Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take in God's Word! pt. 2

“That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way—words.” – Oswald Chambers

According to 1 Timothy 4:7-8 the purpose of spiritual discipline is Godliness. The foundational spiritual discipline is the intake of Holy Scriptures. In the previous post on this topic (Click here to read the first post. Both of these posts are adapted from Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines.) we saw three ways by which one may take in God’s Word: hearing, reading, and studying. This post will discuss two more methods – memorization and meditation.

Scripture memorization is not the exclusive domain of children’s ministries, nor is it only for the intellectually gifted. All believers should be hiding God’s Word in their heart. CJ Mahaney says in his excellent book The Cross-Centered Life:

“You might not think you’re good at memorizing Scripture. That’s okay. Don’t give up. Work at it. God isn’t keeping score. Even if it takes you longer than someone else, it’s worth the effort.”

Do you think it’s even possible for you to memorize Scripture? I guarantee you it is possible! Memorization is more a matter of motivation than of mental ability. There is no question about ability. You can memorize Scripture. The question is about desire. Are you willing to discipline yourself to do it? Would your attitude and desire change if you were offered $1000 per verse memorized? Any financial reward would be minimal compared to the value of the treasure of God’s Word deposited within your mind.

The Benefits

Memorization Supplies Spiritual Power

  • Psalm 119:11
  • Colossians 3:2
  • Ephesians 6:17
  • Matthew 4:1-11

When Scripture is stored in the mind it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to your attention when you need it most.

Memorization Strengthens Your Faith

  • Proverbs 22:17-19

Memorizing Scripture strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it.

Memorization Aids Witnessing and Counseling

  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • Acts 2:14-40
  • Lamentations 3:22-23

Remember, When Scripture is stored in the mind it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to your attention when you need it most, but until the verses are hidden in your heart, they aren’t available to use with your mouth.

Memorization is a Means of God’s Guidance

  • Psalm 119:9; 15-16; 24; 27; 36-37; 50
  • Ephesians 4:29

Just as the Holy Spirit retrieves Scriptural truth from our memory banks for use in witnessing to and counseling others, so also will He bring it to our own minds in providing timely guidance for ourselves. It’s the result of disciplined Scripture memory!

Memorization Stimulates Meditation

  • Psalm 1:1-3; 63:5-6; 119:97; 143:5

A memorized passage may be meditated on anywhere anytime. You can benefit from the spiritual discipline of meditation if you have made the deposits of memorization.

The Methods

  1. Have a plan. One idea is to select passages on a particular topic with which you struggle. The founder of The Navigators was a man named Dawson Trotman. He memorized 1,000 verses during the first three years following his conversion; years in which he drove a truck for an LA lumber-yard. One man told Trotman that he was afraid that following his example of Scripture memory would make him prideful. Trotman replied: “Then make your first ten verses on humility.”
  2. Write out the verses. Nothing aids the memory like writing. Write out the passage(s) on index cards, or type them on the note ap on your iPhone. Write our the verses, however you do it.
  3. Memorize the verses word-perfectly. Don’t settle for getting close, discipline yourself to memorize each word of the passage, including the “address” – the actual Scripture reference. This is the best standard of measurement, and it will boost your confidence in witnessing and counseling when you’re not stammering over the passages.
  4. Be accountable. Have someone to whom you repeat the verses. This person doesn’t have to be memorizing the Scriptures with you, or even a believer for that matter.
  5. Review and meditate every day. This review can take place anywhere anytime. An especially good time for review is right before bed – not a good time for Bible reading, but a good time for memorization review!

The discipline of Scripture memory is not an end of itself. The goal is not to see how many verses we can memorize. The goal is Godliness! The goal is to memorize God’s Word so that it can transform our minds and lives.

Biblical meditation defined: deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer. In Joshua 1:8 we read:

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Understand that spiritual success is measured in faithfulness. Never forget the relationship between meditation on Scripture and success. God’s Word is like a fire—Psalm 39:3; Jeremiah 23:29; Luke 24:32—meditation will fan the flame. The Puritan Thomas Watson said,

“The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.”

Christian Meditation

1. Select an appropriate passage and memorize it. We’ll use 1 John 1: 9 as an example:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness

2. Repeat it, placing emphasis on different words.

  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You get the idea. Emphasizing different words in the passage helps us to focus – to meditate on – the entire text and to understand it within its context.

3. Rewrite it in your own words.

  • “If Travis confess his sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

4. Pray through the passage. (Psalm 119:18; John 14:26) Meditation is more than just concentration. The Bible was written under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration; pray for illumination in your meditation.

5. Look for applications of the text. So what? That is the question you must answer. Meditation is incomplete without application. If you do not apply the truth the truth will do you no good. (James 1:22-25; John 13:17)

“To grow in your passion for what Jesus has done, increase your understanding of what He has done.” – CJ Mahaney

If you’re looking for some suggestions to get started I recommend memorizing passages of God’s saving work through the Cross. Here is a brief but exhilirating selection.

  • Isaiah 53:3-6
  • Romans 3:23-26
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • Romans 8:32-39
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  • Galatians 2:20-21

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