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    Feb 01, 2020

    Class 4: Bible Intake (Part 2)

    Series: How to Grow

    Category: Core Seminars, Devotional Life, Personal Holiness, Prayer, Sanctification & Growth


    This week we’ll consider how memorizing and meditating on God’s Word applies the power of Scripture to our lives. 


    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.

    Opening Prayer:

    Let’s pray.  Father, you tell that we are to train ourselves “for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Tim. 4:7b-8). 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 the woods on their father’s ground who find a tree with a lot of 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.[1]  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 . . . 


    I. 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 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 stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).

    Memorized Scripture helps us in our time of need, often making the difference between falling into temptation and standing in obedience.

    "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13).  

    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. It may be bearing a trial with contentment in your heart.  It may be carrying a 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.

    2.  Memorization Strengthens Faith

    "17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge,18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19 That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you" (Prov 22:17-19).

    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 fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" (Prov 25:11).

    You have great potential for good when you speak into someone’s life with the authority of God’s Word.  The person with the word laid up in his heart will be prepared to faithfully preach the gospel to the lost, or to speak into the lives of fellow believers in a helpful way.  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 a sign that God is growing us in spiritually (Eph. 4:12).

    4.  Memorization is a Means of God’s Guidance

    "Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors" (Psalm 119:24). 

    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, 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.[2]  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. This enables 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 Galatians 5:22 (the fruit of the spirit), you could draw an apple.  For Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your 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.[3]

    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 (Rom. 12:1-2).  Make the effort – God’s Word promises you’ll see the tremendous spiritual fruit God will bear through it. 

    II. 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!  It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).

    "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8).

    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

    "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success" (Josh 1:8).

    Success in God’s eyes is living by His wisdom. He can count on his blessing if we do this, even it means simple joy and perseverance in the face of trials. 

    2.  Meditation brings spiritual maturity

    "98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation" (Psalm 119:98-99).

    Hearing the Word at church on Sunday is wonderful, but by itself it can be like a short rain fall beating on hard ground. The rain 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 godlier life.

    B.  Methods 

    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 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. 

    III. Journaling

    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. 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 desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 I the Lord search the heart and test the mind…” (Jer 17:9-10).

    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

    "1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2).  

    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.[4] 

    3.  To help us express our thoughts and feelings to the Lord

    "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Selah" (Psalm 62:8).  

    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 wonders of old.12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77:11-12).  

    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.  Remembering God’s past faithfulness can help to foster joy and gratitude to God in our lives and strengthen our faith in Him. 

    The Bible is filled with accounts of saints setting up physical memorials to remind themselves of God’s past faithfulness. One example is Samuel after God gave Israel the victory over the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:12).  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 personal spiritual Ebenezers,[5] 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. So, he proclaimed this about his testimony of God as his Redeemer at the end of all things.

    "23 Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! 24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!" (Job 19:23-24).  

    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.”[6]  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.  Journaling can help us 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[7] that could be helpful too.

    3.  Computer.  Blogs journals are great – and, laptops enable writing anywhere.  Consider browsing through your Facebook and Twitter posts for the year and using that as an opportunity for self-examination as well. 

    IV. Learning

    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.

    "16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," (Eph 1:16-18). 

    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.”[8]  The worship of God ought to be the goal of all our learning!  Knowledge that is not exercised in love toward God and others will only make us proud (1 Cor. 8:1). 

    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:

    1. Sitting under good teaching at church
    2. Books
    3. Recordings of sermons, talks, and conferences
    4. Christian radio
    5. The Internet
    6. Speaking with spiritually mature Christians
    7. Discipling relationships
    8. 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 ear to words of knowledge" (Prov 23:12). 

    This is a call to an diligent 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

    "An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" (Prov 18:15). 

    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 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:28-30). 

    God demands that we love Him with our whole person, including our mind.[9] 

    4.  Learning is essential for increased godliness

    "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom 12:2).

    Unless we renew our minds through learning, we will not be able to discern God's will. Therefore, we will 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 man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. 9 It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right" (Job 32:8-9).

    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 worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15).

    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.[10]

    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.”[11] 

    A few tips to bear in mind when reading:

    1. Read the way that suits you.  Whether fast or slow, read naturally.
    2. Read and think.  Don’t just let the words wash over you –evaluate what you read.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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!
    7. 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?

    Closing Prayer:

    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.

    [1] This is not unlike the Chinese proverb:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Chinese Proverb  The International Thesaurus of Quotations  Edited by Rhoda Thomas Tripp  (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1970), 76.
    [2] Whitney, Donald S.  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life  (Colorado Springs:  NAVPress, 1991), 44-5.
    [3] Davis, Andrew  An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture – you can find it for free on the internet:  Plan to hand out a number of these in class.  Print a bunch of these off and give them away during class.
    [4] You could also say something here about the importance of writing the Scripture for the kings of Israel, a la Deuteronomy 17:18.
    [5] This means “stone of help” in Hebrew.
    [6] Bacon, Francis  A Harmony of the Essays. Etc. of Francis Bacon  Arranged by Edward Arber  (London:  Ent. Stat. Hall., 1871), 10.  The this quote is written as follows in this citation:  “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.”
    [7] At the time of the writing of this manuscript there are 8 volumes of these that have been published in the [Deuteronomy] 17:18  series: - Psalms 1-72; Psalms 73-150; Proverbs; John; Romans; Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/1 & 2 Thessalonians; Timothy-Hebrews; and James-Jude.  These are being published by Reformation Heritage Books.
    [8] Packer, J. I.  Knowing God  (Downers Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1973), 23.
    [9] If you can substantiate where the following quote is from use it:  R.C. Sproul writes this:  “God has made us with a harmony of heart and head, of thought and action... The more we know him the more we are able to love him.  The more we love him the more we seek to know him.” Praise God for creating such an ongoing, God-glorifying cycle of Christian growth! [Sproul, R. C.,  unsure of the source]
    [10] Some good publishers are the Banner of Truth Trust, Crossway Books, Reformation Trust, Matthias Media, and Christian Heritage/Focus/Mentor Books.
    [11] Duncan III, J. Ligon  Timothy, Letters on Pastoral Ministry  Edited by Tom Ascol  (Cape Coral:  Founders Press, 2004), 201.