During the Cold War, many Christians in Eastern Europe would memorize entire books of the Bible and then destroy their copies. They had to do that because they would have either been arrested, sent to prison camps, or disappear. There was no room for God in the Soviet Union or their satellite states. To have any God other than those in power was akin to a crime against the state itself. Still, in places like North Korea, China, Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, and more, the persecution towards believers forces them to absorb as much of God’s word as possible because they can’t risk being caught reading openly. For those of us not living under the tyranny of a radical theocracy or a commnunist system, memorizing scripture can still serve an important role in our journey of faith.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119:11 ESV
Knowing God’s word…I mean really knowing it…helps us in the war against sin. Satan, our flesh, and the cultures of the world are constantly whispering, and often yelling, messages in our ears that lead us into sin. By memorizing scripture, we give ourselves a weapons cache to fire back. Jesus demonstrated this when He allowed Satan to tempt Him in the wilderness. Every temptation was met with God’s word. The only way we can do the same is to know how to distinguish messages that line up with scripture and those that do not. A huge fault I see in so many Christians is an utter lack of biblical knowledge. I’m not referring to seeking a degree in theological studies. I’m talking about a lack of knowing what is said in the Bible. When we don’t know what God says, we’ll believe what those opposed to Biblical principles say.
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.Joshua 1:8 ESV
We can’t live out scripture if we don’t know scripture. Every believer should be a student of their Master. To meditate on scripture is to meditate on the Lord Himself. The more we focus on the story of God the more we know Him. The more we know Him the more we love Him. The more we love Him, the more we live for Him. Just as any relationship thrives on attention and communication, so to does our relationship with the Lord. Our lives of devotion should be a pattern of prayer, reading, and praise.
Do not conform 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.Romans 12:2 NIV
Our mind is a battleground. Our mind is also malleable. We have the ability to make it into what we want. And since so much of what we say and do is determined by the mind, why not pour more energy into making it a core of light. From the moment we start absorbing things as a child, negative things creep in. We have to fight for hope. We battle for purity. We war for compassion and generosity. The nature of the fallen mind is to look inward, preserve self, seek comfort, elevate self importance or dwell on self pitty. Our minds need transformed. One of the best ways to do that is through meditation and memorization of scripture. That, in turn, will help us to focus on pure and truthful things. Our eyes will turn outwards towards those around us. Our self importance will diminish, yet at the same time, we will feel more loved and valued than ever before.
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 NASB
To abide in Christ is equated to having Christ’s words abiding in us. This isn’t a reference to Christ dwelling in us, it’s a call to know His words. To abide means to obey, stick to, hold to, and follow. When we are so intuned with Christ and His words, then our desires will be His desires for us. The things we ask for in prayer will align with the holy life that Christ is calling us to in the first place.
So whether we live in an area where the Christian faith is heavily restricted or even persecuted, an area where affluence and apathy attempt to shadow the call of piety, or an area where freedom allows us to live out our faith, it is equally important to pursue a rich understanding of God’s word. As followers of Christ, we are called to love Him and to make Him known. We can’t do either if we don’t know Him. No one else has ever loved you more. No one else crafted you. No one else pursues a relationship with you like Jesus does. The greatest gift in this life will be to know Him.
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.