James urges readers to set aside all wickedness and ‘in humility receive the Word’ (1:21). In humility we recognize our insignificance and God’s significance, thus we are teachable and moldable. We come to the Word with the intention of being transformed, we read the Word with intensity. In this moment it is profitable to read with the intention of memorization. Note a key word here: intention. The intention is to memorize Scripture, but there is a greater purpose: to be like Christ. We cannot be like Christ if we do not memorize Scripture like Christ.
The Missing Actions
In the midst of his exhortation to believers to receive the Word, James offers a remarkable trait of the Word: it is able to save souls (1:21). Anything with that type of power and that much authority deserves undivided attention. Therefore, notice three things that can be learned about the Word during the life of Jesus Christ:
It Applies: The Word is not a suggestion that leaves us with options, but it is truth that leaves us with absoluteness. In the great predication known as the Sermon the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Christ proclaims this truth, but he does not do so with general proverbs. Instead, he fills his teaching with commands that apply now.
It Defies: Just prior to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4), Christ is lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. It is there that Jesus is confronted by Satan. In this distinctive narrative, Jesus Christ proves superior to Satan by utilizing the power of the Word. Paul exhorts Timothy to do the same, suggesting that the times will become perilous as people turn to their own ways. Yet, Paul’s instruction is to confront the culture, employ the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).
It Sanctifies: Finally, the Word is used to sanctify (John 17:17), a characteristic described to us from Christ’s very own words. Apart from the word, there is no understanding about God’s holiness and thus his desire for our holiness. Thus, the word not only gives us direction, but when cemented causes us to go that direction.
Each of these actions is critical to the Christian who lives for God.
The Missing Aspect
There is an important aspect lacking in our discussion here and it’s the heart. The Christian life is not head over heart or heart over head, but one in which both work together. John Piper captures this well when he writes:
If we make claims to have experiences of the love of God without solid foundations in history and its God given meaning, we become cultic, emotionalistic, and fanatical. If we claim to understand what happened in history and its theological meaning, but we do not experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we become barren, impotent, and intellectualistic.
For our purposes here, we’ve only been talking about inserting the Scripture into the mind, but please do not neglect the heart aspect of it.
The memorization of Scripture is one that requires meditation upon the Word, thus, when we meditate upon Scripture it should permeate into our very being and shine out into our lives (cf. Psalm 1:1-3). Christ’s life and teachings give clear indication about the importance of Scripture and its ongoing application in our lives. Thus, to be like Christ, we must memorize Scripture like Christ.