God has wonderfully revealed himself in many ways throughout history (Hebrews 1:1-4). He has revealed himself through nature (Psalm 19:1-6), but also through acting in our world. Those “acts” of God—like the flood, the exodus, as well as His appearing in visions, dreams, etc.—are recorded for us in Scripture, which itself is a “revelation” from God. The reason God had certain men record His acts was so that later generations of His people, through the help given by His Spirit, might come to understand who He is, how to have fellowship with Him, and how to live in a way that honors Him and brings the greatest joy to us as His people (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Since God’s word has always been important to Christians—and rightfully so—and since it gives us the clearest picture of who God is, it is important that we learn to regularly feed our souls on it. With this in mind, below are five passages from Scripture which emphasize certain assurances that we possess as Christians. These are important to know and meditate on in order to grow strong in the Christian life. I learned them many years ago through the Navigator ministry and have been since corrected, rebuked, and encouraged by these great truths. It was on these passages that I first learned to meditate on Scripture and I recommend that you give them a try as well.
But what do we mean by “meditation”? Well, we are certainly not referring to simply emptying our minds of everything we can think of (which is logically impossible anyway), but rather filling our minds with God’s word, thinking seriously about it, and asking God to give us understanding in the process. Here are some questions you can ask of any passage in order to delve deeper into it and derive life from it.
1. Is there a Sin to forsake?
2. Is there a Promise to claim?
3. Is there an Example to follow?
4. Is there an Error to avoid?
5. Is there something new about Christ or the Holy Spirit (i.e., God)?
These questions can be remembered through the acronym SPEECH. If this doesn’t do it for you, perhaps you might like the following better:
1. What did I like/dislike about the passage?
2. What does the passages teach me about God?
3. What does the passage teach me about myself and others?
4. Is there anything in the passage I do not understand and would like clarified?
5. What is God saying to me through this passage?
1. What does the passage teach me about God?
2. What does the passage teach me about myself and relationships?
3. What does the passage teach me about salvation and living for God?
4. What does the passage teach me about spiritual warfare?
During the process of meditation and asking these questions, many people have found it very helpful to memorize a passage a meditate on each word in the passage. So for example, in the Galatians 2:20, Paul says,
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The way to begin to meditate on this verse, after you have read the book and immediate context a couple of times, is to emphasize each word as you make your way through the verse several times. Then, prayerfully summarize the verse in your own words and ask God for insight as to its significance for you and others. Make sure that your summary agrees with the verse in its context. You can do this by reading the context again and by referring to other similar passages in Paul and the Bible.
Once you have done this with all the following assurances, you could help another person with it as well. In the following discussion I will list the verse relating to the assurance and then share some simple meditations on the passage. These are designed to encourage a new believer.
The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are the children of God (Rom 8:16)
5:4 This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. 5:5 Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 5:6 Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood—not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 5:7 For there are three that testify, 5:8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement. 5:9 If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because this is the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son. 5:10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son.) 5:11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 5:12 The one who has the Son of God has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life.5:13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Context: John was writing to combat certain false teachers who argued that Christ was not truly human, but only appeared to be so. The problem is, however, if he were not truly human, he could not have died for our sins, i.e., in our place. But his baptism (water) and death (blood), as well as the Holy Spirit—these all argue that he was truly a man (and God) and did die for our sins.
Content: John is certain about our eternal life; he is not wishy-washy; he claims that this is God’s own testimony. Note that it is life that God has given us and that this spiritual life is inextricably connected to having Jesus. There is no gray area from God’s point of view: either a person has the Son and therefore life, or a person does not have the son, and therefore he/she does not have life. Also, we might remember that life is received by believing, not earned by good works (Romans 4:1-8; Ephesians 2:8-9). Finally, note the connection between John writing to them and their knowing that they have eternal life (v. 13): for our purposes, we must remember that assurance of salvation comes primarily through listening to God in Scripture as His Spirit marries His word to our hearts.
1:5 Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 1:7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1:8 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1:9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. 2:1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2:2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
Context: What is the relationship between our claim to know God and the way we live? What do we do when we sin? These are a couple of the primary questions John is answering here in 1 John 1:5-2:2.
Content: When John says that God is light, he is referring to God’s moral and ethical purity and holiness. As Christians we must understand this so that we grasp the correlation between claiming to know God and the way we live. Unfortunately, the new age culture in which we live sees no connection for the most part between claims to spirituality and ways of living where love is the measure. I once had a lady in Bible study who professed to know Christ, but who continued in willful sexual (and other) sin. She might have fooled us for a while, though we soon caught on, but she certainly never fooled the Lord. By her life, she gave the lie to her profession. We must realize that if we know God, we will show some evidence of it in our lives. On the other hand, if we claim to know him and yet live like the Devil, we again give the lie to our claim. Christ is the example of holiness we are to follow.
Another important point to see in 1 John 1:5-2:2 is that there is no room in our present experience of the Christian life for the idea of complete perfection. Anyone who claims this, is, according to John, deceived, without the truth, and impugning God’s truthfulness. None of us will be perfect until we are glorified (cf. 1 John 3:2-3). Indeed, even when we are fellowshipping well with one another, we are still in need of the blood of Jesus (the Spirit applied benefits of Jesus’ death) to cover our sins.
So as Christians, we live in the tension of pleasing God and yet sometimes displeasing him when we sin. How are we to handle our sin? Are we to seek self-help books? Is our problem really only lack of knowledge? Are we to sweep it under the carpet, so to speak? Are we to simply say, “Well, that’s just the way I am?” or “I was really stressed at the time, etc.”? John says that we are to confess our sins, that is, confess those things that do not reflect the fact that we are in relationship with a God “who is light” and in whom, “there is no darkness.”
John also says he writes to God’s people so that they will not sin (2:1). Again, there is a connection between the written word of God and the spiritual life and growth of Christians. We must remember that. The letter would have been no good to his readers, i.e., the Spirit could not have used it as a means of grace, if they had failed to read it, think seriously about it, understand it, and act on it.
Notice what happens when we confess our sins: they are forgiven and we are cleansed, i.e., our consciences and minds are purified and set free. This is the way to deal with our sins and this is how God works when we do.
Finally, always connect forgiveness and every spiritual benefit to Christ and his work on the cross. John does it and so should we. We are in a relationship based on God’s grace not our own merits.
16:19 Jesus could see that they wanted to ask him about these things, so he said to them, “Are you asking each other about this—that I said, ‘In a little while you will not see me; again after a little while, you will see me’? 16:20 I tell you the solemn truth, you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into joy. 16:21 When a woman gives birth she has distress because her time has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being has been born into the world. 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. 16:23 At that time you will ask me nothing. I tell you the solemn truth, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. 16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete. 16:25 “I have told you these things in obscure figures of speech; a time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in obscure figures, but will tell you plainly about the Father. 16:26 At that time you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 16:27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 16:28 I came from the Father and entered into the world, but in turn, I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” 16:29 His disciples said, “Look, now you are speaking plainly and not in obscure figures of speech! 16:30 Now we know that you know everything and do not need anyone to ask you anything. Because of this we believe that you have come from God.”
Context: Jesus is going to the Father, i.e., the time of his glorification through death, resurrection, and exaltation has come. He will be leaving the disciples. Nonetheless, he has assured them of his continuing presence with them through the Holy Spirit whom he will later send to them (cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; Acts 2). The disciples, however, have many questions to ask him. But he tells them that they can ask in his name, i.e., on the basis of his authority and relationship with the Father. In other words, they have loved the Father’s Son so much that they can go directly to the Father through the Son and the Father will receive them. They may ask the Father, in the name of the Son, and the Father will answer their prayers.
Content: Note three things about the prayer in 16:24. First, there is an assurance that if we come through the Son (in recognition of who he is and what he stands for) we will certainly receive (1 John 5:14-15). Second, there will be a profound joy associated with God answering our prayers, especially the prayer that asks to know God better. Third, as Christians we ought to realize that we come to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Prayer is a key way to relate to the trinity.
3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Context: There is no tight literary context in Proverbs for 3:5-6, though Proverbs 3:1-12 emphasizes truth and humility, as well as trusting and honoring God. It (3:1-12) is part of a much larger unit, Proverbs 1-9, where wisdom is evidenced by upright and morally virtuous living, on the one hand, and avoiding such things as adultery, lust, and decadent living, on the other.
Proverbs are “wisdom-like” sayings that are generally true. Some outrightly state what is true absolutely, while most state what is generally true in human relationships. For the most part they are not to be taken as absolute pronouncements, unless clearly indicated. For example, Proverbs 12:24, “the hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” This is generally true, but not absolutely and always. Some slack people come into rulership and some diligent people are ruled over by sluggards.
Anyway, in Proverbs 3:5-6, the focus is on trusting God and the promise is that he will “make your paths straight.”. If we take “make my paths straight” to mean that God will give me a perfect life in which I never again have a difficult time, then this Proverb is not absolute. And frankly, our interpretation is incorrect. But if we understand “he will make your paths straight” to mean “lead you into a life pleasing to him, morally upright and prudent,” then this proverb is absolute. God will always do this for people who trust completely in him.
So let’s emphasize a few things from this proverb. First, trust is key to all guidance that God gives to his people. We must be committed to trusting his guidance, whether we like it or not. After all, he’s the One with all the plans. Second, we are not to trust with part of our heart, but with all of our heart, i.e., with all our strength! God doesn’t give a great deal of guidance to those who play games with him.
Third, we are told not to “lean on our own understanding.” Some people think this means that Christians are not to think, lest they rely on their own understanding. Not at all! (Such people forget that it was the Lord who gave man his brain!) What Solomon means is that we are not to rely on our purely human and sinful understanding of how to live life, i.e., in unbelief, as if God didn’t exist. Our own understanding says, “you deserve such and such,” “you have rights,” “demand what’s yours,” “its o.k. to cheat on your wife,” “life only comes around once, so step on whoever you have to, to get where you need to go, etc.” No, we are not to rely on that kind of understanding, but rather on the commands and wisdom of God. We know that Christ became a servant and died for us (Mark 10:45), so we too are to give our lives (wisely) for others. This is what it means to “acknowledge him in all our ways.” Acknowledging God in all our ways is the opposite of relying on our own understanding; it involves obeying God in all areas of our lives. This is why it involves complete trust.
10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 10:5 But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. 10:6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did. 10:7 So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 10:8 And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and twenty-three thousand died in a single day. 10:9 And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. 10:10 And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. 10:12 So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. 10:13 No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tried too much, but with the trial will also provide a way through it so that you may be able to endure.
Context: The Corinthians were a church fascinated with spiritual power, authority, and personal freedom. Indeed, they had become so enamored with themselves, their rights and privileges, that they were using genuine Christian freedom to the point where it was causing serious grief to other Christians and endangering their own spiritual lives as well. Certain Christians among the Corinthians were eating at idol temples since they knew that there was no such thing as an idol anyway. But Paul tells them, first of all, that they are dangerously close to provoking the Lord’s anger, and second, they’re wounding the consciences of other Christians who are being led into idol temples to eat but who do not possess knowledge (i.e., there is no such thing as an idol) in the same way as they do.
The section begins in 8:1 and goes to the end of 10:33. The point Paul is making is that freedom is good if it is guided by love, but destructive to both the person who claims to be free and others when it is selfishly pursued. The problem is that we get tempted to do things our way and not God’s. We should not think for one moment that just because we’re saved we can sin (in the name of freedom) and get away with it. While we never lose God’s gracious gift of eternal life, we can certainly make a mess out of our lives (and others’ too). We must remember that when we are tempted, God will provide a way out, but this does not mean we can presume upon his help if we step off into serious sin knowingly.
Content: In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Paul reminds them of the privilege enjoyed by the Israelites. We as Christians also have enormous privileges. In 1 Corinthians 10:5-10, despite the privileges of the Israelites, Paul lays before them what God did to the Israelites as a result of their rebellion in the wilderness. The consequences are most severe. Then, in 10:11-12, Paul tells these arrogant Christians that what happened to Israel is an example to Christians and is to be regarded as such. In short, the Corinthians have been lovingly, yet sternly warned and, by implication, so have we today. We are not to treat God as a “light thing.” We are to have a severe respect for his holiness and conduct ourselves, therefore, in Christ-like ways. Now, it is in this context that Paul talks about temptation in 10:13.
Several thoughts come to mind when musing over 1 Corinthians 10:13. First, the term seized captures our experience of temptation at times. It is sudden and painful. But we must realize that these temptations are “common” to other fallen humanity as a whole. This does not mean that everyone has been siezed with this or that particular temptation, but that such a temptation is common to man in his fallen condition in a fallen world. This means that these temptations, with God’s faithful help can be overcome. Expecting God’s help, however, when we commit willfully serious sins, such as eating at an idol temple, is another matter. Like the Israelites before us, if we engage in such sin, we can only expect serious chastisement.
Paul is quick to point out that God is faithful to help us in any trial/temptation, and he also mentions the way in which God brings that help to us, namely, by “providing a way out.” The expression “provide a way out,” means “to bring to an end.” Thus there is an appointed length to trials which God will bring about in his time, all the while helping us to endure (i.e., God is faithful). These trials are designed to teach us to trust him and live in a way that honors him (James 1:3-5).
It is hoped that these meditations might lead others to read the Bible, meditate on its truths, and find help, instruction, courage and vision for each day. If you have gone through these passages, and have them committed to memory, help someone else to do the same. The Bible was written to instruct us: “For what ever was written in previous times was written for our instruction so that through the perseverance and encouragement of scripture we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).