LID#10-Scripture Memory (TMS)
This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith. Today’s session is on “Scripture Memory: the Topical Memory System.” First, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a retired physician and spent 34 years in family medicine and student health. I became a Christian 50 years ago and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, an international non-denominational Christian organization whose stated goal is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.” I’ve been on associate staff with that organization since 1980. Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned during that time. What I learned then I now pass on to you.
The Topical Memory System (TMS) was started by Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, in the 1920s and 1930s. He noticed that many Christians knew some things about Bible, but very few of them could actually find the verse or passage and fewer could quote it correctly. He wanted a simple system to memorize scripture. Ultimately, the TMS had five topics with 12 verses on each topic, giving a total of 60 verses. He chose verses he thought to be most important for Christians to know. The first topic of 12 verses is called Living the New Life and are verses that highlight the Wheel Illustration (see Lessons in Discipleship #3).
The second topic is on Proclaiming Christ. These twelve verses describe the Bridge Illustration (see Lessons in Discipleship #4). Our third topic is Rely on Christ’s Resources. The fourth topic is Be Christ’s Disciples. The fifth and final topic is Growing in Christlikeness. For convenience sake, the size of the entire pack of 60 verses was originally designed to fit into the small shoulder pocket common to all U.S. Navy sailors. Before the second world war, the U.S. Navy was the group first ministered to by the Navigators.
Why scripture memory? Well, only two things are going to last for eternity: the souls of people and God’s word. Somewhere, everyone is going to spend eternity, either with Christ or without him. But the other thing that will last for eternity is God’s word. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Therefore, any investment in God’s word is an eternal investment. Second, scripture memory allows a hundred percent retention for personal growth and use. Remember the Word Hand Illustration we’ve covered before (Lessons in Discipleship #4). Finally, God’s word cleanses us. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
Here are a few more reasons for scripture memory. One of the early disciples, Stephen, believed in scripture memory. He said, “However the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’” Here Stephen quoted from Isaiah 66:1. The apostle Paul believed in scripture memory. He said, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47 – quoting from Isaiah 49:6) Jesus believed in scripture memory. In Matthew 4:1-11 we see how Jesus used scripture memory, quoting from Deuteronomy three times to fight off temptations from Satan. One of Jesus’ twelve disciples, Simon Peter, believed in it too. In Acts 4:11 Peter said, “He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” He was quoting from Isaiah 28:16.
Now let’s look at a few possible benefits from memorizing God’s word. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11) All these are incredible reasons for memorizing God’s word and having it available. Here are a few personal stories.
One evening I was sharing my faith in a student dormitory many years ago. One student began laughing at what I was saying. I remember turning to the fellow and said, “Do you know why you think this is so funny?” He answered, “No, why?” I told him, “The Bible says you are perishing.” I remember quoting from I Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This gentleman stopped laughing and began listening. Later that evening, he prayed to receive Christ. At another time, I was in graduate school and involved in animal surgery. One of my assistants, a female, began changing into surgical scrubs right there in front of me. She started to undress. I had recently memorized II Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth.” This verse suddenly popped into my mind (Holy Spirit?). So I did what it said. Instead of standing and watching, I fled. I came back a few minutes later to continue the surgery. God’s word is very powerful.
Now let’s look at the TMS in more detail – the 60 verses in five packs of twelve verses each.
Pack I – Living the New Life (the Wheel Illustration)
Christ the Center – Galatians 2:20 and II Corinthians 5:20
Obedience to Christ – Romans 12:1 and John 14:21
The Word – II Timothy 3:16 and Joshua 1:8
Prayer – John 15:7 and Philippians 4:6-7
Fellowship – Matthew 18:20 and Hebrews 10:24-25
Witnessing – Matthew 4:19 and Romans 1:16
Pack 2 – Proclaiming Christ
All Have Sinned – Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 53:6
Sin’s Penalty – Romans 6:23 and Hebrews 9:27
Christ Paid the Penalty – Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 3:18
Must Receive Christ – John 1:12 and Revelations 3:20
Assurance of Salvation – I John 5:13 and John 5:24
Pack 3 – Rely on God’s Resources
His Spirit – I Corinthians 3:16 and I Corinthians 2:12
His Strength – Isaiah 41:10 and Philippians 4:13
His Faithfulness – Lamentations 3:22-23 and Number 23:19
His Peace – Isaiah 26:3 and I Peter 5:7
His Provision – Romans 8:32 and Philippians 4:19
His Help in Temptation – Hebrews 2:18 and Psalm 119:9, 11
Pack 4 – Being Christ’s Disciple
Put Christ First – Matthew 6:33 and Luke 9:23
Separate from the World – I John 2:15-16 and Romans 12:2
Be Steadfast – I Corinthians 15:58 and Hebrews 12:3
Serve Others – Mark 10:45 and II Corinthians 4:5
Give Generously – Proverbs 3:9-10 and II Corinthians 9:6-7
Develop World Vision – Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19-20
Pack 5 – Grow in Christlikeness
Love – John 13:34-35 and I John 3:18
Humility – Philippians 2:3-4 and I Peter 5:5-6
Purity – Ephesians 5:3 and I Peter 2:11
Honesty – Leviticus 19:11 and Acts 24:16
Faith – Hebrews 11:6 and Romans 4:20-21
Good Works – Galatians 6:9-10 and Matthew 5:16
I have listed all 60 verses above for your own use. Feel free to order your own TMS online at Navpress.org or Amazon.com. Or simply use a computer and print them off and tape them to small blank business cards. Actually, I’ve found it easier to use them on larger 3×5 cards.
I recommend trying to memorize two verses a week and keep them reviewed every day. Get them word-perfect. It will take 30 weeks to finish all 60 verses but you will find it worth all your effort. For the time invested I have not found any other project better than this. You can do it for free in your own chosen translation or language simply by going to Biblegateway.com.
Learn them word-perfect and include both the topic as well as the Bible reference. Another thing that can help with the TMS is to have someone else check you and help keep you on target and on track.
And what’s the key to scripture memory? It’s daily review, review, and more review. Review your new verse three to five times a day. Every day. Once you’ve completed an entire pack of 12 verses, be sure to review that entire pack every other day. Once you have all five packs done, review a pack a day, say Monday through Friday. The important thing is to keep those newer verses fresh.
Finally, I’d like to tell you about a scripture memory challenge I first had when I attended a Christian seminar in the early 1970s. The speaker was telling how he used to lament always having low grades in high school. The best he could seem to do was C- (C minus) or D+ (D plus). Both of those are pretty bad grades (near failing) and will not get you into college. One day, one of his teachers said, “I’ve got an idea for you I know will raise your grades.” The student wanted to try it. The teacher challenged him to memorize and meditate on one chapter a week from the Bible and be consistent. He told the student it would take about 6 months, but that his grades would go up. The student tried it and it worked! His grades went up to all As and Bs (90+ per cent). God was doing something and transforming his life. Personally, I took that challenge myself about 45 years ago. I did this all the way through medical school and graduate school. I eventually I wound up memorizing about a third of the New Testament. No, I do not continue to memorize on that level now but I do memorize scripture. It has totally transformed my life. God has used it to transform my mind. The potential benefits of scripture memory are incredible.
So, let’s summarize what we’ve learned from this presentation. This is my personal opinion, but I found over the last 45 years, no more productive time can be spent than by scripture memory. Anytime you invest in God’s word is valuable and will last even into eternity. Second, have a plan to memorize scripture. Start slow, but daily review is the key. Third, throughout the day, think about your current memory verse and about what it means. And God will use that in your life and in the lives of other people. But be warned, there’s an old computer saying – “garbage in, garbage out.” An early Navigator warned me that when I began memorizing scripture, I might start noticing bad thoughts coming into my mind from bad dreams or other bad thoughts. He said this was only God cleaning out all the previous bad stuff I had been exposed to. This will improve with time – so keep going! I found his recommendation to be true and accurate. Keep going.
We will see you next time for another session of Lessons in Discipleship when our topic will be Prayer and the Prayer Hand Illustration. That wraps up today’s session. Thank you for being a part. Until next time, keep following Jesus. He’s worth it.