One of the things a pastor and a congregation spend a lot of time on together is the sermon that is preached every Lord’s Day in the worship service. The minister spends time preparing and delivering the message, and the congregation spends time hearing it and living their lives based off of it. But have you ever thought about how to hear a sermon? How can we obey Jesus’ command to “be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18)? Consider a few ideas with me:
- Believers should prepare themselves to hear. The Apostle Peter commands that we “desire the sincere milk of the Word like newborn babies,” and that one of the ways we prepare that spiritual “thirst” within us for God’s Word is by laying aside all sin (I Peter 2:1 – 2). Sin acts like wax in our ears, and keeps us from hearing the life-giving words we so desperately need. Do not allow Saturday night – or the week before Sunday – as an opportunity for sin, but instead lay aside sin by faith and focus on “thirsting” to hear from the Lord in the sermon.
- Believers should prepare through prayer. One of the best ways to create this spiritual thirst in preparing is through prayer. We say with the psalmist, “Lord, open my eyes, that I would behold wondrous things out of Your Law in the sermon this Sunday” (cf. Psalm 119:18). Ask God to reveal to you His will for your life in the sermon; do it every Sunday! The Apostle Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him as he preached, and to do so constantly (Ephesians 6:18 – 19). We should pray this way for our Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and especially our ministers and elders.
- Believers should test the sermon against God’s Word. Paul praised the Bereans because they “searched the Scriptures daily” to see if Paul’s message lined up with Scripture (Acts 17:11). As Christians, we are to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Ministers must not preach on their favorite topics, heart-warming stories, practical advice for better living, politics, or anything else – but only what the Lord says in Holy Scripture. A congregation can hold their minister accountable by carefully testing what he says.
- Believers should receive the sermon in a godly attitude. Continue reading
Last December my grandfather died, and I had the privilege of explaining the Scriptures for the service. The funeral was held at Bethel Ev. Free Church in Fairmont, MN. My sermon text was Psalm 37:23 – 24:
The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
You can find the video on the sermon page at the bottom.
He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves beside. There’s not a chain
That hellish foes, confederate for his harm,
Can wind around him, but he casts it off
With as much ease as Samson his green withes.
He looks abroad into the varied field
Of nature, and, though poor perhaps, compared
With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
His are the mountains, and the valleys his.
And all the resplendent rivers. His to enjoy
With a propriety that none can feel,
But who, with filial confidence inspired,
Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say—”My Father made them all!”
Have you ever done this? A wife wants counseling on dealing with a frustration she has with her husband. I Peter 3 brings God’s truth to godly wives (dealing with unbelieving husbands), encouraging them to trust God by submitting, adorning their hearts with righteous beauty, and to act as Sarah’s spiritual daughters. I’ve often thought of Sarah as a fantastic example of this, what with Abraham’s penchant for dropping her off in various royal harems (cf. Genesis 12 and 20). It turns out, most commentators see it this way too: Sarah shows remarkable faith and fearlessness in the face of Abraham’s abdicating husbandry.
But as we’re preaching through the Abraham toledot in our Lord’s Day sermons, I was struck by the fact that Genesis 18 is the only place Sarah refers to Abraham as her “lord” (Hebrew: adon, Greek: kurios). What is more, Peter exhorts godly wives to “not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:6). Sure enough, the only time we’re ever told Sarah feared something is also in Genesis 18. The links are striking, and even Proverbs 3 comes into play. The following chart helps to lay it out (ESV and LXX below):
|Genesis 18:12, 15||I Peter 3:6||Proverbs 3:25|
|So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord (κύρίος μου) is old, shall I have pleasure?”||as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (κύριον).|
|But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid (ἐφοβἡθη).||do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (μὴ φοβούμεναι μηδεμίαν πτόησιν).||Do not be afraid of sudden terror (οὐ φοβἡθησῃ πτόησιν) or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes|