Sunday, March 22, 2009

Memorize (And Meditate On) More Bible

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
John 3:36
We all know how fruitful Bible memorization can be when we do it. But the doing it is the hard part that keeps us from being disciplined in memorizing more and more Bible. That's why I really appreciated the blog post over at DG this morning that pointed to another post with 18 tricks for memorizing Scripture. And many of them I have used myself as I try to memorize as much Bible as I can.

I wanted to share a tip that is very helpful for me in memorizing verses. That tip is this: Let the verses you are memorizing become a theological framework for you. Let them define your theology. This is helpful because when you memorize in this way, it forces you to be thinking about what you are reciting rather than just parrot memorization where we are trying to visualize words in the right place. And Psalm 1 does say that we are to meditate on the word (think about it!) and not just memorize it. If memorization isn't for the purpose of meditation, then it is in vain.

One of the best examples of how I use this theological framework idea to help me memorize is John 3:36, which is above. There are two if/then statements:

Believe in the Son --> have eternal life
Fail to obey the Son --> shall not see life, wrath of God remains

In trying to memorize this verse, it would be really easy to confuse the two if clauses. Whoever obeys the Son has life? Whoever does not believe in the Son shall not see life? Well, yes, the answer to both of these questions is yes. But that's not what the verse says. So how might I avoid making this blunder? The way I avoid making this blunder is that I look at these verses through a theological framework. I let them define my theology.

In systematic theology, which I've been teaching this school year, you have two terms that are central to our salvation: justification and sanctification. And the order of these two is essential. We are justified first (declared righteous in God's sight) and then only after we are justified are we sanctified (made more and more righteous as we are conformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Righteous Jesus Christ). To confuse these two is heresy. The way we are justified is by faith (Romans 3:26, 5:1) and the way we are sanctified is by obedience (Romans 6:17-19). The faith comes first, not the obedience.

So look back at John 3:36. And notice that John speaks of faith (believing) and obedience. In other words, John seems to be talking about justification and sanctification even though I don't think this apostle ever uses these words (though another one does). And if you understand the colossal error in theology it is to confuse the order of these two parts of our salvation, you will never again forget which if clause comes first in John 3:36. Believing in the Son comes first because justification comes first in the process of our salvation and justification happens through believing in Christ as your wrath-absorbing sacrifice. And obeying the Son comes second because sanctification comes after justification and sanctification happens through obeying Christ in all that He commands.

Do you see what I've just done? In just one verse, I've created a theological framework by which I understand that both justification (through ongoing faith) and sanctification (through ongoing obedience) are indispensable if I will escape from the wrath that is to come. And the faith precedes (and empowers) the obedience. And more than just memorize the verse, I've meditated on the verse.

Another couple of verses this works great for is Romans 8:29, 30. Try it over there. But if it's going to work, it's going to require that you know your theology, which requires that you know your Bible. Anyone see a Cacth 22 here? Boy am I glad to be teaching systematic theology. =)

HT: DG Blog

By the way, I do highly recommend watching (yes, watch not listen or read) the Piper sermon that is pointed to by the post I referenced at the beginning, which inspired me to write this post in the first place. In God's providence, I just watched the mentioned sermon yesterday and read this article today even though Piper preached the message in January. You'll be blessed by doing so. Here it is just so you don't have to go anywhere:

1 comment:

Demian Farnworth said...

Thanks for the link, Chris. I appreciate your trick, too. Gonna give it a shot. Take care, Demian.