LCN Article
Put God's Word in Your Heart

January / February 2005

Ben Faulkner

God has recorded His word in a wonderful, unique book for mankind, and has preserved it through the millennia. Of course, God used human instruments to put His words on parchment, skins or paper. But God wrote the book. It is His book, written to and for you! Man did not create it; God did!

This book God wrote to you contains His thoughts, plans and purposes. It provides written evidence of how God has worked with His chosen people in the past, and of how He will deal with all humanity in the near future.

Christians recognize the Bible as the written word of God. But while the word "Bible"—from the Greek byblos, "book"—is frequently used as a synonym for the "word of God," we must realize that the word of God is more than just a book. It is Holy Scripture! It is Truth, and it is much, much more!

We have God's word in print today because Jesus Christ, who was the Word from the beginning (John 1:1, 14)—inspired His servants through the Holy Spirit, in complete harmony with God, the Father, to write down His word. By His great power, God has preserved His word for us today.

God's word is found in numerous translations and languages around the world. It is consistently a bestseller in bookstores, and it is frequently quoted—sometimes even correctly. Yet, while it is studied and prized by many scholars, many serious students and avid readers view it merely as "great literature."

However, those inclined to read Scripture simply as human-created text miss its most valuable and unique assets. Why? Because the Bible is not human-created text! Scripture is more than ancient literature! It is more than a simple compilation of words, sentences and paragraphs. It is more than chronologies, histories, stories, biographies and predictions. It is even more than doctrine and law. Jesus explained: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).

It is important for Christians to realize that God intended His word to be perceived spiritually. Some have described the Bible as a coded book—and, in fact, God's Holy Spirit is required if we are to fully grasp and benefit from its spiritual intent. The Holy Spirit reveals the Bible's intent, its meaning and its purposes to God's people.

God uses His word to work powerfully in His people for His own divine, eternal purposes. In the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews we read: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). The ASV translates this same passage this way: "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword…"

What should be our approach to this amazing book— the written word of God? We all desperately need a fuller awareness of Scripture, and a deeper appreciation for this magnificent gift of God to mankind—especially to His Church. We need to realize there is great profit for those who diligently work to put the word of God in their hearts.

Within His own word, God reveals His desire— indeed, His command—that we put His word in our hearts, as well as in our minds and on our lips. "Your word I have hidden in my heart" (Psalm 119:11). With the word of God in our hearts, we are far more likely to have the word correctly in our minds and on our lips. God said to ancient Israel: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart" (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Just how can Christians put the word of God in their hearts? What does having God's word "in your heart" actually mean? Does it mean simply to remember or to memorize it? Or does it mean more?

Of course, we must not forget God's word, nor let it carelessly slip away (cf. James 1:22–25; Hebrews 2:1–4). There are many strategies we can use to remember Scripture. But is remembering the word of God the same as having God's word in your heart?

Consider this: To assist the ancient Israelites, God described several tools for remembering the words He commanded them. "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" (Deuteronomy 6:8–9).

Obviously, the Old Testament history of ancient Israel demonstrated that those tools were insufficient. It appears that an important element was missing; the Israelites never had the word in their hearts! "Oh, that they had such a heart in them…" (Deuteronomy 5:29).

Certainly, having God's word in our hearts can mean to memorize it—but is memorizing Scripture sufficient to truly have it in one's heart? The answer is, "No!" Ponder the devil's use of Scripture: The devil has memorized scripture and can quote it verbatim, or can pervert it to suit his whims and intentions. In Matthew 4:6, the devil correctly quoted Scripture—but misapplied it! In Genesis 3:1–5, the devil both quoted and contradicted God's word, telling Eve that she would not surely die as a result of disobedience. Yes, the devil "knows" God's word, but he does not use it to accomplish God's purposes. He never lets the word of God change him to be like God. He never puts God's word in his heart, and God's word never becomes part of him.

Having God's word in our hearts means to allow it to be part of us. It means to rehearse it and to use it for God's purposes—for His will. We can do this when we know exactly what Scripture says, when we understand what it means and when we have the intent to allow it to change us by its power. Then, after we have rehearsed God's word enough, and (through the Holy Spirit) put God's word into practice often enough in our lives, it will become part of us. Just by repetition, we will probably have memorized much of it. Purposefully memorizing Scripture can certainly speed the process of putting it into our hearts, of making it part of our being.

The word of God is truly a precious treasure with which every Christian should be intimately familiar. In fact, we should be so familiar with it that it becomes an essential part of who we are. James, the brother of Jesus, described a familiarity with Scripture so deep that it is "implanted" (James 1:21). When God's word is "implanted" in Christians, it becomes difficult to forget, because it is part of us, just like a branch grafted onto a tree becomes part of the tree.

David, the man after God's own heart, came to understand and respect the value of God's word. He depended on specific aspects of it to work out God's purposes for his life: "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11). What a remarkable insight, to understand that God's word in our hearts can assist us in not sinning! We should ask God to write His laws and His word on our hearts, and in our minds (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). As we do our part, God also does His!

God's word is a necessary ingredient in keeping us from sin and death, putting us on the path of life. In the inspired book of Proverbs, David's son, Solomon, commented on a most essential component of God's word—the law of God: "My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light" (Proverbs 6:20–23). God's word has other wonderful benefits as well. In the New Testament, we read of several more: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Because God's word is so extraordinary—His words are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63)—we must approach God's written word with His objectives in mind. Following David's example, we should delight in it: "I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word" (Psalm 119:16). God wants us to rejoice at His word as David did: "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure" (Psalm 119:162). God wants us to love His word (119:140) and to meditate upon it (119:48). Further, God wants us to hold His word in high esteem. After all, God thinks highly of His word. He has magnified it: "I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name" (Psalm 138:2).

David said that he was in awe of God's word. We should be, too. Notice David's words: "Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word" (Psalm 119:161). Standing in awe of God's word becomes easier when we meditate on it and come to realize its immense power. In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God spoke, and it was done. Scripture also shows us that all that exists is sustained by the power of His word. "Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). What great power!

Additional evidence of the power of God's word is Jesus' healing the sick and casting out demons by speaking "a word." The centurion, seeking healing for his servant, knew Jesus only had to speak, because of the authority and power associated with His words: "The centurion answered and said, 'Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed'" (Matthew 8:8). In the same chapter of Matthew, we read about the power of His word over demons: "When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick" (v. 16).

Most assuredly, God desires that we continue in His word as disciples. In fact, continuing in His word is what defines us as disciples: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed'" (John 8:31). God wants His disciples to be proficient in using his word, rightly dividing it: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

And God intends that we speak the word of God, passing it on to future generations: "'As for Me,' says the Lord, 'this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants' descendants,' says the Lord, 'from this time and forevermore'" (Isaiah 59:21).

God wants His word to be a constant in our lives. We are to speak of it in both formal and informal settings: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7).

We must each make a diligent and concerted effort to make a place for God's word within us! We need it for every aspect of our lives. Think about what it could mean to have Scripture in your heart. Having Scripture in your heart will make it instantly available, at any moment, day or night, in a crowd or all alone, on a throne or upside down in a well, in sickness or in vibrant health, when you have just been flattered, when you have just been criticized, when you are in imminent danger, when you are being tempted seemingly beyond measure, and on and on… you get the picture!

Remember! The devil crouches and pounces like a lion. Typically, we will not see the attack coming. The devil is far too wily to wait until we have Bibles in our hands before he starts his attacks. Having Scripture in our hearts will give us an instant weapon for the battle, because God's word is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus taught us how to use this weapon successfully when He rightly used Scripture to push Satan back (see Matthew 4:1–11). With God's word in our hearts, we too can win!

Sometimes we face enormous challenges that unsettle and confuse us. But Scripture provides the answers we need, because it gives discernment and wisdom, subtlety and discretion. You will find that these are the stated purposes for the entire book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:1–6). As we hear new suggestions, ideas, philosophies and opinions, we can instantly compare them to Scripture, which we have stored in our hearts. We can recognize immediately what is or is not in line with God's word.

Having the word of God truly in our hearts will ensure that we have more of the Holy Spirit, and more of Jesus Christ living in us so we can be more in harmony with God as He works in us to achieve His purpose. Scripture is very clear on this point: God's word accomplishes what He sends it to do! "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10–11). As we continue our walk with God, His word gives us a way by which we can check ourselves: "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word" (Psalm 119:9).

God's word guides us (v. 105) and gives us light on the path (vv. 105, 130). We can use it to order our steps, keeping ourselves from iniquity (v. 133).

By God's word, we are quickened (made alive): "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life" (Psalm 119:50). We are set apart [sanctified] by its truth (John 17:17), cleansed by its washing (Ephesians 5:26) and fed (Matthew 4:4). And, as we continue in God's word, it also increases our faith: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). In fact, God's word is the word of faith that is preached to us: "But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach)" (Romans 10:8).

In Scripture, we find what to hope for, and what we can expect from God (cf. Psalm 119:81, 114). God's word even tells us how to pray and what to pray for (cf. Matthew 6:5–13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Clearly, God's word is a vital element in our receiving answers to prayer: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

True Christians will genuinely want to please God by keeping His word in their hearts. We all desire and need God's attention. We want Him to look at us, not away from us. God's word tells us what motivates Him to attend to us: "'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word'" (Isaiah 66:2).

Yes! The word of God is vital to Christians! Let us all treat the word of God with the respect it deserves! Among other things, it is inspiring, life-enhancing, nourishing, instructional, corrective, comforting and protective. Let us hear it! Read it! Study it! Memorize it! Rehearse it! Feed on it! Treasure it!

Let the word of God dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16)! We do this by putting it in our hearts. In it, we find life. Remember, Jesus Himself said: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).