Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Way to Memorize Passages of Scripture

My Experience:
Years ago this sermon changed my life. In the beginning of the sermon, John Piper quotes multiple chapters of Scripture from memory. Before hearing this, I didn’t see memorizing Scripture at that capacity as something that most Christians can reasonably do.
I was so encouraged by it that I committed Romans 8 to memory. Since I have been able to memorize the Sermon on the Mount and the entire book of Ephesians.
My goal in saying this is not to boast, but to show you that it is actually easier than you may think. It just takes a little consistency.
Many of us have grown up memorizing memorizing certain verses in Sunday school, but there are various reasons as to why I would recommend memorizing passages of Scripture (many of these correspond with John Piper's points).
It deepens your understanding of the Bible in general. Memorize a series of verses makes you think about the passage in context. It drives you to want to understand the book in which it is contained and the whole canon of Scripture.
You can study Scripture everywhere. When you have passages of Scripture in your mind, you can literally study them while walking to and fro, driving, standing in line, or doing anything that would otherwise be boring.
It gives you a deeper understanding of a passage. Understanding something new can require renewing our mind on more than one layer of thought. So, for a few days, one aspect of a passage may stretch your heart and mind. After that sits with you for about a week, you may be challenged by something else in the very same passage.
It progressively forms you as you mature. A passage as complex as Romans 8 cannot be fully understood in one reading. As I grow in my relationship with God and in my understanding of the Bible, I continue to understand Romans 8 on new various different levels that I was not ready to comprehend at an earlier point in my life.
The method that I have used is one that I have heard from various sources. I originally heard it from N.T. Wright. Here’s how I go about it.
If I don’t have much time:
Right now I am not taking much time in my day to memorize Scripture, but I am trying to reteach myself the Sermon on the Mount. It probably takes less than 3 minutes out of my daily routine.
Day 1: I would look at Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor and spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I read it to myself 10 times. Then, I try to repeat it to myself without reading 10 times, only looking if I am unsure whether I am repeating it correctly.
Then throughout the day, I meditate on it when I have spare moments. So, if I am driving by myself, walking by myself in the hallway, or waiting in line, I am repeating to myself, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This usually leads me to think about the passage more. What does it mean to be “poor in spirit? Is that describing how we should be, or to who the kingdom is offered?” “Who is Jesus addressing? Is he talking to the 12 disciples, or a large crowd?” “What does he mean by the kingdom of heaven? Is that referring to the future, here and now, or both?” As I continue to muse over these things and memorize more verses, I continue to see connections with other parts of Scripture.
Sometimes, I forget the verse while I am out and about and I try to check myself on it as soon as I can get ahold of a Bible that is the same translation as mine. Sometimes I keep it pulled up on my smart phone all day. Some people like to write it on a card.
Day 2: I repeat Mat. 5:1 again. Then I do the same thing with 5:2 that I did with 5:1.
To make sure I am remembering the whole passage, I will occasionally take the time to try to recite it all to myself. This usually means that I take part of my prayer time to recite it and think about it. Or maybe I have a longer drive than normal where I have time to think about it all the way through. This is usually pretty sloppy at first and I have to correct myself a lot, but I get better the more I do it.
It take refreshing: It will take some time to really know a passage by heart, but once you do, it sticks with you with minimal practice.
If I make time:
If you use these methods and carve out some time each day, you will be surprised how quickly you could memorize a book like Ephesians or Philippians.
It will take time, but, if you are consistent, you may be surprised at how much your mind takes in.

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