Memorizing God’s Word

There are two responses people have to the gospel, they will either accept it or reject it. Only those who accept the gospel are rewarded with eternal life. Everyone else remains under the wrath of God (Rom. 1). This is why it is so critical for us to recognize the word of God for what it really is. If we read God’s word as anything other than God’s word we are hopelessly lost.

Many people read the Bible without ever being changed by it. I had professors in college who regularly read the Bible and taught it to students every week, but they rejected it’s spiritual relevance. They read it as nothing more than a historical book full of myth and error. Whoever reads the word of God in that way does nothing but heap further condemnation upon themselves.

Instead, as believers, we should honor God’s word by giving it many opportunities to work in our lives. We should spend regular time reading it. Psalm 1 informs us that the man who meditates upon the law day and night is blessed. In fact, God’s word is his delight! We should attend worship services, bible studies, and prayer groups as often as we can. We should feel free to talk about Scripture, having spiritual conversation, with our friends. Along with Charles Spurgeon we should desire to bleed bibline like John Bunyan:

Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.

—”Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Curtis & Jennings, 1900), p. 268.

One of the ways I would encourage you to spend more time in the word is to memorize it. Find a passage that you want to meditate upon and commit it to memory. That way, wherever you are, you can have God’s word with you. It might be a passage that will help in your fight against temptation. It might be something that encourages you to press on in the faith. Or it might be something that speaks of the character of God.

Dr. Waters, professor of New Testament at RTS Jackson, almost always assigns a passage of Scripture for his students to memorize. In his classes, I have memorized Romans 8, Ephesians 4:1-16, and John 1:1-18. Although we are getting a grade for completing the assignment, it is probably the most fruitful thing we do.

I’m terrible at it. But over the years I have found some helpful resources. Memorize Now is a program that allows you to cut & paste a passage to memorize. After reading through the passage you click the next arrow and the program slowly eliminates words from the passage. This is a good way to memorize larger portions of Scripture. For shorter passages (a verse or two at a time) I recommend the Flashcards Deluxe app for iPhone or iPod Touch. It’s not flashy, but of the several flashcard apps I’ve tried, it was the best.

Here’s some inspiration. John Piper opened this sermon quoting several passages of Scripture.

How Believers Are Changed

My Precious!

Sin has ugly consequences that we often don’t experience until we begin to fight them. Sin is the fruit of some underlying idol. This has always been the case. God created Adam and Eve to worship and serve him, as well as to rule over creation (Gen. 1:26-28). But the consequence of the fall was to reverse the created order. Rather than serve God, men served themselves. Tim Keller says,

Instead of being God’s vice-regents, ruling over creation, now creation masters us. We are now subject to decay and disease and disaster. The final proof of this is death itself. We live for our own glory by toiling in the dust, but eventually we return to the dust—the dust “wins” (Gen 3:17–19).

We also need to recognize that we are always worshiping something. If we are not worshiping God, we are worshiping ourselves, someone else, or something else. We are created to worship God, but sin causes us to worship everything except God.

Since we must worship something we create miniature gods (idols) for ourselves to worship. Something else Keller points out is that worship is always connected to service. We cannot worship something without also serving it. We begin to devote ourselves to the object of our worship.

The idol occupies our thoughts when we lie down and when we wake up. When we worship our career, spouse, or reputation those pursuits start to define who we are. We give all of ourselves to the pursuit of our idols. They become precious to us.

This also works with our worship of God. When we worship God we become more like him. We cannot define ourselves apart from him and a progressive change begins to take place.

One of my favorite pictures of all of this is found in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis. Eustace, who is Lucy and Edmund’s cousin, is a spoiled and greedy boy who continually complains. He finds himself in Narnia aboard the Dawn Treader along with the normal crew.

At one of several stops made by the ship, Eustace wanders away from everyone else and finds a cave where he sees a dragon die. When Eustace enters the cave he realizes he is surrounded by treasure. He immediately begins contemplating how he can get all of this treasure onto the ship without anyone else noticing (as he has no intention of sharing).

However, upon getting lost in his thoughts, Eustace falls asleep laying down on top of his treasure. When he wakes up, he discovers that he has turned into a dragon. He has his treasure, but he’s completely alone and miserable.

Eustace the Dragon meets Aslan

Later on, at a time when Eustace is particularly vulnerable, Aslan (Christ) appears and leads Eustace to a well with marble steps. Eustace describes the experience:

The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

The the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was do deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty moldy compared with Caspian’s, but I was so glad to see them.

After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me – (with his paws?) – Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes – the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. and then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.

Eustace had become what he worshiped. When greed and selfishness had overcome him, he turned into a greedy monstrous dragon. It took the miraculous work of Aslan to restore him. Aslan alone could change him. Although Eustace was a new person, he continued to struggle with sin. The remembrance of his dragon suit would not go away. The struggle with greed and selfishness remained.

But here’s the difference. Aslan had defeated the dragon. Eustace was no longer a slave to greed, he was no longer bound by selfish ambitions. Eustace was no longer defined by dragon-like descriptions. And whenever he reverted back to those traits, all he needed to do was remember what Aslan had done for him. He had been rescued from the misery and isolation that his sin had caused.

No idol comes to our rescue. God alone rescues us like only he can. The only way any of us can overcome our idols is to be overcome by the gospel. That’s how believers are changed!

4 Days Without Mom

12 lessons I learned while Carrie was away for four days:

  1. My wife works harder than me. She not only has the time to educate these children, but she also cooks for them, cleans up after them, and  keeps them from killing each other.
  2. Mommy does everything better, just ask my kids.
  3. Attempting to do any kind of studying after a full day with four kids is nearly impossible.
  4. Secretariat is fun for all ages. Football…not so much.
  5. The sink (and neighboring counter top) can hold more dishes than you might initially think.
  6. Off! insect spray – when applied unevenly – actually attracts mosquitoes.
  7. Slightly charred burgers are not all that bad. And yes, it is possible to ruin a can of baked beans.
  8. Breakfast for dinner works as a great substitute.
  9. Zoning out can happen at any point and children can spot it immediately.
  10. If I cannot see or hear Thatcher (at all times!), he’s undoubtedly doing something forbidden, and Caitlin has probably led him there.
  11. It is possible to adequately clean the whole house in about an hour with the help of three trained girls who want to see their mother’s smile (as long as Thatcher remains intrigued by the vacuum).
  12. My children need their mother, and so do I.