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Prayer, Meditation and Fasting - Lesson 2

Meditating on the Word of God

God wakens and sustains our faith through his Word.

John Piper
Prayer, Meditation and Fasting
Lesson 2
Watching Now
Meditating on the Word of God

Meditating on the Word of God

3. Foundations of Meditation: Communion with God through the Word of God


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  • Fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the foundation and the source of our life in God.
  • God wakens and sustains our faith through his Word.

  • The presence of God is a mediated presence and the primary material of the mediation is the Word. Dr. Piper lists ten reasons to meditate and pray over biblical truth.
  • The purpose of prayer is communion with God, not to get things from him.  Whatever we pray for with the intent of glorifying God is worship. If we pray with wrong motives, it's idolatry. (1 Cor 10:13, James 4:1-5) Spontaneity is enhanced by discipline.
  • The essence of fasting is hunger for God. Bread magnifies Christ in two ways: by being eaten with gratitude for his goodness, and by being forfeited out of hunger for God himself. When we eat, we taste the emblem of our heavenly food – the Bread of Life. And when we fast we say, “I love the Reality above the emblem.” In the heart of the saint both eating and fasting are worship. Both magnify Christ. Both send the heart – grateful and yearning – to the Giver. Each has its appointed place and each has its danger. The danger of eating is that we fall in love with the gift; the danger of fasting is that we belittle the gift and glory in our will-power.

Prayer, meditation and fasting can help us learn to walk in communion with the living God. We can live a supernatural life that is empowered, led and filled with the Spirit.

We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. Copyright 2014 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.

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Prayer, Meditation and Fasting

Dr. John Piper

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Meditating on the Word of God

Lesson Transcript

 

The following message is by Pastor John Piper. More information from Desiring God Ministries is available at W WW dot desiring God dot org text pointing to faith as the means of living in communion with God through his word. So you did a good transition for us here. So now we're going to I'm going to argue that faith in those texts and in promises is a means of living in communion with God through his word. Here's some texts that point to the role of faith in this regard. I have been crucified with Christ. Galatians 220. It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me and the life which I now live in the flesh. I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. So not I. But Christ lives. It's amazing here. No longer I. Lives. The life I live. So which is. I no longer live. Or I now live. Who is this guy? Who is this guy? We're not living and we are living. We died and yet we're alive. We were crucified. And now we live. We're living in the flesh are ordinary. I don't think there's any negative to that flesh right there. Just in our ordinary body. And the way I live is by faith. Now, that's the difference between the I who's living and the I who is no longer living, the no longer living. I was the unbelieving I. The eye that is now living is the believing eye. Therefore, the the channel or the mark or the median or the the material of the life that the Holy Spirit imparts is faith. Faith is the the channel through which the Holy Spirit is imparting life. Faith is the mark of the living person in communion with Christ.

 

And the faith here is is this second kind of utter dependance on God's being for you, loving you, caring for you, providing your needs as He judge needs Galatians five, five, four. We, through the Spirit by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. So how do we live now as we wait? It's not here yet. Fully. How do we wait? We wait. Through the spirit. By faith. I think those are correlative. That is, they always go together. When you have faith. This was your question. Is that the spirit? Yes, it is through the spirit. We have faith. And when we have faith, it is the spirit working in and through that. Those two go together. And that's the way we wait for the hope of righteousness. Now, you could say, well, how do we live the Christian life? We live by faith, but we live it by the spirit. And the answer is yes. Because your your job, your dependent job is to trust the promises. And Owen is right that when trust is rising in the promises. You know, the Holy Spirit is there. He's doing that. Galatians three five. So then does he who provides you with the spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the work of the law? No. Or by hearing with faith. So there it is made explicit here they're just side by side through the spirit, by faith. Here they're not side by side. They're made instrument and end. Does he have provides you with the spirit? How do you get a supply? This is present tense. Present tense. Ongoing action. Not gave you the Holy Spirit when you got converted. Evangelicals are real good at saying When we're born again, we're born of the spirit.

 

And so we're in dwelt by the spirit from then on. True, Gloriously true. But we're not as good in realizing and living in this ongoing provision. The Holy Spirit is there day by day, hour by hour for us. How is he there? That's what he's asking. Does he do this ongoing provision by works of the law? He means to say no to that. You. You work your way to get the spirit to be provided for you. You try to show yourself morally sufficient. You try to demonstrate that you are worthy of the spirit. Use works like that. No. Well, then what do you do? Is there anything you can do? Answer Hearing with faith. And the hearing brings in the word idea and the faith. Of course the faith. Hearing the word with faith is the way the spirit is provided to you. This. This is so, so helpful because it gives you a concrete way to do your life. It tells you what your devotions are about in the morning, tells you what Bible memory is about. It tells you what exhortation, in the words of another person is about. It's about the miracle of the provision of the Holy Spirit. You don't just say, Oh, the Holy Spirit is the key to life. So let's closer Bibles and stop learning and stop studying and just call on the Holy Spirit to come and fall. It's not what it says. It says you want that to be provided. It's going to come through hearing with faith. In his hearings, the hearing of the gospel, the hearing of the word of God with faith. So if you want somebody to have the Holy Spirit that you love, keep dishing of the Bible. Keep sending him promises.

 

I just entered into my little and had one of these pocket calendars. And if you go in here to my calendar and tap a calendar. Da da da da da. And go to Thursday morning, recurrent 9:00. You know what it's going to say, right? Your son's. I have four sons. Talent is too little. She doesn't read you, but she'll be on there one day. Write your sons. They've all got email now. All four of them can hear me every day. One in Chicago, one in Worthington, one South Minneapolis, and one living at home with his computer eight feet from mine through the wall. I get at my son's every day. Or every week. One of them I send more often than once a week. And what do I do? I You say. How's the weather or the wolves? Cool. 11 in a row. That's not what I say. Maybe it's not 11. I don't even know. I say. Hugh finds a way, he finds a good thing. I'm praying that you'll wait for her. The Christian. Or another day. Another thing, another day, another thing. I come off my devotions in my communion with God, asking not just for settings like this where I speak to 100 maybe, but for my boys, for my wife, for my tell us to today. What can I say? How can I be a means of providing them with the Holy Spirit? I pray. O Spirit. Come O Spirit. Illumined O Spirit. Preserve O spirit, fight O spirit. Hold back from life destroying sin. O spirit. Open their eyes. I don't leave it at that because the Bible says not to leave it at that. It says, How do you get that? You get it by hearing with faith.

 

And so I sent them something to here. And then I pray now and faith then that it's in God's hands. It's in God's hands. Are there other things you can do? You can love them and sacrifice for them. You can show them Christ as well as to Christ, which is also important. But I just want you to see that communing with the Holy Spirit is communing through faith over the Word, through faith over the words, what Owen said. I think that's what Paul is saying here in Galatians. Here's another illustration of it in Romans five. This is so powerful, so good. Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Who has been given to us. Now, don't miss this. I think when I got to this a couple of years ago in preaching through Romans, I think I preached three sermons on this verse here. The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Wow. Was given? Yes, absolutely. There was a point where he came when we were born of God, he came. But. Has been and is ongoing, poured out. The love of God is being poured out in our lives, the love of God. So the question a lot of people have as Christians and we ought to have it is is the love of God just a just a fact that you're supposed to believe and say, well, I don't feel it, but Bible says he loves me. And so I, I just take for granted he must love me. Is that all the Christian life is supposed to be will be there If that's where you are, be there.

 

You don't have to stay there because this text says the love of God is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit. So the Spirit means to to cause you to commune with with God in His love for you experience. Not just cognitively alone, but in your heart. There's a there's an outpouring of the love of God so that you sense being loved by God. You feel yourself embraced by God. The words I will never leave you, I'll never forsake you, are actually applied to you by the spirit. And he draws you in and he says, You're mine. And you, you sense that very personal. Intimate. You are mine. I love you. I gave my son for you in particular. I'm going to fight for you. I'm going to bring you home to heaven. I'm going to be your God forever and ever. And it's going to get better and better. Though I take you through deep waters here. I'm in charge and I love you and I'm going to be your God. And you sense that powerfully because the Holy Spirit is pouring it into your life, is pouring it out in your heart. You're not just reading it on the page and saying, Well, influentially, there it is. Bible's true, I believe it fact often go to work. Yes, stay there and be there if that's where you are. But oh, ask for this. Press for this. Now. How does it work? Notice what he does as he goes on for. Argument clause is a ground clause here. The Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our lives. For while, we were still helpless at the right time. Christ died for the ungodly. For one, will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for good men.

 

Someone would dare even to die to stop there. What's he doing? He just told us about an experiential thing that the Holy Spirit is doing right now in our hearts. And he grounds it with a historical fact. For while we were still helpless at the right time. Christ died. That's 2000 years ago. An US non experiential fact. The most important fact in history and in the universe. Christ died for the ungodly me. How is that a support for this experience? Well, because he means for us to meditate on the finished historical work of Christ on the cross as that by which. Now let's keep reading. By which what? Dodge the ungodly. One will hardly down for a righteous man, though perhaps for good. MAN one When someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates I'll pull a line and that because that's present tense and that is no accident you would have expected demonstrated. Showed in in the Greek. You would have expected the past tense there, just like it says Christ died here. When he died, God demonstrated. But what it says is but God demonstrates in an ongoing, continuous action way His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died. Now he's back to pasture again. What's the interplay here between past and present and present experience? The interplay is this the Gospel? The Word of God revealed in the Scriptures is meant to carry historical reality. God once entered this world, as He had near the world, and Christ didn't die and rose. Historically, our faith is vain. All the He Bigby experiences we can have will do us no good whatsoever. But if Christ really became man, if he was really God, if he really died for sinners, if he really rose again, if he really rains in heaven today, if he's really coming again, then to meditate on that.

 

That word about that historical event is the means by which the Holy Spirit demonstrates now present tense, the love of God and pours it into your life. Hmm. Just. I just don't how to make that feel to you how important that it is. A baby story. When I was in Germany studying 30 years ago, or whenever it was, I went to a church. The only Baptist church there was in Munich, Germany, a million people, one Baptist church with about five little outpost preaching places. It was pretty big church for them. 300, 400 people. Great choir, just wonderful people of a nursery. That's a big deal there because most of the state churches didn't have no shoes. I tried to go to the state church for a while and we took our little six month old Casten and the associate pastor took us aside and said, you know, we don't usually bring babies to church. There are 60 people in this church, most of them old ladies. And my wife sat at the back with the baby, never made a peep. I said, Well, what what would you suggest? There a nursery? He said, Well, what we usually suggest is that you take turns coming to church. I see. And that's. That's. Yeah. So we found a Baptist church and they had a nursery in the had a choir. And they preach the gospel, which that church didn't either. And one day, the Sunday maybe it was Easter. My memory might not be exactly accurate here on the Sunday before Easter. They let a woman give a testimony who was a Jehovah's Witness. Formally until a week ago. And she stood up and with tears in her eyes, she said. On Good Friday. So must have been Easter.

 

This was now two days ago. I was ready to kill myself because of the hopelessness of feeling I could ever measure up in the system of works that I saw in Jehovah's Witnesses, holding my magazines, putting in my hours, walk in the neighborhoods, trying my best to be one of the 144,000 or whatever. And it was all over. And one of your women pointed her out, came to me. Knew me and said, Look, don't hurt yourself. May I suggest this? And then you call me. You call me if. If this doesn't work. I would like you to read tonight before you go to sleep. The whole Gospel of Luke. Give yourself that chance. Read the whole Gospel of Luke tonight. And then, if that is not a place where you meet the true and live in Christ and we'll talk. And I am not sure what I have to say to you, but don't hurt yourself to call me. And she said, when I got to the cross and I guess Simone, it began to slowly after your time, she said it was two or three in the morning and slowly read my way through this man's sacrifice. This right here. Christ died for the ungodly. Heaven opened and I saw Christ. Not literally. I saw the guy. I saw Grace. I saw the true meaning of the cross. I saw what it meant to have your sins forgiven and God accept you. Apart from works of the law. So God at that moment demonstrated to her in her experience and the love of God was poured out into her life. But the agent was the word and behind the word. History. Fact. So frankly, in my life. I am not very impressed by people who direct me away from the word to marvelous experiences.

 

Every religion has marvelous experiences. It's frightening to read the miracles of Hinduism and the miracles of Buddhism. If you think that you're going to be a great Christian because you can do a miracle or two, you are very wrong. It's the Word of God opened by the Holy Spirit, transforming sinners into holy people. That is the great mark of authentic Christianity. So text pointing to face as the means of living in communion with God. So communion with God happens here as the Holy Spirit pours out the Word of God into their lives, as they as they focus on historical reality, the death of Christ mediated now presently by God, the Holy Spirit, into their into their lives. So communion with God is rooted in contemplating the Word of God with faith, especially the promises of His presence and help. You know the quote from Owen? Let me give you the context here. He had just been talking about the beauties of Christ and the great work of Christ in his role as mediator between God and man. And now he says what poor, low perishing things do we spend our contemplations on? I got a letter. And for all I know, the one who sent it to me. Maybe in this room. I don't think so. I think she was from out of town. Wouldn't matter. She told me her story that in 1986, she came to this church as a student at the University of Minnesota. Invited by a friend, she was in a campus ministry, came out of a good, solid Christian home in her perspective, now legalistic to the core she was and she thought, Oh, I don't like this John Piper. He's too emotional, and Christian hedonism sounds all around me.

 

So she never came back. Hasn't been back since, in fact, for 14 years. And she said that she got married, kept on going with her disciplined way of Christian life, and then it hit the wall, its marital problems and her life absolutely dried up. And she said, for 12 years I was absolutely addicted to soap operas. And I didn't have anybody told me that before. I just assume that's true. I don't know why they'd be on TV otherwise if they weren't an addiction, because they're so venal and ugly and gross and disgusting and whatever I think they are, at least at Pizza Hut. They are, which is the only time I ever see TV. And then she said somebody invited her into a Bible study two years ago to read Desiring God. It's the book I wrote about Christian hedonism. And she said, Oh, no, this crazy quack hyper. Again, with his hedonism stuff. She read the first two chapters by Simon, and she said, and as her talking, she said, God put the thought in her head, What if this is true? What if God does mean to be pursued as our ultimate satisfaction? What if we should try to be delighted in him? What if this is our highest calling to enjoy God and not just work for God? And that's that seed thought enabled her to keep reading and she said, God turned me so upside down that I was able to stand back and look at my life and what I really delight it in. And all I saw everywhere was idolatry. Idolatry and TV, idolatry and food, idolatry and family, idolatry everywhere. Because that's what she really loved. That's what she was really satisfied by. That's where she really got her joy.

 

Her kicks was her everything. And she was the most broken person ever was. She repented, profoundly, began to set her face like flit to to find satisfaction in God. And she said, these two years have been like heaven on earth. I'm not there. And she said, I've decided to go. And now she goes, you know, she goes to church. Grace Richfield, she said she took she heard us that we were sending a whole slug of people down there. She drives from the city pretty far out. What poor, low perishing things do we spend our contemplations on, like soap operas or sports? I mean, it's okay to like sports, but not much and not much. Some of our young guys grow out of it, okay? You know, it's a phase. If you don't grow out of it. You remain an adolescent all your life, and and you'll have substitute warfare. So that's what football is, right? It's just an end. So is basketball nowadays. It used to be what it is. Now. It's just warfare. And so guys who can't really go to war, they just have vicarious war and they have their armies and they play the little, little soldiers around. You know, your play Army girls don't know what we're talking about here, probably, but excuse me, ladies, girls, when you were little. Very stereotyped ideas I have here. But my little girl is so different from my boy. I can't believe it. I, I try to. I try to play with her like I play with them. And I'm having to learn from her how to play with her. I knew how to play with my boys. We had helicopters and bombs and you build a tower to knock it down. Everything's blowing up.

 

And. And I. I thought. I thought we would, you know, do that. And she just wants to play people. She would like to us play people. Okay. And she opens her house and she puts people around the table. It can happen here. Where's the bomb? You know, where's the guns? And is this you get on that side of the table and and we'll bring. I'm learning. I'm trying to figure this out. Sports don't. Yeah, don't get too excited about sports. Or were we to have no advantage by this astonishing dispensation that is, were we to get no other benefit than its depths and glory from the media to your role of Jesus beholding what Christ did on the cross and the Resurrection? Yet Its Excellency, glory, beauty, depths deserve the flower of our increase, the vigor of our spirits, the substance of our time. But when with all old fashioned language, our life, our peace, our joy, our inheritance, our eternity, our all lies here, here. So even if we didn't have all this. But what if all of this is in that media story, all work of Christ shall not the thoughts of it always dwell in our hearts, always refresh and delight our souls not. Let me just boil that down to plain up to date English art, the beauty and the glory and the excellence and the depths of Jesus Christ and His work worthy of our dwelling on them and refreshing ourselves by them and delighting in them all the time rather than spending our contemplations on so much that is so love. And we all do this. We all do this. How much time do you spend on the crossword puzzle in the paper? How much time do you spend reading the comics in the paper? How much time do you spend going over the sports page? Or maybe you're a mutual funds person and you spend a half an hour analyzing that page and and then everything.

 

And then you say, Oh, I guess there's no time to read my Bibles. We are profoundly evil people. And thank goodness God is patient with us and merciful toward us that we are so bad towards the world and so bent away from the holy and the good and the beautiful and the glorious. I struggle with it all the time. So communion with God is rooted in contemplating the Word of God with faith, especially the promises of His presence and help. Let's see. And I've one last one last overhead here before we go to a new unit. That's a continuation of that sentence. Communion with God is responding. With fitting affections and communications of our heart to God through the Spirit. He comes to us by His Word. Through faith, we render back to him communications both intellectually and emotionally, through prayer. Vision 618 with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, the Spirit helps our praying. And with this in view, beyond the alert, with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, commune with God, pray in the Spirit to God. Jude 120 But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit doesn't just open the word to you, it opens you to God and enables you to pray as you are. And sometimes when he moves there, such a liberty and a freedom in prayer. And other times it's a it's a hard work because he suffers us to languish for a season. And lastly, Romans 826 in the same way, the spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how we ought to pray, as we should. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

 

So. So sometimes the Holy Spirit takes us in our great groaning. Our great weakness is our great confusion and our worldliness. And all he produces in us is groaning. Oh, God, Oh, God, oh, God, Oh, God. And God interprets those according to the Spirit's loving purpose for our lives. Thank you for listening to this message. By John Piper, Pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Feel free to make copies of this message to give to others, but please do not charge for those copies or alter the content in any way without permission. We invite you to visit desiring God online at w WW dot desiring God dot org. There you'll find hundreds of sermons, articles, radio broadcasts and much more all available to you at no charge. Our online store carries all of Pastor John's books, audio and video resources. You can also stay up to date on what's new at Desiring God. Again, our website is w WW dot desiring God dot org. Or call us toll free at 1888346 4700. Our mailing address is desiring God. 2601 East Franklin Avenue. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 55406. Desiring God exists to help you make God your treasure because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.