More Americans are looking for a little peace of mind in an increasingly frenzied and stressful world. A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals the use of meditation and yoga have risen substantially in the US since 2012.
Meditation has been around for millennia, and is practiced in almost every religion on earth. An increasingly popular form in the US is called mindfulness, which has roots in Buddhism. But most people do not know which forms of meditation are actually found in the Bible. More about that in a minute.
Yoga, on the other hand, has been condemned by many pastors and churches across the country. Still, some churches claim to have converted yoga into a Christian exercise. But is that really possible?
The Yoga Debate
As CBN News reported in November of 2018, Missouri-based megachurch pastor John Lindell reopened the yoga debate among Christians after telling his 10,000 member congregation that practicing yoga "at any level" is "opening your life, your home, your situation to the demonic."
"Every single body position has a meaning," Lindell warned. "Let me say this, yoga positions were not designed by your local fitness instructor. They were designed and they were created with demonic intent to open you up to demonic power. Because Hinduism is demonic."
Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. "Yoga" is a Sanskrit noun meaning "yoke" or "join" in English. Oftentimes the practitioner is trying to unite to a higher power.
Some Christians who practice yoga say they don't focus on its pagan origins, they just focus on Jesus. Yoga often times includes some kind of chant, but Lindell says even chanting "Jesus" while doing yoga still opens your life up to the demonic.
"Demons don't care what you chant, as long as you open the door to them," Lindell said. "They don't care if you are in peace, harmony, have energy or in great shape as long as you give them access."
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The pastor also criticized Christians who say their yoga practice has nothing to do with paganism.
"Some may say that is not what it means to me," Lindell recognized. "Well, when you participate in yoga, that is what it means. To say that the positions of yoga are just exercise is tantamount to saying water baptism is just aqua aerobics."
Personal trainer and author Laurette Willis, who developed a stretching exercise as a Christian alternative to yoga, also told CBN in an interview that yoga postures are really an offering to Hindu gods.
"These are postures that are offered to the 330 million Hindu gods. Yoga postures really are; they are offerings to the gods. If you do these postures and you do this breathing technique and this meditation, then you will be accepted by a god, little 'G.' That's the real danger," she said.
"Romans 12:1-2 says we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God," Willis added. "Here they are doing something very similar with these postures to their 330 million gods, and it is scary. So we abstain from things offered to idols – Acts 15:29."
Meditation – Essential Spiritual Discipline
However, meditation is viewed by many as one of the essential spiritual disciplines for Christians.
Based on the Bible, Christians can utilize meditation, but not in the same ways taught by eastern religions. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The psalmist says "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2). Actually, the Bible mentions meditate or meditation 20 times, according to the website Christian Meditation.
Sam Storms, the lead pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, OK, wrote about Christian meditation on his website Sam Storms.com in which he made the case for Christian mediation.
"To meditate properly our souls must reflect upon what our minds have ingested and our hearts must rejoice in what our souls have grasped," he wrote. "We have truly meditated when we slowly read, prayerfully imbibe and humbly rely upon what God has revealed to us in his Word. All of this, of course, in conscious dependence on the internal, energizing work of the Spirit."
He pointed out that meditation is not just thinking about Scripture, it is being attentive to God.
"It is one way we 'keep seeking the things above where Christ is' (Col. 3:1). It is a conscious, continuous engagement of the mind with God. This renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2) is part of the process by which the Word of God penetrates the soul and spirit with the light of illumination and the power of transformation," Storms wrote.
But meditation without the Word of God is seen as largely only a practice of the New Age movement. Meditation became well known due to the rise of Transcendental Meditation, which was developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the Hindu religion and is steeped in Hindu philosophy, according to the Christian Meditation site.
The Bible Is Crystal Clear on Thinking About Scripture
The Bible is clear when it comes to thinking about Scripture. God wants us to think about His Word, or in other words, meditate on Scripture and then change our ways.
Storms also examined a unique distinction between Christian meditation and eastern meditation, which calls for emptying the mind. The Oklahoma City pastor identifies Christian meditation as filling our mind with Jesus and his truth.
"Instead of metaphysical union with god as practiced by eastern religions, Christian meditation calls for the spiritual communion with God. Instead of mystical transport as the goal of the meditation process, Christian meditation calls for the moral transformation as the goal of ones efforts," Storms wrote.
Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, describes meditation this way:
"Meditation is focused thinking. It takes serious effort. You select a verse and reflect on it over and over in your mind...if you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate" (190).
"No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…If you look up all the times God speaks about meditation in the Bible, you will be amazed at the benefits He has promised to those who take the time to reflect on His Word throughout the day" (190).
In Satisfy Your Soul, Dr. Bruce Demarest wrote that meditation refocuses us from our world to the spiritual:
"A quieted heart is our best preparation for all this work of God...Meditation refocuses us from ourselves and from the world so that we reflect on God's Word, His nature, His abilities, and His works...So we prayerfully ponder, muse, and 'chew' the words of Scripture....The goal is simply to permit the Holy Spirit to activate the life-giving Word of God."
For those who would practice meditation as a way to reach a higher state of consciousness, it may relieve stress, but it is really reaching for nothing. No perfection is to be found within. The Apostle Paul even addresses this in his biblical letter to the Romans. "I know nothing good that lives in me." - Romans 7:18.
For Christians, Jesus Christ alone is our mediator, our Savior and our peace. The only path to peace and fulfillment is God. Philippians 4:7 reminds us: "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
**Originally published March 19, 2019.