Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 May 29, 2002
“Meditation, Then Action,”1
Last Sunday night, after our study time, I remarked with one of you that I once guarded my children from the opening segment of the 6:00 P. M. local news—particularly when our children were very small and we lived in the Little Rock, Arkansas, media market. I also remarked that, to my ongoing surprise, that much of my pastoral care over the last five or six years has involved counsel to adults to limit their exposure to the news—since so much of it is bad.
We’ve had more bad news lately. We’ve noted, and mourned over, the unspeakable tragedy at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas—and other tragedies like it. We continue to endure sadness and concern over the ongoing hot war between Russia and Ukraine. We continue to struggle under the effects of inflation, and we continue to dread the threat of recession, amid other economic woes. Add to this list any number of woes you brought to this place today, and we struggle mightily to keep our faces and shoulders from sagging.
We need to meditate on good things. Then we need to act in a manner consistent with them, and, after these, we receive a precious promise appended to them. We have such encouragement in today’s text. Let us give our attention once again to the Word of God read and proclaimed in this text.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
First, we need to think carefully, or to meditate upon a number of things. Let us, then, meditate on whatever is true.2 We need to think, at length and in depth, on that which squares with fact, is real and not imaginary, and is honest and not deceitful. Sometimes we wonder, as we receive news reports, “What is true? What is false? What has been slanted to the news reporter’s point of view, and to what degree?” We need to meditate on whatever is true. We also need to meditate on whatever is honorable. The Greek word translated honorable denotes appropriate, befitting behavior—and the term implies dignity and respect. So much behavior in our culture—yea, even among professing Christians—is inappropriate, flippant, and dishonoring to our triune God. Let us not think on this, but let us think on that which is honorable—and let us think long and deep on this.
We need to meditate on whatever things are just. Just things are things both in accord with what God requires and conducive to just relations with others. We see so much injustice in our world, both by observation and by news delivery, that we need to think on things that are just. We also need meditate on things pure—namely, things relatively free from moral defect or blemish. Granted, there is nothing perfectly pure below Heaven, but let us ponder things freest from moral taint. Also, we need meditate upon the lovely—those things which cause us to feel God’s pleasure. Whether it be the strains of the symphony orchestra, or the exquisite beauty of the fairest flower in the garden, or something else of profound loveliness, let us think on these things.
We need to meditate upon that which is commendable. That which deserves approval, and that which deserves good reputation, deserves a place in our long and deep thinking. We need also to add meditation upon things excellent. In particular, we need to meditate upon the quality of moral excellence—as the underlying Greek word connotes. When we meditate upon the Lord, we comply with this directive when we contemplate His powerful deeds—which, of course, display moral excellence. In short, if anything is worthy of praise—because morally excellent, among other positive reasons—let us meditate upon these things.
Second, we need to act in a manner consistent with those things upon which God calls us to meditate in verse eight. Paul apparently did this, and he enjoins us through the Holy Spirit to do the same, as we read in the first part of verse nine: “Whatever you have learned and received and heard and see in me—practice these things.” This command leads to another, similar Spirit-led commandment that Paul laid upon the Corinthian Christian households, to wit, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Therefore, pursuant to our meditation, let us endeavor, by God’s grace, to do the true, honorable, just, etc.—both for the glory of God and the good of others.
Third, receive the precious promise appended to these: The God of peace will be with you. How precious is the peace of God, especially when it comes to bear upon our lives (7). We then enjoy peace within ourselves and between others. This peace both surpasses all understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God’s peace is a wondrous blessing to our souls. How much more precious, then, is the very God of peace (9). Hence, not merely the gift will be with us, but the Giver will be with us as well. Catherine Marshall, in her book The Helper, asked, “Could anything be better than His presence?”3 The implied answer, of course, is, “No.”
Today, and tomorrow, and onward into such future as God permits before sending His Son a second time, there will be bad news. We must be aware of it. Our text today does not call us to a unwarrantedly rosy, pie-in-the-sky existence; we must be aware and wise in Christ in our time. Yet we must not wallow in bad news. Rather, let us meditate upon those traits displayed to us here. Then let us act, as God leads, consistent with them. Then let us rejoice in God’s good, gracious presence with us—a presence that shall endure and deepen to all eternity.
1 For this succinct statement of much of the material in today’s text, I am indebted to John Calvin, Commentary.
2 For the nuances of each Greek word underlying these admirable qualities, I am indebted to Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).
3 Catherine Marshall, The Helper (New York: Avon Books, a division of The Hearst Corporation, 1978), 33-35.