Pastor John, last time you explained why you memorize Scripture — why it’s a priority for you — and you challenged us to memorize Romans 8. Last time you said you wanted to give some concrete, practical suggestions on how to do that. So let’s talk about that today. What are some very basic steps that can help us memorize Scripture?
When I was a pastor at Bethlehem, we always began the year with a focus on the word and prayer. And in that week, we would have a kickoff on Wednesday night, and we would emphasize Scripture memory. And I remember a few years ago, Sam Crabtree, the executive pastor, stood up, and he recited the entire Sermon on the Mount.
Gift to the Church
It was riveting, because Sam is a good reader anyway. And I remember at one point he started walking across to the side of the platform as he was beginning Matthew 7, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log,” and when he got to the word “log” he had timed it to stand beside one of those massive wooden columns in our sanctuary, and he put out his hand and he said, “Why don’t you notice the log?” And he put his hand on that just as he was reciting it. I will never forget that. It was just so amazingly powerful that he was doing the recitation, and that he had this picture of a log, you know, forty feet tall and just massive.
So I have had some amazing experiences of people reciting Scripture. Jon Bloom, the president of Desiring God, recited the entire book of Hebrews from memory as the main message in one of the worship services at his church. So I have been working on this and believe in it, and I want to help people with some how-to’s here. So here is a suggestion.
Andy Davis has written a little booklet. It is online in a PDF called An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture. And I would recommend to everybody to look at it, but I will give you the summary of how it helped me here. So if you are going to memorize Romans 8 with me over the next forty days or so — because there are 39 verses in it, and that is a verse a day — I will show you how I do it. And I am basically just repeating what Andy says so I give him full credit for these suggestions, and I thank him for inspiring me and helping me.
Verse by Verse
On day one — so that might be tomorrow for you — you read, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). And you read it ten times. You put your eyes on it and read it ten times. Now, you will have it memorized before the tenth time, but keep reading it. Don’t lift your eyes off of it, and look at every different word, because looking is part of fixing it in your brain. Then, when the tenth time is done, you close your eyes or shut your Bible and say it from memory ten times.
And I would suggest each time you say it, emphasize a different word. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
”Pray for strength as you begin, and let the Bible talk to you powerfully, and commit to do it. It just infinitely worth it.“
And as you mention each of those words, new meanings probably will flash before your eyes and fix the word not only because it is content, but because of the meaning of it in your mind. So when you are done with that, you are done for the day as far as memorizing Romans 8.
On the next day — day two — you say that verse ten times without looking. If you have trouble, you look. Get it down. And then you go to verse 2. Do exactly the same thing. Read it ten times. Close your eyes. Say it ten times. And then say the two together and the same thing on day three. Recite verses one and two and then say the third verse ten times, and you read it ten times, and then say it ten times and right on through 39 times.
Day by Day
The trick is going to be staying with it and repeating the long passage. It gets longer every day. So it is going to take more time every day to do this. But it doesn’t take a lot of time. I am setting aside maybe ten or fifteen minutes a day in the new year to nail down some things that I have worked on in the past and to make some progress. I want to memorize Philippians again. I had it a couple of years ago, and I want to make sure I have it again when I teach on it in fall.
So that is my suggestion. Go to Andy Davis’s article online. Grab it. Don’t grow weary in this battle. Pray. Pray for strength as you begin, and let the Bible talk to you powerfully, and commit to do it. It just infinitely worth it.