Christians & Meditation

I am a Christian.  Is it appropriate for me to do this meditation and yoga?

This is an extremely important question, and one that deserves significant prayer and thought.  Certainly what we do in terms of our minds, hearts, and bodies matters a great deal to God and can influence us powerfully either toward or away from God.  Ultimately I believe a person should choose to do or not to do based on their conscience, provided they have an understanding of the Bible and its core teachings.  One needs to do what they feel is right;  no one else can tell you what is right for you.  I believe that is why God sent us the Holy Spirit, to live inside of us and help us discern what is right and edifies our bodies, minds, and hearts toward Him.  Ultimately we answer for our actions and beliefs to God alone.  We will have to give an account.

I perform certain types of meditation and breathing exercises because I believe it helps me to be a better Christian, husband, father, doctor, and person.  I feel that because I use these tools I am better-able to express my gifts and live my calling.  I believe that if you try them, you will to.  But you need to do what you feel is right.

From my own journey exploring this important question, I have read extensively both from the Bible and other sources.  I have heard it said that there is no place in a Christian’s life for any type of meditation or for yoga for a variety of reasons.  I respect my fellow Christians and am glad that they stand firm in what their hearts believe.  I don’t happen to agree, for me!  I am only able to focus on what’s right for me and am not to judge others or what they feel is right for them. 

There are many, many scriptures that are relevant to this question, but below here are some that I feel may be of help…

On the importance of honoring our body for God:

12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 NASB

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On accepting freedom to decide based on your own judgment and not just on what others have said is “right or wrong”:

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
— Colossians 2:16-23 NIV

Also, forgive me for just throwing in all of Romans 14 here, but I think the whole chapter is relevant to this important question.  It certainly applies here.  Note that Paul is saying that you should do whatever you feel is right, but whatever you do, do as unto God:

Principles of Conscience

14 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
— Romans 14 (NASB)

Of course not one of these scriptures says that a person must or must not do yoga or meditation (although I feel the right type of meditation is very biblical.)  That is why Paul spends so much effort and ink in his epistles teaching principles of walking with God.  It really is not about a set of rules, but a relationship that leads you into higher levels of truth about Him, the world He created, and navigating it.

In these exercises we are not putting any god over our God, we are just training our brain and body to be more relaxed and to let stress roll off our backs like water off a duck.   We are training ourselves to be able to listen to the voice of God by being in the present.  training your mind to be present and at peace in the moment.  Listening without the stir-crazy brain.  Jesus says in Matthew:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
— Matthew 6:34 NASB

It’s clear that Jesus wants that for us, and we’ve probably read that scripture 100 times, but how do we DO that?  It turns out that there are tools to help you do it that you may not have known about.  There is a very powerful influence exerted by particular types of breathing and movements that bring tremendous peace to your mind and body.  Yoga experts have discovered this.  But are these yogis Christians?  Many of them are not.  To me, that doesn’t mean they don’t know anything useful.  We don’t have to believe everything that someone believes to know that they know or practice something that benefits us.

One thing I believe for sure is that a Christian needs to continue to make time for God in his or her life in terms of prayer, Bible reading, worship service attendance, and whatever brings them closer to God.  I personally believe that meditation, deep breathing, and even yoga help calm my mind and help me be able to focus on God and minimize distractions for worship, but are not in and of themselves devotion to God.  If we are using these as a substitute for time with God, that is when we can come into danger of displacing God out of our lives.  It is like when Jesus says:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.
— John 5:39 NASB

Nothing is a substitute for God Himself.  But there are many references in the Bible to physical exercise and meditation.  I believe, as 1 Corinthians 6 teaches, that when we take care of our minds and bodies, we honor God.

It is widely known that stress is highly destructive.  Few argue that it is one of if not the single greatest cause of sickness and disease. Surely God does not want us in this state.  The Lord says:

Be still, and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10

That is a command with which a lot of us constantly struggle.  To be in true peace and to be still.  Jesus says, in John:

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
— John 14:27 NASB

So why are we living in a constant background of tension, stress, and fear?

I have read that the Bible says 365 times DO NOT FEAR.  I’ve never counted them, but I believe it.  But why 365?  Probably because we experience stress EVERY DAY and need reminders to not live in fear.  What is stress if not FEAR?  This crazy world can leave us with an intellectual understanding of peace because we read the promises of God but with stressed-out minds and bodies that keep us from being in true peace. Certainly our mental and physical health are powerfully connected to our closeness with God.  The things I am teaching in this program will dramatically influence the level of peace you experience on a daily basis. 

 If you’re up for it, give these tools a try and see how it goes…

 I hope this helps you on your journey.