Scripture Memory: We believe it’s important but we rarely practice it

Chuck Swindoll refers to Scripture memory as the most under-used spiritual resource of today’s Christian. In my estimation from my years as a pastor, I would have to agree. I rarely meet Christians who are regularly memorizing God’s Word. That’s why I was so excited about what happened this morning.

For the last five weeks every Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM the Lord has graciously provided the opportunity for me to meet with 50-60 men doing what we call 12th Man Training.  For 20 minutes I teach, and then for 35 minutes the men gather around a table with 4-5 other men providing an opportunity for further discovery, accountability, application. The teaching time is then put to a YouTube channel for easy access for those whose work obligations cause them to miss occasionally. Each week the men receive one Life Application Question associated with the teaching that they are responsible for working on over the next 7 days. Last week’s lesson was on the importance of Scripture memory as a means of overcoming temptation. The Life Application Question was: Which of temptation’s lies do you most often fall to? Which passage will you memorize this week to combat the lie with truth? You can view that lesson here:

So today my heart was so encouraged when I asked the question, “Which of you are now regularly working at memorizing Scripture?” Nearly every hand went up. Then I asked a follow-up question: “Which of you would acknowledge that has not been the pattern of your past?” Again, nearly every hand went up. For a moment, it took my breath away – fifty men equipping themselves for daily spiritual battles through the memorization of the Word – something they had not been doing previously. Imagine the impact of that effort if it’s continued over the next year or two.

I believe that we remember Scripture best, when we learn the verses that will help us at our point of need. This provides instant application for the text to our temptation or struggle. That doesn’t mean we simply learn verses about our sins. Rather, we ought to memorize from both a defensive and offensive posture. To play good defense, we memorize verses in the lie/truth formula as this exposes temptation’s deception. To play good offense, we memorize verses about the character of God and the nature of the gospel as this weakens temptation’s appeal.

You can read more about how to do 12th Man Training with your men’s  group here:

The importance of Scripture memory

This is a brief summary of some work that I’ve been putting together for Scripture memory. Scripture retrieval is an essential resource for Christian living. The resources mentioned in the video are available at

Memorizing the Word

Here’s a question: if the Son of God deemed it necessary to memorize the Scripture to defend himself against temptation, why would we think we’re exempt?

Memorize Phrase by Phrase

The Scripture provides the method for memorizing its rich truth. Isaiah recorded, “To whom will he teach knowledge . . . For it is precept upon precept . . . line upon line . . . here a little, there a little.”  The best way I have found to retain biblical passages is to learn a phrase, repeat it until I’ve mastered it, then move on to the next phrase. Once I have the phrases mastered, I begin to link them together. Sometimes I will alter my emphasis on certain words in the phrase; other times I will alter the location where I’m memorizing (my office, the car, my home), but always I am working the phrases and adding the subsequent phrase. As the Scripture says, line upon line, here a little, there a little.

Memorize Day by Day

When it comes to memorizing, I have found it to be more effective to spend a few minutes several times a day, as opposed to a lot of time one day during the week. Simply put, for your mind to permanently retain a truth, you will need to learn it more than once. For me the pattern works like this: Learn it once. Forget it. Relearn it. Forget it again. Relearn it again. Forget less. Relearn it again. Retain it.

While it may sound odd, forgetting is actually a significant part of memory retention. Remembering my need to forget keeps me from growing discouraged. Scripture memory is more of a process than a single event. Having worked on a verse for several days doesn’t mean I will remember it tomorrow morning. I now see the process of forgetting as an essential part of learning the verse.

 Taken from Just Like Jesus: biblical strategies for growing well byPhil Moser, pages 35-36. Available though

Top 10 promises to memorize

Memorizing verses about the character of God and the nature of the gospel is an effective means to hold temptation at arm’s length. Temptation occurs at the “desire” level (James 1:14) so loving God more changes our desires. I have found the best way to do this is to get to know him better and to grow in appreciating the benefits of the gospel. The following 10 promises and accompanying verses have helped me to do both.

#1 God is good, loving and faithful.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

# 2 God loves me and enjoys acting on my behalf.

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

 #3 God sacrificed his Son to show his love for me.

 8…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:8,10).

#4 Nothing can separate me from the love of God.

 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37)

#5 God is purposefully at work in my life and circumstances.

 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. . .  13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek   me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11, 13)

#6 God will never stop loving me.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:23-24).

#7 God will always be with me.

 . . . for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

 #8 God is with me when I’m in trouble.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.             Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea . . . (Psalm 46:1-2)

#9 Having been forgiven I need not fear God’s condemnation.

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

#10 God saved me, because of who he is, not because of who I am.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-6).

Why both offense and defense matter…

For several years now I have been memorizing the verses in the Bible with the lie/truth formula. I discover one of temptation’s lies: If it feels right it must be right, and I find the corrosponding biblical truth to memorize: “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt thought deceitful desires, and …be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and …put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-23).

This has been effective in helping me gain short-term victory over my sins; because the Word of God (which is true) helps you see the deception in the temptation. Memorizing Scripture in this way is like playing good defense. It is essential, but only half of the game.

We must learn to say more than “no” to our temptations; we must learn to say “yes” to the love of God. While denying the sin that delights us temporarily, we must be growing in the love of God that delights us enduringly.  

Both the Old and New Testaments encourage us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6: 5; Mark 12:30). What if this was not only a command, but a strategy? What if the Holy Spirit had articulated a plan for overcoming sin, by increasing in one’s love for God? What if increasing in the love of God is how we overcome sin by playing offense?

There are two practical ways this could be done: (1) study the character of God, and (2) dwell upon the nature of the Gospel. Both cause us to increase in our love for God.

 Besides simply memorizing the Scripture in a lie/truth formula (good defense), perhaps we should also memorize it in a promise/passage formula (good offense).

Something like this:

The promise: God is good, loving and faithful.
The passage: For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations (Psalm 100:5).

The promise: God loves me and acts on my behalf
The passage: The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

The promise: God sacrificed his Son to show his love for me.
The passage:  …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us … For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:8,10).

As any athlete knows, playing defense and offense is important. Developing both, so that you become proficient on both sides of the court, is as well.

Why is it so hard to memorize Scripture?

The ability of your brain to remember truths is absolutely amazing. Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University describes its capacity this way,

The human brain consists of about one billion neurons…the brain’s memory storage capacity… is around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage…1

The truth of the matter is that you have sufficient brain capacity to memorize a lot of Scripture. So why have we not placed more Bible verses into our seemingly limitless memory?”

One word will suffice: pride. We don’t memorize because we don’t think we need to memorize. Yet God warned us that pride would lead to our sure and certain fall (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

Joseph, of Egyptian fame, teaches us that humility is a great deterrent to sin. He saw temptation and set the land speed record for leaving the bedroom (Gen. 39:12). In his humility, he knew he couldn’t stand against temptation.

On the other hand, King David teaches us that if we think we can linger at temptation’s door without sinning we are gravely mistaken (2 Sam. 11:2-3). His pride led to his lingering, his lingering left him vulnerable to sin, and his sin brought tremendous destruction to his family.

The humility principle is hidden in Jesus’ temptation account: Only the humble of heart will see the need to memorize the Scripture.

Jesus supremely modeled humility. The Bible says, 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

When tempted, his immediate response was to use the Scripture, further revealing his humility. Here’s a question: If the Son of God deemed it necessary to memorize the Scripture to defend himself against temptation, why would we think we’re exempt?

Satan’s clearest line of attack in temptation is directed at the pride of man. It was with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:5), and it was with Jesus (Matt. 4:5).

To attempt a rational conversation with the tempter in the midst of temptation is a dangerous proposal. Even an archangel wouldn’t attempt it (Jude 9). Much better to simply respond with the appropriate Scripture, and the best way to gain access to the passage is through memorizing…just like Jesus.

For an excellent source of verses to memorize when facing temptation go to


Help for those struggling with sexual sins–Step3: Prepare for the battle with Scripture

Whenever I counsel people who are struggling with lustful thoughts, I will ask the question, “What Biblical passages have you memorized to help you with the temptation?” In 20 years of speaking to men about this struggle I have yet to meet the man who has pulled from his spiritual arsenal even one memorized verse on sexual temptation.

While it is true that the temptations to sexual immorality are more readily available than ever before, it is equally true that we are not effectively using God’s Word to parry the lies that our fleshly desires speak to us about this sin.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. He repeatedly answered with God’s Word. He had the right verse, and he applied it at the right time (

One of the most helpful truths for me personally has been to memorize verses that combat the lie of the temptation with truth. For example, one of the reoccurring lies with sexual sins of the 21st century is, No one will ever know what you are about to do. Go ahead—No one is watching.

But the truth is found in Hebrews 4:13, 

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When I hear temptation’s lie in my head, I answer with the memorized portion of Scripture. Sometimes there is a mental argument or two taking place in my mind, but the Scripture brings clarity to the deceitfulness of the temptation, and clears my head to make the right choice.

If you would like to get started with developing your scriptural arsenal, we have developed a lie/truth memory verse pack ( BHSS – All Cards on one Sheet). Learn these verses. They are your lifeline to clear thinking when it comes to sexual temptation.

Just say “No” to Temptation with the Scripture

The best way to defend against the tempter’s lie is to know God’s truth. Jesus answered Satan’s temptations with specific scripture.

To know your opponent’s modus operandi is essential in any field, but particularly for an NFL quarterback. Sportswriter Pete Prisco explains it best,

“Watching film, or tape to be precise, is key to the success of any quarterback no matter the level of play. But in the NFL, it’s even more so with all the complicated defenses and looks now thrown at quarterbacks, who must decipher it all in split-second decisions or risk throwing an interception that will show up on all the highlight shows.

They’d better know their stuff, and know it well.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is legendary in his film study. He has a film room in his basement. Manning loves studying tape, almost needs it like a drug. Others don’t put in the time and end up in quarterback bust-land.” 1

When you read Jesus’ temptation account (Matt. 4. Luke 4) it’s easy to see that Jesus understood his opponent. As Satan tempts through deception, Jesus answers with God’s Word of truth. His remarkable ability to recall the right Scripture for the specific situation is the pattern we should emulate.

If you could watch tape on your opponent you would see that his regular method of temptation is to deceive. He returns to it again and again. But what Satan lacks in originality he makes up for in thoroughness. He is mercilessly meticulous. He understands the desires of the human heart, and the best way to lure and entice us to sin (James 1:19-20).

Yet, because Satan often returns to deception as his means of temptation, you and I can game – plan for his attack. Jesus did. He knew the right verse for each situation. A part of my game plan has to been to memorize the Scripture in conjunction with Satan’s lies.

Satan, as the deceiver, often brings his temptations in the same way (1 John 2:16). Sometime ago it occurred to me that if I could memorize the lie that Satan brought, and the corresponding truth from God’s Word I would be more prepared for the temptations I faced.

This was the kind of reliance Jesus had upon the Scripture (Matt. 4, Luke 4). He has the right verse for each specific situation.

Developing a select set of verses to answer temptation is essential in the life of any believer. We have developed a verse memory pack that contain 33 of the tempter’s lies and God’s Word of truth as a defense against the temptation. You can download them for free at our church’s website.

For additional resources on this subject including notes, audio, video, and a really cool sword fight please visit:


The Scripture’s Effect on the Mind

Twenty years ago a deeply troubled young man stepped into my office.  He was accompanied by a friend for the sake of encouragement. Together they began to pour out his sad story. When he was in 8th grade he became a victim of sexual abuse at the hand of high school teen. As he had entered high school he struggled with depression, attempted to take his own life, and was hospitalized. He had carried the dark secret alone. Neither parents, nor counselors knew his past.

Now, seven years later his anxiety was all-consuming.  His struggle with fear and worry had even crept into his sleeping hours, revealing itself through nightmares of the teen who had abused him.

I was fresh out of seminary, with limited experience in the ministry. As I reached for my Bible I remember praying to the Lord for guidance. I knew I was in way over my head.

I asked the young man what he was thinking about before he fell asleep. He acknowledged his painful past consumed his thoughts. He said tearfully, “I’m just praying to God that the nightmares won’t come back.”

“I understand you’re praying, but what are you thinking about.”

 “The nightmares” he said, “I don’t know how to stop.”

 Together we opened up our Bibles to Philippians 4:8 and we read,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [emphasis added] (Phil. 4:8)

“Your challenge,” I said, “Will be to develop a plan where you think on the things that are in that list.” Together we read  the promise that came next,

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you [emphasis added] (Phil. 4:9).

 “Memorizing is only the first part” then I added, “You’re actually going to have to do it.”

“Do what?” he said.

 “Think on these things,” I replied.

Together we drew an octagon. He wrote each of the 8 qualities found in verse  on the outside boarders of the sign. Inside the sign we wrote the words “Stop! Think on these things.”  On a separate piece of paper he wrote each quality as the heading for a list. The 8 lists would be comprised of  anything he could think of that was “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.”

One week later he returned to my office with his friend. The two sat down. I began the conversation “ How’s that Bible verse I asked you to memorize?”

His friend smiled, and shook his head as if he knew something I did not.

“Why the smile?” I asked.

 “Did you want him to tell it to you, forwards or backwards?” he replied.

 “Let’s start with forwards.” I said. The young man quoted the verse word perfect one word after the other.

 “Can  you really quote the verse backwards?” I asked incredulously.

 Phrase by phrase he gave the verse backwards. He didn’t miss a beat.

 “That’s pretty amazing” I said. “So how are the nightmares?

 He looked me in the eyes, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

 “What nightmares?”