BARBARANNE KELLY|GUEST •••
I have been involved in Bible studies for the past twenty-seven years, seeking to learn more about my Savior and to grow in his likeness. Numerous theological conferences and countless sermons helped to increase my knowledge and understanding. And yet, I have only recently begun a practice which, together with diligent study and doctrinal truth, has accomplished more in transforming my mind and walk than I could have imagined possible. I have begun memorizing Scripture. Not a sprinkling of favorite verses here and there, but entire books. I’m not going to claim that it’s easy; it has taken discipline and daily practice. However, I will tell you that it is worth it.
Hiding God’s Word
Last year I memorized the book of Philippians, and this year I’m working on Ephesians. By doing so, I am filling my heart and mind with the Word of God: availing myself of a means of grace which is at my very fingertips. As my heart fills with the Word, God uses it by his Spirit, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
When the Word of God is described in Hebrews as living and active, that’s no mere colorful metaphor. I am learning that ‘hiding the Word’ in my heart does not mean that I am tucking it away into a dark corner from which I may or may not fish it back out again when in need. That’s what happens to names and dates, important facts and appointments. (Don’t believe me? Just ask my kids…) But God’s Word, when hidden in a heart, goes to work breathing life into that heart and transforming the mind so that the meaning of the Word is illuminated and the life and walk of the believer are conformed to Christ.
Meditating on Paul’s prayers has changed how I pray for others and for myself. Paul prayed for others’ spiritual growth and relationships with Christ and the church in the face of difficult circumstances; not that the Lord would remove the circumstance, but that it would accomplish his purposes. Paul was in prison, and he asked for prayer that Christ would be honored and the gospel would continue to advance, not that he would be released!
When I pray, I needn’t reach for my Bible and hunt for a passage when it is already in my heart; the Word of God spills out into my petitions as I plead with the Lord that he may grant my children “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith…” (Eph. 3:16, 17). I pray for my church, that we would “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), and for myself, that the Lord would help me to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which I have been called, with all humility and patience, so that I would bear with others in love… (Eph. 4:1-2).
Reading the Bible has become more fruitful as I have memorized portions of it. The principle that Scripture interprets itself is coming alive in my reading as I’m seeing connections which I didn’t go looking for with a concordance. Because the words are tucked away in my heart, they come to mind as I read elsewhere in Scripture. Just last week I happened upon Isaiah 46:9-10, which says:
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
Ephesians 1:11 sprang to mind, gloriously illuminated by Isaiah. God’s purpose for predestining me to obtain an inheritance ‘according to the counsel of his will,’ in light of Isaiah, came bursting to life.
God assures us that his Word will not return to him without accomplishing his purposes, and one of its purposes is conviction of sin. Memorizing Scripture hasn’t turned me into a super-saint. I still stumble and sin. But the Word is feeding my conscience to remind me more constantly what the will of the Lord is, and therefore head my sin off at the pass or draw me more quickly to repentance. As the precious truths about the riches of God’s grace are more deeply embedded in my heart and my mind, I am increasingly realizing the depth of the debt I owe to my Savior. My sin brings me greater grief as the light of the Word unmasks its destructive ugliness. I would rather walk as a child of light and forsake the unfruitful works of darkness.
Memorizing the Word helps me understand the intimacy of Christ loving me and giving himself up for me, that he might sanctify me, having cleansed me by the washing of the water with the word, so that he might present me to himself without spot of wrinkle or any such thing, that I might be holy and without blemish. This amazing truth transforms my heart. My Savior is using his Word to adorn me for an eternity with himself. My desire for holiness is growing to outweigh my desire for anything the world has to offer.
I hope I have been able to convey in this post how rich and full of blessing is the practice of memorizing Scripture. In my next post, I will describe the method by which I learned to memorize and invite you to join me.
Barbaranne reads, writes, cooks, runs, and shoots an occasional photo in Texas. She and her husband Jim are the parents of five of the neatest people they know and grandparents to the first two of (hopefully) many grandchildren. She has been blogging ever since she accidentally signed up for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s blog post and figured, “Why not?” She now blogs at Grateful and Women of Purpose, a ministry of the women of her church. Barbaranne and Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, where she leads a Bible study for women in the hope that she and they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.