November 22, 2017

Listening to the Sermon

George Stiekes

Admonition

Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. Luke 8:18

How well you hear something will depend significantly on your interest level. How often do you find yourself stifling a yawn or daydreaming when the sermon is being preached? How often have you left church thinking you didn’t get anything out of the sermon? How many times during a sermon have you picked apart the message or the preacher? How long does it take before you forget what the message was all about in the morning service?

I hope you are honest with yourself in answering the above questions? It is a fact that we have all experienced these same kinds of struggles and wrong thinking. Why is it we sometimes find ourselves becoming bored or distracted while the Word of God is being preached? If the messages from the pulpit are not impacting our lives, it may not be the problem of the preacher as much as it is our problem.

Our text was written in a day prior to the printing press. Most of what was communicated was accomplished through speaking. The people in the Old Testament received truth through oral teaching. Because of the accessibility of communication through so many avenues today, we tend not to pay attention as much as did the early saints.

The phrase “whosoever hath” and “whosever hath not” relate to our subject. There are those who receive what they have heard and obviously do something with it. Then there are those who hear and yet do not hear for they make no use of what they have received. With this in mind, how much of the average sermon do you really hear? What changes take place in your life as a result of what you hear? Does it translate into any action in your life? The challenge is that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ but if the knowledge goes in one ear and out the other without passing through the mind and heart, it is not going to make much difference in your life and you certainly will not grow spiritually.

Next Sunday, make it a point to really LISTEN. That might involve some concentration and perhaps even some note taking. It may involve preparation prior to the sermon, in praying for the Holy Spirit to use the preacher as an instrument of God’s grace to speak to your soul and to give you that which the Lord wants you to have.

Attention

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. Hebrews 5:12

There are many reasons for stunted spiritual growth and one of them may be related to the Admonition above: how we listen to sermons when preached. Hebrews 5:11 reveals that there are some who are dull of hearing. This is speaking of someone who is just plain spiritually lazy. Something is wrong spiritually so that they are not actually hearing what is being preached. The problem is multiplied when the hearer blames it on the preacher instead of looking at his own heart. Remember, we are to take heed therefore how we hear (Luke 8:18). Several key words suggest some helps for listening in a way that will help you absorb God’s Holy Word.

1. Preparation: Do you prepare yourself for hearing from God? There are some who stay out late on Saturday evenings or involve themselves in all kinds of activities that would leave them so tired that they cannot be ready to receive something from God.

2. Prayer: Saturday evening and Sunday morning prior to coming to church are key times for meeting with the Lord, all part of preparation. During this time, tell the Lord that you desire to worship Him and to hear from Him. Let Him know that you are hungry to be fed from His Word and are willing to make changes in your life as the Spirit of God challenges you.

3. Penitence: Being sorrowful for sin is part of confession which is most important since sin can sever any genuine communication with God. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me (Psalm 66:18). When hearing the Word of God, it must be received seriously. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).

4. Anticipation: This goes to the matter of why you might attend church in the first place. Some never come with the anticipation of hearing from God. They are there for other reasons — fellowship, to please a relative, business contacts, etc. Along with preparation, there must be anticipation, expecting to hear something from God that will make beneficial changes your life. You need to pray and ask God to give you an eagerness of know His Word. Someone has said that there is buried treasure in every sermon. If you knew there was gold on your property, you would dig heartily until you found that treasure. You must approach the Word of God in the same way.

5. Priorities: It really boils down to the preferences or priorities in your life. Do you find the Word of God to be delightful? The psalmist determined to hear from the Lord (Psalm 85:8). Those who delight to hear from Him will hear much from God while some others in the same congregation will not hear anything. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalm 37:4).

6. Attention: Do you listen attentively or do you allow distractions to take your mind far from the sermon?

7. Submission: The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way (Psalm 25:9). Is your life truly open to make any changes that the Spirit of God may emphasize through the Word of God as it is being preached? Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:22-25). There are some who purposely do not listen because they do not want God making changes in their lives. Closely related:

8. Application: This is simply taking God at His word and putting it into practice. This is genuine faith. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Hebrews 4:12). But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We must recognize that the sermon has not ended when the pastor quits speaking. Actually, this is when the sermon actually begins. We must not put it out of our minds but instead continue to meditate on it and seek out other Scriptures that will help us in applying it personally in our lives.

It really comes down to how much we really love the Lord. The more you love Him, the more you will love His Word, both the hearing of it and the doing of it. As soon as the sermon is over, you want to PROMISE God that you will PERFORM it for your good and God’s glory. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have (II Corinthians 8;11).

Oh yes, there is one more:

9. Pass it on: tell someone else what you have learned from God’s Word and how God blessed your life in the doing of it that others might also profit. And the things that thou has heard of me among may witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (II Timothy 2:2; Philippians 4:9).

Meditation

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Our lives are transformed by the renewing of the mind. Our behavior is determined by how we think. If our lives are to be transformed into the image of Christ, our minds must first be transformed. The word transformed indicates a change in the inward man. In hearing the Word of God preached, it first gets into the mind. Once it is in the mind, we will determine where it goes from there. We should want to comprehend the things of God and this occurs when our thinking is renewed to the place where we pass it on to our inner being or we would say, the heart.

The Word of God was meant to be heard by more than just our ears. The Word of God preached ought to move us to affirm God’s truth in the mind. If we are truly seeking to become all that God desires, the Holy Spirit of God will assist us in processing the Word of God in our minds so that it then transforms our walk (lifestyle) with the Lord. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

As Christians, we understand that we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). One of the key aspects of having a transformed life is that we think differently than we did before we were Christians. In the average church service, when the Word of God is proclaimed, it will be processed differently by those who are hearing it. Obviously, the non-Christian will process it differently than the Christian, but Christians will also process it differently based on where they are in their relationship to the Lord. Then there are times when the Spirit of God will use one part of the Word spoken to motivate one believer and another part of the Word spoken to motivate another believer differently. Those who truly have the mind of Christ will think about their lives and circumstances in much the way Christ would think about them. That new perspective is the result of the transformed mind and translates into a new practice – how we live.

As did Jesus Christ Himself when He was upon the earth, with the mind of Christ, we will be motivated to glorify God (Romans 15:6). It will change the way we speak and even bring about a unique unity with others who have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:27). This unity occurs when every believer is likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, as is the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:2-8). The key personal element that will appear when we have the mind of Christ is humility. A Christ-like perspective comes naturally to those who have the mind of Christ.

Is your life being transformed by the renewing of the mind? Do you truly listen when the Word of God is being preached? Are you prepared to listen by being ready to receive the Word of God? Before you leave for church next Sunday, ask yourself: Am I truly ready to receive something from God today? Is my mind and heart the kind of good soil to receive the Word so that it will produce spiritual fruit (Matthew 13:23)?


George Stiekes held successful pastorates in churches in Michigan and Washington among other places. He currently resides in North Carolina and blogs at Reverent Reflections. We recommend his ministry and republish his material by permission.


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