Scripture memorization is a spiritual discipline that I have long neglected. The more teachings I listen to, the more I desire to know the Word and to remember the verses that have begun to change my heart. The teachings speak of the Word of God rising up to combat our thoughts, desires, and actions, giving us strength and conviction to resist sin. I want that. If God can speak to us in this way, then I rest my hope in Him for gaining control of my sinful nature and my destructive emotions and desires.
Truth in Understanding
In my life, there are 3 primary things I am in need of understanding: God’s identity, my identity, and love. The thing is, each of these is entwined! God is abounding in love. I am not inherently abounding in love. Though I was created as a righteous being and share God’s image, I have a nature full of sin and selfish desire as a descendant of Adam; this I more easily recognize. Thus, I am in need of constant reliance on God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in this area. As I transcend this sin and my thoughts become clear and on God, He reveals His identity and supernatural love, and in turn my identity that flows from Him.
In this sequence, revelation can be found as we study the nature of sinful desires, of defining and choosing love, and of the nature of living in the spirit. We can memorize the passages to hold the Word close to our heart and to focus on God. As we have identified our selfishness inside of us, we can then recognize with clarity and pull back from any desire that is sinful and to choose a Godly motive, allowing for purification in God’s all-consuming fire of life. On their own, the words or practice won’t save you. The Holy Spirit does the transformation by making the words come alive in our hearts, much like a song! We should pray to the Holy Spirit before we begin any spiritual meditation or memorization. Let’s do so.
“Holy Spirit, you make our hearts new. You give us divine power and conviction to change. You enable our Father’s power to transform us from the inside out. You unveil our minds from darkness. You, Holy Spirit, are our comforter and the source of wisdom. Help our conscience be honest before God our Father so that He may judge and pierce our hearts with His truth. These words are dead and lifeless things apart from you. Open our eyes. Pierce our hearts. Bring light to the darkness and help us to not flinch. We come before you humbly, free from pride, desiring change, and reading these words with love towards You and Your life-giving truth. Let this book of the law and your praises ever be on our lips; better yet, saturate our dry hearts with your life giving spirit, which is Living Water and soothes the soul, making way for love and brokenness in Your embrace. Amen.”
Scripture Reference – Comment, Exposition
One form of memorization and training is to remember the starting word/letter and the general context of the message. The message content is more easily remembered when the book and verse are listed. For those that study the Word well, each book and chapter serves a unique purpose that is unlike any other book in the Bible. With both of these as part of the memorization process, scripture memory comes alive. The following scripture passages are from the NIV version unless otherwise noted.
Scripture And God’s Truth
If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 2 Corinthians 3:9 – The New Covenant was created in which we were forever reconciled to God the Father, now, and in the Age to Come, through belief in Jesus Christ! The Old Covenant of the Old Testament came in Glory and Power, designed to set a people apart as God’s Holy people. Jesus satisfied the sacrifices demanded by Old Covenant law and received our condemnation, and set the basis for the New Covenant and the ushering in of the Holy Spirit to bring freedom and abundant life in the Grace of God. It is still our Father’s will for us to be holy and glorify Him. But now through the Holy Spirit and the spirit’s life in us we are transformed into righteousness! As we contemplate the Lord’s glory, not the letter of the law, we are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16 – Use this to remember that the scriptures are not a chore and serve a purpose for yourself and others. Read, teach yourself, and reproof others by directing them to see the glory of God and to get into proper relationship with God. In doing so proper thoughts, motives, and actions will follow the pattern scriptures. Condemnation is not the goal, however. It’s to breathe life into others using our joy in the scriptures and in God!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it [discerns] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 – Scripture is not merely principles to live a moral life. No. Scripture is alive. It convicts us and plants seeds of truth in our heart when we read and hear it. It defines the separation of our soul and spirit to bring clarity to the state of our being and helps us see purity cleanly, separate and holy. If not for this active process, how do we repent to live an honest and Godly life? We cannot simply hide ourselves from God and yet do good. We must let God work in us and through us. Let the word of God never depart our lips and our heart so that we may be transformed in the depths of our souls and our mind renewed with truth.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13, 15-16 – Do not mock God by thinking we can hide anything from His! His presence is glorious! None of our schemes have any weight; this should strike a fear of the Lord in us. And yet, God’s kindness leads us to true repentance. Truth brings clarity. Grace and mercy brings about compassion and reliance on God. This dichotomy of truth and grace is the effective means of God’s word in proper relationship. Through this we can become mature in the body of Christ, knowing both truth and love.
So, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord [in revelation], and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:2-6 – We set truth before us and live by it. Instead of hiding from God, we bring everything into the light before Him. But we cannot fully understand or change by the truth unless we are in Christ. The full depth of understanding of our life in truly hidden and veiled in Christ. And so we seek Him. We could preach the truth, but if we do so apart from abiding in Christ, we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal. Instead, we are to be in Christ and have the truth transform us so that we preach boldly of Christ (and not ourselves) out of our humble inner love, life, and light received from Him.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10 – Most of us don’t know what healthy fear looks like. We are all deeply insecure and by nature we have tendencies to hide or distance ourselves from truth and right living. But if we feared God first above all things (above the world, society, relationships, and our own shame and humiliation) then we are closer to abiding by His ways rather than our insecure nature. This leads to taking steps toward true wisdom and living rightly. Furthermore, fear is an emotional disposition as much as joy is. It helps bind us to God at both ends of the spectrum, and our path will be toward the truth.
Only in Christ is [the veil] taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:14 – Remember, the glory of God and all understanding is only received through abiding in Christ. The depth of the spiritual walk can only be grasped by experience. Through it we know love and the fullness of truth.
The Reality of Selfishness
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – This list is a staggering pronouncement of how we should feel and be as people filled with love! These aren’t just choices – these are states of being. Love IS. Thus, we must BE. As our thoughts and desires rise within us toward action, we must test that they are truly loving and of what spirit they are truly of. If they do not align with love, we must yield our desires to a more loving posture of heart, lest we sin. Furthermore, this kind of love is sourced from God and revelation beyond our self, not from within our own hearts. If we are truly honest, our own hearts have a limited supply of this genuine kind of love. In the end, left to our selves, we will make our own relative version of love and begin to govern ourselves with our own morality – we then miss God’s standard completely. Let us open ourselves up spiritually to God, not simply love by works or by configurations of the mind in efforts of self-mastery. Surrendered and connected to God, we can continually be renewed, connected, and filled with spiritual life and the power of an abiding spirit.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 26:10 – In your heart, can you be trusted? Can you deliver? Can you be relied upon for things big and small? Will you come through, or will your heart feint and will you let others down? Are you already prepared to strive and make up the difference? If you have not been trustworthy in your relationships, with your wealth, with your time, with another’s life and property, then who will trust you with true riches? Have you sown to the flesh? Have you lived honestly and rightly in all the small and mundane things, or have you forsaken loving every aspect of life? Can you repent? Can you fear the separation and judgment from God for having your share of good things in this life but having your heart in a detestable state? Where is true biblical love in your heart? Where is your goodness? Is it trapped in your own selfishness?
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:16 – Do you know your desires? Do you see the depths at which you can fall when your your mind, pride, or emotions run high? Can you feel the pangs of fear, covetousness, and unforgiveness harbored in your heart? We must be at rest in God! To not be causes stress, an indicator on the heart that we are being pulled in two directions. Be wary and vigilant!
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire, but you do not have, so you kill. You covet but you do not get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:1-4 – Self-gratification and selfish pride are the root of all strife. Your inner desires are unyielding and so you try and claim what you believe is yours, often in striving and conflict. Does such gratification and pride bring about any lasting satisfaction or value to the greater whole? Can you not accept and steward what God has provided for you, instead hungering for more?
Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. James 4:1-4 (MSG version) – Are you not yet convicted? When you ask God, you do so with motives to gratify the self rather than to enjoy God himself; this is an evil that breeds separation, and it is no wonder that God does not provide, for in his loving grace He is to be desired above all else; to get there, we must submit ourselves before Him. Furthermore, if we submit but do so with a double mind with a mind on ourselves still grasping to our desires, we have not yielded the self nor repented! We could strive all we want and try to control our heart to submit using anger and condemnation. But this isn’t possible. Our desires do not yield to force. They yield to kindness and goodness. Our desires yield to something greater than themselves. And that is the treasure we must find in God. The result of truly experiencing the Gospel is a reaction from the heart, not a chosen response. Any repentance that is not a reaction to God’s treasure is false repentance and only behavior modification with a hope and an eye on God. Experiencing him and the Gospel is something else entirely. Instead of eying God from afar, a heart that experiences Him embraces, loves, shares, hears, confers, confides, and runs to Him. All else will be added in time: faith, strength, courage, maturity. Changes of the heart must trump changes in behavior. Let’s focus on the former.
Then After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death. James 1:15 – Every kind of evil: pride, lust, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth. These are the 7 deadly sins. Even a hint of these is ruinous and gives birth to all manner of evil. Each is a form of idolatry of the Self wherein the subjective desires reign over the self instead of God, walking righteously, or in contempt. See how deep this is? Sin isn’t merely a bad choice. It is something so much deeper – a spiritual issue that can enslave and entrap us. Not being able to submit to God and not being able to experience God is indicative of something so much deeper. Instead, we choose sin.
The Acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 – Do not live by these means! Resist! Do not act! Reign yourself in. Endure this prison of undesired self-control and begin living by a new means in which you will be set free of control and into freedom – a way that can save you. How? The narrow road – living and loving Jesus above all things in your heart.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17 – The reason we act in the flesh is out of our love for the world, ourselves, and our ego. We must first achieve victory over the these things in our hearts, something that must be continually renewed. Without this step, our desires for the acts of the flesh will continue. While it seems strong to simply not act upon those desires, this is based on rule and not on love. Should we love God to the point of obedience of not gratifying our desires, or should we love the Way of God so much that our desires completely change and we are rooted in the spiritual realm and God’s kingdom? In the former, we simply have knowledge, but no spiritual fruit other than discipline and knowledge. In the latter, our desires for the world are gone and the desires of the flesh pass away. This is where we bear fruit!
The Heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. Jeremiah 17:9-10 – Our heart is not inherently bad – it is what we fill it with that corrupts it. The vanities of the world are so alluring that we are tempted at a level of the heart below our conscious awareness. The lust of the flesh can be as overt as sexual attraction and as subtle as intimacy with another to the point where we covet being known by a human more than resting in our relationship with God and what He provides us. This is idolatry. The lust of the eyes feeds the lust of the flesh, but also is a sin in itself. Sin is drawn forth and cherished by the eyes, beholden to indulge in sinful pleasure of the mind. And the pride of life is in all matter of pride by position and acquisition apart from God. How then are we to resist? Are we to be condemned? Our hearts require much constant watching and prayer; we cannot escape the world, or obtain absolute victory over it. And yet…
Reconciled To God and Walking In The Spirit
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:8-10 – This is the Gospel. You aren’t left alone to struggle and try and seal our sin by our own power. God came down in Jesus to connect us to God so that we might BREAK ALL CHAINS UPON US AND PURSUE TRUE LIFE AND POWER WITHOUT HINDRANCE. We can know God and by His holiness break the power of sin. When we properly see and know God, we do this out of a reaction to His love and our love for Him. It is nearly effortless. But we are still human. We aren’t perfectly connected to God. We still have a sinful nature that tries to corrupt our God-given purity. So we must connect ourselves to God, letting Him separate ourselves from the world to be rooted in the kingdom where purity reigns and righteousness is done in triumph.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 – To sow to the flesh it to sow to pure motives! The reward of this is a freedom in God’s spirit, unadulterated by sin, preferring everything of God to every other thing. But, each day you will be tested in every minute way! To walk in the spirit, we must follow our conscience and our level of revelation of what is good and pure in the sight of God. As we continue to sanctify our life through this pursuit, we see new layers of sin until we get to the true nature and heart of every motive. This is our greatest cross to bear as Christians, but we will have full revelation of love and purity and goodness! We can reach out and comprehend the great riches in Christ! Without Christ as our source and our first love, we will struggle continually to deny ourselves. Realizing God’s majesty, we consider choosing the path of our sinful nature as one of death. Thus, we gladly give it up and learn to take up the lift of Christ wholeheartedly, undivided!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2 – God desires in us a steadfast heart! We can simply rest in knowing God’s goodness. But, in the face of testing, our human nature tends toward anxiety and toward a state of inner conflict. In this time, we ought to stay steadfast, trust God, and hold our self apart from selfish ambition. We will be tested in this! Let us resist the loneliness, despair of heart, and all selfishly-motivated consumption, and we will obtain experience that we can rely on to weather all future storms with new perseverance. But let that experience take form.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3 – Resist the birth of sin that often arises as we fight to overcome trials. Do not conform to the world or selfishness. Do not compare your hardship with the easy life of others. Endure not in struggle, but joy! This brings life to our souls instead of beginning a downward spiral of striving and negative thinking.
Practices Of Godliness
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:4-8 – In your trials, you can only weather the storm if you hold steady and do not doubt! Doubt is natural, but you must not ask the Lord, only for you to not listen and throw away your resolve. Why ask in the first place? Be steadfast. Seek Him first. You must learn to obey, hold on to His promises, and to rejoice in Him. Keep your eyes on Him and you will remain fast throughout the trial.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4 – Remember, in trials, rejoice! In everything, rejoice!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7 – Anxiety is negative meditation; it is dwelling on negative things! This gives birth to wrong thinking and can produce negative emotions that may lead to making unwise choices and devastating consequences. Think not of such things! Guard your hearts from such evil anxiety and trust in God! Don’t have your way. Don’t have your justice. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every kind of evil. Rejoice in the Lord! Rejoice! He has made things as they are. Purify your heart. Get your mind on all that is good and lovely, not on your own understanding. Only then you can make-way in peace.
Finally brothers and sisters, Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 – Test your thinking for things that are objectively true with reality, honorable, just and right, of moral purity, attractive and beautiful, and good. All these things shall occupy your thoughts and enable godly action. This is not passive or casual thinking. This is intentional thinking that requires focus and meditation. This very process of reasoning and deduction separates good from evil. Be on the side of good; be intentional. Without such faith and discipline, the peace of God cannot truly overtake you and bring you to rest. You know your thinking is right when the storm clears. Without this practice, you can never intentionally put wrongs or the past behind you. This process is the birth of love through wisdom.
But the Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18 – Clarity of thinking and revelation of God’s loving spirit gives birth to positive emotions and an upward spiral of health.
Fruits of The Spirit
When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11 – As a child, we only thought of our self in self-centeredness, becoming emotional monsters as we sought control and belonging. But now we know how to test and be intentional about our thinking in a way that will channel God’s peace and wisdom to all our relationships. Put our old ways of passive and anxious thinking behind us. Put off the immature, childlike self-centeredness and do not react in emotion based on how you feel every passing moment. Walk by the spirit with perseverance.
But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 – These fruits are not stifling your humanity. They are you being free of your selfish passions and desires, and now you can step into a new uplifting spirit beyond your self. These fruits are evidence of control, wisdom, principles, perspective, and love. These are not merely new ways of living, but ways of being. If we boast, we are not of the spirit but of the behavior only and our heart is yet filled with pride and evil. Do not boast in your new ways, but test your character always for the fruits of the spirit. There is no law against these things; be free to do God’s will in abundance. Joy is the most easily recognized fruit, and from it can flow all other things. Such joy stems first from your love and faith and hope in God, rather than yourself.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 – Every spiritual gift will fade. Do not rely on them. Faith, hope and love are what remain to lead us through life and toward God’s image. Love, most of all. Faith and hope can be part of the foundation of our belief, but love (and brokenness for God) is the greatest of everything because it keeps us in tender relationship with our Savior, Father, and Spirit.