Why Memorize Scripture?
Recently I began a concerted personal effort to memorize passages of Scripture. Like most people who work at this, I was inspired by someone else who quoted a long passage of Scripture. In my case it was Dr. David Platt, who quoted Romans 1-8 by memory in such a dramatic fashion that after I lifted my jaw up off the floor that Sunday morning I was determined that I too could memorize Scripture. If you ask Dr. Platt, he’ll tell you as he told the congregation that day that his passion for memorizing the Word came from someone else who did the very same thing.
I started with Psalms 146-150, a beautiful passage of praise to God. Now I’m working on the Sermon on the Mount. Now, if you read this and say, “I couldn’t possibly memorize lots of Scripture. I’m just not talented or skilled at that,” let me suggest to you that the question is not one of talent or skill, but one of value. What it comes down to is how much we value God’s Word. If I were to, say, pay you $1,000 for every verse you memorized by next week, and another $1,000 for each one you remembered a year later, I think you’d find a way to put down a hefty number of verses. Because in this example there’s a tangible value attached to them.
The issue is that we simply don’t see God’s Word as the true treasure that it is. First, because it is readily available, indexed, cross-referenced, translated, commentated and everything else for us. I carry around a copy on my iPhone for heaven’s sake. It’s everywhere. Besides that, we often don’t realize the Bible’s true usefulness in our lives on a daily basis. Consider:
It helps us know God. Most of us never stop to think about what heaven will really be like. We will have new bodies, and much will be revealed to us, but the fullness of God Himself will not be revealed. That is, when we get to heaven, we’re not going to “poof!” suddenly know everything there is to know about God. The Bible simply doesn’t teach that. When we’re in heaven, we’re still going to have God’s Word. The Word is eternal. And His Word is to help us know Who God is. The verses I’m learning now are going to be with me for all eternity. So putting God’s Word in my mind is both an investment for today and for eternity. God’s Words are His thoughts, and knowing God’s Word helps me know God more fully, right now, today.
It helps us speak with God’s voice. Because the Bible helps us know God, it also helps us speak with His voice. This is especially important for a pastor. A strong working knowledge of God’s Word helps you prepare a biblical sermon. But a rich memory bank of God’s Word helps you infuse your teaching with God’s own speech. The result can be among the most powerful forms of teaching there is. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is a great example—half of the sermon he is quoting Scripture. Let’s never forget that God’s Word speaks for itself. God is more than happy for us to use His own words, not ours, at every opportunity. He promised His Word would never cease to accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11). He never promised anything about our own words.
It keeps us from sinning. Knowing God’s instructions, wisdom, character and story helps align us to His will. When we’re doing what God wants, as a result of knowing His Word, we’re avoiding what God doesn’t want. Or as Psalm 119:11 reminds us, hiding God’s Word in our hearts keeps us from sinning. How does Jesus respond to the temptations of Satan in the desert? He quotes Scripture. Do you think that Jesus’ temptation is in the Bible just to show us that He didn’t sin, or also to instruct us in how to resist sin as well?
It helps us share the gospel. Something began to happen the more I thought about God’s Word. I began to know the Gospel. As I read and study passages the whole story becomes more and more clear. Suddenly the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract seems like a hokey way to lead someone toward the Lord versus simply talking through God’s own Word (Just a personal example, tract-loving people. I’m not against tracts so don’t email me). When you begin to speak God’s Word you find the Holy Spirit at work and people really do respond directly to the Word Itself. I believe a thorough knowledge of and a hearty memory for the Word to be the most effective witnessing tool you could possibly possess.
It keeps our attitude in check. Finally, the Word of God helps us center on the character of God. Memorizing Scripture helps keep your thoughts in the Word at all times. When our focus is on God, then it is not on ourselves, which helps to keep attributes like arrogance, self-righteousness, anger, envy and jealousy, impatience and intolerance in check. People of the Word are, simply put, better examples of godliness in a broken and decaying world.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.