Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)
I take “the word of Christ” to mean the whole Bible because Christ is the theme, promise, focus and hope of every book (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 32, 45-46). Genesis to Revelation is Christ-exalting.
The word “dwell” is a picture word. It means “to live in, to be at home.” We’re to make sure the word of Christ is at home in our hearts. It is to live in our hearts as owner and ruler of our hearts.
What about the word “richly”? The word of Christ is to be at home in our hearts as the supreme treasure of our hearts. Your heart and mine ought to be a treasure chest of truth (Psalm 19:10; 119:11).
Let the word of Christ live in and rule you and be your most precious treasure. Memorizing Scripture is one way to get this done.
Here are a few tips on memorization.
I think the best tip is writing verses on an index card or post-it note to take with you through the day. You can just as easily put verses on your phone or IPad. Especially consider carrying verses with you that help you think about, pray over and fight against besetting sins.
Memorizing verses cold is the old fashioned way. Just keep repeating the verse(s) until it is easily quotable.
Listen to a passage over and over (day after day) on your commute. Several years ago, Beth and I listened to Romans 8 for a couple of months. We never got to the place where we could quote “the great eighth” word perfect but it remains today hidden in our hearts and very useful to us.
Select a passage, a psalm or a biblical prayer you wish to memorize. Make it a prayer focus during your regular prayer time. You will find that over time it is rooted in your heart. Presently I’m praying through Psalm 63 during my devotions. Slowly but surely, I am able to think and pray through it more deeply.
Memorize with a friend. Better yet, memorize verses with your children. One great idea is to memorize verses assigned to your children in our AWANA program. Seriously consider this Scripture memory ministry.
Is “word-perfect” memorization required?
Usually quoting it word for word is the way to go. This is especially true of verses and passages that are uniquely helpful and necessary for your present spiritual circumstances and battles.
It is also true that being familiar with a story or larger passage is most helpful. I have not memorized the whole story of Elijah on Mount Carmel but it is sufficiently in my heart as a warning against bowing to the idols of my surrounding culture. I can think my way through the great faith chapter (Hebrews 11) though I haven’t memorized it word perfect. It is most helpful to work God’s truth into your heart so that it is useable even if you don’t have it down pat.
What verses ought I to memorize?
Pick three or four verses that encourage and strengthen you to resist habitual sins. If necessary, ask a friend or pastor to make suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask for verses to help you address specific sins. This will only encourage these folks you trust to pray more personally for you.
Memorize key verses that honor the gospel (Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:32; 2Corinthians 5:21; 2Corinthians 8:9; 1Timothy 1:15; 1John 4:10; Revelation 5:9).
Memorize (even if not word perfect) passages or chapters that will be very useful to you (Isaiah 53, Psalm 23, Psalm 19, Hebrews 11, Romans 8; Philippians 2:1-11; Colossians 1:15-23). Don’t be surprised when the Holy Spirit lays verses or passages on your heart while you’re reading the word.
Joe Thorn has written two very short devotional books: “Note to Self” (48 three paragraph chapters or notes) and “Experiencing the Trinity” (50 notes). A verse for memorization is printed at the top of each note. I recommend one note and verse per week. Very doable!
“Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know” by Erwin Lutzer is most helpful.
There’s a lot here. Please don’t be overwhelmed. Start small. Stockpile verses in your heart over time. You’ll be glad you did.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)