How do you reckon you’d rate your relationship with God?
Often when I ask people that question they either answer by telling me what they’ve been reading in the Bible or how they’re feeling about God at the current time. These are both good ways to think about our relationship with God but they just aren’t the best guide to answering that question. A better guide, I put it to you, is ‘How have you changed recently after hearing God’s word to you?’
Think about a close friendship for a moment. Suppose you’re in a friendship and you think this person is a very good friend. One day that person calls up and says, “Guess what? For the last two months I’ve decided I really need to leave Bendigo, I’m going to study in Brisbane and I’m moving tomorrow. I thought I’d say goodbye.” How do you feel about that? You may not say it out loud but you’re deeply disappointed, because you say, “If we were friends, you should have told me. You should have let me know. You should have allowed me to give you my input.”
You intrinsically know that the deeper a personal relationship is, the less that person has the right to act independently. It’s the same with us and God, the closer we are to God the less we realise we can act independently, the closer we are the more we realise that we need to say what Jesus said his whole life – ‘Not my will, but yours be done’.
Perhaps for you, you’ve been reading the bible and it hasn’t resulted in change, that’s probably because it hasn’t got personal yet. You haven’t dwelt on the Word, or prayed through the Word long enough to let the Spirit lead you into trusting and experiencing God.
I want to suggest a method that some of the greats from the past followed. Martin Luther and St John of the Cross followed a four step guide to meeting God in his word.
St John of the Cross wrote:
“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation; knock in prayer and it will be opened in contemplation”.
Study and consider a text of the Scripture. The goal is to personalize the word and to hear God speaking to you here and now.
- Ask what do I learn
1) About God or Christ – Who He is and what He’s done
2) About me or people in general
3) About our salvation – Cross, Community, New creation
4) About how we should live – Examples to follow, Commands to obey, Promises to claim
- Ask what do I learn
Meditation or Reflecting
Now in meditation, we take what we have learnt and reflect on the truth deeply. The purpose is to move from the mind to the heart so as to attain a deeper sense of God’s truth, reality and presence. Meditation is not simply thinking, nor simply praying, it is taking the truth into your heart so you really do believe it.
Choose 1-2 verses or sentences and ask yourself…
Teaching: What is the basic truth or teaching this conveys?
Adoration: How can I adore God for this? (What attribute does it show?)
Confession: What wrong thoughts, feelings, behavior happen when this is forgotten? How is this sin being caused by believing that some-one or some-thing to give me the satisfaction that only Jesus can really give me?
Thanks: How is Jesus the ultimate revelation of this attribute and/or the ultimate answer to this sin?
Supplication: What do I need from God to realize this truth in my life?
While reading is listening intently to God, and meditation is intently speaking to your own heart, Prayer is turning back to God and speaking to him about what you are learning and hearing. Pray your meditations.
Teaching: Praise God for this great truth.
Adoration: Tell God what you love and adore about him.
Confession: Admit what you have done, what you are.
Thank: God for Christ, Thank him for what he’s done.
Supplication: Ask God for what you need to be and do what this truth points to.
Usually, though not always, during Reading, Meditation or Prayer you begin to get a real ‘sense’ of the truths you are reflecting on. A way to further teach these truths to us is to contemplate or visualise what these truths would look like.
Teaching: What would you and the world be like without this truth?
Adoration: How the world would be different if everyone saw this glory.
Confession: What would you be like if this truth were always present in your life? Yearn for it.
Thank: Christ as he achieves this truth for you.
Supplication: Ask him that you would always see his wonder and love.
Jonathon Edwards believed true prayer moved beyond gratitude–in which we are adoring God for how we have benefitted from God–to an aesthetic delight or contemplation of who God and Christ are in themselves. When you see the beauty and love of God in Christ, you’ll find yourself delighting in God and his ways!