Memorizing Scripture for Spiritual Renewal
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” ~ Colossians 3:16
We live in a society where we are daily inundated with information. This reality is proving to be increasing in trajectory. In 2020, the U.S. population spent an average of 474 minutes consuming digital media each day. This year (2023), that number has increased to 503 minutes, or eight hours and 23 minutes. Most of this information overload is received from our phones. Conversely, while our media consumption is on the rise, our attention and retention are decreasing. One recent study revealed that the average attention span of an adult has fallen from twelve seconds to eight seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish!
This striking reality just might be providing an opportunity to resurrect an ancient spiritual practice that often evades the Church—Scripture memorization. While this practice may be difficult, it proves to be a delight to those who have been disciplined to do it. Here are four practical ways we can recommit to Scripture memory so that we can cut through the noise of information saturation and make space for the word of Christ to dwell in us richly.
Of course, one of the first essential steps toward committing Scripture to memory is to read it, and to read it repeatedly. Yet there’s a difference between reading merely for rote memorization and relishing in the revelation of the Scripture. Repetition in reading over time is key to having Christ’s word dwell in us richly. However, when we read Scripture it is imperative to do so with reverent awe and a childlike wonder. These are not mere words, but are truly the very “words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
When we read Scripture it is imperative to do so with reverent awe and a childlike wonder. These are not mere words, but are truly the very “words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Next, read the Scripture passage contextually. By this, I mean to carefully consider the situation of the Scripture that you are seeking to memorize. So even if you’re memorizing a singular passage, knowing the context will allow you to rightly interpret and powerfully apply the truth that is being revealed. Additionally, while I personally recommend memorizing portions, chapters, or even books of the Bible, a single verse that richly dwells in your soul can be a window into the vast story of God’s redemption. For when Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” we are to call to mind that Christ is the centerpiece to which all of Scripture points.
Lastly, along with reading Scripture repeatedly and contextually, we ought to read imaginatively. In other words, enter into the story and tone of the text. Immerse yourself into the beauty and glory of the small details and imagine the sights, sounds, smells, and scenes of the author and original audience. Notice the richness of the verbs being employed and be expectant to ways the Spirit will illuminate your understanding. As you read, remember that you are not merely reading about God—you can actually encounter His presence, for the Spirit of Christ dwells within you (John 14:23; Romans 8:11).
The Holy Scriptures were not written to be scrolled or skimmed to yield a surface-level understanding. Rather, they are to be slowly savored to cultivate a deep intimacy with the Author. One of the ways I have found to aid in this approach is to keep an open journal and pen in hand and to simply write out the passage being memorized. Writing has a way of slowing you down to soak in every word and see insights you would have otherwise missed. Additionally, writing out Scripture you’re memorizing serves as a powerful reminder that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Each and every word has divine inspiration and intention. Writing it out has a way of leading you to live it out. The truth you are hiding in your heart is meant to train you in righteousness.
The Holy Scriptures were not written to be scrolled or skimmed to yield a surface-level understanding. Rather, they are to be slowly savored to cultivate a deep intimacy with the Author.
I once heard a Christian leader exclaim that if you want to hear God speak to you in an audible voice, then you simply need to read His word aloud. Of course, this statement is said with some spiritual sarcasm, but it does speak to the power of reading the word of God aloud. For good reason, Paul instructed his pastoral protégé Timothy in this way: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
I’m often reminded that until the advent of the printing press in the 15th century, the only way God’s people could hear the word was when they showed up in community. Yet still today, even with the immense privilege of having prevalent access to Scripture, reading it aloud can serve as a powerful pathway for the word of Christ to dwell richly within us. Practically, many Bible apps on our smartphones can read Scripture aloud for us, and even do so repeatedly so that we can commit certain passages to memory. My personal favorite is the Dwell Bible app.
Lastly, one other way we can “say” the Scripture in order to hear it and dwell in it is to sing it. Singing the Scriptures has been a core expression of worship for God’s people since the beginning. And when the word of Christ is combined with the melody of music, it dynamically brands it upon our memory. To hear how some modern Christian artists have done this, you can listen here to some ways we can sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
While praying Scripture is a linchpin for Strategic Renewal—and we have written much upon the necessity and power of it—it is also worth emphasizing how praying the word is an irreplaceable way to have the word of Christ dwell richly in us. Praying the word shapes and fuels our motive for prayer and Scripture memorization. Because God is worthy to be sought above all else, it follows that His word carries more worth than anything else we could devote to memory.
Because God is worthy to be sought above all else, it follows that His word carries more worth than anything else we could devote to memory.
Praying the word guides and directs us to pray the desires of Christ into action. Jesus masterfully said it this way: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Praying the word postures us as conduits to bring the Father’s will to fruition.
Finally, praying the word stores up a continual banquet for our souls to feed upon so that we can remain faithful to God. This is especially true during times of trial. Job, who endured what to many of us would be unimaginable suffering, declared, “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12). Yet even more strikingly, when Jesus faced what all of us could call unbearable temptation, He responded with the Scripture hidden in His heart by proclaiming, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). For further guidance on praying Scripture, download our Strategic Renewal App.
Praying the word stores up a continual banquet for our souls to feed upon so that we can remain faithful to God.
This summer, what if you began prioritizing time to memorize Scripture for spiritual renewal? Imagine the impact that having the word of Christ dwelling richly in you would have upon your family, church, and community. Not only will it awaken the mind of Christ that is already yours by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but it will fill and empower you for supernatural gospel impact. So when it comes to memorizing Scripture, join me in reading it, writing it, saying it, and praying it!
Copyright © 2023 Justin Jeppesen. All rights reserved