Good afternoon! I am so thankful to be here, with my brothers and sisters in Christ, in Strasbourg. Before I start, I would like to tell you a few things about myself because you probably are wondering who I am and why I am here. I am a student, at Freed-Hardeman University, in Tennessee, and this summer, I am spending time with different French-speaking churches in Europe. I am interested in working with a church, in a French-speaking area, and this summer I am visiting some places to see the work, for myself. This week, I have been helping Daniel and a group of college students, with a campaign. I have enjoyed working with Robert McCready and the students, from Harding, this week. Thanks a lot for allowing me to be here, today, to study God’s word with you.
One of my favorite feelings, that I experience in life, is the feeling I get after I eat a nice, satisfying meal. My favorite meal that fills me up, is a nice, big, juicy hamburger, with a side of fries and a milkshake. For each one of you, it may be something different. We all like to be filled up, after a nice meal, because it makes us feel satisfied; our hunger pains are gone; and we no longer feel empty or starved. No one, here, likes to be hungry, right? As soon as that first growl comes, in our stomach, we are looking for some food, so that we can fix our hunger. Well if you don’t like your stomach to be empty, then there’s another part of your life that you don’t want to starve to death; and it’s definitely more important than your stomach.
Open your Bibles to Matt. 12:43-45. When we come to verses, this afternoon, I will read them in French to save time.
Did you catch everything that was going on in this story? Jesus is saying, that when this man gets rid of his unclean spirit, the spirit goes out and tries to find another place to live; but he can’t find one anywhere! So what does the spirit do? He goes back to the house, where he was before; and since no one else is living there, the spirit decides to bring seven other spirits, that are even more wicked than himself, to live, there, in the house. So the man is worse-off, now, than at the beginning.
To put it into modern day terms, let’s imagine we have John, over here. John is a good guy. He goes to church. He does things with the youth, from time to time. He does what the minister asks and is pretty nice to everybody that he meets. He’s really not very excited or enthusiastic about his faith; he doesn’t read his Bible every day and doesn’t try to apply it to his life. His only prayer time, with God, is before meals and at church; and he isn’t really concerned with sharing his faith, with others. He spends a lot of his time playing soccer, with his friend, and practicing, with his band. These are things he is really into. Because of these commitments, he really doesn’t have much time for his personal relationship, with God.
He gets along just fine, in his life, and doesn’t make too many, big mistakes; until one day, John is tempted, by one of his friends, to look at pornography. John gives in and participates, with his friend; but he feels terrible about it afterwards and has a lot of guilt, that has come into his life, because of this sin.
So he goes into his room, kneels down, and asks God for forgiveness; and he feels great. He knows that this sin is never happening, again, because he has asked the Lord to help him and forgive him. About a week goes by and the temptation comes before John, again. Once again, he gives in and actually spends a longer time than before on the pornographic sites. Afterwards he feels guilty, once again, and asks God for forgiveness; and he feels better, knowing it won’t happen, again.
Well, this continues to happen, more and more frequently, and John continues to ask God for help to overcome this sin, after the fact that he has already committed it. He cannot understand why he can’t beat this temptation!
John is filling his life with all the wrong things. It doesn’t matter how many good things he does, with the church and with his Christian friends, because he is not putting in his special devotion time, with God. John is going to continue to struggle, with this sin and addiction to pornography, until he can start filling himself up with good things.
Look back in this passage that we just read. You see in vs. 43 that the unclean spirit has left, just like we can get the sin out of our lives for a while. But it’s going to come back, quickly, because we aren’t filling ourselves up with the things of God! The sin is going to come right back into your life, see that your soul is empty; it is unfed; it is nearly starved to death. That sin is going to make itself right at home, just like it did the last time.
Remember, at the beginning of the lesson, when we talked about that full feeling you get, after you eat a nice meal? You know, when you feel that full, you don’t have any room left for more food. You know that you couldn’t eat another thing because your hunger has been completely and totally satisfied. It’s the same idea, with Satan, Brothers! If he comes and tries to tempt you and sees that you are so filled up with spiritual things, he’s going to go away, disappointed, because he knows there is no more room, to fill you up with evil things.
Vs. 44 says that when the unclean spirit finds you empty, he goes and brings back more, evil spirits to dwell with him. Don’t let Satan find you empty! We must make a constant and willing effort to fill ourselves up with the good things; or Satan is going to bring more evil into our lives to try and tempt us.
Maybe, in your mind, you are asking, how do we do that? How do we fill ourselves up with holiness? That’s what I want us to talk about the rest of our time, today. We are going to be focusing on the importance of our personal meditation time, with God, through prayer and study; so we can fill ourselves up and face these temptations with more strength and resistance.
One of the amazing things, about God’s creation, is the power of the human mind. God has given to us, as humans, the ability to do so many different things and he has set us so far above any other thing, in all his creation. We have the ability to think, reason, and make decisions. You have the ability to memorize and recall things. We have the ability to remember things, in our lives, that happened a decade ago. It is really amazing to sit back and think about the power of the human mind and how God has given that to us.
I want us to look, this afternoon, at scripture and see what it has to say about the importance of meditation in our lives. The fact of the matter is, God has given us such a powerful mind, for a reason! He wants us to think; he wants us to reason; he wants us to reflect; he wants us to meditate, on Him and on his will for our lives. He wants us to give some long, serious thought to what He’s saying. I think we’ll see, after looking at a few of these passages, that meditation on God’s word and spending intimate and personal alone-time with Him, in prayer, is the only way we can fill ourselves up and keep those demons away that we talked about in Matt. 12.
If you have your Bible, open up to Psalm 1:1-3.
This is a very familiar passage, but perfectly illustrates what it is what meditation can do for us.
Read Vs. 2 – This man, that the psalmist is speaking of, here, who stays away from evil and keeps his path away from the sinful things, is able to avoid evil because of the time and effort he is putting into his meditation.
It says, “His delight is in the law, of the Lord, and, on His law, he meditates day and night! This man didn’t just pull his Bible out, right before bed, and read it for 5 minutes, until he fell asleep. It was an effort that he put forth, night and day, constantly thinking and reflecting, on God’s word.
It’s interesting that the word for meditate, right here, means “to rehearse in one’s mind.” When you think of the word “rehearse”, you think about doing something over and over, constantly repeating.
It’s just like studying for a test or getting ready for the first game of soccer. If a team just decides to practice a couple times a month, before the season starts, and doesn’t really work hard to practice and rehearse the plays that they need to know, to win, how well do you think they are going to do? It is the same thing with a test. If you just look over the material, before you go in, not really making that knowledge a part of you, do you think you are going to do well?
Succeeding, in something like that, has to be practiced and engrained, in your mind, over and over and over again; so that it completely becomes a part of who you are.
That is our goal, with meditation. How can we be true disciples that die to ourselves and live for Christ, without knowing Him, through His Word, seriously meditating on how it applies to our life, and then asking God to change us, by His Word, in prayer? If we do that, resisting sin and being a Christian, it will be like second nature to us because of the effect that we’ve allowed study and prayer to have on our lives.
Another thing, you have to remember, is that we can’t expect to have a relationship with God that is comparable to microwavable food. We all love food that you can put in the microwave because it is fast, easy, and ready to eat, very quickly. Our relationship with God is not like this. This is something that takes time. You have to let it cook; you have to let it simmer; and you have to have patience, as you meditate on God’s promises.
Remember, back in vs. 2, it says “day and night”. We get the impression that this man is constantly involved in meditation, of Gods’ word. To make meditation an actual part of our lives, we have to become obsessed, with the word of God. Think about your favorite hobby or passion. For me, it’s music; for you it’s something else. It is something we want to do, all the time, and that’s how we must be, in our communication with God.
Vs. 3 – The psalmist tells us the benefits, of this man, who commits to this meditation, of God’s Word…
It says, “He is like a tree, planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit, in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
Have you ever noticed a tree that’s planted right next to a river or stream? They are the luckiest trees because they always have everything that they need. They have an endless water supply that will never run out; so they always have the nutrients they need to survive; they never have to worry about the sun drying them up because of that constant water source; and they are very fertile and strong, grounded wherever they are.
That’s the same thing that meditating, on God’s Word, can do for us. It will ground us in Him, keep us from drying up, and continually give us everything we need to sustain us.
How can we put this all into practice? The best direction I know, to point us all to, is the example of Jesus. No one better understood the importance and the need that we have, as Christians, to get away from the world, withdraw from everyone around us, and meditate and pray, with no one but the Lord. I want to look, at a specific time, in which Jesus put this into practice. Turn to Luke 5.
Starting at the beginning of the chapter, we see that Jesus is in his usual environment, among the people, teaching and ministering to them, but things start to get out of hand. In vs. 1, it says that the crowd was pressing in on him so hard that Jesus is actually being forced out into the water. Everyone is trying to get to Jesus; the excitement is overwhelming; people are pushing and shoving; and Jesus, finally, has no other option but to get in one of the boats, out in the water, so that the crowds will stop their rioting.
As soon as he finishes teaching the people, he takes Peter, James and John, teaches them and calls them, as his first disciples. Then a little bit further down, around vs. 12, we see Jesus healing the lepers and being compassionate towards them. Christ is involved, right in the midst of his ministry, going from place to place, as he teaches, heals, and loves his followers. But then, as he’s right in the middle of all of this, let’s look at what Jesus does in vs. 15-16.
“But now, even more, the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16But he would withdraw, to desolate places, and pray.”
Even though the word, about Christ, was continually being spread and people continued to come to him for healing and for help, he still knew that his personal time, with God, was such a vital part of his ministry that he could not give up. Without it, he would not have been able to have the strength to do the will of God and be the Son of Man, on this earth.
Just like Jesus, we need to withdraw to desolate places. We need to have wilderness experiences. We need to retreat from everything that’s going on, around us, and meditate on God’s word; go to him for strength, in prayer. When you are always, here, at church, and involved in activities with the church, it’s so easy to think you don’t need this special meditation time; that you don’t need this escape from society, to be close to God.
We can fill our lives with devotionals, Bible camps, Bible classes, church activities and on and on and on and never have a good relationship with God. I am not saying that these are bad things, because they are great things! But look at the things that Jesus was involved in. They were good things too, right? He was healing the sick, teaching the lost, loving the hurt and, yet, he still got away from all of those things so that he could withdraw, to pray.
I daresay that if Christ had not taken that time, out of his life, to meditate with God on a regular basis…
No worship service, no Bible camp, or no youth activity is ever going to substitute for our meditation time, with God. Our personal meditation time, with God, is what makes those activities so worthwhile. And if the Son of God, who had so much power and ability and was so much stronger than any of us, made it a top priority to leave the world and be with God, how much more so should we all make it a priority?
You may say, “Aaron, It’s just too hard to get away from my school and job! My parents are always telling me to do this and that! People are everywhere! I just don’t ever seem to be alone.” The Lord would say to you, “Do what ever it takes! Lock yourself in your closet. Go find an open field to sit and talk with God. Even if it’s inconvenient, do something to have that special meditation time, with God.”
As I was preparing this lesson, I did a quick search to see how many times Christ retreats from the world and talks with God, here, in the book of Luke, and I counted, at least, 12 times. There were probably others, that I missed, and surely many more times that were never written of, in the gospel. Jesus would even travel long distances to get away, no matter how inconvenient it was.
We cannot overlook this part of our Christian walk, any longer. If you have been going through your life, wondering why you don’t feel close to God, wondering why you keep on sinning, wondering why you just can’t seem to get things right, here is your answer. Increase your meditation time with Him; fill your lives with the things, of God, the things that will really sustain you; and all of you can experience victory, over whatever sin you are struggling with.
So what are you going to do about your meditation time, with God? What’s going to be your wilderness experience? I want to challenge everyone, here, to start this week and set aside some meditation time with just you, just God, and just his word and just think. Just mediate. Just pray. Put everything else aside and be one-on-one with God for a certain amount of time, everyday.
Don’t compromise on this time, make it a top priority and commit to that special time, every day. Ask your Christian brothers if they’re meditating with God; hold them accountable; and use them as encouragement. Becoming stronger in our meditation time, with God, is only going to make us better servants of Him, in the world, and the people that you’re around, at school and work, that you see every day, can be changed because of it. But none of that is going to happen unless you make that special time, with God.
Remember that story that we talked about, at the beginning, about filling ourselves up with all that food? I want all of you to ask yourselves that, right now. What are you filling yourself up with?
If you aren’t filling up your life with the right things, you can make that change, right now, guys, coming back to Jesus, changing your lifestyle, and filling yourself up, with God.
If you’ve never known what it’s like to be filled up by the things, of God, then you can do that, this afternoon, too, by becoming a Christian, through FAITH, REPENTANCE, CONFESSION AND BAPTISM.