Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
In our family we are taking on a challenge this summer. We’re going to memorize all of John 17. This is a big task for us, but one we’re looking forward to and actually enjoying already.
Our church is promoting something this summer called Summer Stories. The idea is to be challenged to do five different things over the course of the summer: pray specifically for five people who don’t know Christ, memorize John 17, throw a block party to meet your neighbors, invite some people to a church gathering and find a place to serve the in city one night a week. The point is to create some stories this summer. To intentionally do some things that will push us in our own walk with Christ as well as make us mindful of those around us who don’t yet know the gospel of Jesus. The belief is that as we do these things boldly and intentionally we will look back on this summer with some great stories of what God has done in our lives and in others. As the summer progresses we’ll be sharing our individual stories with the whole church community and celebrate together what God is doing in our lives.
So our family has started with the memorization of John 17. We’ll look to pursue some of the other challenges this summer as well, but this is where we started. It has been an interesting week and a definite blessing to work on this as a family. Our kids are taking it so seriously and really are making great headway so far!
As we’ve begun I have been reminded frequently of Paul’s challenge to the Colossian church. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Paul recognized our desperate need for a rich indwelling of God’s Word. He knew that in order to meet the needs of one another we will need a deep store of God’s truth in our hearts. I can’t help but wonder if this unmet reality is at the source of so much difficulty that the church seems to have getting along with itself.
Down through the ages there are stories upon stories of church division and backbiting; stories of gossip, arguments that never resolve, politics in the church body, and power struggles. The one unified Body of Christ has often been anything but a diverse group of members working for the glory of Christ as a blessing to one another and the world. Could it be in large part because the members have not been investing in a deep store of the word of Christ in their own hearts? Could it be because so much of the Body has allowed a Sunday morning feeding on the Word to be all they get for the week?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together says this:
“It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word. But who in this day has any proper understanding of the need for scriptural proof? How often we hear innumerable arguments “from life” and “from experience” put forward as the basis for our most crucial decisions, but the argument of Scripture is missing.”
When the Word of God does not dwell in us richly, our life easily becomes guided by other things: by outside influences, self diagnosis, and popular opinion. We need the word of Christ, not merely to be heard by us on a regular basis, but to dwell in us richly. And so we are memorizing.
I can’t help but realize that teaching our children to memorize Scripture is teaching them a culture of how to live life. It’s so much more than just a summer project and I pray we’ll have the perseverance and consistency necessary to make it a new rhythm of our family’s life. We pray together, we read the Bible together, but we have not done much intentional hiding of God’s Word in our hearts as a family. This is a great beginning for us. There is great joy to be found in the time we are spending as a family working through John 17, not to mention the joy we receive as parents to find our children so enthusiastic and committed to this memorization. And we are preparing our children now for the day we will watch them set out on their own. What a gift to see them set out with a rich store of the word of Christ dwelling within their hearts. This is a goal worth investing in.