The Discipline of Bible Reading and Retention

The Discipline of Bible Reading and Retention

Let’s start by watching this clip, this is about raising the flag at Iwo Jima during WWII.

“I think about what went on, on D-day and subsequent days in order to get that flag there.” It takes a great deal of sacrifice to wage war and win!

There is a great book about the men who raised the flag called Flag of Our Fathers. James Bradley, the author and son of one of the Marines that raised the flag, says this about the marines: “When you join the Marines there is a subtle destruction of your civilian mentality. And I mean in a good way. A Marine can’t think like a civilian, he has to think differently in order to be a good fighter.”

To become a Marine, a transformation must take place.

Another great quote from the book says, “[the] Rifle was an object of obsession,” and it truly was. Rifles:

  • Were cleaned several times a day
  • Were taken apart and reassembled on the double
    • And blindfolded.
  • Needed to be mastered to shoot in every position: sitting, standing, lying down.
  • At times you are required to sleep with it.

This morning I want to talk about Disciple of Bible Reading & Retention. Like the Marine, when you become a Christian, a transformation must take place. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,”  Meaning don’t be fashioned, molded, or cut out of the world, “but be transformed,” (In greek, the word is “metamorph”, like the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly), “by the renewing (or renevation) of your mind.”

Renovations in your mind must take place. You might say, “the old furniture of our thinking has to be thrown out…and what’s inserted is the Bible.” The Bible is the rifle. To wage war and win, it must become “an object of obsession.” Psalm 119 says, “Your word is more valuable than Gold.”

If you are a Christian and you sense you are realizing little of the life of Christ, you should start by asking: have my habits changed or am I calling myself a Christian yet living like a civilian?

Listen to George Mueller. He ran orphanages in England in the 1800’s and cared for more than 100,000 orphans. He wrote at age 71:

For the first four years after my conversion (at age 20) I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible (i.e. kept acting like a civilian). But when I regularly read on through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy [transformation] have increased more and more.”

Here is why I don’t like the 2 minute devotion. I don’t think it promotes a change of habits, in fact, it might promote your busy lifestyle. The 2 minute devotion assumes you are important: your schedule is full and if you don’t get things done, nobody will. God will understand. Some adopt the 2 minute devotion in order for God to fit into their schedule which caters to your life being at the center. You don’t win any meaningful or eternal wars this way.

In Matthew 4, you read about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Remember how Jesus responds each time he was confronted with a temptation? I’m encouraged that he did not do something beyond my ability. Jesus fought off temptation the same way that we should, by quoting scripture. Interestingly, all of the quotes are form the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy is considered “the favorite book of Jesus.” It’s Moses’ final words just as the Israelites are about to enter the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey and a land full of idol worship, sexual perversion, materialism and the sacrifice of children. Moses’ goal was to send them into this land heavily armed with the Word of God.

Observations from Deuteronomy about the Value of God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:5-9

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has da god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Our Responsibility is vs. 5-6.

First, you have to be “taught the word of the Lord.” We see this in Christ Community Church’s mission statement, “Teaching the Bible” Second, we are to “Keep them, Do Them” Which seems simple enough, but we all know it’s not that simple.

  • Adam and Eve couldn’t keep 1 command.
  • God to Saul in I Samuel 15: “You have rejected the word of the LORD and the LORD has rejected you as King.”
  • Paul’s warning to Timothy: II Tim 4:3-5 – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

The Result is vs. 6-8.

You will be a “Great Nation.” This was said three times! The human standard for the greatness of a nation is usually measured by wealth or power, yet notice God’s great nation was to be built on something totally different, it was to be built on people who took seriously keeping the Word of God.]

God’s measure for greatness and impact has nothing to do with wealth or power, but is based on whether you know and live out the Bible.

God’s measure for greatness and impact has nothing to do with wealth or power, but is based on whether you know and live out the Bible.

Most of us would testify that one of the most powerful influences on our lives have been other Christians we have observed living out the Word of God in their lives. I know as a teenager the aroma of Christ – my allurement to Jesus came through two college students who were actually living out the word of God. Their knowledge of the word and their lives captured my attention.

Warning – vs. 9

“Take Care, Watch out, Give heed to, be on guard…” for what? For yourself!

Of all the dangers the people where facing as they entered the promised land, God knew that the greatest danger they would face would be themselves.

Deuteronomy 6:6-12 – Repetition

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

It’s been said that “Repetition is the Mother of all learning.” Why do you think the Marines place such an emphasis on being completely familiar with their rifle? Because when you at war and bullets are flying in your direction, that’s not the time to get out the instruction manual. Listen to the emphasis in Deuteronomy.

“Teach” in Hebrews means, “to pierce.” Like the shooting of an arrow, it’s got to break through the outer layer and get into your bones.

Talk about it when you sit in your house, walk along the way, lay down, rise up. This is another way of saying day, night, and morning. Bind it to your hands and foreheads, write it on your doorposts and gates.

There is no special trick to becoming skillful and knowledgeable other than to become immersed in something. What’s the best way to learn a foreign language? To be immersed in it.

This reminds me of reading books over and over to my children. After a while, long before they could read, they would have memorized what’s on the next page. Of course I didn’t let my company know that, everyone thought my kids could read at age 3!

There can be no lame excuses like, “I don’t have a good memory.”

If you are dropped at Camp Lejune to train for terrorist warfare and they begin to teach you about your rifle, you are not going to say, “excuse me Mr. Sargent, I don’t have a good memory. He’s going to say something like, “Memory, we are not talking about your memory, we are talking about your life and the lives of others, perhaps a whole nation is depending on you.”

Deuteronomy 30 states that remembering the word of God is a matter of life and death. I wonder if you really think that your lives and the lives of others, perhaps the lives of a whole nation, is depending on your skillful knowledge of God’s Word.

I was recently in India to teach at a pastor’s conference. It is so amazing how dependent they are on God’s Word and his word alone. The repeatedly told me, “Our hope is in God’s Word!” For these guys and their congregation, it is a matter of life and death.

A Common Thread and Responsibility

Notice a common thread in the verses we’ve discussed: We have a responsibility for passing on this love for and understanding of God’s Word to our children.

  •  4: 9 – “Make them (commands/statutes) known to your children and to your children’s children.”
  • 6: 7 – “You shall teach them [Words that pierce like an arrow] diligently to your children.” (Your children should be your primary target).

The burden of the teaching and training of children falls to the parents. Fathers can have the greatest influence. You reading and talking about it can be incredibly powerful.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Who is a person who influenced you in terms of their knowledge of the Bible and their consistent way of life?
  2. Do you really think that YOU are the greatest danger you face in remaining faithful? Why/Why not? How are you a danger to yourself?
  3. What are your Bible Reading habits? What Bible reading plan have you found effective? What verse or passage of scripture have you memorized and relied on over and over?
  4. What kind of influence did your father have on your faith? What’s your goal as a father in teaching your children?

Friends and Brothers,

Paul Phillips

Pastor, Christ Community Church

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