Why memorize scripture?

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…no other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened!  Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective.  Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change.  Your mind will become alert and observant.  Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced.  Your faith will be solidified.”

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most quoted passages in the Bible — Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the psalm. Little Bobby was excited about the task, but he just couldn’t remember it. After much practice, he could barely get past the first line. On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Bobby was so nervous. When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, “The Lord is my shepherd . . . and that’s all I need to know!”

While that is true, a great snapshot of the Gospel message, I want to talk to you about memorizing Scripture.  You know, we all struggle with this.  We think it is great to do it.  We intend to do it.  We applaud our Awana kids for learning and memorizing Scripture, and yet most of us fall short of actually making it a part of our grown up Christian life.  My task this morning is to convince you that it really is something that is vital to your life.  We all must do it.

Some of the giants of the Faith were convinced that memorizing scripture was critically important.  Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture….no other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends!  Your prayer life will be strengthened.  Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective.  Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change.  Your mind will become alert and observant.  Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced.  Your faith will be solidified”

Since we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, let’s talk about Martin Luther: One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was influenced to love Scripture by Johann Staupitz.  Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther said that his fellow professor, Andreas Karlstadt, did not even own a Bible when he earned his doctor of theology degree, nor did he until many years later. Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 1:17, he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” in order to confirm what he had found.

But I want to provide you with five practical reasons why YOU really should memorize God’s Word:

God’s Word is the number one tool for resisting temptation. 

A few years ago we loved the saying WWJD – that stands for “What would Jesus do?”  We have a wonderful picture of what Jesus did when we look at his temptation in the wilderness described in Matthew 4.  Satan offered Jesus some very tempting things, but Jesus didn’t just wing it.  He had obviously spent time learning and memorizing Scripture.  When Satan attempted to twist God’s Word and veer Jesus away from obedience to his mission from God, Jesus just quoted Scripture from memory. Jesus said in each of the three temptations, “It is written….”and then told Satan exactly what God had said.   He didn’t have to say, let me grab my scroll, or let me check this out on my I-phone, or let me ask my pastor.  He knew applicable scripture and said it out loud to refute Satan’s claims.

Think how differently things might have gone in the Garden of Eden if Adam and Eve had paid closer attention to exactly what God had told them, and had the command from memory.  God said to Adam  in Genesis 2:16-17 “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Then when Satan came to Eve he cast doubt on what God had said: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”   of course that was NOT what God actually said, Satan was already twisting God’s Words.  Eve responds and adds to God’s original command:  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” To which Satan responds“You will not surely die….” You see that is always the way that Satan, the Father of Lies, comes to us.  He makes it sound almost the same as God’s original word, but He starts playing with the details.  If we don’t know what God actually said, we get into trouble.  God’s original command here was quite clear.  You can eat anything you want, just not that one tree, and if you do you will die.  No ambiguity there.  But Satan casts doubt on what God actually says, and then when we start doubting, he plants a bold faced-lie.  God had said they would die. Satan clearly lies when he says that they would not.  This is why we need to be students of the Word and pay attention to the details.  It is in the details that Satan messes with us.

In Ephesians 6: where Paul tells us about the armor of God, note that we are only given one offensive weapon “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  What does that mean?  When Satan comes at us with his lies, the one weapon we can attack his lies with is God’s Word.  Unless we know the Word and have the Words in our heart, we will not be able to attack and refute the lies.  We will be easy prey for the temptation that Satan offers.

God’s Word helps you make wise decisions.

How many of us need help making wise decisions?  How many of us struggle with figuring out what the wise thing to do actually is?  Did you know that God’s Word, alive in our hearts, will help us figure out what the wise thing is?  Rick Warren says that he can’t count how many times he has asked God for guidance about something very specific and God has brought to mind a Scripture that he has memorized, showing him what to do.  The more you know what God says, the more you are going to know how God thinks.  The will of God is found in the Word of God.  The more you fill your mind with the Word of God, the more you will know the will of God. The Bible says, Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.  (Psalm 119:105) He will show you where and how to walk in making wise decisions by reminding you of His Word.

God’s Word strengthens you when you’re under stress. 

We all get stressed from time to time.  And the Bible says this: Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.   This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. (Ps 119-49-50) Isaiah says in 40:31: they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;  they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary;   they shall walk and not faint.  It is God’s Word that gives us hope and life.  It is God who bears us up when we are too tired to go on. If you will memorize Scripture, your stress level will decrease dramatically and your confidence level will increase dramatically, because you will have the Words already in your heart when you need them.

God’s Word comforts you when you’re sad.

The Bible is full of God’s comfort for His people.  Not just in one place but throughout the Bible.  Jesus said in Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  And there are countless places in the Psalms I turn when I need comfort.  It is good to know God’s assurances when we are sad, and it is also good to know that most of what we feel has already been felt by someone else in the Bible.  And it is good to be comforted with the comfort of someone, like the psalmist, who talks about experiencing the same things we experience. When we gain God’s perspective, through the psalmist, on what we are experiencing then it is like a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field. They look great from up in the stands. But have you thought about what they look like from the sidelines? Pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless. We see life from the sidelines. God sees it from the stands. As we gain perspective, as we have more of His Word in our hearts, we leave the sidelines and start working our way up.

God’s Word helps you share the gospel with unbelievers. 

How many of us had a time when there was a great opportunity to share Jesus with someone, and we felt like we just didn’t have the words?  Opportunities to share the gospel often come when we do not have a Bible with us.  Actual verses of the Bible have their own penetrating power that surpasses our own words.  And when verses come from our heart, as well as from the Lord’s Word, the witness is given that the Bible is so precious that it is worth memorizing.  And remember Romans 10:17: faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  There is power in God’s Word.  This power exceeds any of our feeble explanations under our own power and creativity.  So keep some verses in your heart that will minister to an unbeliever the next time you have the opportunity and let God’s Word be heard.

What one of us would not want to do the five things we’ve talked about today?

  • Resist temptation
  • Make wise decisions
  • Be strengthened
  • Be comforted
  • Share the gospel effectively

If so, then memorizing Scripture is for you!

But memorizing Scripture is not just about having a few key verses from heart that we have learned by rote.  Jesus says in John 15:5: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. What is this curious phrase “my words abide in you?”  It means that the Word of God takes root in us and bears fruit.  It means that his Words find a home is us. They fit.  They belong.  When the Word abides in us, it finds a place, a home. It’s not foreign, it belongs.  You move other things around and even get rid of some things so that the Word has room and “feels at home.”  The Word of Jesus doesn’t just abide without effect.  When it takes root, it produces faith and holiness.  When his Word abides in us, sanctification happens.  We are transformed.  Holiness and Christlikeness happen.  The Words of Jesus take root and bear the fruit of faith and holiness.

So how could we not want to have all this in our lives as grown-ups, just like our Awana kids do?  I’d like to point out two opportunities we have to embrace Scripture memorizing.  First, we have an annual denominational program in which you can participate.  It has been going on for decades and even though it already began in the Fall, there is plenty of time to catch up.  The theme for the denominational Scripture memory program is always tied to the Annual Conference theme.  Since not everyone goes to conference, this may not be of interest to all of you, but any Scripture memory work is always going to pay off.  So go ahead and do it if it appeals to you!  And just a reminder that the Annual Conference will be in Kenosha this year, so it will be easier for all of us to go and we’ll have more information on that later.

For a more local flair for Scripture memorization, Pastor Nate and I are launching a Scripture Memory Program that will be unique to our church in 2018.  These verses will focus on the Values of our Vision for the church, and verses that relate to those values, and how we live and minister together as a church family.  Pastor Nate will also be communicating on a monthly basis on these values, so we will be revealing one month at a time, sort of like an advent calendar, the verse for that month that relates to our emphasis.  Pastor Nate will begin this in February, so I’m going to give you a memory verse for January relating to the value of memorizing Scripture that we read in our Spiritual Life passage. Our January verse is one that we just read in our spiritual life passage and one that many of you already have memorized.

Psalm 119:11:

I have stored up your word in my heart,  that I might not sin against you.

Memorize it, meditate on it.  Learn it, Live it! Memorize both plans!  However you choose to participate, we encourage you to begin storing up God’s Word in your heart, that you too can reap the rewards that we’ve talked about today.