On August 28, 2015 the movie War Room, produced by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, premiered in select theaters across the nation with the purpose of conveying one message: the life changing power of prayer. The message was simple, yet powerful as audiences saw how through the strategic, practical application of prayer God intervened and changed the family of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan. I certainly enjoyed seeing the movie, and if half the people across the nation who saw the movie became as encouraged as I was to change their prayer life, I expect there to be some Christ-centered change to begin happening in our nation.
A few weeks after the movie, I was called upon to teach about the importance of scripture memorization. As I studied God’s Word about the importance of Scripture memorization, it dawned on me that the same life changing power that occurred because of prayer in the life of the Jordans can also manifest itself through the strategic, practical application of Scripture memorization. After all, it is only through the Word of God that our lives can be sustained (Matthew 4:4) and remain steadfast (Matthew 7:24) in a society that celebrates and encourages sin in our lives.
Starting today and over the next few weeks, I want to share with you what God’s Word says about the importance of Scripture memorization in our lives and how it can be of benefit to not only ourselves but also to those around us.
If most Christians are like me, they probably thought that memorizing Scripture was a good thing to do, and by doing so, they are adding yet another skill to their “look how holy I am” repertoire, waiting for the moment to show it off to gain praise from their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, studying what I am about to share has convicted my heart and changed my mindset about memorizing Scripture, and it is my prayer that this will present you with a new mind-set or even a convicted heart about Scripture memorization.
The Scripture I would like to focus on today is a great starting point for understanding the importance of Scripture memorization:
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all of my heart: do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:9-11)
Though the example of Scripture memorization I used earlier was extremely prideful, it hints at what the first purpose of Scripture memorization is truly about: the change that God’s Word generates in our own lives
In verse 9, the word “way” in its Hebrew meaning means “life.” You see, though the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, everyone who becomes a Christian has a life that is different from his or her brothers or sisters in Christ. Some of us have experienced greater hardship and challenges in life than others. Each of us has a unique struggle with the sin in our lives. At the end of the day, however, no matter what you and I have gone through or done in our lives, the only way we will live a life pleasing to God is by living “according” to God’s Word.
If we are to live according to God’s Word, we have to be purposeful about it. Have you ever lost your phone or keys as you try to leave the house for an event you cannot be late for? Or have you ever misplaced your homework assignment that is due in ten minutes? I have, and I know from experience that when we are in situations like those, nothing will stop us from tearing up and bringing down the house to find what we want. We will also use every hint and suggestion that is given to us in order to come closer to what we want, even though we can find a way to do without those things.
If we are willing to put so much effort into finding our possessions that we could make do without, we should put even greater effort into pursuing a relationship with God, the one we cannot live without. When I am put in those situations, I use everything within me to find what I have lost, or as the psalmist puts it in verse 10 “with all of my heart.” This is how God wants us to pursue Him, and the greatest help we have in our pursuit of a greater relationship with Him is His Word.
With so much focus on gaining a greater relationship with God, it seems odd that the psalmist would command God not to let him stray from His commands, right? Not really. The psalmist understands that in his pursuit towards God, God will still allow challenges and temptations to come his way. He recognizes that the only way to stay the course is to hold fast to God’s Word, and not following it can bring the consequences of sin upon himself (Psalm 119:67). And what is true for the psalmist still holds true for believers in Christ today. If we desire to have the best relationship we can have with God, we must stick to His Word, no matter what comes across our path.
In his next verse, the psalmist repeats a key word found in verse 10, the word “heart.” In Hebrew language, the word “heart” refers to a person’s intellect, will, and/or emotion. Pay attention to that because what the psalmist does with God’s Word in this verse is crucially important to understanding why we should memorize Scripture. The psalmist hides the Word in his heart.
Why the heart of all places? A person’s heart (intellect, desire, and emotion), though invisible to the human eye, can easily be seen when it manifest itself through one’s words and actions (Matthew 15:18). What the psalmist is telling us is that when we store God’s Word in our hearts, we not only memorize it, but we will start to act out God’s Word in our lives. This is how we begin living our lives in a way that honors God and helps us from sinning against our mighty God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, whether or not you have read the Bible through three times this year alone or only open it twice on Sunday, make Scripture memorization a priority. By doing so, you will come into a greater relationship with God and start living the way He intended for you to live.
Your brother in Christ,