The last few weeks we have begun to examine a short booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009) and is penned by Christopher Ash.
Once more let’s get before us the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:
- Expect God to speak
- Admit God knows better than you
- Check the preacher says what the passage says
- Hear the sermon in church
- Be there week by week
- Do what the Bible says
- Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!
Tonight, to help us prepare for hearing the Word of God tomorrow, let’s “listen up” as Ash instructs us in that second ingredient – “Admit God knows better than you.” As you will see, also this “ingredient” has to do with the authority of the message the faithful preacher of God’s Word brings; but more than that, it also has to do with the content of that message.
…What we really want [Ash means, by nature] is for the Bible to tell us we’re ok, what we’ve done is ok, and what we believe is ok.
But it isn’t ok. It’s not at all ok. Far from coming to the Bible as a clean sheet, I come to the Bible as a thoroughly messed-up person, unable to think straight, speak right or act as I ought. That means I must expect the Bible to call me to repentance and not reassure me that I’m ok. It will never make me comfortable or complacent in my sin.
…Faithful Bible teaching will always cause offence.
…The voice of God spoken by a faithful Bible teacher will get under my skin. It will cut to the core of my being (Hebrews 4 v 12, 13). It will challenge me to ‘get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted’ in me (James 1 v 21). And I mustn’t expect to like it. Sometimes I may even feel insulted.
Concerning which the author concludes:
To listen humbly is to be realistic about this. What is more, it is to recognise that there is more than one way to evade the challenge of the Bible. The simple way is just to say: ‘The Bible is wrong. I don’t agree with it, and that’s all there is to say.’ But the more common way in Christian circles …is to find a clever way to reinterpret the Bible so that I can persuade myself that, although I must admit it looks as if it challenges me, in fact it doesn’t. This preserves my impression of piety while safeguarding my rebellion against God….
Which brings this closing point: “…To listen humbly is to admit that the Bible is right and I am wrong, that God is God and I need to change” (pp.7-8).
Will we listen humbly to the Word preached tomorrow and let it convict us that God is right about us and we are wrong?