We’re only in the month of May, but I have a strong suspicion that my “Most Influential Book of the Year” for 2016 will be The Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney.
Many in the Church today may cringe at such a title and immediately cry, “Legalism! Legalism!” but the truth is that Whitney takes great pains from the beginning to reveal that that is NOT the book’s purpose, saying, “It’s crucial–crucial–to understand that it’s not our pursuit of holiness that qualifies us to see the Lord. Rather, we are qualified to see the Lord by the Lord, not by the good things we do” (3).
A few pages later, he emphasizes: “the Spiritual Disciplines are means, not ends. The end–that is, the purpose of practicing the Disciplines–is godliness. I define godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that’s both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ. This Christlikeness is the goal…” Who among us, as Christians, doesn’t want that?! I certainly do…
And finally, perhaps my favorite illustration on pg. 13: “Think of the Spiritual Disciplines as ways by which we can spiritually place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek Him, much like Zacchaeus placed himself physically in Jesus’ path and sought Him. The Lord, by His Spirit, still travels down certain paths, paths that He Himself has ordained and revealed in Scripture. We call these paths the Spiritual Disciplines, and if we will place ourselves on these paths and look for Him there by faith, we can expect to encounter Him.” Again, who among us doesn’t want an encounter with the Living God? So instead of being legalistic and Pharisaical, then, which are burdensome, the Spiritual Disciplines are freeing, opening ourselves up to experience God.
So, that brings me to my point–Scripture Memorization. Whitney lists this as a sub-discipline of “Bible intake.” This is one that recently I have been seeking to implement into my personal life in recent months, and although I’m still a beginning Scripture-memorizer, I can TOTALLY see why people go on and on about the benefits of it. Once a verse is in your head, it is stuck there, and the Holy Spirit can use that to convict, comfort, counsel, correct in the precise moment that you need it.
Recently I was contemplating about and praying about the concept of forgiveness. God, how can I truly forgive? What is forgiveness, even? Incidentally I was working on memorizing 1 Corinthians 13, and it came to me, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”…That’s it!! I thought esctatically.
Another recent example is from some weeks ago when I was feeling so incredibly lonely. I cried out to God, and my heart was reminded, I will never leave you or forsake you. That gave me just the peace I needed in that moment of near desperation.
So, although it is definitely work, and definitely requires discipline, I’m learning that it’s not work for the sake of work. We also don’t (or shouldn’t) do it for the sake of knowing x number of verses–that is more likely to result in us being prideful and therefore not Christlike. But if our purpose is to open ourselves up, availing ourselves to Him by giving Him a means to speak into our lives, He can use that! And another bonus is that if we are hungry for His Word but don’t have access to a Bible at any given moment, we can tide ourselves over with the parts of His Word that we already have stored up inside our hearts and minds. I am wondering why I waited so long to start!
Here’s to a lifetime of Scripture memorization, and all the blessings that come with it! 😀