The Spiritual Discipline of Meditation - page 4

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From the Fall 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Spiritual Discipline of Meditation:

Reading Scripture with Isaac Ambrose

by Tom Schwanda, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Formation & Ministry,Wheaton College


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  Ambrose offers additional guidelines for the actual hearing of Scripture, counseling us to (1) set ourselves in God’s presence while listening to Scripture, (2) diligently attend to Scripture, (3) seek to understand what we read or hear, (4) be submissive to Scripture, (5) apply the Scripture to our hearts and lives, (5) allow Scripture to stir up our affections for the proper response, and (6) above all delight in God’s word. A review of these principles confirms that Ambrose stressed both the intellectual truth and the affective experience of Scripture.  
  Ambrose next provides instruction for how we should respond to Scripture after it has been heard: (1) carefully remember and keep what we heard or read, (2) meditate and seriously think over what we have heard, (3) repeat and continue to reflect upon the message we heard or read, (4) put into practice what we heard, and (5) pray for a blessing from the Scripture and allow that memory to be turned into prayer.12  Ambrose’s teaching on preparation illustrates the thoroughness that marked the Puritans.
While Ambrose’s threefold suggestions of preparation may seem overly ambitious for our contemporary culture, they do challenge us with the critical question: how can we be most alert and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s desire to communicate God’s word to our heads and hearts? The more receptive we are, the more likely Scripture will be able to dwell within our hearts.

Guidance on Meditation on Scripture

  The following example of Ambrose’s meditation on the Holy Spirit will illustrate his approach and use of Scripture. He first reviews several Old Testament passages that speak of the prophecy of the Spirit’s coming (i.e., Isa. 32:15; Zech. 12:10; Joel 2:28–29). Ambrose uses the Joel passage to create a bridge to Peter’s sermon citation in Acts 2:17–18. Ambrose then reminds his readers of Jesus’ promise of the Spirit as His replacement, here quoting John 14:16–17; 15:26; 16:7; Luke 24:49. Next Ambrose returns to Acts 2:4 and exegetes this Pentecost text more fully. There is more, but I trust this demonstrates how Ambrose lays down the biblical portion in meditation.  
  After Ambrose has considered the biblical teaching on an aspect of Christ’s life, he invites his readers to look at Jesus in that specific aspect of His ministry. Ambrose identifies nine ways of looking: knowing, considering, desiring, hoping, believing, loving, enjoying, calling, and conforming to that aspect of Jesus’ life. In the context of “enjoying Jesus,” the following quotation reveals Ambrose’s method for stirring up the affections and applying this to one’s life:  

How should it heighten my joys and fill me with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, when I do consider that Christ has sent down his Holy Spirit into my heart? . . . O what comfort is this! I know that the Spirit of Christ is my intimate? That my soul is the temple and receptacle, the house and dwelling of the Spirit of God? . . . Christ in his bodily presence went away, but Christ in his Spirit continues still . . . O my soul was it not an encouragement to the disciples in a storm, that Christ was with them, whom the winds and waves obeyed? Cheer up now, for if the Spirit is in you, Christ is with you . . . O my soul! Remember this in all your troubles; there can be no human want or danger whatsoever, wherein the improvement of this indwelling of the Spirit may not refresh you.13

  Ambrose frequently employs the use of soliloquy such as “O my soul” to preach to himself and further apply the biblical truth to his own heart.

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