Friday, August 10, 2018

Take Care How You Hear

I peeked in at Pastor Steve this week. Two things stood out. First, he had a lot fewer books in his office as he cleans things out in preparation for his upcoming move:( But second, like the faithful servant he is, he was hard at work bringing together thoughts and themes of Genesis 40 and 41!

My thought this week however doesn’t have to do with Pastor Steve’s preparation, but with your own. Thomas Long, a preacher, says the following about sermons in The Witness of Preaching: People may call it our sermon, but it does not belong to us alone. It belongs as well to those who help create it by their listening. To put it theologically, a sermon is a work of the church and not merely a work of the preacher.

The idea that sermons are co-created between preacher and congregation is something that the Westminster divines captured in Shorter Catechism Q & A #90:

Q: How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A: That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Jesus himself, commenting on the sowing of the word by the sower in Luke 8:18, says simply, “Take care then how you hear.”

So how do you prepare to hear well? Let me offer six observations to gauge your hearing. As I offer these observations note that I do not offer them as a list to burden or condemn you in any way. God constantly shows up even in the midst of our abject failures. My hope is that in some way maybe one of these considerations will open up a pathway that will allow you to experience the delights of the Gospel more fully!

Prayerfully Present — Attending to the word is always the Spirit’s work. He is the author. We share the life of Christ through the Spirit. We must seek the Spirit’s illumination if we are to hear well. (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Physically Prepared -- Think of a job interview, an ACT test, your wedding day. These are huge events and we know instinctively that we need to be rested. When we open our Bibles or come to worship we meet with the CREATOR of the universe. That is HUGER than huge! Let’s do our best to be attentive.

Relationally Reconciled — I will suggest two avenues here:

  • Reconciled with God. -- in Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist says with regards to prayer, “If I had cherished sin in my heart The Lord would not have listened.” God does not demand our perfection but he desires our authenticity, repentance and fresh reliance on Christ.
  • Reconciled with others -- so much is dependent on our horizontal relationships -- Matthew 5:23 reminds us to be reconciled with our brother (or sister) before coming to worship. The intimation is that unreconciled human relationships will stunt the yield of the word. Why is this so? I think we can point to double mindedness. Again our relationship with God needs to be that of fresh, total and humble reliance. If we are not working to reconcile with others we evidence the fact that we are not living out a God-reliant life.

Scripturally Saturated — In Acts 17:11 we are told how the Word took root in Berea. Part of its fruitfulness hinged on the eagerness of the Berean’s to search out Scripture. Our own knowledge of, delight in and reliance on Scripture will effect how we hear the Word.

Active in Application --- James 1:22 tells us “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself.” There is a link between hearing and doing. Let us not be mere evaluators of exposition, devotees of doctrine or hearers of homilies, but may we be transformed by living out the Living Word!

Worshipfully Wondered — In Nehemiah 8:6 after the people the Lord heard the words of God they “answered, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD”. The Westminster Divines call us to “lay it up in our hearts”, to ponder as Mary did, and allow the experience of God through his word to continue to shape us in the days to come.

I know Steve, and I know he will be ready, will you?

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