Last week I had a chance to speak to a group of remarkable young people and their families. I was in San Antonio for the final day of competition between participants in the National Bible Bee. I spent most of the day listening to teens and pre teens reciting large chunks of scripture, word perfect. At the end of the day, I watched as a young woman received an award of $50,000 and an additional $60,000 college scholarship for her efforts.
I told the contestants about how my college girlfriend motivated me to memorize scripture.
I remember sitting next to her at a Bible study on night where someone was talking about how Christians are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” who is the guarantor of our salvation. I watched as my girlfriend turned in her Bible to Ephesians 1, where she had underlined vs. 13 and 14.
The speaker had not referenced Ephesians 1. I thought to myself “how did she know where that verse was?” So I asked her about it later. She told me it was one of several dozen verses she had memorized. I was impressed. And intimidated. And in love (I eventually married her).
I had been asked to speak at the awards ceremony for the Bible Bee. I decided to talk to these young contestants about their new sword collection. Since the Bible talks about God’s Word being the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6) and being sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4), I borrowed the metaphor to talk about the proper and improper use of their swords.
First, I told them that while it’s wonderful that we can have all of God’s Word available to us on a moment’s notice on our smart phones, having Bible passages memorized is how we arm the Holy Spirit for spiritual battle. He can’t bring to remembrance passages that are on our phones but have never been hidden in our hearts.
I told them that the way we fight temptation and grow in godliness is by having God’s Word hidden in our hearts. God has given us His Word to combat the lies of the one known as the deceiver and the father of lies. While most of us will not have a “mano a mano” encounter with Satan like Adam and Eve did (Gen. 3), or like Jesus did (Matt. 4), it’s not out of the question. And if that happens, we should be ready to respond as Jesus did, battling lies and scripture twisting with the truth that He had hidden in His heart.
Most of the spiritual battles we will face will come as we resist the temptation to believe the lies that a godless culture is advancing (“Life and joy are found in money / sex / power / control / stuff / insert your idol here”).
Or we’ll find ourselves battling the lies that come from inside of us – from our flesh (“You’re worthless. You can’t be forgiven for what you’ve done. Indulge your appetites. You gotta look out for number one.” Yada yada yada. Blah blah blah).
Whether the temptations come from the world, the flesh or the Devil, the only way to find victory over those temptations is to fight the lies with the truth. “They word have I hid in my heart,” the Psalmist said, “that I might not sin against Thee.”
Know the truth, Jesus said. It sets you free.
I also wanted to make sure the children at the Bible Bee (and their parents) were aware of the dangers that come with having all those new swords in their spiritual arsenal.
I told them that scripture memory could lead to pride. “Knowledge puffeth up,” the Bible tells us. Satan delights in whispering in our ear things like “you sure are smart – a lot smarter than most people.” He takes what God means for good in our lives and finds a way to cause us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
I also told them that their commitment to scripture memory could lead them to becoming self righteous or judgmental, thinking that they had somehow earned God’s favor by excelling at that particular spiritual discipline. The Pharisees believed that their scrupulous law keeping made them better than other people. That can easily happen for people who have notched a spiritual accomplishment like memorizing hundreds of passages of scripture.
I told them to be careful not to use their new swords to start beating people over the head or stabbing them in the heart. We’ve seen it too often in our day – people who are full of truth but who are not full of grace. Jesus was full of both. The sword of the Spirit – the word of God – is not a weapon meant for hurting people. It’s a weapon meant for destroying lies and defeating personal temptation. God’s word is a scalpel, not a machete. And we need to be careful surgeons as we use scripture in our own lives an in in the lives of others.
That final danger I mentioned was the danger that James talks about – the danger of being hearers (or even memorizers) of God’s word but failing to be doers of the word. Knowing what the Bible teaches is a necessary but not sufficient part of our spiritual growth and development. We need to know how to apply and obey what the Bible teaches us.
I was so encouraged this past week as John Majors talked about how his family had spent time over the past six months working to memorize six very practical and very convicting verses in Colossians 3. As he told us, God used those verses over and over again in their lives as they spent an extended season in a different culture.
I hope all of us – parents and children, singles, grandparents, whoever we are in what ever stage of life we’re in – I hope we will make scripture memory a personal spiritual discipline. God has given us the gift of His living and active word to equip us to grow in grace and to fight temptation. He uses His word to make us more like Jesus.
Here’s an advent idea for you. Pick a couple of verses from Matthew 1 or Luke 2 or John 1 and commit them to memory between now and Christmas eve. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to us. God’s word is how we come to know and love Jesus even more.
Speaking of spiritual disciplines and discipleship, don’t forget to order your copies of the Cornerstones books to be ready to use as we begin to incorporate the questions and answers in our morning worship services starting in January. Again, here is what the two books look like. And Matt Gurney is happy to order copies for you. Just let him know if you’d like a set. Mattgurney77@gmail.com
As we mentioned on Sunday, our students have a great Christmas get together planned for this weekend. Here’s the scoop.
And you and your family and friends are all invited to our annual Candlelight and Carols Service on Christmas Eve.
Finally, here’s a copy of the Winter/Spring church calendar for you. You can download and print your own copy if you’d like. Just click here to download.
Please continue to pray for our church building project. Construction is underway. Drive by the property some time to get a road side view of what’s happening out there.
And as you’re praying, please ask God if He would have you make a year end special gift to our building project or to the ongoing work of the church.
We don’t talk about financial needs very often. And you all have been very generous as a church over the years.
But as we transition in 2019 to our new home, there are a number of unfunded priorities that we are asking God to provide money for. Things like:
New sound equipment.
An upgraded video system for our live stream.
New projection equipment in the sanctuary.
A playground for our children.
Furniture and kitchen equipment.
Maybe even a real piano.
And the list is growing.
We can’t spend money we don’t have for these needs. And we can make do with what we have if we need to. But a year end special gift from many of you would help us be able to say yes to some of the items on our list.
If you’d like to give a stock gift, talk to Tim Friesen and he can provide you with information about how to transfer securities into the Redeemer account. You can give a gift on line simply by clicking here. Or bring a check to church Sunday and drop it in the giving box.
Thanks in advance for praying and considering making a year end gift this Christmas.
We’ll wrap up our study of Esther this Sunday as we how God delivered
His people and how they celebrated His providential care for them
(something they’ve been continuing to celebrate for the past 2500
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!