Max Barnett has memorized thousands of Scripture verses verbatim from the Bible during the past few decades. During the weekly chapel service at Oklahoma Baptist University Oct. 28, Barnett challenged students to engage in a meaningful Bible reading plan, and then to commit the Scripture to memory.
Barnett visited the campus as a consultant for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Colorado. He also serves on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He served as director of the University of Oklahoma Baptist Student Union from 1967-2004.
He told the students that as they are making major life decisions during their years at the university, they should decide to begin their Bible reading, praying and Scripture memorization habits. He referred to a statistic quoted by Billy Graham that by the time a person is 25 years old, they will have made 75 percent of the major decisions in life.
"Now is the best time in the world for you to begin to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord," Barnett said. "Right now the decisions are on their way to you, and if you ever needed a close walk with the Lord, now's the time you need it."
Barnett said students should find and follow a plan to read the Bible at least once daily, culminating in reading the Bible completely through in a year. He said he has followed such a plan personally for 35 years. Even students with the busiest schedules, he said, can find time for daily Bible reading by getting up a few minutes earlier in the morning or staying up later at night.
"If you got up another 15 minutes earlier in the morning just to spend some time with the Lord before you start class, I promise you one thing: It will not wreck your health," he said.
There is a vast difference, he said, between legalism and discipline. He defined legalism as trying to find favor with God - an unnecessary practice, he said, since Jesus Christ died on the cross to cover human sin. Discipline, he said, must be decided for oneself. Barnett said he does not spend time with God because God will "zap" him if he doesn't. He spends time with God because he wants to.
When memorizing Bible verses, Barnett told students to learn the Scriptures verbatim. Personally, he memorizes one new Scripture a week while reviewing 74 others. He writes the Scripture on a small card with the date he began learning it.
"I can use time you waste (to memorize Scripture)," he said. "The last year I was in college, I took 20 hours a semester, I labbed four afternoons a week, I was BSU (Baptist Student Union) president, I changed my major - I was extremely busy. But I found I could memorize a verse a day and review 74 in time that you waste."
He said he memorized Scripture walking to classes, waiting in lines, sitting at stoplights and other brief moments. Keeping the Bible in his mind and heart, he said, is invaluable: he said he would not trade $10 million to lose the verses he has learned through the years.
It's a spiritual asset, he told OBU students, they should begin to build now.