By Chuck Lawless
I still remember the first Bible verses I memorized, even though I memorized them decades ago (and in the King James Version, for that matter):
1 John 4:8 – “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I was a young believer saved out of a non-Christian home, and the Bible was new, fresh, and alive to me then. I would be dishonest, though, to say that memorization is as easy today. I often must remind myself of why memorization matters.
- The Bible is the Word of God. Church leaders know this fact, but we don’t always treat the Word with this level of respect. I am particularly burdened by this reality because I’ve been with many people of the world who have little access to this Word. Should not North American believers – who often have more Bibles in our homes than people – be especially grateful? Should we not want to know God’s Word so well that it dwells in our hearts?
- Jesus modeled for us the power of knowing the Word. Three times on the Mount of Temptation, Satan tempted Jesus – and three times Jesus countered him with the Word. In fact, He quoted the book of Deuteronomy (without, it seems, using a concordance or a Google search)! How many of us could readily quote from that book, especially in a moment of agonizing temptation? Jesus showed us that the Word – all of it – has power over the devil.
- Hiding the Word in our heart helps us to avoid sin. That’s what the psalmist told us:
- “In addition, Your servant is warned by them [the ordinances of the Lord]; there is great reward in keeping them.” (Psa 19:11)
- “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Yourword. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You.” (Psa 119:9-11)
The Word of God teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us, and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). Only when we treasure it in our hearts can we most powerfully fight the sin that so easily entangles us (Heb. 12:1).
- The Word drives the garbage from our minds. I’m over 50 years old, but I still occasionally remember images I saw as a teenager. If I allow those images to linger, I’m asking for trouble. Here’s the good news, though: through the Sword of the Spirit (the Word – Eph 6:17), we can capture every thought for Christ. Satan cannot hold our minds in bondage when we wield the Sword.
- Memorizing the Word can help prepare us for the mission field. Whether as a short-termer or as a career missionary, you may go to a place where having copies of the Bible is risky. That danger may be even greater for the people you are trying to reach. If your knowledge of the Scriptures is limited only to what you can read in the moment, you may limit your outreach opportunities.
- The day may come when we have little or no access to the Bible. I am, of course, speaking more to North Americans here. Much of the world already faces this situation. We cannot know when that may happen in our context, but nor can we assume it won’t happen. If that were to occur, how much of the Word would you know? How much of your teaching would be affected? We need to know the Word so well we can teach it without a written text in front of us.
- Memorization review requires daily time with the Word. That’s the nature of memorization – if we don’t do it every day, we forget what we memorized. Even a few minutes a day to review biblical texts can strengthen our walk with God.
This semester at Southeastern Seminary, I am teaching a class on discipleship and Christian growth. One topic we are covering is scripture memorization. Let’s help one another with this task.
What obstacles to memorization do you face? More importantly, what strategies have you found effective?