An Appeal for Scripture Memorization
January 04, 2004 | Andy Davis
Andy Davis preaches a topical sermon on Scripture memorization. The sermon explores scriptures that encourage memorization, common objections, and the benefits of memorization.
Verses that Encourage Memorization
This is an unusual Sunday. Ordinarily, I would choose a passage of Scripture and just preach through it. That's called expository preaching, and that's what I like to do, and that's my desire as a regular basis, but this is a topical sermon. You'll understand the significance of that. This is a topical sermon on Scripture memorization. But I'm excited and I've been looking forward to preaching this for a long time. I believe that, on Judgment Day, when I have the mixed experience of looking back over every moment of my life with Jesus as my guide, and my filter, and my Judge, I will look back on one particular time in the summer of '86, as one of the greatest days of my life. And it's funny how you don't expect when you wake up that morning, that that's going to be one of the greatest days of your life. And frankly, I didn't know it even when the sun went down that day, that something had happened to me that day, that would change the rest of my life. But I was on a mission trip in Kenya, and I was waiting for a bus. Now, in America, buses come at 11:14 or 10:17 or something like that. Same thing in Japan, the bullet trains come down to the 30 seconds.
In Kenya, the buses come in the morning or in the afternoon. And when I tried to get more specific about it, the Kenyan pastor that I asked looked at me puzzled. He said, "In the afternoon, the bus will come." So I thought, alright. Being an American there, I appeared at the bus station at 11:50, just to be sure, in case it was a little bit earlier or their watches were fast. I didn't want to miss that bus. The bus eventually came at 4 o'clock, something like 4 o'clock, I don't know. I kind of got the idea around 12:30 or 1 that it was going to come in the afternoon and that was that. So what am I going to do? And I had with me a copy of the whole Bible, and I had done some Scripture memorization in college, but at this moment, the Lord gave me the idea of memorizing the book of Ephesians. I almost had enough time to do it that afternoon as I was waiting for the bus, but I just started with Ephesians 1:1, and I just kept going that summer, and I had six, seven weeks of mission trip left. I was there for 10 weeks.
When I got back to the United States, I made a fateful decision, probably one of the most important decisions I've ever made in terms of spiritual discipline in my life. I decided to keep going. I was in chapter 3 or so, and I just kept going. And it was a big decision, because once I got sucked back into that American lifestyle with the busy-ness that we all know, it was very, very tough to make the sacrifices needed to keep that habit going. It was easier on the mission field, easier. But I did and God blessed. And since then, I've continued, and it was 1986 and that's, coming up this year, 18 years of Scripture memorization. And so, I'm standing before you today, in all, I guess, reverence, as a salesman. I don't get any commission for this, but I'm trying to persuade you to memorize extended portions of Scripture in the year 2004, and that's it. That's the message.
Now, what I'm going to do is, I'm going to buttress it with ten verses that I've found, encourage the memorization of Scripture. Then I'm going to take ten of the favorite objections that I've heard from you and others of why this is not for you, and I'm going to take them on and try to refute them. And then number three, I'm going to give you the sweetness of the blessings, 10 of them, and they're far more than that, that have come specifically from memorization. So that's what we're doing this morning, and you have everything you need, I think, in the outline. You can take these things home and look at them.
But let's begin our journey in John, chapter 15. And I'm not going to ask that you look at each verse in the Bible, but this one, I would like to ask that you turn, because I'm going to start with this one and spend more time here than the others. The others, you can look up at another time, but let's open up to John 15 and start with this.
Now, as you're turning, I want to say this. This is an appeal for Scripture memorization, and these are verses that encourage memorization. You notice that I do not say that these are verses that command Scripture memorization. I have looked and I was trying to find but didn't find anywhere that memorization is commanded of Christians. You're not commanded anywhere to memorize the Bible. I believe you are commanded to meditate on the Bible, that is true. But I don't find anywhere directly where it says, "Thou shalt memorize Scripture," that this is something God definitely is commanding you to do. But I believe that you can come very close to that in some of these verses that we've looked at here. And if the command is to be fruitful and to be obedient and to walk with the Lord, etcetera, I honestly, in many ways, don't know any other way to do it than memorization. So that comes about as close as I can get to a command from Scripture, but this is just an appeal and verses that encourage. It is possible, very possible, for you to be a fruitful, mature, godly Christian and not memorize Scripture. I want to get that on record, that it's not something that's required. But it's such an incredible advantage that I don't know why you wouldn't want to do it. So that's where we're starting.
Well, let's look at John 15. Now, John 15:1-18 are some of the most wonderful verses you'll ever find on the Christian life. There, we have that beautiful analogy from our Lord, that he is the vine, the living vine, and that we are the branches, and that if we remain in him, like a branch remains in the vine, we will bear much fruit. Apart from him, we can do nothing. Now, in these verses, I think, we're going to find perhaps the strongest encouragement to memorization, at least that I find anywhere. But let's get the context first. he says in John 15, verse 2, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit". So fruitless branches are cut off. It means they're not Christians. They're not bearing any fruit in life. "While every branch that does bear fruit", it says he prunes in the NIV, "He prunes, so it'll be even more fruitful".
And then in verse 3 it says, "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." Do you see these verses? Now, this is interesting because the verb is the same in verse 2 and verse 3. Basically, he cleans every branch in me so that it'll be even more fruitful; you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Now, I believe verse 2 is talking about the process of sanctification, where sin and the evil stuff gets cleaned out of our lives, and also just dead-end things that we do that may seem like God's will but really aren't going to be very fruitful, he cuts those things off, prunes them like a gardener would prune a vine or a plant, so that it will be even more fruitful and more full in the end. he's cleaning your life up. And then he assures you in verse 3, "You're already clean because of the word I've spoken to you." Now, this is that great understanding of justification and sanctification that, positionally, you are already perfect in Christ.
And yet, he's going to be cleaning you up as you go in your Christian life. Isn't that wonderful? "You're already clean". But I'm going to clean you up. That's the mystery here. Well, the point I'm making though is in verse 3. What is it that makes you already clean? "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you". Our being clean before God is directly connected to the Word of Christ that he spoke. Therefore, is it too much to think that also our ongoing sanctification, our ongoing cleaning, will be connected to the Word that He speaks to us? Of course it is. He's going to keep speaking words of cleanliness to us. He's going to keep talking to us, and as he talks and as we listen, we will be progressively made more and more like Christ. So that's the context. Already clean, but I'm going clean you up and I'm going to do it by the Word that I speak to you.
Now, look down at verse 7. He said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be my disciples." Now, verse 7, I think, is the best single verse, command or exhortation, we could say, toward memorization. Why do I say that? Well, there's a double condition given here. My kids and I talked about this as we drove in. I said, "Now, suppose I told you, if you clean your room according to the standard," that's important, by the way, in our family, "If you clean the room according to the standard in the next 30 minutes and after that, in 15 minutes after that, you fold the laundry, I will take you out for ice cream."
I said to them this morning, "What if you only clean your room?" No, what I actually said was taking them to the Durham Bulls game. They said, "No Bulls game." I said, "Alright, what if you only fold the laundry?" "No Bulls game." "What if you do neither? Fold the laundry nor clean the room?" "Definitely no Bulls game. Definitely." Okay? This is a double condition. Number one, you must remain in Christ. What does that mean? Moment by moment abiding in him, following him, thinking about him, in this example, keeping him in the forefront of your mind. The mind controlled by the Spirit is a mind saturated with the life of Christ. You're abiding in him thinking, following, obeying. That's the first condition. You're abiding in him. And what? My words, plural, abide or live or remain in you. That's the second condition.
Now, I would just like to ask you, how can that happen apart from memorization? How are you going to have his words, plural, his nouns, his verbs, his adjectives, adverbs, syntax, train of thought? How are you going to have that living and glowing and growing in you if you don't memorize? I think you can, and I already said that, through deep meditation. But I just think a shortcut to that is memorizing the words.
Alright, double condition. What then? Well, ask whatever you wish. In a way, that's a third condition. You had to have a prayer life, but you will. Ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. Well, what do you get? Well, "This is to my Father's glory." Stop there. That's the point. Not that you would be able to stand up and recite the Sermon on the Mount or your favorites. That's not going to get... Nobody's going to listen really. That's not why you would do memorization. You memorize so that you may glorify God, and bear much fruit for him and prove yourself to be his disciple. Prove yourself to whom? He already knows who his disciples are. Prove that to yourself and to the world by being abundantly fruitful.
And so, I think that Christ's words, plural, should dwell or abide or remain in you. I think you should memorize them. So I think if you get no other verses of the other ones that I'm going to cover very quickly now, this is a very strong exhortation that Christ's words, plural, would dwell or live or abide in you.
But there are others. Look on your bulletin insert, they're listed there. Colossians 3:16, for example. There in Colossians 3:16, it says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Just think about that phrase with me. Let the word of Christ live or take up residence in you richly. Is it possible for that to be done without memorization? Of course it is. But what I'm saying is that, the Word must come and just take over the place. Have you ever had a relative that came and just kind of took over the place? We haven't, but...That's on record. We have not had such a relative. But at any rate, I've heard that it happens. The word of Christ is supposed to come in and just take over the place. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." Now later I'm going to talk about benefits, but you see the benefits here? Teaching ministry, mutual counseling and admonishing, and good solid worship all flow from letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
Third, Psalm 1, which Herbert read so beautifully. Psalm 1:1-3, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night. He's like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf never withers. Whatever he does, prospers." Now, that's a promise of blessing. Whatever he does prospers.
People talk to me, as a pastor, about this church and say, "What is your strategy for growth?" I said, "I put all my eggs in one basket, Psalm 1:1-3." Whatever we do will prosper if we do this. God said so. If we meditate on his Word day and night. Now again, I want to ask you, how are you going to do that? How are you going to meditate on God's Word day and night? Now you can carry around that big King James Bible with you and whip it out and meditate on it, but I think you may have some problems. You may get fired, actually. But you can do that. And it is quite possible, but think, how would you do it as a Jew living around the time of King David? Now, if you were David, you would have a copy of God's Word. But other than that, if you're just a man living in Israel, you would not have access to the written w ord. You'd have to go to the synagogue or the temple and hear it taught. You must memorize it if you're going to meditate on it day and night.
And what comes of it? Oh, abundant fruitfulness. You'll be blessed in everything you do. Everything you try, your family life, your marriage, your work life, your church life, and your service to God, your evangelism. In so many different areas, you're going to be blessed in everything you do, if you meditate on God's Word day and night.
Fourthly, Joshua 1:8 is similar. It says, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then, you'll be prosperous and successful." Here obviously, God has in mind, as he's preparing Joshua for entering the Promised Land and conquering, he says, "Let's start at the beginning, start with the Word of God, start with the law of Moses," which was freshly finished at that point. Book of Deuteronomy, just brand new. And he said, "Don't let it depart from your mouth." That's an interesting expression, but I think it means don't let it slip away from you, don't forget it, but speak it, talk it over, murmur it, meditate on it day and night. Again, I've told you that Scripture meditation is certainly commanded. But I think if you're going to meditate day and night and not let God's Word depart from your mouth, how could you this better than by memorizing?
Look at number five, Psalm 119. Some people would say this is the best verse in the Bible on memorization. I think the Navigators in the Topical Memory System approach, they say this is proof that God wants us to memorize, and so it may be. But Psalm 119:11, it says, "I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." This will be one of the benefits I'll talk about in a moment. Protection from sin. But what does it mean to hide God's Word in your heart? Could it not be to memorize it, to take it in, to work on it until you can recite it by heart? Isn't that what we--When we say, I know something by heart, it means you have it memorized. You just love it and know it enough to go over it until you just can say it by heart. Hide God's Word in your heart. Psalm 119, verse 11, so that you might not sin against God .
This is a new one. Number six, the book of James. It's not new in that I hadn't read James before, but in relation to Scripture memorization. Look at it. It says, "Do not merely listen to the word." This is 1:22. I had to cut these down a little bit, so you don't get all the verses in there. I wanted it on one page on your outline. But in James 1:22 and following, it says, "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror, and then after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." Verse 25, "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does."
Alright, now granted, James 1:22-25 has one main point, and that is, don't just listen to the word; obey. And so in your memorization and meditation and learning of God's Word, it is not enough simply to know it, you must obey it. You must do what it says. But look again at the words in verse 25. It says, "He looks intently into the law and keeps looking and then goes away and doesn't forget what it says." Well, that's kind of what I do when I memorize. I keep looking at the words and repeating them and reciting them until I don't forget them having gone away. That's memorization and a great assistance to a lifestyle of obedience.
And then there's the parenting verse, one of the great parenting verses, in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7. Number seven. It says, "These commandments that I give you today," speaking to parents, specifically to fathers, in Deuteronomy, it says, "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts." You're to take these commandments into your heart. They're to mean something to you. They are not just idle words for you; they are your life. So take the words, the commandments of God into your hearts, fathers. And then it says, verse 7, "Impress them upon your children." I've talked about this before. It means sharpen them through repetition into your children. Repeat them, repeat them, repeat them, repeat them, so that they know the Word of God. Impress them into your children. "Talk about them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
How are you going to do that? You're going to have the big Torah scroll with you, at that point, carry it around with you at all times? No, you could talk about what you have meditated on and come to understand, and that's acceptable. You don't have to recite it verbally perfectly in order to get the point and have benefit. That's not needed. But memorization is a great assistance to this, isn't it? You're driving along the road, you're on one of those seven or eight hour drives around the holiday time, what better way to use the time than to recite Scripture and talk about it with your children? Talk about it when you're driving along the road. Transform your dinner time by making it saturated with Scripture.
It was said of John Wesley that he read the Bible and meditated and memorized so much, that his blood was "bibling." his blood was made of Bible. If you pricked him, he bled Bible. He just spoke Bible all the time. Saturate your family life with the Bible, saturate it. Talk about these things all the time—sitting, rising, going, coming, eating, finished eating, doing the dishes, talking about the Word of God.
Eight. Jesus is out in the desert in Matthew chapter 4, being tempted by the devil. He goes forty days and forty nights without eating anything. The devil comes to him and says, "If you're the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written," quote. He didn't say quote but there it is. "It is written, 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Do you see that? Okay, so he quotes Scripture. It's Deuteronomy 8:3. What are the odds that Jesus had the Torah scroll with him out in the desert? Would you put it about at zero? That's what I think. I think it's pretty much at zero. I believe Jesus was a great Scripture memorizer. I think he had the whole word in his heart. He certainly didn't have the Torah scroll or the Psalms when he was dying on the cross and quoting, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" What was true of Wesley was infinitely more true Jesus. He just spoke and exuded Bible all the time. And he gave us the way to fight temptation, didn't he? The devil comes, and you answer, "It is written, quote," and then out it comes, the Word of God, Deuteronomy 8:3.
Furthermore, this verse teaches me that I believe extended memorization of Scripture rather than topical verses is best. Most every system out there is a topical verse system. I got one this week from John MacArthur. Excited to see it. I'm glad that he's exhorting people to memorize. And let me say very clearly, I would rather have you memorize topical verses, your favorite verses, than memorize no verses. But I would rather have you memorize chapters and books than individual verses. And why? Because some of the greatest things I've ever learned have been from unpredictable verses that I thought didn't say anything, or much. And they've given me a sense that the Word of God will never fail me to teach me new things about God. So, if you memorize whole chapters and books, you will gain an incredible confidence that every word from Scripture has come from God. No doubt about it. Your confidence will be so high and no Duke professor, or any other university professor can damage it in the least. Not even a small amount. Because you're absolutely convinced that every single word is God-breathed.
Number nine and number 10, they kind of go together. Here, Solomon, a father, is giving advice to his son. But I really take this--I must tell you, when I read the book of Proverbs, I'm not listening to Solomon really talking to his son. Was it Rehoboam? I don't know. Rehoboam didn't listen very well, if so. The real deal is that my heavenly Father is speaking to me who is his son spiritually. And so when it says, "My son, listen to my words," I really take it that God is speaking to me. Because this is Scripture. And so it says, "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you... " Do you see that? "Store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding. And if you call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."
In these verses, I believe, are hidden the reason I do memorization. I don't memorize that I may recite or be able to tell you what this or that verse says. I memorize so that I may understand the Word. And the understanding I never lose, even if I cannot recite the book in future years. And so I search for understanding. I want to know God. I want to know what he's like and what he wants me to do. That's why. And I'm building--or God is building within me a system, a city of truth, brick by brick, understanding by understanding, as I memorize. I'm hungry for those new insights. And so I just keep memorizing new books and keep memorizing new things. Not holding on to the old ones. There's a limit to how much this brain can hold on to at any one time, but I'm yearning for understanding. Alright, well then how do we store up his commands within us, except by memorization?
And then finally, Proverbs 7, same thing. "My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands, and you will live. Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye." Now, look at verse three, "Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart." I mean, that comes very close to commanding Scripture memorization. It doesn't quite get there. So I said, you know, definitely it doesn't say that you must memorize. But how are you going to write the commands of God on the tablet of your heart except that you memorize? There are other verses but these are the best 10 that I know.
Removing Objections to Scripture Memorization
Let's look at some of the objections to Scripture memorization. Some of them have already been forming in your mind as you've been listening to this. You may...Yeah, I could say, "Alright, all of you number ones, raise your hand. Number sevens, raise your hand. Number fours, raise your hand." So you're looking for the way of escape. You're saying, "Okay, one of these doorways is for me. Okay? I don't need to memorize because of the following reasons." If I didn't list your reason here, will you please come afterwards and talk to me? Okay? If you've got reason number 11, I want to add to my list. Because I've heard a lot of these. Many of them.
Alright, number one, "I don't have a good memory." I don't have a good memory; I forget things. Well, that is true, and that's it's a grievous thing that not everybody has an equally good memory. Some people do have better memories than others. And they will, quite frankly, memorize more Scripture than others, and that's fine. But you have a better memory than you think you do. You have memorized words to songs you don't even like. It's true. I mean, when you hear them, the words come in and you know the next verse. And you wonder, how did that happen? Well, it's in there. You have memorized more things than you really know. Your memory is better than you think. Also, your memory will improve with use. The more you do this, the better it'll get for you, the easier I'll get. It's been the case time and time again. People who have done this have said it was hard at the beginning, but it's a lot easier now. My memory is sharper.
Secondly, "It will take too much time, and I'm just too busy." Too busy. Too busy. Are you too busy for prayer too? To busy for a personal devotional every morning? Are you too busy for a family devotional? Too busy to come to church? Too busy to witness and evangelize? Too busy to be a good steward of God's gifts to you? Too busy. Now, that may be, but then you're just too busy. These are the things of the Christian life, aren't they? Can I ask you a question? What is time for? Someday, you're going to, as I said earlier, sit with Jesus and review your life. You will. You're going to go over every decision you've made, every careless word you've spoken. Well, you'll talk about it. And you'll give an account to him.
I want you to imagine on that day a conversation when you said, "Lord, I invested 20,000 hours in Scripture memory." And he said, "What? What a waste! Why in the world did you spend 20,000 hours memorizing Scripture?" Can you imagine Jesus saying that to you? But if, on the other hand, you amassed all of the time you've spent watching spectator sports or reading secular magazines or any of the other things, and you saw all those in that place, could you not imagine giving him an account, and he's saying at that point, "What a waste! What a waste!" Do you really think that you'll look back at the end of your life and say, "I wish I'd never memorized Scripture? What a waste of time that was!" I can't imagine that. I'll only wish I'd done it more. And so are you too busy to memorize? Well, I'm not saying that you won't have to re-arrange your life. Might have to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. You might have to change some habit patterns. That is true. But it's well worth doing. It's well worth doing.
How about number three? "I'm too lazy, and it's hard work." Well, if you think I'm going to stand here and tell you that it isn't hard work, or I have found a system, the booklets are out there, which totally removes the hard work, and you don't have to do any hard work. What you want to do is put my booklet under your pillow and sleep for at least eight hours for seven consecutive weeks and all the verses will come streaming into your head. Do you think that's going to happen? No. Of course it's hard work. Yes, it's hard work, and frankly, that's the gift that we offer to God. That we do something diligently that's hard for his honor and his glory, that his kingdom may be advanced. That brings great honor to him. But, let's not forget what we've learned in Philippians. "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who gives you energy to do his will." Do you think he will help you memorize? Will he help you get up a little earlier, maybe a half hour earlier than you're used to getting up? Will he help you to do this work? Yes, he will. And you'll find new things in your Christian life you never knew were true or possible. Yes, it's hard work.
Alright, I want to tell you right now, I've been working at this for a long time. I'm going to tell you right now the secret to memorization. Are you ready? Because I've been doing this, I mean, this is my insight. The secret to memorization is repetition over time. That's it. Repetition over time. Just say it again and again, thousands of times over many months, and you'll get it. There you go. See? This is what you came to hear. These kinds of pearls of wisdom and insight. Repetition over time is the key to memorization. Can you do it? Yes. Can you do it without hard work? No. It will be hard work.
Number four, "I'm not very interested. It seems boring." This is the one that scares me the most. Does the Bible seem boring to you? Do you realize that if you really believe this is, if this is really the case for you, what a great work Satan has already done in your heart? To make the most thrilling words of life boring to you shows how far gone it already is, and how much you probably more than anyone sitting in this room need to memorize, right now, emergency, if God's word is boring to you. These are not idle words; these are life. And the more I memorize and meditate and think about the Word, the more thrilling it becomes, the more exciting, the more truly the depths of the riches, the wisdom and knowledge of God, the unsearchable nature of his mind becomes clear to me. Boring? Never. Is Jesus boring? Oh, he was many things, but boring was not one of them. You're never quite sure what was going to come next. And so it is with the Word of God.
"I've tried it before and it never really worked." Try it again. If the patient's laying on the emergency room table and they tried CPR and it didn't seem to work, do they say, "I tried it, it just didn't work." No, they keep working until the patient is resuscitated. Some things are just too important to give up on. And so, try again, please. Try again.
"I'm too old. I don't have a good memory. I'm too old." Well, I do believe that as we age our memory, it becomes harder to memorize. But then we kind of just kick back into the "It's too hard" thing at that point. It is harder to memorize as you get older, and no doubt about it, but do it anyway. God knows how hard it is for you to remember. But do it anyway. Work at it.
Now, what about, "I'm too young"? Well, this I don't understand. Young people memorize just by being in the same room. I mean, they just do. It just, they overhear while playing and they got it. My feeling is, I said this to my kids, "You've got years on me. I started when I was 25. You've got years on me. Do you realize you could lap me on this thing? You could go many more books than I ever got done." Okay? Take advantage of your youth. If you're a young person listening to me, if you're in middle school, memorize a book this year. Memorize Philippians, memorize Ephesians, 155 verses. Philippians is a 104. You can do it. You're not too young to memorize.
Number seven. "I read the Bible every day, why do I need to memorize it?" Well, it is possible to read the Bible and get nothing out of it at all. Now, if you are disciplined enough to slow down and work over and savor every phrase and really work at your meditation, then you're fine, and I think you probably don't need memorization as much as somebody who just reads quickly through and gets nothing out of it. But frankly, I think they're almost two different things. You could read through the Bible in a year and get knowledge and breadth, and then you memorize one book and get knowledge and depth. Do you see what I'm saying? They're just almost to some degree two different things. You get the scope of the land, and then you get one book that just becomes your own.
"I don't know what translation to use." Well, I think any good committee translation, like the NIV, RSV, NAS, any of these will be fine. Some have advantages and disadvantages, and you may have your favorite. You do not want to memorize paraphrase or like Living Word or something like that, that really is so far removed from the Greek text that there's no correspondence. You want to remember. But I'll tell you this, once you choose a version, you're married to it. Okay? I mean, you probably could learn a new book in it, but if you're changing versions all the time, you're going to have a hard time.
Number nine, "I might become prideful." Well, that is always a possibility. The Scribes and Pharisees were very prideful of how much knowledge of the Bible they had. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." It is true that this might make you prideful, but I would submit to you that you are prideful already. You are. And so am I. I just think it's the native human state apart from God. The remedy for pride is Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. I think that the Bible has a great power to slay your pride, to humble you greatly. And not just because it's difficult to learn, but because it's difficult to live. How can you be prideful when you can memorize in two minutes, "Do everything without complaining or arguing," but you could live the rest of your lifetime trying to live it out? I think it actually tends to slay your pride. But if you're really worried that it might make you prideful, then memorize some scriptures specifically that have to do with human pride and how much God hates it, and it will help you in this area.
And number 10, "I don't know how to do it." Well, now this, I might make a suggestion. Alright? There are booklets at each of the doors, one per family, and then if after 20, 30 minutes at the end of the service, there's still some left, then take them. We want them to be used. It is an approach to the extended memorization of Scripture. You may invent your own, but it's just basically an organized repetition over time, that's all. It's an approach. Try it.
Benefits to Scripture Memorization
Now, what benefits, quickly, do we get? First, Psalm 119:11 already told us—protection from sin. "I've hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." The devil is constantly tempting you and pulling on you so that you would leave Christ and the Christian life. Be like Jesus. Fight temptation with, "It is written." Fight temptation with, "It is written."
Benefits to Scripture memorization. Secondly, deeper understanding of God's word, as I've already mentioned. A kind of automatic meditation comes from memorization. You just know it better because you had to work on it enough to recite it. Meditation, a deeper understanding of the Word of God. You search for it as for hidden treasure, and for silver.
Third, you're giving the Holy Spirit tools to work growth in you. Okay? I'm a guy. I love tools. I just do. I love to just walk through Lowe's and look at all the possibilities. Some things I know I will never own, but I just like to look at them and think of what I could do with them. Why I would ever need to join two pieces of wood with a kind of a biscuit thing, I don't have any idea. But I like to look at it. I like tools. Alright? And the more tools a guy has, the more damage he can do to his home. It's incredible. Especially with great confidence. If you have great confidence, you can just do amazing things to your home. Alright? Give the Holy Spirit tools to work on you. The Holy Spirit loves to speak his scripture to you. That's what he loves to do. People say, "I felt the Holy Spirit leading." The Holy Spirit mostly leads by speaking Scripture to you. I'm not saying he doesn't lead in matters that are not directly scriptural, like who to marry, or what job to have, or what church to go to. he does. But he mostly speaks Scripture to you to sanctify you. Give him tools to work with.
Fourth, constant readiness for evangelism. You're giving the Holy Spirit, also, tools to work in somebody else's life as you're witnessing to them. I don't think I ever share the Gospel the same way twice. I just don't. It's, I almost do not do it the same way twice. It's different every time. They're basic ideas—God, man, Christ, response—that I get across every time, but the verses I use are different based on the conversation I'm having with a person. The Bible says that we should be ready in season and out of season. We should always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us to give us a reason for the hope that we have. We prepare ourselves by memorizing verses that we use in witnessing.
Number five, redeeming the time and storing up treasure in heaven. Time's a ticking, folks. It's moving on. Alright? I look on my life as kind of like a brick wall with mortar in between. I've got these brick events that happen, and they just are what they are. But the Scripture memory fills in the mortar in between the bricks. I redeem every moment as I'm driving to and from... I shouldn't have said that, but I do. I actually mostly review while driving. I try not to learn new verses while driving. Those of you who know what it's like to memorize, you know how dangerous that would be. But I try to review. I try to make the most of my time. Whenever I have a free mind, I'm thinking verses. And that protects me from thinking bad thoughts that I shouldn't be thinking. Redeeming the time and storing up treasure in heaven. Like a four-hour bus wait. Or the plane is delayed, you're working on verses.
Number six, material for deep teaching of the Word of God to others. It just makes you a better teacher of the Word. To your family, if you're a mother, training your children, you're just going to know the Word of God better to train your children. If you're a Sunday school teacher, you're just going to be able to explain those passages at a deeper level. You're always prepared to teach at a deep level.
Number seven, rich, deep heartfelt worship. You'll come in through these doors on Sunday morning with a heart of fire for God, ready to worship. And I will sing corporately so much better then. I'm looking forward to that. Just improved worship. It just is going to get better and better in our church. And your own private worship life, you're going to be dwelling richly on the Word of God and singing praise songs to him.
Number eight, your prayer life. From John 15:8, it says, "Ask whatever you..." In 15:7, "Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." You'll have an enriched and wise insightful prayer life, praying for God's things. You'll have a blessed home life. Marriage and parenting will be enriched by the Word of God because you're speaking Scripture to each other. You're training your children with Scripture.
And then 10, you'll be able to bless other brothers and sisters who come to you for advice. And you won't just say, "Oh, this is my opinion," or whatever. You can say, "Well, the Word of God says this about that." We will be even more, Romans 15, competent to counsel each other, because of the training we've received from Scripture.
I want to close with a testimony, and then we'll be done. And it's not my own testimony. It's a testimony that was given to me by Christy Wilson, my mission's professor. Some of you have heard me tell this story, but it's a wonderful story. It's of a man, a blue collar worker, a plumber, who wanted to memorize John 3:16. And that's all. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That's it. And he worked on it for two and a half months and still could not recite John 3:16 without looking at the Bible. He always would leave some phrase or some word out. I remember Christy Wilson, one of the gentlest men I'd ever known, said this man was so dense that after two and a half months, he still couldn't do it. Now that was saying something for Christy Wilson to put it like that. But then finally he got it toward the end of the third month. He finally got it, could recite it. An incredible joy. I really think what's amazing is not that it took him that long to memorize, but that he didn't give up. All of us would have given up after two weeks if it was that hard. He didn't give up.
And then Dr. Wilson told me that over the next four years, he memorized over 2000 verses of Scripture. And you think, "How did that happen?" Well, I think that God was testing him to see if he really meant business. It was going to be hard at first. Would he really do it? And then in Luke 24, I think it's verse 45, it says of Jesus the resurrected Lord, "Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scripture." Can he do that to you? Can he open your mind, so that you can memorize? Can he give you a better memory? Oh, yes, he can do that. Ask him to do it. I'm going to ask you, during our time of closing and hymn singing and over the next week, to come before God and ask, "God, do you want me to memorize a book of the Bible in the year 2004?" And if he does, write it down on a card and put it on your mirror and say, "I am committed to memorizing Colossians or Philippians or Romans or something," whatever God leads. And it could be just a section. John Piper did Romans chapter 8, just Romans 8. I'm committed to doing this in the year 2004.