I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. – Psalm 119:11
Note how the psalmist fights against sin. It is primarily not by sheer willpower, the encouragements of other Christians, carrying a bible around in your back pocket (or as is all the rage nowadays, on your handphone), or even prayer. It is primarily by the Word of God stored up in his heart, that is committing the Word of God to memory that it might be called upon, or come to mind, at any time.
I think we lose something precious in the fight against sin when we give up on memorising the Word of God. The pleasures of sin are constantly enticing us to give in. But give sin an inch and it takes a mile. These pleasures are short-lived, but the guilt that follows weighs upon us like a ton a bricks. You want to fight your way out, but you feel hopeless against the relentless onslaught of sin on your will. This is the experience of every Christian living on this side of redemption. We are reckoned righteous in Christ, but we remain sinners. It is a tension we struggle with daily.
Paul says to put to death your sinful nature by the Spirit. We also know that the Spirit does not work apart from the Word, but through the Word. Therefore, it seems natural to Paul that fighting sin must involve the Word. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that Paul believed that fighting sin was impossible apart from the Word, for he calls it the sword of the Spirit. After all, how do you fight an enemy without a weapon? And spiritual enemies require spiritual weapons.
But a sword that is sheathed is of no value. Similarly, to keep the Word in our Bibles is of no value. A sword must be drawn, and likewise the Word must be drawn out of the Bible, into us. Also, a sword that is blunt, is not a weapon fit for battle. The Word must be kept sharp, and there is no sharper Word than one which is stored up in our heart, ready to be called upon without a moment’s notice.
A major objection to memorising the Word of God is that there is a lack of time. I wish to point out that there is no better use of our time than to fight sin by memorising the Word. After all, if we are destined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, then our primary goal in life must be to fight sin. Many also believe it is beyond their abilities to memorise so much. I beg to differ. I’m always surprised at how well my peers can remember song lyrics, but that they in turn are surprised at how well I remember a lot of different things. The difference is seldom one of ability, but of priorities. If you truly believe that the Word of God is the most precious thing one can have in this life, for in it we can find Christ, then you would devote time to studying and storing it up in your heart, instead of wasting your attention on inane lyrics that might sound good but turn out to be noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for people to plunge into memorising whole books of the Bible straightaway. The mind is like a muscle. It needs to be exercised. Start slowly. Begin by being selective. As you improve your skills in this discipline, you will gradually be able to take on bigger and bigger portions of the Bible. At this point, you’ll see the immense value of knowing chapters, and books by heart.
Finally, if you value your life, if you value Christ, then please do all that you can to fight sin. It is a traitor, which pretends to be working for our good, but ultimately intends to destroy us. Only God works all things for our good, for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And his purpose is that we might be conformed to the likeness of his Son. If we are to be like Christ, we must fight sin. So take up those swords, keep them sharp and keep them drawn. The enemy comes like a thief in the night. Stay vigilant.