Biblical Intake: Part 2
Review of Bible Intake, Part 1
Last week we learned that our godliness will be greatly influenced by our time spent ingesting the Word of God. And, we discussed two ways to consume the Bible – by reading it and by hearing it.
This week we’ll consider how memorizing and meditating on God’s Word applies the power of Scripture to our lives. We’ll also think about how journaling and pursuing other means of learning about God lead to greater spiritual fruitfulness. In discussing these four methods, we’ll do our best to give some practical tips as to how to do them.
Let’s pray. Father, you tell that we are to train ourselves “to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” () We come before you seeking that godliness. Our prayer this morning is that by your Spirit you will teach us how we should discipline ourselves, that You might change us to be more like Christ.
Imagine two brothers walking along their father’s wooded acreage and finding a young tree heavy with fruit. They both eat as much of the fruit as they want. When they start for home, one brother stuffs his shirt and pant pockets with as much fruit as he can carry. The other brother digs the tree up, takes it home and plants it in his yard. The tree flourishes, and regularly produces a bountiful crop. The second brother now often has fruit when the first does not.
This is analogous to how we are fed by God’s Word. Simply hearing the Word of God is to be like the first brother. It may produce an immediate affect and sustain us for a short journey, but in the long run, it won’t compare to being continually fed by the Word. Through reading and studying, we make that tree ours, so we can continually enjoy its fruit. But, memorization, meditation, journaling, and learning also can bountifully increase our harvest of fruit from the tree.
We’ll look at those four activities today, beginning with . . .
Memorizing God’s Word
Memorizing God’s Word
We have to begin by acknowledging that memorization is work – it takes time and consistency. To many Christians, Scripture memorization seems about as fun as falling down a flight of stairs. And yes – memorizing Scripture will seem mundane if we approach it as a boring task of little value.
We make excuses. How about this one: “I don’t have the time!” Well, life is busy, but… doesn’t it really often boil down to setting the right priorities and being diligent? Or how about this one: “I’m no good at memorization.” Well, what if someone offered you $500 for each verse you recited next Sunday? How many would you learn?
Now, that’s not a good motivation to memorize Scripture. But the point is this – you’ll be motivated if you see the benefits. So, what are some of the benefits of Scripture memorization?
A. Why Do It? What Are Our Motivations?
1. Memorization Supplies Spiritual Power
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Memorized Scripture helps us in our time of need, often making the difference between falling into temptation and standing in obedience.
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Sometimes, that way of escape God promises will be through memorized Scripture that comes to mind and fends off temptation. The way out of temptation isn’t necessarily an action or a magical doorway that appears out of nowhere, but it may be bearing a trial with contentment in your heart. It may be carrying joy that is fueled by the promise that God has saved you through the cross, that He promises to make all things right in the end, and that He promises to be our Father.
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him. . . And he broke down and wept.
Remembering the words of Christ brought Peter to repentance and aided his turning back toward faithfulness. God’s Word in Scripture, memorized, can do the same for us when we struggle with unbelief.
2. Memorization Strengthens Faith
17 Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, 18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. 19 So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you.
Learning God’s Word grows our trust in Him. Memorization repeatedly reinforces the truth, and will grow our trust in Him even more abundantly.
3. Memorization Equips Us for Witnessing and Counseling
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
You have great potential for good when you speak into someone’s life with the authority of God’s Word. If the Lord should open doors, you’ll be prepared to faithfully preach the gospel to the lost, or to speak appropriately and helpfully into the lives of fellow believers. When we do this we are fulfilling the work of the ministry. If we are equipped to proclaim the gospel to nonbelievers and give gospel-centered counsel to believers it is surely a sign that God is growing us in spiritually ().
4. Memorization is a Means of God’s Guidance
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.
Christians cannot accomplish any of their tasks in life without God’s guidance. Memorization keeps God’s words at the ready to lighten dark paths when faced with situations where discernment is needed.
5. Memorization Stimulates Meditation
Carrying a pocket Bible is helpful for all the above tasks, but as many of these Scriptures have testified, carrying the Bible in your heart and mind is even more powerful. This is especially true of meditation – you can think deeply on God’s Word anywhere, anytime. More on meditation coming up!
B. How To Do It? Methods
1. Decide You Can.
We have shown that the “no time” and “I can’t” excuses aren’t good ones. The question that we must answer is, will we do it? All that we need is an understanding of the power of God’s Word and a desire to know Him better.
Don Whitney tells a story of Dawson Trotman, founder of the Christian organization the Navigators, who was a truck driver for a lumberyard when he was converted. He worked to memorize one verse per day as he drove around town. During the first three years of his Christian life he memorized one thousand verses. That’s more than 300 per year. We can do it!
2. Have a Plan.
We can memorize by topic, such as faith or stewardship. We can memorize by passage. Even better, as we study a particular book, memorizing key verses will help us to gain a better overall understanding of the author’s intent in writing the book, even enabling us to mentally outline the book.
3. Write (or Type) Out the Verses
Taking the time to copy down a verse helps us to slow down and consider what it is saying. This increases our ability to recall the verse as well.
4. Draw Picture Reminders
For (the fruit of the spirit), you could draw an apple. For , “I have hidden you word in my heart…” you could draw a Bible inside a heart. These mnemonic devices really do work!
5. Memorize the Whole Verse, Word-Perfectly
Don’t miss opportunities to share your faith or participate in prayer because of a fear of misquoting a verse. And, knowing a verse word-for-word will help keep us from misinterpreting or misapplying Scripture. Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church Durham, has a great little booklet that might help you with this called An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.
6. Find a method of accountability
Help each other out! Commit to memorizing text with other Christians. You can repeat them to your small group or with your spouse. This can be encouraging to everyone involved!
7. Review every day
Memorized Scripture is like most things stored in our memories – you might have known a verse last year, but you will lose it without repetition. Use it or lose it.
8. Sing Songs
Make up or find Bible songs to memorize Scripture.
So, the goal of memorization is godliness. Memorize the Word to transform your mind (). Make the effort – God’s Word promises you’ll see the tremendous spiritual fruit God will bear through it.
Meditating on God’s Word
Meditating on God’s Word
Does meditation sound “New-Agey” to you? It shouldn’t. Biblical meditation is both commanded by God and modeled by the saints in Scripture.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Let’s define meditation. Meditation is deep thinking on the truths revealed in Scripture, for the purposes of understanding, application, prayer, and joy! Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word. It is deeper, more substantial. And, Christians don’t meditate by emptying their minds; they fill them up with truth.
A. Why Do It? Motivations
1. Promise of Success
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Success in God’s eyes is living by His wisdom. He will bless us in many, many ways as we do this, even if this is giving us an inexplicable joy in trials, and preserving us to the end of our days.
2. Meditation brings spiritual maturity
98 Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
Hearing the Word at church on Sunday is wonderful, but by itself it can be like a short rain fall beating on hard ground – it may just run off, not sinking in. Meditation is like a longer, steadier rain, saturating you with the Word. It brings wisdom and insight that will lead to a more godly life.
1. Select your verses
They can be any – but, why not choose verses you’ve committed to memory? They’ll always be with you; you can meditate on them any time!
2. Repeat the verse in different ways
Put the stress on different words, using different inflections, until you make it your own. Having your own way of saying it helps you remember it.
3. Rewrite verses in your own words
This will help you focus your attention on the meaning of the passage, and at the same time, help you to remember it.
4. Pray through the text
Ask God to give you understanding of the passage through His Spirit. Pray the passage for yourself and for others.
5. Don’t rush!
Meditation takes time! Sometimes God may choose to reveal something to you only after you’ve already thought on the passage a few times. Remember that meditation goes past simply reading – reading large chunks of Scripture quickly is often helpful, but if that characterizes all our Bible intake, certain aspects of meditation can’t happen.
6. Silence and Solitude
We used to have a class on silence and solitude in this core seminar, but as we taught it over the years we saw that it is more of an aid to the other disciplines. Silence and solitude can be a great aid in both memorizing and meditating on Scripture. In one sense it may enable us to focus our minds more.
What is journaling? As a Christian, our journal is a personal place to record the works and ways of God in our lives. This can include accounts of His faithful care for us, how His Word has guided us, as well as how He has caused us to grow in holiness through our struggles with and triumph over sin. Our journals can also include information on personal relationships, insights into Scripture, as well as prayer requests and answers to prayer.
Journaling is not commanded in the Bible, but Scripture contains many examples of God-inspired journals. For instance, many psalms are accounts of David's personal spiritual journey with God. And the book of Lamentations is much like a journal, recounting Jeremiah's feelings about the fall of Jerusalem.
A. Why Do It? What are our Motivations?
1. To help us in self-understanding and evaluation
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Even as Christians with new hearts, our self-understanding is still marred by the deceit of indwelling sin. Journaling can be a means that God uses to search our hearts and to try our thoughts.
2. To help us meditate on Scripture (DEPAC)
1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers,
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
This is where the spiritual disciplines of meditating upon God's Word and journaling meet. Putting our thoughts down on paper as we read the Bible is a good way of meditating upon God's Word. Writing focuses our minds while we meditate on the Word. Bringing a pen and paper to our Bible times can heighten our sense of anticipation, as we come expecting a fresh insight from the Holy Spirit as He applies the Word to our hearts.
3. To help us express our thoughts and feelings to the Lord
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah
As God's people, one of the ways we can pour out our hearts to God is through the practice of journaling. The psalms are a good example of this. They record a wide range of Christian thoughts and feelings – joy, sadness, anger, peace, and more.
4. To help us remember the Lord’s works
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
We tend to forget our rich blessings in Christ, as well as the many times when God has answered prayer or enabled us to persevere and mature in our Christian walk. Having a journal to record these things reminds us of how the Lord has blessed us, can help to foster joy and gratitude to God in our lives and strengthen our faith in Him as we remember how He has provided for us.
The Old Testament is filled with accounts of saints setting up physical memorials to remind themselves of God’s faithfulness in specific situations, like Samuel after God gave Israel the victory over the Philistines (). And, this principle finds its supreme expression in the Lord’s Supper. We eat of the bread and drink of the cup in remembrance of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Journals can help us to remember by recording our spiritual Ebenezers, of God's unfailing love and faithfulness toward us in Christ.
5. To help us create and preserve a spiritual heritage
A journal communicates the gospel to future generations. Imagine the powerful witness a faithfully-kept journal could be to your children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, as they read of God’s goodness to you!
Job even knew the value of words that could be preserved after his death and he proclaimed this about his testimony of God as his Redeemer at the end of all things.
23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!”
6. To help clarify and articulate our insights
Journaling can help lend coherence to our thoughts concerning Scripture. Francis Bacon said, “While reading makes a full man, and dialogue a ready man, writing makes an exact man.” What sounds right in our heads often shows itself to be wrong on paper.
7. To help us monitor our goals and priorities
A journal can be a tool to remind us of the things we have promised to do. If we really care about our growth in some area of our Christian life, we should inspect our progress over a period of time. We can use journals to do this. Have we grown in Christian maturity? Then we should give thanks and praise to God. Have we failed in certain areas? Then we should go humbly to God, seeking His help and forgiveness through our Savior.
B. How To Do It? Methods
1. Notebooks. Enough said.
2. Loose leaf paper. Why? It can be left in multiple places so that a sheet is always handy. You can assemble those sheets into a binder about once a week. So, if you lose your paper, you’ve lost only one week’s worth of journal. Crossway makes a Journaling Bible that could work for this, and Reformation Heritage Books publishes what are called Journibles that could be helpful too.
3. Computer. Blogs journals are great – and, laptops enable writing anywhere. Consider browsing through you Facebook and Twitter posts for the year and using that as an opportunity for self-examination as well.
Have you ever felt like you have to choose between an intellectual understanding of God and an emotional heart response to Him? Please don’t! God calls us to love with our heart and with our mind! How can we love God unless we first know about Him? A biblically-balanced Christian has both a full head and a full heart.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? J.I. Packer says we must, “turn each truth we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” The worship of God ought to be the goal of all our learning! Knowledge that is not exercised in love toward God and toward one another will only make us proud ().
Reading, studying, hearing, memorizing and meditating on Scripture are the chief ways we learn as Christians. But let’s now think a bit about other ways we can learn.
A. How can we learn? A Variety Of Ways! A Short List:
Sitting under good teaching at church Books Recordings of sermons, talks, and conferences Christian radio The Internet Speaking with spiritually mature Christians Discipling relationships Christian fellowship – Who do you hang out with? You can tell a lot about a person if you know who he’s been hanging out with.
B. Why Learn? Motivations
1. Learning is commanded
Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
This is a call to an effortful pursuit of knowledge. And, the learning spoken of here isn’t rote memorization of facts. Godly wisdom is the skillful application of God’s truth in our lives. Take the time to learn well!
2. Learning characterizes the wise person
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.
The wise man is humble and teachable, because he knows there is so much he has yet to learn. A wise man regards knowledge as precious treasure. He will diligently seek it out and then steward it well.
3. Learning fulfills the greatest commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
God demands that we love Him with our whole person, including our mind.
4. Learning is essential for increased godliness
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Unless we renew our minds through learning, we will not be able to discern God's will, and will therefore not be transformed, and will not grow in godliness. Do you desire to walk in obedience to God? Then be diligent in learning more about Him.
C. Learning Takes Discipline
8 But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. 9 It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.
Simply being a Christian for a long time does not mean we have grown in knowledge. Learning takes discipline. Unless we are intentional about learning, our growth in the knowledge of God will be haphazard at best. We would do well to take to heart Paul's exhortation to Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
We cannot handle the Word correctly and with confidence if we have not worked diligently to get understanding. Also, handling the Word of truth is not limited to what we say in front of others, but in how we live our lives.
D. Reading to Learn – Some Tips
For many of us, reading good Christian books is the simplest way of learning. So, let’s talk about some practical tips on how to do this well.
First, where can I find good books? The church bookstall and library are great places to start. The books there have been approved by the elders because of their teaching value. There are also several good Christian booksellers online.
Second, what kind of books should we read? Ligon Duncan says it well: “You want to be reading soul-fattening books – works that will increase your knowledge, your love for the Lord and your confidence in Scripture.” [Consider giving away a good book!]
A few tips to bear in mind when reading:
Read the way that suits you. Whether fast or slow, read naturally.
Read and think. Don’t just let the words wash over you –evaluate what you read.
Read and talk about it. Share impressions and recommendations with others. This will enrich your spiritual conversations, and it’s one of the best ways to seal new knowledge in your mind.
Read and be challenged. Let a good biography fire you up. Let a doctrinal book help you know God’s character. Let a devotional book stir self-examination and love for Christ.
Read systematically. Read different kinds of books (doctrine, Christian living, devotionals, biographies, commentaries, church history) – God will make you more useful for more purposes as you do.
Read always. However little time you may have to spare in a day, try to read. Even if you only have 10 minutes per day, if you read at a pace of one page every two minutes, you could read 7 to 8 200-page Christian books this year!
Read but don’t steal. Your first priority throughout life is to read God’s Word. Other reading should not subtract from that. Other books are good only as they promote Bible understanding and application.
One note on learning – we should regularly assess what fruit our learning is bearing in our lives. Is my learning leading me to love God more, to love Scripture more, to be more devoted to Christ, more committed to gospel ministry, to be more Christ-like, more humble and servant-minded?
Lord, we acknowledge that we are too often a lazy people, unwilling to discipline ourselves even when you tell us it would be for our good and for your glory. Give us grace, give us diligence and a desire to put these spiritual disciplines into practice. Cause us to be steadfast and immovable, knowing that our work in the Lord is not in vain. Bring fruit from our work, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.