After a lot of soul searching and prayer I have decided to memorize scripture for the next 40 days. Specifically, I’ll memorize the Sermon on The Mount, Matthew chapters 5-7, and live out lessons from it each day.
Why You Should Memorize Scripture
One of my friends on Facebook asked why I wanted to memorize scripture. My response was,
Whenever you dive deeply enough into a lengthy piece to memorize it, I find that you’ve truly internalized it and when that happens it shapes your behavior. Also, pieces of it leap to mind when you really need it. The bible talks about the word of God as a sword. The memory is the sheath that allows you to always have it with you.
The Word Protects Us
The Psalmist says it best, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) Memorizing scripture is like installing virus protection software for your soul. You’ll find that when you are about to act contrary to God’s will, an annoying but wonderfully helpful, scriptural pop-up will happen in your head that tells you, ‘Warning, this is a really bad idea.’ This doesn’t happen if you don’t know scripture.
The Word Guides Us
Those scriptural pop-ups aren’t only prohibitive. They also point you toward doing the right thing. Yesterday, after reading the Sermon On The Mount, a friend called whose car battery was dead. She’s never dealt with a dead battery. I could have jumped her car and sent her off to get it replaced. However, because of my reading and memorization work, I decided that I should go the ‘extra mile’ in helping her with the problem.
I jumped the car to get it somewhere to test the battery. She had a lot of corrosion though on the battery terminals. Thus, the test wasn’t definitive. We couldn’t tell if the battery or connection was bad. So, we took the car to my house. I showed her how to clean the terminals. I re-tested the battery at home. Sure enough she needed a new battery. I escorted her to the shop and then dropped her off later to pick it up when it was done. Scripture popping up in my head encouraged me to care by taking the extra time.
I had several pressing issues, but again scripture from the Sermon on the Mount, assured me not to worry over that. I didn’t and all of the other things worked out just fine.
God Tells Desire Us To
The Psalms speak about meditating on God’s word and hiding it in our hearts repeated. Many great people of the bible had a love for God’s word and worked at knowing and obeying. The prophet Ezra’s example, is what encouraged me. I prayed for God to direct me toward a spiritual discipline for Lent. This direction came through my morning devotional time and the suggestions of friends. Specifically, I have been studying the Prophets from around the era of the rebuilding of the temple. As I read Ezra chapter 7, verse 10 lept off the page, ‘For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.’ This verse resonated deeply for me so I started looking for a practical way to set my heart on God’s word, live it out, and share what I learned as I did so.
Guess what this means — you’ll probably be seeing lots of upcoming posts on The Sermon on Mount.
Why The Sermon On The Mount?
A Realistic Goal
Originally, I was considering memorizing the Gospel of Mark in 4 days. Then I realized — “No John, that’s crazy.” So I put it out to friends on Facebook what I was considering doing and asked for feedback. That’s when a friend suggested the Sermon on the Mount, which seemed far more doable at 111 verses. (Thank you Michael C.) Memorizing it will still be demanding, but it’s a realistic goal for forty days.
Friends Encouraged Me
Another friend sealed the deal for me when she said, ‘You must memorize. You probably have a great start on it already. It’s my favorite.’ (Thank you Leslie C. You were right) I knew from her encouragement that if I went down this path, I wouldn’t be alone. I would have accountability and support
A Great Discipleship Piece To Know
Also, the Sermon on The Mount is such a great piece of scripture to memorize. Almost all of Jesus core teaching is contained in this single sermon which makes it a fantastic discipleship primer. Plus,the Sermon On The Mount has a great deal of structure to it that will make memorizing it easier.
So how will I go about memorizing?
Each day I am memorizing a handful of verses at a time. I read them out loud several times and then try to repeat them without looking. Once I have a day’s verses downsolidly, I double back and stack them onto verses I memorized previously. I do this in the morning, so I can recite them throughout the day. For example, I repeat the verses as I drive or work on chores. Lastly, I review right before I go to bed.
I’ll repeat this process until I have significant units of verses memorized; perhaps, fifteen to twenty verse sections. Once I get a section down, I will back away from it for a few days while I learn a new section. Then I will stack the sections like I do verses and see if I can recite it all together. It’s going to be a somewhat demanding process, but well worth the investment of time and energy.
You can use a whole lot more tips and tricks for memorizing scripture quickly. If anyone is interested in learning more bout memorizing, leave a comment below and I can put together a post dedicated to that specific topic.
One Last Word About Adopting Spiritual Disciplines
Even if you aren’t from a tradition that observes Lent you can benefit greatly from practicing a spiritual discipline for 40 days.
If you would like a free resource pack of eighteen handouts that each covers a different spiritual discipline, then enter you name and email address below and I will send you one immediately. The exercises cover a mix of activities that are either study, prayer, or action items. Here’s what is included:
Bible Reading Disciplines
Matthew in 40 days
Mark in 40 days
Luke in 40 days
John in 40 Days
Acts in 40 days
Top 40 Bible passages
Confession as a daily discipline
Five Finger Prayer
40 Bags in 40 Days
Fast and Contribute
Tame the Tongue
I would also encourage you to read my recent post, “Bible Study and Application: Setting Spiritual Goals.” The post includes concrete suggestions for setting a spiritual goal and maintaining it, an audio podcast, and a downloadable spiritual goals template. It’s the perfect companion to the resource pack.
Blessings on Your Lenten Journey,
Rev. John Arnold
Be sure to bookmark this page or save the link for future reference.
p.s. What if I don’t do Lent?
If Lent is not normative to your tradition, I would encourage you to download the packet anyways because the exercises aren’t necessarily tied to Lent. Anyone could adopt the suggested disciplines at anytime and benefit from them.