2022 has begun, and the start of a new year is always a great time to consider our habits, specifically which new ones we want to start. It’s a great time to ask, How can God’s word abide in me more deeply? What can I do? How can I improve here? And the answer — or one of the answers — is found in a sermon clip taken from John Piper’s sermon “If My Words Abide in You,” a sermon title taken from Jesus’s phrase in John 15:7.
The sermon was preached on January 4, 2009 — thirteen years ago, yesterday. It has the New Year in view, as you’ll hear as we now jump into the end of the sermon. Here’s Pastor John now, and he is here talking about Bible holsters. Have a listen.
The Holy Spirit awakens through the word — transforms through the word. “You have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word” (1 Peter 1:23). “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). So, new birth and sanctification are the work of God, not any other way than by the word. The word is huge.
So you need to ask, “Well, how then does it work?” This is the word. So, I’m going to make a little harness, sort of like a pistol. I’m going to wear this all day on my heart, and I’m going to walk around. Will God sanctify this to me and transform me because I’m carrying it here? What’s the answer? The answer is no.
The answer is no because God created you with a brain. He didn’t have to. He created you with a consciousness. He created you with a will, and emotions, and thought. And the way he ordains for Christ to be magnified through his word is for there to be a connection created with the words of the Bible and our brains. Then the will and the heart. That’s it. If you just try to carry the Bible around and never read it, so there’s no connection between the meaning of these words and your brain, then it has zero effect in your life.
“Nothing can replace Bible memory in forging a connection between the Bible, our minds, and our hearts.”
“Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night” is because a connection is established. By the connection of the meaning of God in his holy word and my construction of that meaning in my brain, and its effect on my will and my heart, I’m changed by the Holy Spirit’s using all that seemingly natural process for our change.
So, my answer to “What’s all this got to do with memorizing the Scripture?” is this: when we memorize the Scripture, we make that connection between the Bible, our minds, and our hearts more constant, more deep, and more transforming. I’ll venture this. Realistically, nothing can replace it. Nothing can replace it — Bible memory — in doing what it was designed to do, in forging a connection between the Bible, our minds, and our hearts.
Rehearsing Uncountable Wonders
Closing testimony from Noël and me. On December 21, we celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. We went away for two days, and among other things we read — this is funny — Psalm 40 and Isaiah 40. We talked. We talked about the year and the years. That’s what anniversaries are for, right? Past and future, taking stock, regretting, repenting, resolving. And we thought back how many times we had sat at a lunch, say at Eddington’s, or Famous Dave’s, or Leeann Chin, or Jimmy John’s. (This is our style.) We thought back how many times we did our date lunch on Monday and we sat across from each other and rehearsed for half an hour the pain of the years, and the reasons for discouragement now, and we never once quoted any Scripture at all.
Then we read in Psalm 40:5. We paused and we said, “We’ve never done this before. We are going to make a verse our year marriage verse.” We’ve never had a year marriage verse (if we have, I’ve forgotten it). We’re working on memorizing it, and for some reason I’m finding it a tough verse to memorize. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us. None can compare with you. I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5).
“You will sink if you only listen to the voices of the circumstances that are giving you problems.”
Now here’s the relevance. The number of the wondrous deeds of God is uncountable. The number of his thoughts toward our marriage —his thoughts as our Father toward us, our children, our grandchildren, our marriage — the number of those thoughts is beyond counting.
And as a husband, though — this is a little tiny exhortation here to the men — I believe those lunchtimes of God’s silence is my fault. The number one responsibility of a husband is to lead with the word of God. When a thousand reasons are being accumulated and moped over for why we are sad, it’s my job to rise and call down some of the wondrous deeds of God, some of the thoughts of God, and proclaim them and tell of them. That’s what we decided we would do. So you can ask us in June or July, “How’s Psalm 40:5 going?” I went to my little Apple computer, and I entered it as a daily reminder for every Monday at 11 a.m. in the year.
His Better Voice
You will sink, folks — you’ll sink in your marriage, you’ll sink in your parenting, you’ll sink in your singleness, you’ll sink in your studies if you’re a student — you will sink if you only listen to the voices of the circumstances that are giving you problems. They speak so loud, and they have nothing good to say.
This is a very thick book. He has so many wondrous deeds and so many thoughts towards his children, hundreds and hundreds of thoughts towards his children. “I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5). Well, that’s my testimony and our marriage testimony. May the Lord make his word dwell richly this year.