Monday, December 10, 2018

Anonymous Asks (17)

“Why memorize scripture?”

I don’t know about you, but more than once I have found myself wishing I had committed more of the Bible to memory when I was young. It’s much, much easier to memorize things in your youth than in middle age. As you get older, new information, names, places and details become harder to retain. Over-40s can still memorize new things, but it takes 20-30% more time for us to do it.

Hey, we’re old. Time is one thing we don’t have enough of.

Wish That I Knew What I Know Now ...

The things you learned well when you were young also stay with you better than things you learn later on. That’s good reason to memorize early and often.

I have often wondered what I would do if the Christian faith was outlawed, Bibles were burned, or I got tossed in jail without access to a physical copy of scripture. How much of God’s word is in my head? A fair bit, I’m sure, but nowhere near enough. That’s probably a weird thing to be preoccupied with, and today it seems an unlikely scenario, but such things have happened throughout history, and will surely happen again.

But even if you and I always have easy access to the written word, the book of Psalms reminds us, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” That’s a pretty good reason to memorize scripture. Notice that he says “in my heart”, not “on my iPhone” or “on my hard drive” or even “on my bookshelf”. This is where, far too often, scripture has been when I needed it.

And it was there because I left it at home rather than bringing it with me. It’s better to have the word of God where you can draw on it immediately and naturally: in your heart and head. The need may be urgent.

It’s On the Tip of My Tongue ...

Now, it’s impossible to memorize all 66 books of the Bible even if we wanted to. It should be obvious some scriptures are more useful to memorize than others. One area of the Bible worth committing to memory is Solomon’s proverbs. If the point is not to sin, a list of things to do and things to avoid is an excellent place to start, and the best part about memorizing proverbs is that they’re short and very easy to retain. I probably have fifty or more that come to mind when decisions need to be made. That’s useful.

Even more useful to have on the tip of your tongue is a series of key verses having to do with salvation. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” for instance, should be stitched into every believer’s synapses, and there are many others that you’ll be glad you memorized if you’re trying to witness to a friend and either don’t have a Bible handy or don’t want to derail the conversation by stopping to search for a verse you’re not quite sure you remember correctly. In a day in which Google reigns supreme, I don’t think verse references matter much (you can find pretty much any verse in seconds by typing in three consecutive words from any translation on the planet), but getting the sense correct, even if you have to paraphrase a little, is very important.

Living and Active

Some people like to memorize verses that bring them personal comfort. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Those sorts of things. I can’t argue.

I recommend memorizing in a modern version. After all, it is the word of God that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” not my labored explanation of it. If the meaning of a verse is not crystal clear in your favorite translation, memorize it in a version that is clearer. Explanations are fine, but the power is in the Word itself. The Holy Spirit put it the way he did for a reason, and sticking to his language will keep us from involuntarily straying into bafflegab like “Ask Jesus into your heart” or “Everything happens for a reason.”

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