How to hear a sermon


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Notes from Sunday 4-10-11's sermon.

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How to hear a sermon

  1. 1. How to Hear a SermonSelected ScripturesINTRODUCTIONSince the Fall of last year, in our preaching, we have beenfocusing our attention on who we are as a church andwhat we do together as a body.Our series in Titus reminded us that we are a peopleunified around the centrality of the gospel - fromleadership, to membership, to our citizenship.Since January we have reviewed why we need theministry of the church, the importance of preaching,examining how we serve each other as a church, and justrecently completing a series challenging us to think hardabout how we worship together as one people.This morning I continue in that same vein, and comingback to the subject of preaching.The majority of what we do on the Lordʼs Day centersaround the teaching of Godʼs Word - which is what theBible calls us to emphasize when we gather.Rather than argue more for the value of preaching - Iwant to approach it a bit differently.If preaching is so vital to the church, then listening iscritical.And how we listen is actually a major subject in the NewTestament:Listen to these verses on listening:
  2. 2. NAU Matthew 11:15 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear.NAU Matthew 13:9 "He who has ears, let him hear."NAU Matthew 13:15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HASBECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEYWOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND IWOULD HEAL THEM.NAU Matthew 13:16 "But blessed are your eyes, because they see;and your ears, because they hear.NAU Matthew 13:43 "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTHAS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, lethim hear.NAU Matthew 15:10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said tothem, "Hear and understand.NAU Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloudovershadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said,"This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen toHim!"NAU Mark 7:14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He begansaying to them, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:NAU Luke 9:44 "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son ofMan is going to be delivered into the hands of men."NAU Luke 16:29 "But Abraham said, They have Moses and theProphets; let them hear them.NAU Acts 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus theNazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles andwonders and signs which God performed through Him in yourmidst, just as you yourselves know --NAU Acts 7:57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and coveredtheir ears and rushed at him with one impulse.NAU Acts 13:16 Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said,"Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:
  3. 3. NAU Acts 15:13 After they had stopped speaking, Jamesanswered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me.NAU Acts 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I nowoffer to you."NAU Romans 11:8 just as it is written, "GOD GAVE THEM ASPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEARNOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY."NAU James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choosethe poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdomwhich He promised to those who love Him?Thereʼs a lot in the New Testament about listeningListening is critical – listening to Godʼs word as it ispreached is essential.Preaching is not the only weapon in our battle - not the only maneuver in our conflictBut it is foundational –Piper: it is a biblical goal and norm for Christians to be apart of worship gatherings where the word of the cross ispreached. God ordains this for our joy. Studying theWord is good. Meditation is good. Discussion is good.Analyzing and explaining is good. But preaching is alsogood, and God calls us to enjoy the blessing that comesto us when the word of the cross explodes in the heart ofa godly preacher and overflows in exultation to the mindsand hearts of a worshiping people. The fight for joy losesone of its weapons when it does not regularly hear thegospel preached.How much do you want to hear from God?How important is it to you that the Holy Spiritcommunicate with you?
  4. 4. In Revelation 2-3 – we read and heard 7 messages fromGod to his church - in essence they were sermons - and – at the end of every message – was a command to listen to itI take from that –" - the message – the word that God the Holy Spiritwas speaking – was what that church read and heard asit was preached publicly to them" And it was that preached message – that the Spiritwas speaking to the congregation and that they werecommanded to listen toThere is a divine responsibility we have to pay attention tothe way we listen.If you want to hear God speak – listen to a sermon" " Now – letʼs be careful and attempt to be clearwith this:" " Do I mean - that there is a special, unique message for each individual – that will be different for each person – a meaning from the Bible that will be unique and totally individual for you and no one else that you should try and listen for in the sermon? NO – that is not what I mean Sometimes we hear people pray this way o help each person here get a special message from the sermon That is not the purpose of preaching  nor is it the purpose of listening
  5. 5. The purpose of preaching is to preach the message of the text of the Bible – that IS the message God has for each and every individual o there are not different messages – different meanings for different people who are listening o There is one message because there is one meaning You are not to listen to the sermon – with the aim of finding some message or meaning for you personally - you are to listen to the sermon – to find and understand the actual meaning of the passage of Scripture being preached To the degree that a preacher accurately reflects what God intended in His Word " And to the degree that the listener actively and accurately receives that word " To that degree – God has spoken and the listener has heard" Only after you know the meaning of the passage - can you then seek for the specific manner in which it is to be applied to your life - and that is where the responsibility for listening comes home o When you understand WHAT the passage means o Then you can discern HOW it is to be used correctly and personally o
  6. 6. Also – I donʼt mean – that only listening to sermons is theonly way to hear God speak - Godʼs speech is His Written, Objective Word in the Bible o When I read it – He is speaking o Not a message meant merely for me – not a unique, special word just for me o NO – He has written a book to be read, heard and understood  The meaning is the same for everyone – the application is what may be unique - When I say – Have you heard God speak o Iʼm not asking – did you hear a still small voice – did you get a warm feeling – did you get a specific word for your situation o Iʼm asking – do you understand the meaning of this passage o the meaning of the Scripture is the Scripture – and the Scripture is Godʼs Word – Godʼs Message – Godʼs speakingwe may discern principles from passages that shape ouractions - but taking a text out of its context, to make it say something to you personally – that it was never intended to say – is a misuse of the Bible o and the only person you were hearing, was yourself, not God.I want to give you some help in making the most of abiblical message preached on the Lordʼs Day or any daythat you might hear one" - but particularly on the Lordʼs Day – whenpreaching is central to what happens
  7. 7. Let me give you three steps you can consider so that youmight effectively listen to a Sermon.I. PREPARE INTENTIONALLYHow do you prepare for preaching? - we certainly expect the preacher to be prepared to preach - do we take much care in preparing ourselves to listen o we should – because we are commanded to hear with spiritually attentive ears and deeply affected livesIt may in fact be much of the preacherʼs fault if no onewants to listen - maybe he is bland – maybe he should yell more (everyone knows, yelling means someone is passionate and interesting), maybe he should use handouts, maybe he should not – maybe he should wear palm print shirts and sandals – maybe he should wear a suit – maybe he didnʼt pray much – read much – think much or plan wellThere are a thousand things that go into an effectivesermon - I am constantly ashamed of the many miserable messages I have brought to the Lordʼs people on the Lordʼs DayBut – even if he is bland, dry, humorless, passionless, toofat, too skinny, too much hair, not enough hair, too young,too old - despite all the little unimportant distractions If the Word of God is at least preached in an accurate way – doesnʼt the congregation bear some
  8. 8. responsibility to take intentional steps to passionately, personally and persistently apply that Word? As F.W. Boreham said:: “I suppose it was largely my fault that the sermonseemed to me to be so ineffective. There are tremendousastonishments in the Christian evangel which, howeverbadly stated, should fire my sluggish soul with wonder,and fill me with amazement. The fact that I listened soblandly shows that I have become blasé.” Or consider Charles Spurgeonʼs comments: “we are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But, we add, men out not hear without preparation. Which, do you think, needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? . . . It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.”When I talk about preparing intentionally for preaching - I need to divide that into 2 distinct areas o Spiritual Preparation o Practical Preparation1. Are You Spiritually Prepared to Hear from God?What do I mean by this question?Well – how many times do the Gospels and the Book ofRevelation say:" He who has an ear, let him hear.That means I should begin by asking this question:" a. Do You Have an Ear to Hear?" " Matthew 13:3-17
  9. 9. " " Here is a parable about Hearing – andSalvation" " Verse 8 – compelling That means its not enough to have ears on the side of your head. Everybody has those. But there is another kind of ear that only some people have. And those can hear. "He who has ears to hear let him hear." There is a spiritual ear, or a heart-ear. There is an ear that hears, in the preaching of the Word, more than mere words. There is a beauty and a truth and a power that these ears hear as compelling and transforming and preserving. Thats the kind of hearing Jesus is calling for. Thats what this text is about." " " And there is a sense here – that hearingis very much a spiritual issue – and that not just anyonecan hear and have the kind of “heart” hearing that Jesussays is the only effective kind of hearing" " That means God is involved in the wholeissue of hearing – who can and will and who canʼt andwonʼt" " 4 Kinds of Listening to the Word of God" " " vv 18-23 There is a hearing that barely gets started and the Word is gone before you get out the door. There is a hearing that lasts until there is a hard time in life, and then one turns from God to other messages. There is a hearing that flourishes until the riches and pleasures
  10. 10. of this life choke it off. And there is a hearing that defeats the devil, endures trial, scorns riches and bears fruit unto eternal life.Here is the first question to ask of yourself - which soil describes your listening? - You see the kind of listening you have by your response or lack of response the wordAnd this reveals a salvation issueTo hear what the Spirit is saying – you must be first bornagain by the SpiritYou must seek to know and understand Godʼs Word byfirst becoming Godʼs child – humbling yourself in absolutesubmission to his Lordship and seeking His kingdomabove anything else in the worldThose who sit under years of preaching and neverchange – you must wonder if they actually have “heart-ears” or notSo – do you have an ear to Hear – or are you in fact afollower of Jesus Christ – - because if you are not – your treasuring of the Word will only go so far – and it wonʼt be far enoughbut a 2nd question should be asked concerning this idea ofSpiritual Preparation:2. Are Your Ears Clean?" James 1:19-25" Vv 19-21 – points to the believer – who needs tocontinually clean his ears" Vv 22-25 – refers to the two kinds of listeners thatreflect to kinds of spiritual conditions (saved & lost)
  11. 11. " Clearly v 21 – suggests that we must keep ourhearts free from the dirtiness and distraction of sin if wehope to be effective hearers of the Word and in turn doersof the WordThe same though in 1 Peter 2:1-2NAU 1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, putting aside all malice andall deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 likenewborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, sothat by it you may grow in respect to salvation,If you want to grow – if you desire to mature – if you hopeto be different - you must take responsibility for your sin - and take such responsibility for your sin – so you can hear God clearly and correctly and trulyAre you spiritually prepared to hear the WordBut, letʼs get very practical nowNot only are you spiritually prepared - certainly people who actually come back on a Sunday evening are spiritually prepared – who else would come?But secondly –2. Are You Practically Prepared to Hear the Word?What do I mean by this? - what did you do today to prepare yourself to hear the preaching of Godʼs word and hear with ears that are ready to hear and apply?Let me provide you with 4 actions to take in practicallypreparing yourself to Hear the Word
  12. 12. " a. Pray"" " For the PreacherNAU 2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for usthat the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and beglorified, just as it did also with you;! Gardner Spring said – 200 years agoIf a people are looking for rich sermons from theirminister, their prayers must supply him with the neededmaterial; if they seek for faithful sermons, their prayersmust urge him. . . If Godʼs people are going to expectpowerful and successful sermons, their prayers mustmake him a blessing to the souls of men. Would theyhave him come to them in the fullness of the blessing ofthe Gospel of peace . . .? If so, their prayers must urgehim to pray. . . . It is in their own closets that the people ofGod most effectively challenge their beloved ministers totake heed to the ministry they have received from theLord Jesus. . . . When the churches cease to pray forministers, ministers will no longer be a blessing to thechurches." " For the Other Hearers - pray for the others who will come - think about the soils – pray for people to come with prepared “heart-ears” - pray for yourself to listen with your heart b. Meditate As one pastor put it – you need to learn how to “appetize” your heart - that is not a word – my word processor did not recognize it - but you and I know what we mean - Whet your appetite – prime your spiritual pump –
  13. 13. - Meditate on the Scripture o Which ones – not too hard – when we preach expositionally – you have a good idea of what is coming next – spend some time Sunday morning or even more radical – Saturday night reading through the portions of Scripture to be preached the next day. o Read through a Psalm Sunday morning – get your heart ready, thinking dwelling on and meditating on Scriptural things o Make yourself teachable before you come to church – tantalize your spiritual taste buds so that they are craving to be satisfied on Sunday morning c. Schedule How many of you schedule around church – and how many of you schedule church around life - if life is too busy – you are too busy to go One pastor exhorted his congregation:Think counter-culturally about Sunday mornings! Whilethe rest of the world sleeps in and ratchets back on thefirst day of the week, we need to build in a value thatdeclares Sunday morning the most important time of theweek. Encourage them to wake up earlier and plan a realbreakfast. Make it clear that getting ready for church hasgreater implications for their lives than getting ready forwork or class any other day of the week. Schedule Your Sunday – your whole Sunday
  14. 14. Donʼt engage in activities that you know will keep your heart from hearing what it needs - Hearing from God must be more important than any other activity you do - So, you know what kind of activity you do on Sunday that will make you tired, sleepy, frustrated, mentally exhausted, distinterested, etc.John Piper says is powerfully –It astonishes me how many Christians watch the samebanal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodestTV shows that most unbelievers watch - and then wonderwhy their spiritual lives are weak and their worshipexperience is shallow with no intensity. If you really wantto hear the Word of God the way he means it to be heardin truth and joy and power, turn off the television onSaturday night and read something true and great andbeautiful and pure and honorable and excellent andworthy of praise (see Philippians 4:8). Then watch yourheart unshrivel and begin to hunger for the word of God." What do you do on Saturday evening? Do you plan to go to bed at a descent hour – so you will not be wasted during the service Sunday" What do you do on Sunday morning? - do you get up with just enough time in the morning to spend any time preparing your heart for worship – or do you get up with only the bare minimum time to get ready, rush out the door and show up looking good, but feeling like you just woke up? d. Participate - Bring your Bible to church and use it - Think while worshiping – donʼt just sit passively as if to be entertained – participate in the singing - THINK –
  15. 15. What do you do to prepare for preaching – How much doyou want to hear from God?Intentional Preparation may be one of the most importantsteps to hearing with “heart-ears” II. LISTEN CAREFULLYThe work is not done when you have intentionallyprepared yourself to listen - You then must listenIs it completely up to the preacher to make you listencarefully - must he tell funny stories for you to pay attention? - Must he give long illustrations for you to think about what is being said? I will not excuse any preacher, including myself, - for making the sermon too technical, that no one but a seminary professor could follow it " - for providing no structure that is easy to follow - for giving no relevant illustrations to make the text understandable to a culture vastly different than the one in the biblical textBut – what responsibility does the listener have - the commands to “listen” are prominent and numerous - there is a specific and definite need for the congregation to give some attention to paying attention
  16. 16. But, practically – how could we listen best?1. Have an Attentive Attitude" Acts 10:33 – Cornelius and his household - knew that whatever it was that Peter would say – was something they desperately needed to listen to - they showed up to Corneliusʼ house with an attentive attitude How do you show up – What is your attitude when listening - Entertain me – Please me – Prove it to me Do you come hungry – ready to eat, prepared to listen Do you listen with a sense of expectancy – or with a heart of complacency – oh, I already know that or I have already heard that before. - Iʼm just there to encourage other people to listen to this stuff2. Have a Teachable Attitude" James 1:21 - an attitude that says, even if I have studied every verse – heard preaching for more years than the one preaching has been alive - There is still more to learn i.e. W.A. Criswell " - Powerful Pulpiteer " - Keen Thinker " - Constant Learner " Paige Patterson has shared – that he was preaching at FBC Dallas during the Mid-Week –
  17. 17. going to preach through First Peter and knew that he was going to take a different stand on a passage than Dr. Criswell - Dr. Criswell encouraged the congregation – Dr. Patterson is going to show us something new in this book - Sat down on the front row – with Greek New Testament in Hand and paper to take notes – copiously taking notes on what Dr. Patterson preached Your attitude toward listening and receiving has a lot to do with whether or not you are going to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches " 1 Thess 2:133. Use Your Bible" Follow along in passages" Mark key words" Put question marks alongside portions you need tostudy more"" Bring a Bible you regularly read from or study with - you may notice something in the passage during the sermon that you flew by while reading Even if it feels awkward – you donʼt know where all the books are - do your best to follow along – - and think with the preacher through the section he is preaching as you read along with him4. Write Down Major Points" Here is where some get all bent out of shape
  18. 18. " Now – if you are an outstanding listener andremember the points - this actually takes much more concentration - and can repeat the points after the message and give a basic description of them o then donʼt worry about thisBut if you are like the majority of us - writing something down – helps your mind to track with the preacher - helps you stay focused on what is being preached - causes you to remember more of what you heardIʼm not talking about transcribing the sermon - donʼt try to write everything down – you probably wonʼt listen very carefully – you are merely trying to reproduce phrases  you wonʼt be listening to understand - if all you do is write down the major points – one or two words per point – something like that you will be doing yourself a favor Donʼt use the excuse – well, I donʼt like to write anything down – I just like to sit back and listen – I get more out of it if I just listen and donʼt write anything down - probably you donʼt take much with you from the day - and – you probably will not spend any time during the week – thinking about how the particular passage or passages addressed in the message apply to you My guess is – you write down instructions your spouse gives you for the grocery store or errands
  19. 19. - if you are going to build something – you probably write down a few notes for materials - if you are going to relay a message to someone – you jot a few thoughts downWhy would we take time to write down things that wonʼtmatter tomorrow – and will take no time to write downeven a few points that could help change us for eternity?Begin a file system for keeping your notes - In a notebook – in a drawer – in file foldersEven kids could do this –5. Fight Distractions -" What distracts you the most during the message?" You may need to think about where you sit You may need to think about who you sit by – especially those who think they are Sermon Commentators - you know, the ones who have to verbally say something when they disagree with something said – - the ones who have to lean over to talk about a point – comment on something – who must always say something about everything Donʼt create a climate that is distracting to others But also – donʼt allow distractions to distract you Make it hard to be pulled away from hearing what God is saying in His Word Let me remind you
  20. 20. - the physical distractions – are actually – spiritual battles Ephesians 6:12 When distractions arise – you might need to immediately go to prayer rather than nudging your neighbor to point them out and distract themListen carefully to what is said – to what is explainedThink along with the preacher – carefully consider the textbeing explained.One last element we want to talk about: III. APPLY FERVENTLY1. Review Soon AfterThere is biblical precedent for this –" Acts 17:11As Richard Baxter said several hundred years ago:! “Chew the cud . . . when you come home in secret,and by meditation preach it over to yourselves. If it werecoldly delivered by the preacher, . . .[consider] the greatweight of the matter, and preach it more earnestly over toyour own hearts.”Take some time on Monday morning to review your notesand think about what was said on Sunday MorningTake some time on Tuesday morning to review your notesand think about what was said on Sunday EveningTake some time on Wednesday morning to review whatthe Sunday School lesson was about
  21. 21. Take some time on Thursday morning and review whatwas said on Wednesday Evening2. Write Down Something Practical to Apply Think about a sermon journal – where you think out loud – in writing about what was said and what you should do with the message." An Attitude to Change" An Insight Gained" A Behavior to Begin" I know this in not normal" I know this is beyond what may feel comfortable –but would it help you be more intentional and practicalwith what you hear on Sunday?3. Share It With Some One" A neighbor you are trying to reach" Your spouse on the way home from church" Your children just before dinner on Mondays –family devotions" Why? - When you have to retell it – you will remember more of it - Preaching helps me to learn more o – I have to verbally share what I have studied o – therefore I have to choose words that you will understand
  22. 22. o I have to put my study into specific words and phrases – and I am likely to remember moreThe key is to finish listening to a sermon and apply:" James 1:22-25Are you ready to Hear from God?Is it important to you?What needs to be different in your approach to a Sunday - so that you can consciously, intentionally, practically apply Godʼs Word?CONCLUSION