How do we make the most of hearing the Word of God announced? There are ways that can set us up to receive help or hinder our hearts from hearing from God. Here are some helpful tips on healthily listening to sermons gleaned and adapted from Listen Up by Christopher Ash.
Expect God to Speak
When Peter tells Christians that they have been born again “through the living and enduring word of God,” he explains that “this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). Hearing the Bible faithfully preached is a key vehicle for the Lord to speak to us; so we must practice prayerfully expecting and seeking that word from God each time we engage with His announced Word.
Practice praying for the Spirit’s speaking before the Word is preached and practice deliberately quieting the mind and prayerfully focusing in on what is being preached during the sermon.
Admit that God Knows Better Than You
We must come to the preaching of God’s Word with humble hearts. We must acknowledge that we are sin-stained people who will be confronted and made uncomfortable by the pure, holy, and righteous Word of God.
When the light of the Word shines upon the darkness of our hearts, we should observe when and how we disagree with the Bible or try to reinterpret it to allow us more comfort and then humbly repent by acknowledging that God is God, He is right and we are wrong, and the discomfort is in an area where we need to be changed to match God (instead of trying to change God and His Word to match us).
Engage The Bible as it is Preached
As the Word is being announced we are responsible for listening to the spoken word while also engaging the written Word. Let us be active listeners to the sermon, engaging the content and evaluating it not based on the communication skills of the preacher but upon the authority of the written Word of God. Let us pray, for the Spirit to open our minds and hearts as we actively engage in the sermon.
Hear the Sermon While Gathered as the Church
God’s purpose is not to shape a collection of individuals to be His image bearers but to form a people who together display His image on the earth (c.f. Ephesians). Not only does God call for the assembling together of His people as a testimony, coming together as an assembly for the preaching of the Word provides accountability for the living out of the Word and mutual encouragement.
As we practice the healthy discipline of gathering together regularly, let us pray for the Spirit to continue to develop in us a deep love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and a Spirit-driven desire to sit and listen together to the preached Word.
Regularly (Week-by-Week) Gather Together as the Church
It is a mistake to think that by some divine magic the word we hear today or read today will always fit exactly what I need that day or that week. The Bible isn’t designed for a series of quick fixes, but for the transformation and conformation of who we are from the inside out as we engage and are engaged by the Word on a regular basis.When we regularly engage the Word personally on a regular basis but also collectively on a regular basis we are in the position to let the Word dwell in us richly for today and for a future need.
As we take in the regular teaching of the Word, we can healthily be gradually changed and shaped by Scripture individually and collectively. Let us be faithful to not simply assemble as the church when we are up for it, but to set regular attendance and engagement with our local church as the priority on our calendars.
Do What the Bible Says
It is incredibly sad for someone to sit under the preached Word of God, feel the conviction of the Spirit, proclaim the joy or inspiration from that sermon, and then to not follow through by doing what the Bible says as it was proclaimed. A lifestyle that enjoys being inspired but doesn’t act upon the Word is an entertainment based lifestyle, not a biblical lifestyle.
If we are honest, we will humbly acknowledge that it is unlikely that we will be able to consistently follow through on our own, so let us get regularly connected with other Believers so that we can encourage one another unto love and good works as we obey the announced Word of God.
Regularly engage in the six practices above and see how much more the Word gets unlocked for you, how much more the Spirit speaks a word of conviction and/or encouragement, and how much more love you will have for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.