“Watch your step when you enter God’s house. Enter to learn. That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice, Doing more harm than good.” – Ecclesiastes 5:1.
How to listen to a sermon? Interesting question, but the answer is obvious. Listening to a sermon is a passive activity because you only have to listen as someone preaches to you. Watching TV is much more complicated than listening to a sermon because you have to deal with the multitude of different channels and that overly complicated remote control. It is active, while listening to a sermon is passive.
Yes, it is easy to drift through corporate worship week by week, distracted and drowsy, listening but not really hearing; the Bible has a lot to say on the subject: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.”
So, what is the right way to listen to a sermon? Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor walks out on stage on Sunday. It starts during the week when we pray for the person who will speak to us. We should pray for opportunities to share the gospel message, and the wisdom and grace to share it in the right manner. Listen to the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” Twelve verses later, this same author states the most simple and profound way to do this: “Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.” Churches generally get what they pray for.
We need to have our minds right to hear God’s word. Good preaching appeals first to the mind. After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does His transforming work in our lives. So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged. Listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God. It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear His voice. God is speaking, and we should listen.
Listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise. It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit. Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us. Through the Holy Spirit, He uses His Word to calm our fears, find joy in our circumstances, uncover truths, heighten our faith, and reassure us of our salvation. We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts and minds.
The last byproduct of sermon listening is applying what we learned to our daily lives. How we live is the best way to tell if we are listening. Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard. There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word. As the apostle Paul wrote to some people who listened to his sermons, “The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
- Consider asking yourself the following questions after hearing a sermon on Sunday: What is God seeking to communicate to me? Through this sermon, did God encourage me in some way? What is God seeking to do in my life through this sermon? Does this sermon make me uncomfortable? If so, why?