Thursday, August 11, 2011

Listening to a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon

  1. We’re blessed to listen with our Bibles open.
    1. Dt. 4:2, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."
    2. Ps. 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." It is if it’s open, known, believed, and lived.
    3. Acts 17:11, "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
    4. If it was right to check behind the Apostle Paul, it’s right to check behind every preacher. I don’t think I’d lie to our or mislead you, but I have been wrong many times about many things. Only God is always right.
  2. We’re blessed to listen with our minds open.
    1. READ Acts 17:30-34. Some listened only to the point when they heard something that disagreed with them. Once Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, they shut down.
    2. If we hear something new, something different, something said in a different way that we’re accustomed to, we don’t shut down our hearing. Rather, we turn up our thinking. It could be that the Lord is using this new phrasing to open our hearts and minds to new understanding. It could be that we’re being given opportunity to grow, to correct a misunderstanding, or to acquire deeper understanding of God’s word.
    3. I’ll admit that it could be that the preacher is misstating or misapplying God’s truth. That does happen. If it does, Acts 18:24-26 comes into play.
  3. We’re blessed to listen to the message more than the messenger.
    1. I love an excellent biblical lesson that’s skillfully presented. But, as a guy who tries to preach, I know that we’re not always at our best in presentation.
    2. We have every right to expect every sermon to be sound, practical, thoughtful, and organized. I’m not trying to make any excuses for bad preaching.
    3. At the same time, you know what Moses said about his own speech, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
    4. You know what some of the brethren said about Paul’s preaching. 2 Corinthians 10:10, "For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible."
      1. In the verses that follow, Paul warns brethren against doing the wrong kind of comparing.
      2. God gives different strengths to different people.
      3. Whatever gift we have, we are to use to the glory of God (1 Peter 4:10-11).
      4. Whatever good we do, we do it by the power of God and to the glory of God. 2 Cor. 10:17, "But he who glories, let him glory in the Lord."
    5. You know what Paul said about his own preaching. READ 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
      1. Paul wasn’t making excuse for bad preaching.
      2. He wasn’t making a case for lack of preparation and organization.
      3. Rather, he was reminding us that that the power is in the message, not the messenger.
        1. Never would I say that the messenger doesn’t matter. We rightly expect every teacher and preacher to live consistently with the word he preaches.
        2. Modern proverb, "What you live speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say."
        3. We remember Paul’s word to Timothy, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
        4. Also, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." 1 Tim. 4:16
      4. We know the biblical truth:
        1. "…It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." 1 Cor. 1:21b
        2. Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
  4. We’re blessed to listen for God’s truth rather than for man’s mistakes.
    1. Every sermon is going to have some less-than-perfect aspect.
      1. Preacher may say 2 Corinthians when he means 1 Corinthians.
      2. He may say Moses when he means Noah.
      3. He may dangle a participle, split an infinitive, or pronounce a silent letter.
      4. At times, we even mess up subject-verb agreement.
    2. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to notice such things. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with a friendly reminder for the sake of improvement.
    3. But, I am saying that it’s possible for you to listen better than I speak.
      1. We can refuse to let little mistakes prevent our hearing of God’s truth.
      2. We can remember that, "We have this treasure in earth vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."
    4. Listen for the truth, not for the flaws of presentation. Listen for the power of God, not for the frailty of man.
  5. We’re blessed to listen for God’s truth, even when the preacher’s style is not the best match with us.
    1. I have sorely disappointed some people with my preaching.
      1. Too "teachy", too calm, too positive, too much like a Bible class. Too many stories and too many illustrations.
      2. "I want a sermon with fire and brimstone. I what a sermon that gets on my toes. I want a sermon that moves me."
    2. We must be careful here. 2 Corinthians 4:5 still reads, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord and ourselves as our bondservants for Jesus’ sake."
      1. We don’t preach ourselves.
      2. Stories, poems, and illustrations never saved anyone.
    3. At the same time, Jesus was the master storyteller.
      1. Matthew 13:3, Then He spoke many things to them in parables…"
      2. Matthew 13:34, "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them."
      3. Paul used examples from sports (a boxer who fights the air, a runner who wants to win the prize runs according to the rules), from the military (put on the whole armor of God), from home and family (Eph. 5:32, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church."), and from the farm ( "he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly"; "you shall not muzzle the ox who treads out the grain").
    4. You know what I’m saying.
      1. Styles vary. Approaches vary. Techniques of communication vary.
      2. The best question is not, "How do I like his style of preaching?"
      3. The best question is, "Is the word of God being faithfully preached?"
      4. And we welcome any style, approach, or technique so long as the truth of God is preached in purity and faith.

One final thing to say about how we should listen to a preacher:

  • We should listen from the inside. We should listen as one who has believed the gospel, turned from sin, confessed Christ as the Son of God, and has been baptized into Christ for remissions of sins.
  • We should all listen to every sermon as a happy, faithful Christian who is on his way to heaven.

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