I have explored and loved Christian forms of meditation for almost thirty years. There is something so lifegiving to me of sitting with God and surrendering to his love and presence in silence. For me this has been not only lifegiving but life-saving. The peace that I have experienced in Christ has saved me from my own angst and inner turmoil on many occasions. I have been able to re-centre on the One who holds and sustains all things by his powerful word. My experience of the peace of Christ has only been made possible by the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me through faith in Christ.
My early spiritual formation was also deeply impacted by Scripture and the written word. In the Bible we find a reliable revelation of who God is, how we can relate to him and how we can learn to walk in his ways. Fundamentally this involves repentance from sin (as defined by the Bible), faith in Christ crucified (who died in our place on the cross, taking our penalty and punishment) and a fresh and new obedience to God made possible by the indwelling Spirit who produces in us the fruit of obedience.
Once I was dead in my sins and lost, but now I have been born again and the new life of the Spirit has been given to me. Once I was not a child of God. Ephesians 2:3 says that all those who do not know Christ (which did include myself at one point) are “by nature children of wrath”, not children of God. An evangelical understanding of the Christian faith accepts the truth as put forward in the Bible. The Bible is a reliable revelation to us and reveals to us the way of salvation in Christ. Before the new birth we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) After the new birth we have become children of God. We have been born again.
If we are all not automatically children of God then is this clearly described in the Bible? Yes it is. In the first chapter of John's Gospel –
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)
The appearance of Christ marks a radical shift. In verse 11 we read of how Jesus ”came to his own”. As the Jewish Messiah he was rejected by his own people. Of course there were those Jews who believed and followed Jesus, but he was mostly rejected by his own people at the time of his appearing. But these verses mark a radical departure from the understanding that only the Jews are the children of God. Jesus opens up the way to all – Jews and Gentiles alike. He came for all of us to show us the way. However, this does not automatically make anyone a child of God.
Verse 12 of the above Scripture states that only those who receive Jesus and believe in Jesus “are given the right to become children of God”. Those who have been born of God are the children of God. Why is this so important? Because there is a form of teaching which wants to assert that all people are automatically to be designated as “the children of God”. Based on the Scriptures this is a false and misleading teaching. It suggests that all people are automatically indwelt with the Holy Spirit and all people are automatically going to heaven on the day we die. I believe these to be very dangerous and deceptive teachings that lead people away from the teachings of the Bible and the New Testament. They also promise people heaven when they are actually on their way to hell. What a terrible deception that is!
I am a contemplative evangelical because I love contemplation and meeting with God in silence and stillness. I am also a contemplative evangelical because I love the Bible and want to uphold all that the Bible teaches about God, faith and salvation. To compromise these truths would compromise who I am – but more importantly it would involve abandoning the truth of God as revealed in Scripture. It would mislead others into believing things that are contrary to the Bible.
There is something altogether beautiful, glorious and captivating about the God of the Bible - how he reaches into our world and steps down from his holy and glorious thrown in the person of Jesus Christ. How he humbles himself even to death on a cross because he loves us and desires to save us. How God himself - Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our greatest joy and delight. And by finding him as our greatest joy and delight we bring glory and honour to Him. A well rounded and biblical understanding of God must seek to grasp all of the attributes of God revealed to us in Scripture. I understand and accept that we may all have a tendency to emphasise some attributes more than others, but in order to be true to Scripture it's important that we try to not misrepresent God. JI Packer in his best selling and highly influential book "Knowing God" explains how it is possible to know God at all. The only reliable and trustworthy revelation we have is to be found in the Bible. This does not negate our experience but means that we must test any conclusions we make from subjective experience against the plumb line of Scripture.
In part two of Knowing God, Packer speaks of God as the unchanging God, the majestic God, the God only wise, the God of love, the God of grace, God the Judge The wrath of God against sin and evil is highlighted as an important theme found in the Scriptures. The goodness and severity of God and the Jealousy of God. Packer is attempting to do justice to the full breadth of biblical revelation regarding who God is. As a contemplative evangelical my aim is to hold onto and to stand upon the whole revelation of God as found in the Scriptures and to seek the face of God with all of my heart - with longing and yearning that I would know him and experience him more. Join me on the journey!
Richard H H Johnston
Revive Us Again Ministries