Category Archives: Devotions

Media, Meditation, and the Mind of Christ

 

It may come as no surprise that the world is vying for our attention.  It’s certainly nothing new, but perhaps it has accelerated its program and expanded it’s offerings since the dawn of the Age of Consumerism particularly with technological advancements.

We’re surrounded by a sea of offerings from music, television, and the internet.  We have media in our pockets and at our fingertips, literally a world in the palm of our hands.  Long gone are the days of watching a favorite television show and having to wait an entire week to find out what was going to happen next.  We live in an age of Netflix and binge-watching, where we can consume as much as we want, when we want, how we want, and where we want.  Gone too are the mornings of slow and deliberate newspaper reading, we have and desire 24/7 news accessibility.

Additionally, we are bombarded with voices, even the one speaking through this meager blog; voices from blogs, podcasts, vlogs, radio, t.v., print, etc. all telling us how to think and what to think on.  Not only are there talking heads on these various platforms, but there is social media, where literally thousands of voices can combine to leave comments on any topic or simply speak through their own platform.  We are exposed to the lives, thoughts, and opinions of others without limit.  In fact, we expose ourselves to them each time we open Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or turn on the radio or television.

The quantity and variety of media is limitless.  Essentially, you can find anything you want at any time you want or simply wait and it will find you.  If we stopped to think about it, the amount of information our minds are exposed on a daily basis is staggering.  Oddly enough, despite all of the over-exposure to this information, all the while we remain un-engaged with people and with the media we are consuming.  In a sense it is a mindless consumption.  Simply observe a modern family in a restaurant, each with their own devices scrolling in a zombie-like, semi-vegetative state failing to realize the interactions they’re so desperately searching for lie across the table.

Is any of this consumption of spiritual profit to our minds?  With all of these voices and media options garnering our attention, clouding our minds, and sending us into a catatonic state it can be difficult, rather it can be virtually impossible, to hear the only Voice that matters.  The voice of Almighty God speaking through His all-holy Word.

Over and again in God’s Word we read such statements regarding the mind as

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Colossians 3:1-2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

1 Peter 1:13 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:8-9 “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

Just in the sampling above, we see that there are calls to action for setting the mind on the things of God.  How can this happen if we allow ourselves to be bombarded with a cesspool of virtual media?  How are we to love the Lord with all of our mind if it is filled with all manner of worldliness, regardless of the media form in which it is delivered?

Simply put, we cannot.

This places a level of importance upon the much maligned and neglected practice of divine meditation.

Writing in Volume One of his works, Puritan John Owen says

“The mind must be spiritual and holy, freed from earthly affections and encumbrances, raised above things here below, that can in a due manner meditate on the glory of Christ. Therefore are the most strangers unto this duty, because they will not be at the trouble and charge of that mortification of earthly affections, — that extirpation* of sensual inclinations, — that retirement from the occasions of life, which are required whereunto.”

*killing; exterminating; unto extinction

Owen, speaking of the distractions of his own 17th Century, exhorts us that the mind must be freed from earthly affections and from those things which would hold us back and keep us from meditation, particularly on Christ.  This is the chief reason why so few give their mind to meditation, they are entangled in the mindless distractions of this age.  In order to meditate properly and effectively, these affections and distractions must be brought to extinction.  Not merely placated. Not merely lessened. But totally eradication.

So then, we are faced with a multitude of problems, from over-exposure to media, to a failure to realize we are called to meditate on Christ, ignorance of how to meditate, a variety of media distracting our minds from the spiritual discipline of meditation.

How can we possibly prepare our minds for action if we are exposed to such a quantity of mental distractions?

Perhaps our answer may be as simple as realizing that those who have trusted in Christ have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).  A mind that is transformed by renewal, not conformed to this world (Romans 12:2; Eph. 4:23).  Believer’s in Christ have been renewed in their inward man, a renewal of the mind (2 Corinthians 4:16).  This gift of a renewed mind is not to be given over to worldly pollution again (Eph. 4:17).

Far too often it seems we are content to allow our minds to veg-out in media consumption, failing to realize that there is a daily war taking place, vying for our attention with a motivation to numb us to the core of our very souls.

For the unbeliever, your mind has been blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) whose desire it is to keep you blinded by constant distractions.  It is a mind given over to futility (Ephesians 4:17) and a mind set on the things of this world, which are hostile to Christ (Philippians 3:18-19).  The only hope is a renewed mind in Christ through repentance of sin and embracing of Him by faith as Lord and Savior.

For the believer, it is a realization that we have the mind of Christ.  A mind that is not to be subject to the calling sirens of the world.  A mind that is not to be set on things below.  A mind that is to be set on, 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.

Castles in the Sand

 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:1-7

Last week I spent some time at the beach with my family.  With two small children, beach time has changed significantly over the years from vegging out staring blankly at the sand and surf to activities ranging from jumping waves to building castles in the sand.  Our castles are usually pretty unremarkable, a couple molds for the four corners, a few molds for the walls, and a moat.  Comparatively, there is usually someone along the beach that builds an elaborate castle that takes an extensive amount of time, effort, and skill.  Regardless of whether it is our meager castle or someone else’s grand replica of the Edinburgh Castle, one truth remains consistent…they will all be washed away by the tide at some point.  We work and work building a castle in the sand, sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for hours, all to have our efforts washed away sooner or later by the tide.

Much like building castles in the sand are any efforts to earn or work for your own salvation.  We can work for a lifetime and find that in the end like tidal waves washing away castles in the sand, good works toward salvation will be burned up at the final judgment.  Unfortunately, the majority of people think that by simply being morally good, avoiding scandalous sins, or simply having their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds they will by default “earn” heaven.  Many will be in for a rude awakening to find out that living a good, moral life will be as worthless as a sand castle in a hurricane.

In the passage from Titus cited above, we find the proper ordering of good works.  First, the inspired Apostle reminds Titus to be ready for every good work and as is his norm, follows this with a brief list of what this may practically look like.  Left alone, it may seem as if the Apostle is promoting a good works theology, simply do these things and live right.  However, this is not the final word.

Then the Apostle gets to the heart of gospel message by reminding his young protege of how the mercy of God came to them, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”

In this passage we find the author of salvation – God our Savior; the motivation of salvation – His goodness and loving kindness; the basis of salvation – not works, but God’s mercy; the outworking of salvation – regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit; the source of salvation – Jesus Christ our Savior.

Salvation, as we see here, is entirely a work of God.  Additionally, it is entirely a Trinitarian work.  Not only do we not contribute to our salvation by good works, but all we have brought to the salvation table is our sin, inherent in our nature and explicit in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Repentance of sin and faith in Christ are the only sure foundation.  Any effort to earn one’s salvation is nothing more than building a castle in the sand.  Good works have their place, but they must be built upon the foundation of Christ, the Cornerstone, flowing from a regenerate heart and done with a motivation of love and obedience toward God.

Take Heed What you Read

An appropriate follow up to the post Christian Nominalism and the Christian Bookstore:

By Arthur W. Pink 

“Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24): the word “hear” obviously includes what is read, for that which is written or printed is addressed to the ears of our intellect. Few people today realize the urgent need for “taking heed” unto what they read. Just as the natural food which is eaten either helps or hinders the body—so the mental food we receive either benefits or injures the mind, and that, in turn, affects the heart. Just as it is harmful to listen to the rubbish and poison which is being served from the great majority of present-day pulpits—so it is exceedingly injurious to the soul to read most of what is now being published. “Take heed what you hear” and read! But let us seek to be more specific.

The only thing which is really worth calling “religion” is the life of God in the soul-commenced, carried on, and consummated solely by the Holy Spirit. Hence, whatever does not bear the impress of the Spirit’s unction, should be rejected by the Christian: for not only can unctionless messages do us no good—but what proceeds not from the Spirit—is of the flesh. Here, then, is the test which God’s children ought to apply unto all they hear, and here is the balance in which they should weigh all that they read. True, there are varying degrees of the Spirit’s unction. As it is in the natural so it is in the spiritual—there will be a varying amount of wetness from the faintest moisture of dew—as compared to the copious shower. As there had to be “salt” in every sacrifice (Lev. 2:13), so every discourse or article proceeding from the Spirit’s aid, is “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). But O how very much today is devoid of spiritual savor and flavor!

Some of God’s dear people may suppose that it would be presumptuous to set themselves up as judges of what they hear or read—but that is a serious mistake, being both a false humility, and a shirking of duty. The Apostle rebuked the Hebrews because their senses (spiritual faculties) were not developed so as to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13). With as much reason, might it be termed pride for anyone to pass judgment upon the groceries or meats purchased from the stores. Others may ask, “But how are simple and unlearned souls to distinguish between the different religious publications of the day?” Very simply: in sampling your natural food how do you determine whether or not it be seasoned? By your natural taste, of course. So it is spiritually: the “new man” has a palate too! If the God of creation has given us natural palates for the purpose of distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome food, the God of grace has furnished His people with a capacity, a spiritual sense, to distinguish between nutritious and unwholesome soul food.

“Just as the mouth tastes food—the ear tests the words it hears” (Job 34:3). Does yours, my reader? Are you as careful about what you take into your mind—as what you take into your stomach? You certainly ought to be, for the former is even more important than the latter. If you eat some material food which is injurious, you can take a purgative and get rid of the same; but if you have devoured mental food which is injurious, it stays with you! “The ear tests the words it hears.” Again, we ask, Does yours, dear reader? Are you learning to distinguish between “letter” and “spirit;” between the “form” and the “power;” between that which is of the earth and that which is from Heaven; between that which is lifeless and unctionless and that which is instinct with the breath of God? If the answer is ‘No’, then you are greatly the loser.

How many of God’s dear children listen to the automaton “letter” preachers of today, and yet find nothing suited to the needs of their poor souls! And how many are subscribing for one magazine after another, hoping to find that which will the better furnish them to fight the good fight of faith—only to be disappointed? What they hear and what they read does not penetrate and grip—it has no power—it neither breaks down nor lifts up—it produces neither godly sorrow nor godly joy. The messages they hear or read, fall upon their ear like an idle or twice-told tale—it completely fails to reach their case or minister to their needs. They are no better off after hearing a hundred such “sermons” or reading through a hundred such periodicals, than they were at the beginning! They are no farther from the world—and no nearer unto God!

It is often a long time before God’s children are able to account for this. They blame themselves; they are exceedingly loath to say, “This message is not of God.” They are afraid to act in the spiritual, as they do in the natural, and condemn and discard that which is worthless. While they feel a lack of power in the sermons they hear, or the articles they read, and while their souls steadily get dried up like a potsherd—they are slow to realize that this is the inevitable effect of the unctionless preaching they listen to, or the unctionless literature they read; and that such dryness and leanness of soul is inevitable—by their association with unhumbled and empty professors. But in due time God opens their eyes, and they see through the flimsy veil and discover that both the sermons they hear, and the literature they read—are only the product of a dead profession!

Ah, it is a great thing when once the Holy Spirit teaches a soul—that it is power which is lacking from the lifeless preaching and lifeless articles of dead professors. It is power which the renewed soul seeks—a message which has power to search his conscience, to pierce him to the quick, to write it upon his heart; a message which has power to bring him to his knees in broken-hearted confession to God; a message which has power to make him feel that he is “vile”; a message which has power to drive him to Christ, for the binding up of his wounds, for Him to pour in “oil and wine,” and send him on his way rejoicing. Yes, what the renewed soul longs for (though at first he knows it not) is that Divine message which comes to him “not simply with words—but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Sooner or later, every Christian comes to value “power,” and to count as worthless, whatever lacks it. It is by Divine power, that he is taught in his own soul, by which he is made to feel acutely his sinnership, his carnality, his beggarliness. It is Divine power working in his heart—the same power which brought Christ again from the dead (Eph. 1:19, 20)—which draws his affections unto things above and makes his soul pant after God “as the deer pants after the water brooks” (Psalm 42:1). It is this Divine power working in him which reveals to his burdened spirit the Throne of Grace, and causes him to implore mercy and to seek grace “to help in time of need.” It is this Divine power working in him, which makes him cry “Make me walk along the path of Your commands—for there I find delight” (Psalm 119:35).

Those who are partakers of this Divine power (and they are few in number) can never be satisfied with a powerless ministry, either oral or written.

“Those who live according to the flesh—have their minds set on what the flesh desires,” (Romans 8:5). They are charmed with oratorical eloquence, catchy sayings, witty allusions, and amusing illustrations. On just such “husks”, do the religious “swine” feed!

But the penitent prodigal can find no nutriment therein! Men “of the world”—and they may be graduates from some “Bible Institute” or possessors of a diploma from some Bible Seminary, now styling themselves “preachers of the Gospel”—will speak of the things of the world and “the world hears them” (1 John 4:5). But those who are seeking to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” obtain no help therefrom, yes, they perceive clearly that such sermons and periodicals are “broken cisterns, which can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

“Take heed what you hear” and read! More than forty years ago the saintly Adolph Saphir wrote, “I think the fewer books we read—the better. It is like times of cholera, when we should only drink filtered water.” What would he say if he were on earth today and glanced over the deadly poison sent forth by the heterodox, and the lifeless rubbish put out by the orthodox? Christian reader, if you value the health of your soul, cease hearing and quit reading all that is lifeless, unctionless, powerless, no matter what prominent or popular name be attached thereto. Life is too short to waste valuable time on that which does not profit. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the religious books, booklets, and magazines now being published, are not worth the paper on which they are printed!

To turn away from the lifeless preachers and publishers of the day—may involve a real cross. Your motives will be misconstrued, your words perverted, and your actions misinterpreted. The sharp arrows of false report will be directed against you. You will be called proud and self-righteous, because you refuse to fellowship empty professors. You will be termed censorious and bitter—if you condemn in plain speech—the subtle delusions of Satan. You will be dubbed narrow-minded and uncharitable, because you refuse to join in singing the praises of the “great” and “popular” men of the day. More and more, you will be made to painfully realize—that the path which leads unto eternal life is “narrow” and that FEW there are who find it. May the Lord be pleased to grant unto each of us—the hearing ear and obedient heart! “Take heed what you hear” and read!