Spend Thirty Minutes in Heaven

Lessons on Meditation from Richard Baxter

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Pastor, East Lansing, Michigan

As Christians, we want to grow in our knowledge of Christ, so that we have a greater view of Christ, in order that we might delight more in Christ. We never are content with mere facts about God. We want to know and enjoy him.

Many of us spend time reading the Scriptures because we love truth. We understand the importance of having a daily quiet time. But as J.C. Ryle once asked, do we wander into the “peril of self-satisfaction in just moving the bookmark on the page?” Is it enough that we read truth, observe it, and can point to it? Do we find contentment in the fact that we can talk about it and tell others the details and minutia of it? May it never be true.

“Do we, as Ryle once asked, wander into the ‘peril of self-satisfaction in just moving the bookmark on the page?’”

We want to read the Scriptures with a desire to know our Lord more fully and delight in him more readily. We want to be affected by the truth we know. It matters very little what degrees of truth we embrace if our embracing of truth does not lead us to greater degrees of love and affection for him. He is our great pursuit and our heart’s desire.

Therefore, I find that the prayer I pray for myself more than any other is this: “O Lord, increase my delight in you.” For it is a life that is lived in communion with and delight in the Lord that will grow in greater Christlikeness and give greater glory to God.

Rescue Bible Study from Box-Checking

How can Christians pursue greater delight in our knowledge of Christ? One of the most helpful disciplines for growing in true knowing is the art of meditating upon the Scriptures. Many sermons, many thoughts, much of our Bible reading produces little because we do not press it home. We do not meditate. It is like having dinner and putting the steak in our mouths, but not digesting it. This proves to be of little benefit to the body. It is no wonder why much of our knowledge accumulation proves to be of little benefit to the soul.

Meditation in the history of the church has often been compared to a cow chewing its cud. It is taking a biblical truth about Christ and pressing it home. The discipline of meditation, like a hammer, pounds it into the heart.

Christian meditation is not like meditation found in Eastern mysticism. In fact, they are so different that it is difficult to refer to them with the same title. Eastern mysticism seeks to empty the mind through meditation. Christian meditation fills the mind with truth, turning that truth over and over in the mind, allowing it to grip the heart and stir the affections.

Beating Truth into the Heart

“The impact of our reading and hearing the word often remains shallow because few meditate anymore.”

Richard Baxter has taught me more about the art of meditation than anyone else. He was a Puritan who lived during the 17th century. Baxter suffered chronically from kidney stones, headaches, bleeding, toothaches, swollen feet, and a myriad of other chronic ailments. Yet God used him mightily to evangelize almost an entire town, Kidderminster, England. The city consisted of over 2,000 adults, plus children.

Baxter was a prolific writer as well. Some scholars believe that he wrote more theological treatises and books than any other English writer in the history of theology. In his book The Saints’ Everlasting Rest he tells us what provided such endurance and motivation: Baxter committed to meditating upon heaven for at least a half hour every day.

Baxter comments that the ablest scholar is one who can get a passage of Scripture from his ear to his brain the best. But the best Christian is the one who can get that passage of Scripture from his brain to his heart. Great truths are only great truths to us as they affect our hearts. Meditation pounds truth into the heart.

Tip the Scales

In The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, Baxter states that, because man is a rational creature, we must reason with ourselves. We are to take a truth and mull it over in our minds. He compares it to a balance that sits before us. There is a natural desire to want to tip it, to add a little more weight, and then a little more, and then a little more, and finally the thing tips. So, it is to be with our hearts. We meditate upon a truth and add reason upon reason in order to believe this truth, to revel in this truth, to delight in this truth, and eventually the scale tips. We bring one reason to bear, and then another, arguing with ourselves, until eventually we are affected.

How I would love to see the Christian discipline of meditation return as a practice in our churches. The impact of our reading and hearing God’s word often remains shallow because few meditate on it deeply.

“The prayer I pray for myself more than any other is, ‘O Lord, increase my delight in you.’”

Would you, like Baxter, consider spending thirty minutes in heaven by meditating upon the person of Christ, his promises, or his benefits? It is quite simple and yet pays eternal dividends. Take a promise of Christ or an aspect concerning Christ and mull it over in your mind and convince your heart. It is worth the effort.

Pray, read, meditate, pray, read, meditate, pray, read, meditate, until your heart is affected and stirred. This is a good daily practice for the Christian seeking not just to know more about Christ, but to know more of Christ and delight in him more deeply. And what impact this would have in our churches, if we all took up this discipline.

(@Helopoulos) serves as the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. He is the author of four books, including Let the Children Worship. Jason resides in mid-Michigan with his wife, Leah, and their two children.