In a recent survey, I asked some people from our congregation to anonymously answer a few questions about their Bible reading. The results weren't too surprising:
- 62% Read their Bibles between the hours of 5am and 9am
- 15% Read their Bibles after 9am in the morning
- 15% Read their Bibles in the evening
- 8% Read their Bibles late at night
- 54% Spend about 20-30 minutes reading
- 31% Read for about 10-20 minutes
- 8% Read for more than 30 minutes
- 8% Read for less than 10 minutes
The majority of Christians are reading their Bibles daily, in the early morning, for about 30 minutes or less, but how many of them are memorizing Scripture?
We have been studying the "Spiritual Disciplines" and up until now have discussed "Fasting," "Prayer," "Confession," and what the Spiritual Disciplines are in general. We've pointed out how important it is to our walk with Christ that we’re practicing various disciplines in order to grow in the knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 1:3-11). But none of the disciplines are as effective against temptation--or in building us up in our faith--as the discipline of Scripture Reading & Memorization.
How Did Jesus Overcome Temptation?
In the wilderness, as Jesus was being tempted after 40 days of fasting, Satan came and suggested that He turn stones into bread and satiate His physical hunger. Jesus responded with Scripture. Later, Satan brings Jesus to the top of the temple in Jerusalem and encourages Him to throw Himself down (himself quoting Scripture out of context)--and Jesus' response is to defend Himself by quoting Scripture. Finally, as Satan parades all the kingdoms that have ever been established on the earth, he offers them to Jesus if only He would bow down and worship him. Jesus says, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10).
At this point, Satan exits stage right, until another opportune time. How did Jesus defeat Satan's attacks? By quoting Scripture!
In the longest Psalm (and chapter of our Bibles for that matter!), David expresses his love, appreciation, and reverence for the Scriptures. One of the major ideas he points out in Psalm 119 is the reality of hiding God's Word in his heart:
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Notice that the remedy for an impure lifestyle as a young man is to guard against temptation with Scripture. David implores the Lord not to let him wander from the commands of God laid out in the law. He explains that the secret to victory over sin is to "store up Your word in my heart". How do we store up God's Word in our hearts? How do we--like Jesus--readily quote Scripture depending on the temptation?
The answer is reading and memorizing the Bible.
Reading and Memorizing
One year I made it a goal to memorize the entire book of Ephesians with the aim of reciting the entire book to our students at youth group on New Year's Eve at the end of the year. Falling behind during the holidays, I went into the final week of the year with all of chapter 5 and 6 still unfinished. So I decided to print up cards that had about 5-10 verses on each of them, and at every stop light on my morning and late afternoon commute I would read through the verses until I could recite them. By the end of that week, I had succeeded! Scripture memory was not insurmountable; I simply needed a goal--even one that seemed impossible--and a daily commitment to read and commit to the task.
Is it important to pick a translation you enjoy. At Shoreline, we teach from the NKJV, but in my personal devotional time, I read the ESV. I have always liked memorizing the NIV(84), but that translation is no longer in print. So currently I am working on memorizing Romans in the ESV. There are lots of great tactics and tricks that can help you with memorization, and I employ many of these to assist me. But I also find the value in memorizing various verses throughout the Bible.
(This is a flashcard set of 365 important verses in the Bible and a great way to learn a verse a day for the next year! https://quizlet.com/16217081/flashcards)
Are you reading and memorizing Scripture? For our next blog post, we will dive into the importance of meditating on the Word, and the discipline of Bible study.