Why I Have Challenged Our Church to Memorize the Sermon on the Mount in 2013

I don’t normally post the contents of our church newsletter here, but I thought I might do so today. Here is my article for our January 2013 edition:

Could a church be revived through a radical recommitment to Jesus?

Could a church embrace a radical recommitment to Jesus by memorizing His most famous sermon and by committing itself to living out those teachings?

Could a church be revived by deciding together to go deep into the life and teachings of Jesus by memorizing the Sermon on the Mount?

My whole life I have seen churches try to manipulate revitalization and revival through programatic means. I have even been guilty of trying the same. But revival does not come through a program or through manipulation of any kind. Quite simply, revival comes when Jesus become bigger to us than we are to ourselves. Revival comes when we repent deeply of our failure to follow Jesus, of our shallow and timid faith, and of our nominal Christianity.

Early in December I challenged our church to join with me in memorizing the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) as I preach through it beginning on January 20th. I will be preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV) and will be leading us in corporate recitation of the Sermon on the Mount from that translation. Of course, I realize that some of you prefer other translations, and, of course, you are free to memorize it in whatever translation you would like, but the ESV rendering is what I will be leading us through.

Let me be perfectly clear. The mere act of memorization means, in and of itself, very little. An atheist can memorize words from the Bible, and, in fact, many atheists have. However, memorization with the intent of hiding God’s Word in our hearts so that it may take root there and help us grow in Christ-likeness is of great value and is something that only a follower of Jesus can truly do.

This is the spirit behind this challenge: to memorize because we love Jesus. To memorize because we need to be deeply immersed in His word. To memorize because He is worth it, His words are worth it, and the life to which He has called us is worth it.

Finally, to those who are intimated at the thought of memorizing these three chapters: take heart. You can do it. You can do it! Human beings are miraculously adept at doing things that are very important to them.

Let this be very important to you. Determine to set the Sermon on the Mount to memory and to embrace it with your life!

Let’s get to work…

For some time now I’ve had the Sermon on the Mount on my mind. I suspect this is for a few reasons:

  • because of the astounding contents of the Sermon,
  • because of the (obviously) relevant nature of the Sermon as it hits areas of human nature that frequently plague people today,
  • because it is the lengthiest and most uniform collection of ethical instructions Jesus ever gave in one unit (though it is not merely or exclusively ethical in nature),
  • because the Sermon on the Mount has often been instrumental in renewal movements throughout Christian history.

I have challenged Central Baptist Church to memorize the Sermon on the Mount in 2013 because it seems to me that we often fail to stress and utilize the gift of corporate Scripture memorization. Moreso, I’ve done so because it seems to me that the contents of the Sermon on the Mount, and the challenge inherent therein, is precisely what we need: a Kingdom mindset centered on Jesus the Christ.

Which is likely a dressed up way of saying that this is what I need. But I have found, since I issued the challenge, that I am not alone in the realization that I/we need a profound reorientation Christward.

Consider joining with us in memorizing this great sermon.