Read: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Read: John 15:1-17
Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Let’s simply linger for a few minutes over the words “If . . . my words abide in you.” What does this mean, and why do the words of Jesus have the effect they do, and what does this have to do with memorizing Scripture?
What then does it mean? It means that the words of Jesus take root and bear the fruit of faith and holiness. John 5:38connects the word and faith: “You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.” If the word abides in you, you will believe in the word and the one who spoke it. The words of Jesus don’t “abide” without effect. When they take root, they produce faith and holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus says; “your word is truth” (John 17:17). So when his words abide in us, sanctification happens. We are transformed. Holiness, Christlikeness, happens. In sum, the abiding of Jesus’ words in us means that the words of Jesus take root and bear the fruit of faith and holiness.
Why do the words of Jesus have this effect? One [reason] is that Jesus’ words are the words of God. John 3:34: “He whom God has sent utters the words of God.” So when Jesus is speaking, God is speaking. And the word of God is powerful. Second, the words of Jesus are life-giving. Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Spirit of God gives life through the word of God. And Jesus’ words are those words. So his words are “spirit and life.” They quicken the spirit and impart eternal life. And third they produce faith and holiness because they conquer the devil. In ourselves, we are not as strong as he is (1 John 5:19). But listen to what John says of the young Christians in 1 John 2:14, “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” The devil cannot stand against the indwelling word of God.
So we ask finally, what does all this have to do with memorizing Scripture? The Holy Spirit awakens life and faith and personal transformation through the word of God (1 Peter 1:23; John 17:17). “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). God gave us conscious minds. He gave us volition and emotion. The Holy Spirit makes the words of Jesus effective when they attach with understanding to our minds and then to our wills and emotions. Christ is glorified when his word is heard and understood and affirmed and enjoyed. So that is how God has ordained for change to happen. Therefore, anything that brings the word of God into connection with our minds will work to strengthen faith and promote understanding and bring about the fruit of the Spirit and the transformation of our lives—and not just our own, but the lives of others also. Memorizing Scripture makes this kind of connection between God’s word and our minds more constant, more deep, and more transforming. Realistically, nothing else can take its place.
(Adapted from the January 4, 2009 sermon, “If My Words Abide in You” by John Piper)
Playlist for Sunday
1. The Solid Rock (Charlie Hall arrangement)
2. Everyday (Lincoln Brewster arrangement)
3. Love the Lord (Lincoln Brewster arrangement)
4. Here is Love (Matt Redman arrangement)
5. ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus (Crosspoint Church arrangement)