My childhood piano teacher was a stickler for memorization. Being able to play a piece without error was not enough. I had to play several pieces flawlessly by memory. Her reasoning was this: She didn’t want her students to say, when asked to play, “I’m sorry, I don’t have my music with me.”
As a child, I also memorized Bible passages, including Psalm 119:11. Due to my limited understanding, I believed that simple memorization would keep me from sin. I worked hard at memorizing verses, and I even won a Moody Bible Story Book as an award.
Although memorizing the Bible is a good habit to develop, it’s not theact of memorizing that keeps us from sin. As I learned soon after my winning efforts, having the words of Scripture in my head made little difference in my behavior. In fact, instead of victory over sin, knowledge alone generated feelings of guilt.
Eventually I realized that the Word of God had to spread through my whole being. I needed to internalize Scripture, to hide it “in my heart” the way a musician does a piece of music. I had to live the Bible as well as I could quote it. As God’s Word spreads from our heads to our hearts, sin loses its power over us.