We’ve all had that moment. You hear the opening hook of a song - maybe the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or Thrift Store by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - and immediately you’re singing along word for word. We have lyrics tucked away for every occasion, ready to pull them out at a wedding reception, a night out with friends, or road trips. But how many verses of the Bible can you call to mind with the same accuracy? Sure, we can recite Justin Timberlake word for word, but when it comes to the very Word of God most of us struggle to recall anything other than John 3:16 or Genesis 1:1.
Why don’t we memorize Scripture?
Let’s be honest – we don’t always enjoy hard work. The word “discipline” often makes us cringe in anticipation of applying ourselves to a certain task. Truth be told, we’re lazy! And the root of our laziness is often linked to the worth we ascribe to what helps us increase in godliness. We are quick to forget God’s command in Matthew 6 to store up treasure in heaven, and don’t have a right perspective on what that treasure actually is. We need to remind ourselves of what 1 Timothy 6:6-7 tells us, that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” The more we see the true worth of storing up the Word of God in our hearts, the more likely we are to see that hard work as worthwhile. And it is! In light of this truth, here are a few specific reasons that we should apply ourselves to the discipline of memorizing Scripture.
Why should we memorize Scripture?
To fight sin
We know that while we have victory over sin in Christ, we are still locked in a struggle against it as we wait for Jesus’ return. As we seek to obey God’s command to “be holy in all [our] conduct” (1 Peter 1:15), we can use Scripture to help us identify and combat sin in our lives. Psalm 119:9, 11 says,
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word…I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
In order to know how to walk according to the ways of the Lord, we first have to know the ways of the Lord! These verses tell us that storing up God’s word in our heart has a direct impact on our fight against sin. More than that, God tells us that in the fight against sin we are armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” (Ephesians 6:17). In the Bible God has given gives us everything we need to fight sin. So as we struggle, why would we not seek to arm ourselves more specifically against the attacks of Satan? If you’re struggling with anger, memorize verses about anger. If you’re struggling with doubt, memorize verses about the finished work of the cross. Look into your arsenal and see that you stock it well with all kinds of weapons for the Spirit to take hold of.
God promises that he will prosper us
Notice what Psalm 1:1-3 says about the man who meditates on the law of God:
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers,
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
He’s promised blessing, fruitfulness, and prosperity! And let’s be clear, this kind of spiritual blessing and fruitfulness is clear throughout the Bible: the God-given joy of Psalm 16:11 that comes from God’s presence, and the fruitfulness of Galatians 5:22-23. We know that God is faithful and keeps his promises; the clearest picture of that is his sending his son as the atonement for our sins on the cross. If we can trust in the promises of God, then we can believe that memorizing Scripture will indeed benefit us. As you memorize, you are actively trusting in the Lord – believing his promises and structuring your life according to them.
Jesus did it
When Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan in Matthew 4, he answers the Tempter’s three attacks the same way each time: by quoting Scripture. Jesus undoubtedly wasn’t walking around the Middle Eastern desert with a pocket-sized ESV bible that had “JC” embossed on the cover, flipping through bookmarks and post-it notes to find relevant and helpful passages. He knew it! He had it memorized! The New Testament is full of commands for Christians to imitate and follow in the ways of Christ. If this is true, why would we not follow the example of our Savior by having verses memorized?
To communicate the gospel clearly to others
We each encounter a multitude of opportunities to share the gospel in our daily life, and not always with a Bible close at hand. These evangelistic conversations can also be intimidating, or cause us to worry whether we are effectively communicating the gospel to those who don’t already trust in Christ. While we can have faith in the Lord’s sovereignty in those interactions, we can also hone our ability to communicate aspects of the gospel clearly by communicating them through Scripture. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God has power to pierce our souls, and sharing the gospel by salting our conversation with memorized verses is an active way to submit ourselves and our evangelism to that power.
How do we memorize Scripture?
But how do actually go about the process of memorizing? True, it will come easier to some than others, but everyone is capable of memorization. Be creative with your approach! Here is a quick and very incomplete list of tips:
- Have accountability – memorize with others!
- Make a verse screenshot or picture your phone background
- Write it down and carry it with you throughout the day
- Download an app – Verses and Fighter Verses are two recommendations
- Rehearse at night when you’re trying to fall asleep
- Rewrite the verse multiple times
As you set out to apply the discipline of Scripture memory, keep in mind that it is not simply a task to check off of a list of “godly activities.” Donald Whitney says in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “Remember that memorizing verses is not an end in itself. The goal is not to see how many verses we can memorize; the goal is godliness. The goal is to memorize the Word of God so that it can transform our minds and our lives.” This is another promise that God has made to us – that he will work in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Therefore, as we go about this task of memorization, we can be expectant that God will indeed use it to help us store up treasure in heaven.