Hearing Sermons (part one)

27 Oct

A lot of time and thought goes into every sermon preached.  Many books have been written on preaching and how to do it well.  However, very few books have been written about the other – more important – side of the coin. Most of us will never preach a sermon and so the more pertinent question for every Christian is not ‘how to preach a sermon’ but ‘how to hear a sermon’.

When we listen to a sermon we are listening to God speak.  This fact more than any other should shape our attitude to a sermon.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

“We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13).

It is well worth us asking what it looks like in practice to accept preaching as it actually is – the word of God.  In thinking on that question I read a book written in 1673 by Richard Baxter, and even though he wrote 350 years ago he has a lot to teach us.  Here are some of his thoughts (in italics):

 1. Read and meditate on the holy Scriptures much in private, and then you will be the better able to understand what is preached on it in public…

Isn’t that true?  If the only time you ever read the Bible is on a Sunday at church you will never grasp the depths of God’s word.  How will we ever truly grasp God’s word if we are not filling our minds with it?

 2. Come not o hear with a careless heart, but come with the unspeakable weight, necessity and consequence of the holy word which you are to hear.

Again how true and what a rebuke to those of us who perhaps see the sermon as something we can take or leave, rather than as a message to be grappled with and applied.

 3. Suffer not vain thoughts or drowsy negligence to hinder your attention. Be as earnest and diligent in attending and learning as you would have the preacher be in teaching.

Who would let their mind wander if they were standing in front of God?  Yet, how often do we allow ourselves to be easily distracted from the preaching of his word?  Perhaps you’ve picked up this article during the sermon….!

This is a topic well worth us thinking about as Christians and I will include some further thoughts in next week’s SNAC.  We are wonderfully blessed by the faithful teaching of God’s word here at SNAC.  Let’s not take it for granted. Instead let’s accept it for what it actually is – the word of God! (to be continued tomorrow)

Phil Colgan

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