Jason Garwood – Biblical Meditation As Experiential Reading

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Perhaps one of the greatest ironies should be assigned to our current situation: we have more access to Scripture and its rich historical truths than ever before and yet we have in our churches an ever-increasing lethargy when it comes to the exploration of said truths. In other words, we have the Bible in our pockets with information at our fingertips and yet we lack a desire to experience the Word afresh. Maybe instead of calling it an irony we could call it a tragedy.

The truth is, we have Study Bibles, Bible software, Bible studies, Bible apps, Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible lexicons, and voluminous works after voluminous works of history’s finest theologians—and we’re not any smarter, any more holy, or any more passionate about God and his Word. What’s the problem?

BIBLICAL MEDITATION

In our drive-through Christianity in America, we value our time and our dollars, which means we don’t have the time or the capital to slow down and digest Scripture. Either we’re not hungry because we’re not walking with Christ, or we are hungry but we prefer the dollar menu rather than the fine dining banquet. We lack time and we lack passion.

Consequently, Biblical meditation requires us to swim upstream from our culture. When the Apostle Paul challenged Timothy to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV), I can’t believe for one second that he meant it should be easy.

Biblical meditation is when the Spirit-filled reader ruminates on the word of God and is shaped by the Spirit to its message. When a person desires to meditate on the Word as we are told to do often in Scripture (e.g., Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:2, 19:14, 119:97-99, 143:5; Eph. 4:17-18), she reads the words on the page, brings its truth to mind, ponders it in light of what it says about God and herself, and seeks to apply it to every aspect of her being. While many various eastern religions emphasize the “emptying” of one’s mind, Christian meditation emphasizes the filling of one’s mind so as to align with the Triune God.

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Jason Garwood – Grounded on the Rock

Garwood Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. and everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the all of it.” — Matthew 7:24-27

Have you ever experienced vertigo? I am fearful of heights, so I expect to feel some sort of disorientation whenever confronted with this fear. On several occasions I’ve lost my bearings and felt dizzy and didn’t know why. It came out of nowhere. It’s a weird feeling—you lose all sense of control, oftentimes wanting to lay down, but even then solace cannot be found. Sometimes people with vertigo live in a perpetual state of dizziness and motion sickness. I’m married to one. It’s not fun. Even my wife’s own driving can make her feel sick at times.

Sin is like vertigo: it disorients your life in such a way that you lose your sense of grounding. When the foundation of our lives moves away from being the Word of God—idols and false identities gladly take its place. We begin to lose control (and even that makes us frustrated). Our perception of people and the world around us begins to shift, thus causing us to misjudge and make assumptions. We fail to see things clearly. Sin is not just a transgression of God’s Law, it’s a redefining of it. Sin flips our world upside down.

STAYING GROUNDED

In the book of Matthew, these themes of rocks, buildings, and foundations develop underneath the plot. Back in chapter four, Jesus stayed firm on the rock of God’s Word when put to the test by Satan. Instead of caving to Satan’s wishes and circumventing the will of God, Jesus remained steadfast in his commitment to the Father. Here in Matthew 7, Jesus shares a story, contrasting what life is like when you are anchored in him, and what life is like when you’re a fool. The difference isn’t the house, but rather the foundation underneath it. Either the house will be built on a foundation that can withstand the onslaught of storms, or it will be built on sand which shifts around making things unstable, leading to an inevitable disaster.
What many tend to forget is that this theme of “rock” returns in chapter sixteen when Peter makes a profound confession as to the identity of Jesus. While others continue to perpetuate misunderstanding by failing to see Jesus for who he really is, Peter gets it right. Rocky, which was Peter’s nickname, confesses that there is a solid foundation, and his name is Jesus.

While many different expositors argue over what this “rock” is—is it Jesus? Peter? His confession?—I tend to believe the answer is, “Yes” to all of these. It is Peter and his apostles in a sense (Eph. 2:20), and it has everything to do with Peter’s confession (because what basic truth is more foundational than the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God?). But it also has everything to do with Jesus himself who is, in fact, the cornerstone (Matt. 21:42; 1 Pt. 2:1-8), which is what “Rocky” confesses.

Exegetical debate and arguments aside, the fact remains: The Word of God, which gives testimony to the truth of Jesus’ identity, is the foundation that holds the Church in place. The Temple was built with large rocks on a large mountain in Jerusalem. And yet here is the true Temple, the fullness of God dwelling with man, walking among a people whose lives are built on sand. Jesus came to change the foundation so we could stay grounded.

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Jason Garwood – Blessed Are Those Not Offended by Christ

Garwood Matthew’s story of John the Baptist asking who Jesus was (Matt. 11:1-6) deserves our undivided attention. This is a familiar passage and one we should run to in time of need. John the Baptist was imprisoned at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry (4:12), so he had heard about the deeds of Christ (11:2), but is somewhat baffled he’s still in jail. He wonders why cataclysmic judgment has yet to occur. Many at that time thought that the Messiah who was promised to come would bring fiery judgment against God’s enemies and vindicate his people. The prophets before had promised it. John himself continued to herald that message. But things hadn’t panned out for John. He was imprisoned somewhere east of the Dead Sea because of Herod’s self-involved infatuation and egotism, and Rome was still occupying the land. With a hint of bewilderment, John’s disciples ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (11:3).

A UNIQUE RESPONSE

That’s a loaded question—but one that would be asked several times until Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” How does Jesus answer this? His reply is puzzling. Jesus pulls from several passages in Isaiah describing what is happening under His ministry: the blind can see, the lame are now walking, lepers are cleansed, the deaf can now hear, the dead are raised, and the poor hear the gospel preached. Careful readers will note that in quoting Isaiah, Jesus leaves off two remarkable things: The day of vengeance (which would come in A.D. 70; cf. Is. 35:4 with Lk. 21:22), and the release of prisoners (Is. 61:1). No doubt John the Baptist would have been mildly shocked to hear that the Messiah’s work would not involve a rescue and release plan for him. A cruel fate under the Sovereign care of God would await John (Matt. 14:1-12).

CRYPTIC WISDOM

The real shock comes when Jesus sends John’s inquiring disciples away with this beatitude: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (vs. 6). John was not offended with Christ; he was merely inquisitive about this Lamb who was to take away the sins of the world. Just prior Jesus had explained God’s Kingdom demands for his disciples (Matt. 10). Mockery, ridicule, slander, and even death awaits the disciple of Christ. John’s story is no different. Don’t we face real temptation to be offended by Christ? Or to be put off, embarrassed, or ashamed by him?

Jesus calls the one who is not ashamed blessed. Remarkable, isn’t it? In terms of worldly standards, Jesus was just a nice guy who got caught up in something nasty. Wrong place, wrong time. Why should we waste time giving him a second thought? He failed to meet so many people’s expectations, so why bother?

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Jason Garwood – Beholding the Glory of Christ in Prayer

Garwood I had to learn the hard way.

Isn’t that sometimes the best way though?

I remember as a child learning the importance of prayer. Bowing your head, folding your hands, and closing your eyes were all key elements. My friends and I made a game out of the process, sometimes accusing each other of not following protocol. “You had your eyes open,” someone would exclaim. “How would you know that if you had your eyes closed like you should have!” I would reply. It was fun at the time, but I didn’t quite grasp the importance of prayer until much later on in life. What started as a harmless game would later become a magnificent burden.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

One of the challenges I have as a father is teaching my children to pray. In the Garwood home, we pray before we share a meal, before bedtime, and usually in the car when the occasion arises. My seven year old son enjoys thanking God for the great day he had, especially if it involved him getting to go outside for a while to play. My three year-old daughter likes to pray about things she wishes were true, like the family going to the water park or traveling to see the grandparents. My two year-old son prays in tongues (I’m kidding). Actually, the only thing I can understand with him is “Amen” at the end, as he moves on with his day.

All joking aside, when I pray with my children, I try to convey one of the most important reasons for prayer—the beholding of the glory of Christ. Why is this important? Take a look at what Jesus prays in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” God the Son prays to the Father and asks that those who belong to him would behold his glory.

The goal of our praying ought to be the beholding of Christ.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BEHOLD

What does it mean to “see” Christ’s glory, and why would this be something worth pursuing? Ultimately, the Bible teaches us that we will see Christ’s glory in two ways: by faith now (2 Cor. 5:7-8) and by sight in eternity (1 Cor. 13:12).1 The end result of our running the race is a face-to-face meeting with Christ. The challenge, however, is the running of the race. We live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), which means that our pursuit of God through the means of grace we call “prayer” involves faith. We must believe the promises of God. We must cling to the truths we find in the Scriptures. The beholding we do now by faith in prayer leads to the beholding we will do in eternity. One is temporary. The other is everlasting.

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Jason Garwood – Tools for Making War

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Men, if we are going to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ then we must equip our soldiers with appropriate tools to do battle. Soldiers who are unequipped or even ill-equipped with no tools, or faulty tools, will do great harm to themselves and others. If we as disciples who make other disciples (this is, after all, our commission) are going to win the battle against the flesh and the enemy, we must make war.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Ephesians 6:10-20:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

The Apostle Paul is not saying that we wrestle only against rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers, but that those powers are the bigger picture. This passage is a call to arms — a call to do battle against the enemy. Like a general getting his soldiers ready, so Paul wishes to get the Church ready for war. The entire metaphor is built around the Spirit’s work of providing protection for us on our way to glorification.

First, he says that we are to be strong “in the Lord.” There is much in the world to drive us to despair, so we need strength in God, not in self or anyone else. Christ has called us to do good works (Eph. 2:10), and we have access to the Father by the power of the Spirit through the work of Christ (2:18). The road won’t be easy, since we have to walk as wise people, not unwise people (3:15), knowing that evil abounds (3:16). There’s much at stake in this battle of sanctification. The enemy is real.

First, he says that we are to be strong “in the Lord.” There is much in the world to drive us to despair, so we need strength in God, not in self or anyone else. Christ has called us to do good works (Eph. 2:10), and we have access to the Father by the power of the Spirit through the work of Christ (2:18). The road won’t be easy, since we have to walk as wise people, not unwise people (3:15), knowing that evil abounds (3:16). There’s much at stake in this battle of sanctification. The enemy is real.

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Jason Garwood – Returning to the Good News

e129b34154c7090222f6dc6de745c577 “What you really need is good news,” I told him. He didn’t understand. We had met time and time again and unbeknownst to him, he was trying to perform his way into the kingdom. “You can’t do that,” I exhorted, “otherwise you miss the entire point of Jesus and his performance on your behalf!”

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all need good news. Not just good news, but better-than-anything news. News that announces something spectacular—like nothing you could ever imagine or fabricate. And until you recognize this need, you’ll be helpless. Like an engine with no gas, your life, without a constant barrage of Jesus-is-King news, will stall.

I often tell my congregation that I have 34 years left in my ministry here, and for those 34 years, you will hear the gospel over and over again, not because you don’t know it in your brain, but because knowing it in your brain isn’t enough. We must know it—I must know it—in our hearts, and in our hands. The gospel isn’t the starting point—it is the point. It’s the point of everything! And until we understand this truth, we will continue to be lured away, enticed by other false gospels that over-promise and under deliver.

Martin Luther is reported to have said that he continues to preach the gospel each and every week because each and every week his people forget it. I’m sure he would include himself in this assertion because let’s face it, we’re all guilty as charged.

Because of this, I came up with five simple reasons as to why we need to hear about Jesus and his glorious gospel each and every day. “Give us Jesus” ought to be the rally cry of the church. Over and over again, our hearts should be yearning to hear the gospel again and again—like my two-year-old daughter begging for a “horsey-ride” on my back, let us go back to the truth that sets us free.

Give us Jesus and his gospel:

1. SO OUR AFFECTIONS ARE STIRRED

Our emotions are impressed with many things. Whether a good movie, television show, football game, or shiny new Apple product, we love an emotionally stirring experience. We thrive on it. But what happens when those emotions become sour? What happens when we just don’t feel like worshiping Jesus and finding joy in him? What do you do when your affections are clouded with bitterness, jealousy, envy, and anger?

Jonathan Edwards is helpful: “Upon the whole, I think it is clearly manifest, that all truly gracious affections arise from special and peculiar influences of the Spirit, working that sensible effect or sensation in the souls of the saints.”[1] It is the Holy Spirit that drives our affections towards gospel holiness and one of the means by which he does so is through gospel proclamation. We need it. Fighting for joy is absolutely that: a fight; but joy in him is absolutely worth it (Ps. 16:11). Only when old affections have been expunged by greater, far superior affections can we be free from idolatry. Give us Jesus so our affections are stirred!

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