There are countless books, articles, and even teachings on how to prepare, teach, and preach a biblical sermon, but there is not much out there on how we are called to listen to a sermon. In fact, I can scarcely recall a time where someone said, “Let me teach you how to listen to a sermon.” The Good Book Company came out with a booklet entitled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons by Christopher Ash. Here are some helpful thoughts that have been adapted from that booklet.
Come Expecting God to Speak Through His Word
Preaching is more than just someone reading Scripture. Preaching is more than someone talking about the things of God. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The purpose of preaching is to humble the sinner, exalt the Savior and promote holiness.” Preaching is the task given by God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to the pastor, to point people to Christ (1 Peter 4:10—11).
How often do we come to church with the mindset of “What do I get out of this?” or we judge the sermon based on the entertainment value: “Did it keep my attention?” or “Was it funny?” We should be saying, “God, speak through your Word right now.” “Convict me of sin. “Show me Christ.” “Lead me in holiness.” “Help me to take this time seriously.” “Help me to not get distracted.”
God is speaking through His Word and we should look at the preaching time expecting that we are going to hear life-changing truth. When Ezra the preacher opened the written Word to read and preach it, all the people stood up as a mark of respect and attentiveness (Nehemiah 8:5). God’s Word is holy (2 Timothy 3:16). God’s Word is soul-piercingly powerful (Hebrews 4:12). We shouldn’t take the sermon lightly.
How can we listen to a sermon expecting God to speak through His Word?
- We can come expecting by first praying.
I have noticed a difference when I pray before I hear the sermon, askin the Lord to help me to pay attention. I also pray that I would listen from the mindset that God’s Word is going forth.
Start by asking God to help you to approach the sermon the right way and value God’s Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin so you can confess it and desire to be holy. Ask that the Holy Spirit would help you understand the life-changing truth that is going to be spoken. Ask for help in seeing Jesus Christ in the passage (Luke 24:27).
- We come expecting by being prepared.
I know that sometimes coming to church can be hectic. You are just happy that you made it to church! But let me encourage you that coming to church with the right expectation is being prepared.
You can come prepared by bringing your Bible. Not just any Bible, but your Bible! You know, the one that you are most comfortable with and the one you will keep going back to? That one!
Bring something that you can write in, such as a notebook. I have learned that if I bring a notebook instead of just a sheet of paper I am more likely to hold onto it and go back to it. Bring something to write with. You do not need to bring your arsenal of Bible reading pens and highlighters but at least bring something you can write down notes with and things you want to remember and reflect upon.
- Come expecting by listening well.
Though listening to a sermon may seem one-sided, it is not. You can participate during the message by listening well. How can we listen well?
One way of listening is taking notes. Writing down notes from the sermon will not only help you pay attention to the sermon but also it will be useful when you spend some time to reflect throughout the week on what the sermon was about and how you need to apply it to your life.
Another part of listening well is checking the biblical passage against what the pastor is going over and verifying that what the pastor says is truth. The Bereans in the book of Acts were commended for searching the Scriptures to see all that Paul was saying was truth (Acts 17:11).
Listening well would also include putting away things that would distract you, such as your phone. I know some use their phone or tablets for their Bibles, which is a great use of technology, but if you find yourself distracted and opening up different apps because your device is right there, put it away so that you can listen better to the sermon without getting distracted.
Let’s all come expecting to hear from God through the teaching of His Word this Sunday!
3 Replies to “How to Listen to a Sermon”
The first thing to do in listening to a sermon is evaluate, whose word is actually being preached? God, in the Law and the Prophets? Jesus the Son of God, the Word made flesh, in the Gospels? Or someone else ?
For example, Jesus told us which commandment is the Most Important One.
No it’s not “love.”
Poem – What is love?
Two men came to Jesus
With different motivations.
They asked Him the same question
Relevant to all the nations:
Which is the Most Important?
The answer was the same.
Jesus did not manipulate
He was not there to play a game.
“Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
as He quoted from The Law –
to fulfill and not abolish
was His purpose, full of awe.
Jesus did not make all Scripture
Into one new great commandment.
He summarized The Law and Prophets
“First and Greatest” and “The Second.”
The Love of God is higher
Than the love of any man.
Receive from God, give back to God-
Then to others, that’s His plan.
The Love of God involves much more
Than simply “love your fellow man.”
Worship, trust, and pray to God,
and obey Him – that’s His plan
To worship and pray to neighbors,
Whoever they may be,
Or trust and obey our enemies
Would be idolatry.
The love of God is first and greatest,
And the love of man is second.
“All we need is love” are words
of dead Beetles on the pavement.
“The entire law is summed up in a single command”
are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
an “accuser of our brethren.”
“Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
in his chapter to the Corinthians.
“I will show you the most excellent way”
is the road to eternal perdition.
Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
Nowhere in view of the eye.
Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
“I, I, I, I.”
Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
Not the words of a Pharisee.
The words of Jesus are very clear.
Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”
Thank you for leaving a comment. First comment for me as I start a blog!
Matthew I do have a question, are you implying that the books in the Bible that have been attributed authorship to Paul are not inspired by God? I am just trying to understand what you meant.
Thank you for the time to read and comment.
Do you believe that Paul’s letters are equal to (or greater than) than the words of Jesus given through the Apostles Matthew, John, (and Peter through Mark) ?
If so, can you quote me from the Bible to explain why you believe this?
The message of The 11 (“The narrow gate”)
“The eleven disciples went to Galilee”
“Where Jesus had told them to go”
They heard His voice and obeyed His will
Despite uncertainty down below
Jesus spoke to them at length
He wasn’t really a Tweeter
Only 3 of them wrote Scripture
Matthew John and Peter
“Feed my sheep” said Jesus, for though
“Heaven and earth will pass away”
I have the words of eternal life and
“My words will never pass away”
“Enter through the narrow gate”
The voice of Jesus through the eleven
Believe in Jesus “through their message”
And “eat from the tree of life” in heaven
Jesus commissioned the eleven
With “everything I have commanded you”
“Teaching THEM to obey” Jesus
And “THEM” means me and you !
“The command given by our Lord and Savior”
Is not a Pharisee speaking alone
It came rather “through your apostles”
Matthew Peter and John
If a Pharisee boasts proudly
Those men added nothing to my message
He doesn’t speak for Jesus
His words are nothing more than garbage
All “quotes” in “quotation marks” are from the writings of the Apostles Matthew John and Peter in the Bible, mostly the “Red Letter” words of Jesus. [Matthew, John, Revelation, 2 Peter – NIV]