The Two Trees
Those who have practiced Eastern-style meditation, with its emptying of the mind and/or visualization (imagery), often do so because they desire to acquire peace, or because they are hurting and desire their inner psycho-spiritual needs to be met. Yet they will eventually find that their needs are not met, and they are more empty than ever. Further, this type of meditation opens one's mind to occult spirituality - even if it is done under the aura of being "Christian."
Those who engage in the pantheon of contemplative practices need to beware that it is described as "two intentions that are the foundation of all contemplative practices: cultivating awareness and developing a stronger connection to God, the divine, or inner wisdom." See "The Tree of Contemplative Practices" posted HERE. This is a graphic representation of how the "roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts."
Looking at this tree, it is obvious that what passes for "Christian" meditation in our modern era springs from the Gnostic roots of this occult tree. Is it any wonder that this tree then bears corresponding occult fruit? Note that this contemplative tree does not promise life, only "wisdom," which just happens to be what the serpent promised Eve if she ate of the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden.
But what about the person who is truly needy? One who is experiencing a crisis of faith? Who is being persecuted? The fragile believer who feels that their faith is floundering or drying up? These struggling believers are being encouraged to run to this "contemplative tree" of eclectic spiritual practices to find refuge, solace and comfort. After all, it is trendy to run to this contemporary contemplative tree, despite its antiquated roots buried in the deep strata of occultism.
This alluring multifaceted tree promises healing, renewal, insight, rest, wisdom and access to God. But, warning! Eating its fruit results in spiritual blindness and deafness, bondage and emptiness.
The Tree of Life
There is another tree, which is found in Scripture. It is based on the Word of God. Psalm 1 describes the believer who finds his "delight in the the law of the LORD" and says that in this law (God's Word) "doth he meditate day and night." If a believer does this he is promised that he shall "be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (verses 2-3, emphases added). What a promise!
Meditating on the Word of God produces beautiful fruit in the lives of Christian believers. There are many other promises in Scripture for the believer who meditates upon God's Word. These are personal promises that apply not only to daily living, but also to a wide variety of life crises, feelings, situations, hurts, pains, persecutions, trials, trouble and dangers. Here is just a brief sampling, starting at Psalm 119, which is a treasure trove of promises to those who meditate on God's Word; i.e. His precepts, commandments, judgments, law and testimonies:
- vs. 25 - My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy Word.
- vs. 28 - My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy Word.
- vs. 97 - O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
- vs. 104 - Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
- vs. 105 - Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
- vs. 130 - The entrance of thy Words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
- vs. 133 - Order my steps in thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
- vs. 134 - Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.
- vs. 161 - Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy Word.
- vs. 162 - I rejoice at thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil.
Isaiah 29 warns about idolatrous hearts (vs. 13) and says that the "wisdom of their wise men shall perish" (vs. 14). Then Isaiah 30 speaks to those who "despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon" (vs. 12), but promises that "in returning [i.e., repentance] and rest shall ye be saved." This same verse promises the very thing that contemplative practices claim to accomplish - rest! And it further promises that "in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." But, sadly, the verse concludes with the tragic statement: "and ye would not."
God's ways are not hidden like the obscure "wisdom" of the occult that must be meditated upon in endless ways that never satisfy. He has given us His Word openly. Twice in Isaiah God says, "I have not spoken in secret" (Isaiah 45:19 and 48:16). God's Word does satisfy, and we are promised in Isaiah 55:11 that: "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
The New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts, records the power of the Word of God to change human lives. The backdrop to the events in Acts is strikingly similar to our modern era with its rapidly rising idolatry and occult spirituality. God's Word alone has the miraculous power to change lives. Paul told King Agrippa that the purpose of preaching the Gospel (i.e., God's Word) was "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). And in Romans Paul states that the Gospel of Christ "is the power of God unto salvation" (vs. 16).
Many today avoid God's Word. They do not run to it as a source of strength and sustenance. They will do anything but read God's Word! In Jeremiah 2:13 we read how readily people will substitute an inferior man-made product for The Way: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."
Perhaps the reason for avoidance of God's Word is because His Word is uncomfortable - it is "quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The Word provokes believers to have their conscience quickened to sin in their hearts and lives, and it encourages them to "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8)!
Many Scriptures warn about hardening of the heart, which is the consequence of not obeying the Word. These are not popular verses in our era, particularly the ones that refer to hardness of heart being wicked!
- John 12:40 - "He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."
- Romans 2:4-5 - "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;"
- Proverbs 21:29 - "A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way."
- Proverbs 28:14 - "Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief."
- Proverbs 29:1 - "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
Hebrews 3:8 warns particularly, "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness," which is followed by verse 11, "So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest." This is that true rest which can only be found in obedience to God's Word. It cannot be obtained through the pursuing of meditative mechanisms.
Eating the fruit of "The Tree of Contemplative Practices" cannot result in either repentance nor rest, but rather in an increasing tolerance for doctrinal ambiguity, sinful living, ecumenism, and mysticism. Romans 1 describes the downhill progression that begins with being "vain" in one's "imaginations." This vanity seems an apt description of all entry-level contemplative practices. It quickly degenerates into one's "foolish heart" becoming "darkened." Romans 1 indicates that this downward spiral becomes outright idolatry, vile affections, a reprobate mind, and a long list of evil practices.
Where is God's sovereignty and majesty? Job was chastised by God for his inadequate and inferior view of Him. Couldn't the same thing be said today to those who worship at "The Tree of Contemplative Practices"? While they pursue their various pilgrimages, meditations, chantings, journalings, sweatlodges and visionquests, God is saying to them: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding?" (vs. 4).
Likewise, Isaiah 66:5a cries out: "Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word." Does anyone tremble at His Word anymore? Jeremiah Burroughs, in his classic work Gospel Fear: Developing a Tender Hart that Trembles at the Word of God (1647), describes the effects of having a "fear of the Lord" which is the "instruction of wisdom," as stated in Proverbs 15:33, and notes that those who tremble at the Word must have a "teachable disposition.". Citing Proverbs 17:10 ("A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool"), Burroughs asks: "Do you find your heart so tender that a word works upon you? This is a sign of the wisdom of God that is in your soul."
Once again, ironically, the very thing that those who pursue after contemplative mysticism desire - wisdom - is there all along for those who immerse themselves in God's Word! It is interesting that Proverbs 3, especially verses 13 and 18, promises wisdom, saying that it is a "tree of life" - "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding... She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her." [emphasis added]
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
1. "The Tree of Contemplative Practices," the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree.html
3. Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Fear: Developing a Tender Hart that Trembles at the Word of God (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2001), www.SDGbooks.com.
4. p. 46.
5. p. 86, emphasis added.