The joys and how-to’s of Scripture memory

POST OVERVIEW. Some quick suggestions for memorizing passages from the Bible.

David asks the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Psalm 119:9). The answer is by knowing the word of God. And the best way to have the Word handy so that you can keep your way pure is by memorizing it. “Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You” (119:11).

One of the chief joys of the disciple of Jesus is the joy of reading and meditating on the word of the living God. The Bible is an endless source of enjoyment for those who have been drawn to the Savior. But what happens when you do not have a physical Bible in your hands or it is not convenient to be looking at your phone? What then?

I am glad you asked! Because that is when the benefits of Scripture memory are realized. When you have committed the word of God to memory, you can have a Bible study in your head whenever you choose. The memorized Word is always at the ready to remind you of the devil’s schemes when you are tempted or to allow you to rejoice when you think of salvation. The Word can conquer your fears and can encourage you and can give you boldness in your witness or wisdom in making decisions. All these are reasons to memorize your Bible.

Many people have a general idea of what a given Bible passage says, but there is no power in declaring generally what God has said. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, He did not silence the adversary with general words, but with the power of “It is written.” Our Lord crushed the devil with the very word of God. In the same way, the disciple of Jesus can have confidence and speak with authority when he knows he is speaking the Word that he has memorized.

“The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And so it is the word of God we want to memorize.

A PERSONAL STORY: ROMANS 8

When I came to Christ at the age of thirty-one, I developed an immediate hunger for the Word. Later on I would realize that almost all my spiritual gifts were Word-oriented, but early on I just loved reading the Bible. I also dabbled with memorizing some verses and found that to be enjoyable, as well. But one Sunday morning, our pastor was concluding his sermon with words of great encouragement and I was stunned by the power of these words. “. . . convinced that neither death nor life nor angels . . . nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Whoa! Where is THAT passage? Well, I found out that this was the conclusion of Romans 8. So, I grabbed my Bible and I turned to Romans 8 and I read the concluding verses. “Yep, I am going to memorize those.” Then I backed up a few more verses and said, “Wow! Those are pretty good, too.” So, I decided to memorize those as well. Then I backed up a few more verses and . . . You can see where this is going. By the time I got to, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1), I resolved to memorize the whole chapter. And the joy of having that entire chapter at the ready, available for meditation at any time, motivated me to memorize other passages. For years, it has been my practice to have many verses that I am actively reviewing and each year I try to add more to my storehouse of Scripture knowledge. This discipline regularly yields fruit in my writing as the Holy Spirit brings related verses to mind when I am creating a blog or a longer essay or article. So, I commend to you the discipline of Scripture memory.

SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR MEMORIZING SCRIPTURE

Having hopefully sold you on the joys and benefits of memorizing verses from the Bible, I wanted to share with you some techniques that may make your memory goals more attainable. These are aimed at memorizing chapters, but the ideas should be helpful for smaller memory work, as well.

  • Use the same translation for all your memory work. This is helpful because each translation has its own cadence and its own special words. Each has its own “accent.” Using the same translation reduces the variations.
  • Break the chapter down into sections and memorize a section at a time, then stitch the sections together.
  • Pay attention to the start of each verse. Knowing how the verse or line of the passage begins can trigger the rest of the verse. Also, there is a sense of progress when you first knit together the verses of a section, and this is facilitated by knowing how each line starts. It improves the mental flow.
  • Think about patterns, like repeated words, or memory aids, like “these three words are in alphabetical order.”
  • Start at verse 1, then add verses, then review after memorizing each new verse by going back to the beginning. For example, memorize verse 1, then add verse 2 and go back to the beginning to review 1-2. Then add verse 3 and go back to the beginning to review 1-3. Continue until you have the section memorized, then review the section until you know that you truly have the section memorized.
  • As you progress through the chapter, try beginning your review at different verses.
  • Strive for “word-perfect” on the memorization. Have someone else listen to your recitation of the completed passage to make sure it is all precisely done.
  • It can be helpful to imagine teaching through the passage verse by verse and going through the verses word by word as a means of review.

Hopefully, these suggestions will make it easier to treasure the Scripture in your heart. The fact is that Scripture memory is hard, tedious work. It is a discipline and it is not easy for anyone. It just takes time to go over and over the same verses until they lodge in your brain and become accessible as your soul’s food. Recently I have started memorizing John 15. I am using the ideas above, but most of all I am reviewing the words of these verses over and over until I know them like my own name. But once they are in the brain, they are there for good, ready for meditation and worship.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/10/2023                   #610

Means of Spiritual Growth (Romans 8:29)

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. – Romans 8:29

Spiritual growth is almost synonymous with being a disciple of Jesus. When a person repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord, they pass from death to life (John 5:24) and are made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). Once blind, now they see (John 9:25). All this means that when you and I came to faith in Christ, we knew little about what it meant to walk with the Lord. We began our journey like newborn babies (1 Corinthians 3:2; 1 Peter 2:2), and now we grow in spiritual maturity until we are received into glory. So, all believers long to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). But what is the means of spiritual growth?

The Lord has given the believer three primary means of spiritual growth:

  • The Word of God / the Bible
  • fellowship with other believers
  • prayer

In this blog post I will talk about these means of growth. I also want to say that, since spiritual growth is vital to a disciple of Jesus Christ, these means of growth should also be high priorities. These activities should appear on your daily and weekly schedules (explicit) and should also lodge in your brain as a non-negotiable part of your mindset and lifestyle.

THE WORD OF GOD AS MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Of the three means of spiritual growth, the Word is primary, because the Word of God informs all aspects of our spiritual life, including our fellowship and our prayer. The Bible is our spiritual food (Matthew 4:4). The Word is the primary means of our sanctification (“Purify me with hyssop.” Psalm 51:7) and allows us to see our sin (Romans 3:20; Psalm 119:9, 11, 67) and then guides us into repentance (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10).

The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. As such, it is the source of all truth because God’s word is truth (John 17:17). When you are reading the word of God, you can trust what you are reading because it comes from the God who can never lie (Hebrews 6:18). The entire word of God is God-breathed and is therefore “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).” It equips you for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

Perhaps the most important thing about the Word of God is that it is the source of the gospel of our salvation. The Bible declares to man the holiness of God, a holiness that manifests itself in wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). The Bible repeatedly warns man that he is a sinner in danger of eternal condemnation because of his sin (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23). Then the Bible proclaims God’s supreme act of His mercy and grace when it announces the Savior and the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God sent to earth to die on a cross for the sins of His people. Finally, the Bible urges us to be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40) by believing in the Lord Jesus as our Savior and following Him wherever He leads.

One final comment: there is a direct correlation between the time spent in God’s Word and spiritual growth. If you want to grow in spiritual maturity, you must commit to spending significant time in the Word.

FELLOWSHIP AS MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

First, we need to be clear by what is meant by “fellowship.” Fellowship, as I am using the word, necessarily involves other believers (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 John 1:3, 6-7), other people who are indwelt by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:22), and therefore excludes nonbelievers. Also, spiritual growth from fellowship depends on the quality and the intentionality of the time. It is fellowship when it is understood that “spiritual benefit” is one of the main reasons for the interaction. Fellowship, then, is any interaction between believers where spiritual benefit/growth is implicitly or explicitly the intended result.

The New Testament is full of “one another” verses which urge us to encourage one another and to interact with one another for our spiritual good. The idea is that, as I spend time with other believers, the Holy Spirit within us is going to cause spiritual growth. This fellowship is hard to describe, but it is commonly experienced. As I spend time with other believers, I hear how they talk and how they respond to life’s joys and challenges, and the Holy Spirit shapes me. As we discuss theological topics or examine a Bible study, ideas are presented and challenged and debated, and truth is indirectly instilled. As I interact with brothers and sisters different than me, the Spirit incrementally changes me into a person who understands others and loves them despite our differences. This is how we grow by fellowship. If Christ is at the center of the interaction, and we are longing to pursue Him more closely and to be conformed more and more into His image, we will long for more times of fellowship when other members of the Body can pour into our lives.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverb 27:17

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

PRAYER AS MEANS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Prayer certainly is the most mysterious of these three means of spiritual growth. In prayer, the creature is allowed into the presence of the Creator, and the unholy draws near to the Holy One. In the time spent in prayer, as we offer up worship and praise and confessions and repentance and thanksgiving and supplications, the Lord is imperceptibly but irresistibly transforming us day by day.

Prayer is learned. The disciples asked the Lord Jesus to teach them to pray, and He taught them the “Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-4).” Just so, we must patiently learn to pray. Often in prayer, our mind drifts. There are long silences in the dialog. We do not know what to ask for. We do not know how to pray as we should (Romans 8:26). And how do we listen to the Lord in prayer? These are all things that every disciple must learn for themselves as they spend time with the Lord.

In prayer, we have the undivided attention of the most fascinating Person in the universe. The Bible declares to us that the Lord delights in His people (Psalm 147:10-11; 149:4) and He has chosen gladly to give us the Kingdom, so He is patient as we learn to talk to Him in prayer. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13).” We also have His Holy Spirit dwelling within us, so as we spend time in His presence, the Spirit within us is molding us into greater Christlikeness. Like any relationship, the more time that we spend together, the better our communication. Therefore, it is wise to include times of prayer on your weekly and daily schedules. The more we “pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17),” the more we will see spiritual growth from our prayers.

SUMMARY

As we spend time fully engaged with the word of God and intentionally interacting with God’s people and wrestling with the Lord is prayer, we will experience spiritual growth.

SDG                 rmb                 2/4/2021