Summary: The road to transformation involves the choice of what we put into our minds and what we choose to think about.
Phil 4:8-9, Feb 27, 2011
For most of us, the word “meditation” conjures up a mental picture of someone in baggy pants, sitting on the floor with their legs wrapped up like a pretzel, arms comfortably outstretched, middle finger and thumb together, saying “oommm” over and over. It’s because we in the western world have associated meditation with eastern religions, and largely given up the practice in Christianity. And that is really too bad…
If we strip it right back, the actual practice of meditation doesn’t differ much – it is about getting quiet, being physically comfortable but alert, and allowing extended time in this place. However the aim of Christian meditation is exactly the opposite of eastern meditation – in eastern meditation the goal is to empty oneself, and so join with the great emptiness. Last year I heard a very gentle Buddhist monk explain how one of the key elements of Buddhism is the idea of “nothingness”, and how we need to understand and grasp and embrace and become one with the nothingness. The road to peace is simply acceptance of the vast nothingness. Christian meditation, however, has exactly the opposite goal – it is not that we might be emptied, but that we might be filled. Filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with peace, filled with love and compassion, and filled with power to fight for real change rather than just accept things as they are and be at some inner peace in the midst of chaos. We believe the Kingdom of God breaks into the chaos and brings healing, reconciliation, change, and newness.
This idea of transformation, of breaking into the “now” and bringing change and newness is one we’ve seen as a major theme throughout Philippians, as Paul has called us to live differently – differently from how we used to live, and differently from the culture around us. We’ve talked about our change in citizenship, and how that transforms us. We’ve talked about how our human effort is nothing but “worthless, worthless garbage” and that as we receive by faith, the Spirit of God transforms us from within. We’ve talked about how that inner transformation then spurs us to live and act in ways that are worthy of our heavenly citizenship, not to try to earn it but rather out of deep gratitude for who God is and how He loves us. We talked about “pressing on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me”, and last week in the first half of chapter 4 we saw five examples of a transformed life leading up to how a life of prayer transforms us from people of worry to people of peace.
But when we get right down to it, do we really understand this transformed life, and what God’s part is and what our part is? We, of course, can’t transform ourselves – this is the work of God the Spirit in us. But neither can we simply keep on living however we please and expect God to snap His fingers and transform us. But if all our effort is nothing more than “worthless, worthless garbage”, should we not try at all until God changes us and makes us want to do right? Should we sit back, continue to fill our minds and lives with whatever our culture serves up, passively waiting until God whacks us over the head with His love, forgives our sin, sets us free from any desire we might have to sin and protects us from every future temptation? Of course not! But what, then, are we to do? How about this…
Phil 4:8-9 (NIV 2010)
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
The Road To Transformation:
You often hear me talking about creating space in our lives for God to work. I talked about that last week in regards to worry and prayer – about growing our prayer life and creating space for God to speak as we be quiet in prayer and listen to God, so that He can bring peace which over-powers our worry. This week, the idea is about creating space through the choice of what we put into our minds and what we choose to think about. Which brings up an obvious question: what do you think about most? I’m going to give you a few moments in quiet, right now, to answer that question on your own. What thoughts most often are in your mind?