Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Erwin Lutzer about the importance of Scripture memory in his life.
Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer has served as Senior Pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago since 1980.
He earned his B.Th. from Winnipeg Bible College, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, an M.A. in Philosophy from Loyola University and an honorary LL.D. from the Simon Greenleaf School of Law.
A clear expositor of the Bible, he is the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard on more than 1,000 outlets in the United States and around the world.
Dr. Lutzer is also an award-winning author of numerous books including: The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent, The King is Coming, Covering Your Life in Prayer, One Minute After You Die, When a Nation Forgets God, Christ Among Other Gods, and Christian Bookseller’s Gold Medallion Award winner, Hitler’s Cross.
Dr. Lutzer and his wife, Rebecca, live in the Chicago area and have three grown children and eight grandchildren.
1. I understand you memorized a lot of Scripture as a child. Can you tell us about that? Was there someone who encouraged you?
Yes, I did memorize a great deal of Scripture when I was younger. I promised myself that I would not graduate from Bible college unless I could quote the Book of John and by God’s grace I achieved that. The Christmas before graduation I quoted the entire book in 2 hours and 15 minutes. After that I also memorized Romans, Hebrews, etc.
I had no one in particular who encouraged me. I always believed that I would be a preacher some day, so I wanted to know the Bible. In the early 60’s I heard a pastor by the name of Franklin Logsdon (who at one time was the pastor of The Moody Church!) and he taught the Bible without opening it. He could teach whole books such as Jeremiah or any New Testament book with his Bible closed, quoting scripture and pointing out the truth in various verses of the text. I was very impressed, so in my early days in Bible college, I tried to preach like he did.
Unfortunately, my motives where not always pure; I wanted people to be impressed with me as a preacher, and impressed with my memory. Be that as it may, I think Scriptrue memory is important even if we sometimes have the wrong motive.
I have no problem with promising children rewards if they memorize scripture; they may do it for the money or whatever you give them, but hiding God’s word in ones heart is very important.
2. How has Scripture memory helped you in your ministry?
Scripture has helped me in my ministry because as a pastor I am able to quote verses in a sermon without having to look them up. And of course, Scripture memory itself clears the mind, and gives us a sense of well being and the ability to rest in the Lord.
3. Do you see Scripture memory as an important component in today’s church? Why or why not?
Unfortunately I think that many churches today no longer emphasize Scripture memory. Their argument is probably that they want to have passages of Scripture be “meaningful” to the student rather than simply memorizing scripture by rote. I believe we can do both.
As I mentioned, Scripture memory is important even if at the time we don’t understand the text very well, or if it doesn’t seem to be immediately applicable. Someone said that when they memorize scripture it is like pouring water through a sieve. But one could argue that even if the sieve doesn’t retain the water, at least it gets cleaned.
4. What is your favorite verse and why?
My favorite passage is Romans 8:28 – 39. And within that, I would say that verses 31- 35 are among my favorites. The reason is because it reminds me that I stand justified in God’s sight whether I feel like it or not. I have often used these verses to stand against Satan when I have felt a sense of guilt or self-condemnation.
5. What one or two sentences of advice would you give a parent who desires to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Of course parents who want to raise their children for the Lord should motivate them to memorize Scripture. One of the best ways to do this is for the parent to be involved in the process. Now perhaps the parent already knows the passage, but if so, he/she must still spend time with the child so that the event actually connects them together. In addition, the parent is modeling Scripture memory and meditation. And speaking of meditation, we should not begin a day unless we have hid something of God’s Word in our hearts and we can think about it the rest of the day.
Thanks, Dr. Lutzer, for sharing your experience and your thoughts.