Mr. Rovy Lopez, a listener from the Philippines, writes in to ask, “Pastor John, I love the Bible. I want my whole life to be gladly given to know Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. How do you memorize the Bible, and what would you advise for a twenty-year-old like me? Where should I start?”
Worth Your While
I do have a concrete idea where I would like him to start, and it is partly because of where I am starting, here at the beginning of the year. I was asked at the CROSS Conference several weeks ago in Louisville about Bible memorization, and I was very excited.
This was just before David Platt stood up to speak, which is kind of an amazing providence, because David recited from memory Romans 1 through 8 in front of 3,500 students. We were all wonderfully blown away.
In fact, it is interesting just to show the power of the memorized and recited word. I know a young woman — thirteen years old — who was saved, she says, between chapters four and five of that recitation. I heard about that the next morning. So, I just want to encourage Rovy that it is worth whatever effort you make to memorize the Scriptures.
Marks of Maturity
The reason I told those students that I am setting off on a higher level of commitment to Bible memory in 2014 is, first, because I am getting older. Things don’t stick. Short-term memory doesn’t work so well in my brain like it used to. So, I have to work harder to make things stick. I need to beef up the time commitment and the intentionality of my Scripture memory efforts, which I want to do.
“All the weak and worldly Christians I know neglect the Bible, especially Bible memorization.”
Another reason is because I have never met a strong Christian who doesn’t give themselves to Bible reading and Bible memory. All the weak and worldly Christians I know neglect the Bible, especially Bible memorization.
Love for the word of God — attention to it and memorization of it — has always been a mark of the mature. It seems like a signature. It is a signature of sanctified people. Low-level interest in the Bible and Bible memory almost always goes hand in hand with high-level interest in superficial things.
Love, Not Legalism
Whenever Christians with high-level interest in superficial things hear this, they instinctively protect themselves and their love of superficial things by calling this “legalistic faith.” They say, “This talk about focusing on the Bible and reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture is legalism.”
Of course, it is not about earning anything, and it is not about keeping rules. It is about what you love and what you are passionate about and what you feel a need for in your heart. Do you love God’s word? Are you passionate about him and what he has said? Do you feel a need for his word every day?
Well, I do. I do more than just in the morning when I read my Bible. I feel it all day long. And so, I want to treasure the Bible: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If you treasure God and his word, then your heart will be there. It will be there in his word, and you will want it to be there — in the word, all day long. One of the great ways to do that is to memorize Scripture.
Never Too Old
So, I told those students, “Let’s all memorize Romans 8 together.” That is my concrete suggestion to the question, “Where should I start?” I would suggest that. There are a lot of people who have never memorized a whole chapter of the Bible in their lives, and I would just plead with Rovy to give himself to Romans 8.
My guess is that the vast majority of those who are listening to this have never memorized Romans 8. I had never memorized a paragraph or chapter in the Bible before I was 28 years old. I had only worked on verses.
Then I heard Arthur Lewis recite Matthew 6:25–34 in chapel at Bethel University. That is all — just those verses on anxiety: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.” He just recited them. I was watching, and I said, “I have never seen anybody do that.” Isn’t that amazing? I was 28. I was teaching at Bethel University, watching a man recite one single paragraph from the Sermon on the Mount, and I was blown away by it because I had never seen anybody stand up and recite an entire paragraph of the Bible from memory.
Since then, I have just given myself to it, and I have seen the power of it. I remember reciting Isaiah 53 from memory over a communion service one time, and a woman just broke down over the power of it. I remember reciting all of Revelation 5 at a New Year’s Eve service some years ago, and again at Passion last year. I remember reciting all of Psalm 118 when the North Campus of our church opened, and I wanted to welcome the people with something significant. And so I just recited that psalm.
Why Start in Romans?
The reason I suggest that we all get going with Romans 8 (if we haven’t done it) is that this chapter is probably the greatest chapter in the Bible. It is always relevant. It always has something to say. I told the students, “I don’t think you will ever be in a situation where Romans 8 will not be useful to you.” It goes from
- no condemnation; to
- the substitution of Christ in our condemnation; to
- the peace and life that the Spirit brings; to
- the inability of the flesh to do anything; to
- the promise of the resurrection; to
- the assurance of our adoption and the witness of the Spirit; to
- the promise of glorification; to
- the sufferings and groanings of the entire creation and us believers, as we wait for redemption; to
- the struggle of prayer and the Spirit’s help in prayer; to
- the great promise that everything works for our good; to
- the foundation of that promise, in predestination and calling and justification and glorification.
It’s the promise that he will give us all things, the impossibility of separating us from Christ, and the invincible love of God. I mean, this chapter is just so full. I wish every believer would give the time and effort to memorizing this chapter. It is absolutely incomparable.