Do You Own the Bible?

February 2008

We own our home and also take care of it, including the yard, so I am familiar with it. Inside, I’ve dusted, mopped, wiped and vacuumed almost every square inch (at least the parts I can reach). Outside, I’ve planted, mulched, trimmed, mowed, pruned and swept every bit. Not only do we own it as a possession, but I own it in the sense of knowing it intimately.

I also own a Bible, actually several Bibles. They are my possessions. But it’s not enough just to possess a Bible. Many people own at least one, but sadly many of those same people have no idea, or the wrong idea, of what’s inside. They own a Bible, but they don’t own the Bible.

You may have heard about programs to help you read the Bible in one year, and you can also buy one that guides you through the year. This is probably a good way to get familiar with the book as a whole, but you still won’t own it. In a Christian magazine I saw a one-sentence piece of advice that’s guiding me right now: “Study a book of the Bible until you own it.”

Last year at a conference in Palm Springs, theologian Dallas Willard suggested we memorize scripture as a way to let the Word of God sink deeply into our hearts. He says memorization is the primary discipline for the thought life. He recommended Colossians 3:1-17 as a place to start, so I decided to memorize it, and I’m starting to own it.

As I began memorizing, some phrases intrigued me and I wanted to know more. So I opened a commentary about Colossians and found out more than I wanted to know! Well, not really, just more than I bargained for and some I didn’t really understand. But it’s interesting and has provided some nuggets of knowledge and inspiration.

In a notebook, I’ve written the verses I want to memorize first. I check it to help me keep on track. When I awaken in the middle of the night, I try reciting (silently of course) until I fall back asleep.

Dallas Willard, in his book, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice (a companion book to Renovation of the Heart), says: “The desired effect will not be realized by focusing on isolated verses but will come as we ingest passages such as Romans 5:1-8 or 8:1-15, 1 Corinthians 13, or Colossians 3:1-17. When we take these into our mind, our mind will become filled with the light of God himself.”

Scripture memorization isn’t as easy for adults as it is for children, but as Dallas Willard says, our minds are made for it, and God wants us to do it. He will help us as we try, and cheer us on as we need encouragement. If we keep at it, we’ll eventually own our Bibles as never before.

In a world where many let their thoughts wander where they may, Scripture memorization can help us focus our thoughts on our loving God and be filled with his light.

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