The Apos­tle Paul tells us to present our bod­ies to God in such a way that we will be trans­formed by the renew­ing of our minds. (Romans 12:1 – 2) Most who read him today stop right there, think­ing per­haps, What good advice that is!” But they do not pro­ceed to imple­ment the advice. They do not take it seri­ous­ly as a door­way into the blessed life with Christ in His king­dom. They do not wel­come it as a real­i­ty that will car­ry them away from con­for­mi­ty to a social exis­tence — even a reli­gious one — that is actu­al­ly in defi­ance of God and plant them solid­ly in the eter­nal king­dom that is here now.

In part this is because they do not under­stand the mind and do not know exact­ly what to do toward its renew­al. They are apt to become pas­sive and not under­stand their part in the divine work of mind transplant.” 

The human mind is filled with feel­ings, ideas, images, ways of rea­son­ing, habits of thought, mem­o­ries, and expec­ta­tions of var­i­ous kinds. Many of these are enslav­ing, harm­ful, and false. They shape our actu­al beliefs and guide our actions. No doubt we most go wrong in how we think about God and about our life before God. It is in this area more than any­where else that our minds must be renewed for the sake of the trans­for­ma­tion of our whole life into godliness. 

God will help us, but our part is also indis­pens­able. What are we to do? The sim­plest and most effec­tive way of mind renew­al in Christ is mem­o­riza­tion of Scrip­ture: large pas­sages of it as well as indi­vid­ual vers­es. That is why mem­o­riza­tion must play such a large part in spir­i­tu­al trans­for­ma­tion. The human mind is quite small and lim­it­ed in terms of what can con­scious­ly occu­py it, but we have some choice as to what is present there. We must choose well. 

Mem­o­riza­tion of Scrip­ture is one way of tak­ing charge” of the con­tents of our con­scious thoughts, and of the feel­ings, beliefs and actions that depend upon them. Ancient fol­low­ers of God under­stood this well: Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11), and Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (119:105), and The entrance of Thy word gives light” (119:130). Our life takes a god­ly and good direc­tion when our mind is con­scious­ly occu­pied with God’s writ­ten words. Those words then increas­ing­ly elim­i­nate the con­scious men­tal con­tents that would sure­ly lead us away from God. 

But when we take the Scrip­tures in by mem­o­riza­tion, the words of God also affect our lives far beyond our con­scious­ness. We come to live by every word that pro­ceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Through mem­o­riza­tion God’s words reside in our body, in our social envi­ron­ment, in the con­stant ori­en­ta­tion of our will, and in the depths of our soul. They become a pow­er, a sub­stance, that sus­tains and directs us with­out our even think­ing of them, and they emerge into con­scious thought and action as need­ed. This is what Jesus spoke of as abid­ing, dwelling in him: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask what­ev­er you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glo­ri­fied, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My dis­ci­ples” (John 15:7 – 8). 

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From Scrip­ture By Heart: Devo­tion­al Prac­tices For Mem­o­riz­ing God’s Word By Joshua Choon­min Kang, Inter­var­si­ty Press, 2010

Originally published January 2010