I was blessed last night to have the opportunity to dramatically present the book of Jonah from memory at a local church. I love being able to share God’s word in a fresh way with others. I pray it blesses them as much as the people I got the idea from (Bruce Kuhn, Tom Meyer, Jason Nightingale, and Marquis Laughlin) bless me.
One of the things I do when I present dramatically is to encourage those listening to consider memorizing larger portions of God’s word (chapters or books) rather than just memorizing individual verses. While memorizing specific verses is important, I believe that memorizing larger portions in context does something deep in us to make the word of God take a deeper root in our hearts and lives.
I want to encourage you to actively hide God’s word in your heart (whether it is individual verses or larger passages). We are told in Colossians to “[l]et the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (3:16, ESV). Does the word of God dwell in you? Is it living deep down inside of you instead of just visiting occasionally as you open the Bible and read? Again, reading the word of God is good and necessary. But letting the word of God dwell in us has special benefits.
For one thing, we are told that the person who meditates on God’s word is blessed (or happy, although this is a deeper form of happiness than we normally think about) in Psalm 1. As we ponder God’s word and think about it, we become more firmly planted, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3) This is not a picture of a tree barely surviving, but of a tree that is flourishing! Our lives should be like that, and they will be more and more as we meditate on God’s word. The idea of meditating is a picture of turning something over and over in our mind. This is no casual reading of God’s word, but a deep and focused thinking on the content of the word of God. To do this well, we really need the word inside of us, not just in a book that we pick up on occasion.
Second, as we meditate on God’s word, we will then realize it is one of the main ways God transforms us to be more like Christ. As we begin to understand God and His ways and thoughts, we will “be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind.” (Romans 12:2, ESV) As our minds are changed, so are we. Our thoughts determine how we live our lives, so as our minds are filled with the very thoughts of God, our lives begin to morph into a life patterned after those thoughts. Dallas Willard, one of the foremost teachers on spiritual discipline and being transformed into Christlikeness, has argued that Scripture memory is basically the most important spiritual discipline one can practice for this very reason. If anyone is interested, he recommends memorizing Matthew 5-7, John 14-17, and Colossians 3, among other passages.
One last reason why Scripture memory is so important is that it keeps us from sin. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my hear that I might not sin against you.” (ESV) As we meditate on God’s word and allow it to transform our minds and form us to be more like Christ, we are increasingly aware of what is holy and what is not. By deeply immersing ourselves in God’s word, and letting it dwell in us, we are protected and armed against the tricks that Satan brings against us to turn us away from God’s ways. As we know God’s word more, and as it abides more deeply in us, we can say with Paul that we “are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV) We are in a daily battle, so let’s be sure we are prepared to guard ourselves.
These are not the only reasons to memorize Scripture and let it dwell in us, but they are good ones to consider, I think.
Make it a point to begin committing Scripture to memory. Challenge yourself to memorize larger portions. Start with Psalm 1 (it’s only 6 verses) or 1 Corinthians 13. Work your way up from there. Take it one verse at a time, and God will enable you to grow in the knowledge of Him.