Internalizing God’s Word: Why and How to Memorize God’s Word

This message is one I am preaching to my own heart as much as I am preaching it to you. I do not do well with memorizing Bible verses, and I have very few memorized (mostly by accident). Growing up, I was never encouraged to memorize Bible verses in Sunday School. We didn’t get gold stars for reciting the passages we had memorized. Once I became a Christian, I never saw the point of memorizing Scripture. I thought, “Why bother take the energy to memorize a verse when I can look it up online? What good will it do for me to memorize Scripture?”

God’s Word, however, presents a better argument that me. 

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:6 NASB

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11 NASB

The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” Psalm 37:31 NASB

There’s more to memorizing God’s Word than being able to recite it. When you internalize God’s Word through memorization, you may be surprised by how much of a difference it truly makes in your walk with Christ.

This week in our Bible Study for Heart Change Series, we are looking at internalizing the Word of God through Scripture memorization.

Why Memorize God’s Word

Why does God emphasize this idea of treasuring His Word in our hearts? Why is it important to memorize Scripture? Here are a few reasons why Bible memorization is helpful in heart change and spiritual growth.

Overcoming Temptation

In Psalm 119:11, the psalmist wrote that he treasured God’s Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. That principle has not changed hundreds of years later. If we have God’s Word in our hearts and minds, then we will be easily reminded to not sin. When temptation rears its ugly head, we can be reminded by God’s truth of the consequences of that sin and a righteous response to it. 

Consider Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. How did he combat Satan’s lies and temptations? With Scripture. For each temptation Satan presented Jesus, he gave Satan a Bible verse.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:1-11 ESV

Personally, memorizing Philippians 4:6-8 has been a help to me in dealing with my anxiety. When I am tempted to worry, that verse always comes to mind. First. it reminds me not to worry (v. 6), secondly that I need to pray instead so that God’s peace will comfort me (v. 7), and thirdly it gives me better and more godly things to ponder rather than my worrisome thoughts (v. 8). 

Recognizing Falsehood

Whether it be false teaching, a deceitful thought from your heart, or a lie from the world, Scriptures you have memorized can speak against that lie and remind you of the truth. Both sin and other struggles of the heart (worry, shame, self-pity, depression, etc.) are often founded in lies. The sin of bitterness lies to you and says you have every right to hold a grudge against your sister. Shame deceives you by saying you are incapable of ever being clean and guilt-free again. 

Often times these sins and struggles can give pretty convincing arguments; but if we have treasured God’s Word in our hearts to remind ourselves of the truth, we can combat those lies. We can choose to meditate on the good and true Word we have hidden in our heart rather than dwelling on those lies. 

In my struggle with depression and legalism, my joy was often taken by the lie that God did not love me because of how often I failed and sinned. However, through memorizing and meditating on passages like 1 John 1:9, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in forgiving my sins and was able to put away those depressing thoughts. 

Conviction of Sin

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV). The Word of God is just as powerful as it was hundreds of years ago when it was written; it can still convict and show you not only where you have gone wrong in your actions, but also how your heart was misguided as well. 

Tips For Memorizing God’s Word

There are many methods people use for memorizing Scripture. I wouldn’t say there’s one way that’s better than other because we all learn in different ways. So I’ll suggest a few methods I know of, and you can tweak or modify them to whatever suits you best. You can also use many of these methods together. 

Writing

I love writing and taking notes, so it’s no surprise that when I write and rewrite information it sticks in my head better. In university when I had to memorize definitions or Bible verses word-for-word, I would spend hours writing it over and over, and then when I would make a mistake, I would go back and fix it. 

I have also found it helpful to write the verses out in a more “creative” way; I will use various colours for key words, underline important parts, and sometimes draw symbols on or next to key words in order to remind myself of the major points within the text. 

Listening

Some people learn better by listening. Bible apps such as YouVersion have an audio Bible that you could use to listen to the portion of Scripture that you are trying to memorize. Also, Bible verses put to music can be easier to memorize. My pastor actually memorized the Ten Commandments with the help of a children’s song on YouTube. It’s definitely worth a try!

Taking it With You

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 contains one of my favourite memorization tactics:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

This may sound like a passive way of memorizing, but for me it has been quite effective. I write or type the Bible verses I want to memorize and place them in my home where I will often see them—like my desk, my fridge, and my mirror. A counselling friend of mine suggested writing the verses on a pocket-sized card that you can carry with you throughout the day. Then when sin or temptation comes up, you can take it out of your pocket or purse and read it to yourself. Eventually, after seeing and reading it so much, you have it memorized.

Verbal Repetition

When memorizing Bible verses for tests in university, I would give my husband a copy of the verse and practice repeating it out loud to him. Whenever I made a mistake, I would get him to stop me and I would restart from the beginning. Simply repeating the verse over and over like this quickly ingrained it into my memory. While you are in the shower, driving, cooking, or doing mundane chores, you could practice repeating it out loud to yourself. 

Internalizing God’s Word

There is nothing magical about memorizing Bible verses. Just because you memorize a Bible verse on sexual immorality doesn’t mean you will immediately stop fighting with sexual sin and never again give into it. Heartless memorization will do you little good. That’s where we must truly internalize God’s Word. We desire to be changed by God’s Word, so we strive to be filled with it. We want to be led by God’s Word. This requires not simply memorizing the Bible verses but applying them to our lives. When you read that verse or it comes to mind, you seek to apply it to your current situation.

If the extend of your memorization of God’s Word is thinking about the verse for a moment and then moving on, you aren’t going to grow. If you are memorizing verses you don’t really understand, you aren’t going to be changed. You need to be studying and rightly applying God’s Word to your heart if you want true heart change. Memorization of Bible verses is a great tool, but it’s not sufficient on it’s own. With the help of the Holy Spirit, strive not only to memorize the Word of God but to internalize it.

QUESTIONS FOR HEART CHANGE

  1. Have I ever tried memorizing Scripture to help me defeat sin? If not, what has held me back? Why? How does Scripture refute this?

  2. Have I memorized Scripture and expected it to work magically on me, rather than putting in the work on my part? If so, how can I work on internalizing the Word of God instead?

  3. How do I learn best? Which of the methods will help me with memorizing Scripture best?