I propose that there are five steps in this process: select a passage, interpret the passage, memorise the passage, pray the passage, and preach the passage to yourself.
First, pick a passage. Any passage will do, but there may be a text that is "right on time." For example, if a young man (or an older man) has been struggling a great deal with lust as of late, then 1 Thessalonians 4 verses 3-8 would be an appropriate passage to begin with.
Second, interpret the passage correctly. This is always important, but it is especially important when a text is going to be memorised. The only thing worse than a Christian who can't recite Scripture is a Christian who can recite Scripture, but only misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture. Standing on Mitre Peak and quoting Philippians 4 verse 13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," before you jump isn't going to improve your chances of flying. The guy on the mountain who can't recite Scripture is much safer… he probably wouldn't jump to begin with… he doesn't know Philippians 4 verse13.
Third, memorise the passage. No matter how lazy our modern minds have gotten, we are still capable of memorisation. Multi-task if you must. Establish the routine of going over the Scripture you are trying to memorise every time you go for an early morning walk or run.
Fourth, convert the passage into a prayer. At this point, we transition from contemplation to conversation; we take the words we have been poring over and we pour them out to our Lord. We beseech God, fully aware of the fact that we desperately need his help if we are to obey his Word. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 as a prayer might sound something like this:
Heavenly Father, I know that your desire is for me to abstain from all forms of sexual sin. Help me control my desires and my thoughts. Fill my mind with pure thoughts, for you have not called me to impurity, but to holiness. Empower me with your Holy Spirit, I pray.
Fifth, preach the passage to yourself. If you have picked 1 Thessalonians 4 verses 3-8, then all throughout the day, and especially at the moments of temptation, you must proclaim to yourself: "Abstain from sexual sin!" We also need to check up on ourselves periodically with some questions of personal application, like: "What thoughts have been ricocheting around in my mind today?" Be the long-winded revival preacher: never shut up.
I challenge you to pick a passage this week and start working through these steps. Delight in God's Word, and meditate on it day and night. And you will be "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season" (Psalm 1 verse 3).
Dillon T. Thornton is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School (M.Div.) and a student at the University of Otago (Ph.D. candidate). He is an ordained pastor/teacher within the Southern Baptist tradition, with over ten years of diverse ministry experience. He has published a number of articles in pastoral periodicals, including Preaching magazine. Dillon is currently serving and studying in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Dillon Thornton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/dillon-thornton.html