (sensitive, dogmatic, traditional, territorial, worried)
In the Old Testament, peace (269x) has a sense of wholeness or fulfillment or completeness and is based on the Hebrew word “shalom.” This is a God-given peace. This peace can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or on a national scale. Peace is also accessing wisdom. In the New Testament, peace (92x) is grounded in faith in Jesus Christ because of His death on the cross, but also because He imparts peace through a personal relationship with Him. Peace is also reflecting the Fruit of the Spirit.
There is a learning curve in sorting out peace. The state of forgiveness is having peace (and rest) with God. Being in a state of unforgiveness with God creates tension. Now, we have relational peace. Later, believers will have full peace with God at Christ’s coming… but we do have a future full peace. Peace with God is Kingdom Wisdom lived out and is the fruit of it is grace and mercy and love for those around you.
Peace is more than something I have or don’t have, but something lost and redeemed. The redeemed portion of peace is active now. Peace is a noun. It is a state of being because we conform and become more and more like Christ on earth as it is in heaven. Peace is a verb in that we must be peacemakers who seek and mediate order especially those who lead people to Christ. These are active in bringing peace into the world because they know Him. Peace is an adjective in that how we live describes peace to the world. We have peace and we are participatory with God because Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “DISCIPLESHIP”
The world (outside of the Church) does not use this word. ‘Disciple’ might be used in a general sense to mean someone who learns from a master, but the word ‘discipleship’ seems to be used only in Christian circles and in cults. The world uses words like ‘apprenticeship’ or ‘on-the-job training,’ but it is not the same. Admittedly, cults would be outside the Church and therefore a misuse of the word. This is a word oriented around the Bible.
Discipleship is learning to obey everything Jesus commanded.
It is Sunday School, Small group Bible studies, Learning at home with parents, VBS, Outside groups brought into church to teach principles, and some sermons. Most Churches introduce programming to help Christians learn how to be Christians. This is prep work for being a disciple. The actual ‘discipleship’ is the doing after the prep work.
In addition, many times, in the Church ‘discipleship’ means ‘bringing others to Jesus,’ but it is more than this. That is evangelism and happens outside the Church. Discipleship happens amongst Christians inside the Church.
In the Bible, discipleship is seeking to be a human being who follows the example of Jesus Christ through the support of the Holy Spirit. This is nothing that could be done “in the flesh.”
Discipleship is learning to obey everything that Jesus commanded and taught through the eyewitness account of those who walked and talked with Him. It is following a spectrum from the starting point (hearing the Gospel) to all that Jesus commanded. A disciple works at loyalty to seeking Christ. Christians learn to increase loyalty to Jesus. Loyalty is key.
Key Passage >> Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
How do we increase our loyalty?
We must first recognize when we are being a poor disciple. We must accept the direction of the Holy Spirit. Then, we fall forward into God’s faithfulness and obey. The key is obedience. There might be a process of wrestling with God relationally as we identify our rebellion/disobedience and seek to be open to faithfulness with Him. Do something… even if it’s small.
Additional thought… you cannot abide in something you do not know well.
Discipleship is conformity to the person of Jesus Christ according to the level of your loyalty to Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Discipleship is the action and the persistence in faith.
This series of blogs on “MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM” is our invitation to you to come along and slowly think through these words so that we conform to the nature and character of God. We will present a word each week to meditate on and conform our hearts.
Luke 9:23: “And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
John 8:31-32: “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.”
Luke 14:27: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “ETERNAL”
The word ‘eternal’ certainly has the dictionary definition of ‘lasting forever’ or ‘something without beginning or end’, but is not a word that gets high use. It is at times used as a metaphor to talk about love even though the commitment to such things is lacking. It is also used with people, events, issues that are tedious or annoying because they last so long. There does not seem to be a meaningful way this word is used. This is a word related to time and even time itself is seen as eternal (Greek worldview). This is an abstract word most definitely.
The world is tied to time. The conversation, even when using the word, is tied to time and existence and usually in a negative context.
There is a huge leap for Christians in that eternal is tied to God and the word is connected to other words and makes a big difference. The word ‘eternal’ is attached to the word ‘life’ most often in the Church. The Church use comes from the Bible use. The Bible is full of references to ‘eternal life’ and is one of the Apostle John’s favorite ways to refer to the Kingdom of God and all that Jesus was doing. The phrase is definitely used elsewhere in the Bible (Romans 2:7, 5:21, 6:22-23, Jude 1:21 among many others), but John uses it most of all. God is eternal so His Kingdom is eternal and everything related to Him is eternal… hence John sees God offering eternal life.
Basically, in the Church, eternal life in Heaven is with God and eternal life in Hell is without God.
Eternal = God
Eternal = Heaven
God the Father/Jesus the Son/the Holy Spirit is the Only Uncreated Being that exists. He inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) and is the Only Eternal Being. From Him, all other things come. There are other spiritual beings, but none uncreated. God (eternal) brings order to chaos by setting the order in time. Time structures creation and can relate to the Eternal God. Those things that are connected to God and have a relationship have continuance of life (eternal life). When Christ comes again, He will reorder things according to His will and Heaven and there will be a merging of time and eternity into one.
We scarcely can comprehend what is beyond us. We must firmly believe that eternal life is only connected with Jesus Christ because He is the source and author of eternity.
Eternal is what is beyond the horizon of what we can perceive or understand. It is beyond what we can see and put into words and is the domain of God beyond time and space and physicality.
Conforming to the eternal means understanding that the physical life is corruptible and perishable and there is something eternal and incorruptible and imperishable and it is this that is connected to the eternal God. God Himself is eternal. Our perspective, soul-condition, view of identity, and much about how we view the purpose of life is directly informed by the eternal which is a perspective beyond us. It calls us to another level. Nothing else but God is eternal.
What are you conforming to? The eternal nature!
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “unconditional”
The dictionary definition of the word ‘unconditional’ means ‘not subject to any conditions.’ It also means ‘without any qualifications.’ It is mostly connected to the word ‘love’ when people use it and means that someone is completely accepting and caring no matter the circumstances. An unconditional person accepts another person no matter what. Another example, ‘unconditional surrender,’ is not really ‘unconditional’ in that there is a conditional response required.
To be honest, when ‘unconditional love’ is used, we are commenting on ourselves and our expectations.
God’s love is seen as unconditional. God’s covenants and promises are seen as unconditional. Salvation is seen as unconditional. God’s promises to Israel are seen as unconditional. Christians absolutely believe that God’s qualities are without bounds. For example, human beings cannot sin in such a way that God cannot reach them or change them or forgive. There are no conditions we can put on God’s nature that would overcome Him.
This creates an unspoken and often unrealized contradiction. Christ’s human embodiment is God’s response to our sinfulness. God’s response to our death-inducing sin is to give life through His Son. God is without conditions, but His offer of salvation is through Jesus… a condition of salvation. Submission/Faith (a condition) is necessary to access the One Who no conditions can overcome.
People say, “I don’t have to worry.” People say, “I can do what I want because God will always love me.”
‘Unconditional’ is something only attached to God’s nature. God does not force Himself on us, but we can by our actions and attitudes limit His actions in our lives because there are conditions to the receiving of His love. God continues to love, but we may not receive it.
The ‘unconditional’ nature of something is only unconditional because it is attached to God. He is eternal and His nature and characteristics are without reserve or qualifications. There are many passages that believers interpret as ‘unconditional’ that probably are not because of the presence of the word ‘if.’ The ‘if’ is there, but we do not see it.
‘IF’ is a huge word in all areas where we think God, salvation, and promises are unconditional.
Example: Jesus died for all, but not all receive that forgiveness.
It would be better to say ‘God’s love never changes.’ God does not have conditions. Just God. If you want to participate or have a relationship with Him, then we must have a relationship with Jesus. God is literally holy and above all things. God is other. His love is something other than what we can experientially produce and so we cannot put a condition on it. He will overcome whatever we throw at it. That doesn’t mean we get to have it no matter what.
A great example verse (among so many) is Colossians 1:19-23 (ESV): “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, IF indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (IF emphasized by us).
This is not a very useful word. ‘Unconditional’ is only helpful for us and does not apply to many things to which we THINK it does. Only by walking in the Spirit and totally denying self can a human being at all hope to come close to God’s unconditional nature, but even then we fail. ‘Unconditional love’ for a human being is an illusion. ‘Unconditional love’ for God is His nature because He does not stop loving us.
When we think of the word ‘unconditional,’ it should serve as a reminder to us of the words of Jesus Christ to deny ourselves and follow Him. The conditions cannot overcome Him, but they do overcome us. We must anchor ourselves in Christ. Repentance and reliance on Christ (not trusting in our own understanding) allows us to live unconditionally.
MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM: “LIFE”
The word ‘life’ means ‘living,’ ‘to exist,’ ‘to be,’ and ‘the series of choices that make up a person’s existence.’ This life is all there is… ‘eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow you die.’ Life is ‘here and what is going on with you.’ The ‘good life’ is getting what you can out of what is around you. It is focused all on created things. Life is ‘be.’ Quality life is ‘here and now’ and survival-oriented.
In the Church, life is often talked about in two spheres. First, the area of earthly life which is flesh, temporary, the sinful nature, choices, difficulty, and some happiness. Second, the area of eternal life which is given by God through Jesus Christ which is spiritual, eternal, sinless, free, absolute joy, and without any suffering. For church folks, life is focused on because of the source… source of light. We have no life without God. This is a huge shift and difference between the world and the Church. Life existed before creation because God is the source of life and He has life in Him.
In Genesis (the Old Testament), God is the creator of all things, all life, and is the foundation of light and life. This is a theme/metaphor carried through all the Bible. God is light. God is life. God speaks forth His breath and created things live and move and have their being. King Solomon speaks about finite physical life being pointless existence apart from the Living God because in Him is meaning and actual life. This then folds into the New Testament where Jesus is light and life and is even described as the Word and the door to life with God. In the New Testament, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” and Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” are two verses among many that speak of the truth about ‘life.’ The Bible speaks about the difference between life in the world separate from Him and life connected with God (and Jesus). God is the unconditional eternal source of life and extends that life to created beings.
God is the source of life. He is not only the Creator of physical life, but He alone is the source of Eternal life which He shares with those who accept His Son Jesus. Things do not just become living creatures but have a cause in Him. Life is more complete and infused with eternity when believing in Him.
For the person who pushes God away and rejects Him, the life they live is more like grass (it blossoms and grows and then it’s gone). Their life comes and goes and much can be made of it, but there is no connection to the Eternal. They live, but it is not the same as someone who abides in Christ. The believer in Christ has so much more. Do you want to share in the glory of God or do you want to share in the glory of grass?
To fully understand ‘life’ (an abstract word)… you will need to connect with our other blogs about the abstract words ‘unconditional’ and ‘eternal.’
This series of blogs on “MEANING TO MEDITATE TO CONFORM” is our invitation to you to come along and slowly think through these words so that we conform to the nature and character of God. We collected the individual posts here.