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!