How do you listen during the Sermon?

Dear BPCWAians, Last week, I wrote on the importance of preaching, and how the sermon is a focal point of our Worship to God, because we are listening to His Word. We must not miss the point that listening to the Word being preached is a salient part of worship because part of worship of God is to know Him and obey Him. We get these by listening to the Word preached. But, while we sit through the sermon, what do we do?

Distractions. Teachers at school are probably familiar with the children that keep requesting to go to the toilet during lessons. A practice that many teachers (and parents) adopt is to get children to visit the toilet before classes start so as to reduce the likelihood of the need to do so during lessons. As adults, we understand the need to try to reduce the possibility of distractions, both to ourselves, as well as to those around us. So, make all attempts to reduce the need or the temptation to get distracted. You’ve set your phone to silent, as reminded to after the Prep Hymn. But now you see that white blinking light on your handphone notifying you of an incoming message. Does that cause you to want to take your handphone and check on that new message although you’re not expecting anything urgent? A good solution is to either turn the handphone off or keep it out of sight so that you don’t get tempted to reach for it. In fact this is one reason why we encourge the use of hardcopy Bibles rather than mobile devices instead.

Attentiveness. Don’t get distracted. It is so easy to get distracted with so many little things. Keep your eyes focussed on your Bible and the pulpit. Let’s be honest. Even a student sitting in front of his book at his study desk doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s studying. Similarly, haven’t we all seen someone who is “there” physically, but whose eyes are all glazed and never seems to respond to anything because their mind is in a different place? If you have a tendency to daydream, then pray that God will help you to focus. Take steps to deal with the wandering thoughts. Many adults say that they prefer to listen “undistracted” to the sermon without taking notes. But besides the title of the sermon, the passage and the general thrust, do you remember what was preached last Sunday? If you don’t remember, then how much of the sermon can you apply to your life? Here’s where taking notes will help. Because many of our children are starting to do this during the messages, they are often able to share what they learned from the sermon earlier. In most of our weekly bulletins, there is a page left blank for you to take notes during the message. Writing notes not only help to prevent distractions, it also helps you to remember what was taught. Most of us don’t have photographic memories, and taking notes gives you something to refer to recall what was preached. I am not suggesting that you write down every word of what is preached. Rather, jot down key learning points. Underline a lesson you particularly need. Make a note of something that you must pray more of, or a resolution that the Holy Spirit convicts you off from the sermon. This is useful for you to refer to read through again before you end off the Lord’s Day in your devotion, or through the week.

True Listening. What goes on in your heart during a sermon? This will determine whether or not you are a true listener of God’s Word. True listening is not just about what is in it for me or what is God promising to do for me and how He will bless me. Instead, we must listen to know God better and how to please Him. Anything that helps me to understand His Word must excite us because we have known what He says about Himself and His desires. Also, preaching serves to reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim 4:2). This is the way to know how we should live to please Him – this is true worship. Do you murmur in your heart if you find it a difficult message to accept or do, although it is faithfully preached and is what the Word of God says? Do you silently think in your heart “is it really so”? If so, then you are responding like those who were offended in Christ’s days (John 6:60, 61). This is not worship of God but worship of self. We must take heed to receive, if it is indeed the Word of God, no matter how hard it may be to do. “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” (Heb 3:15) Especially in such cases, be extra attentive to fully understand in your mind what the Bible teaches – this is the 1st part of renewing your mind. A true listener will not think “that is what God says, but I won’t even try to obey because it is too demanding or it is not practical or it affects what I want to do. After all, so many other people live this way and they’re fine.” Instead, once it is clear what God requires, the true listener takes another step to stop murmuring in our minds and resolve to obey and follow. A true listener listens to understand God’s Word, and, in worship of God, will subject themselves to what God says rather than what they want to do. They will say “Yes, I agree and will do, even if my heart desires otherwise.” Here’s where the notes can be useful – make a note of what needs to be changed so that you don’t become a forgetful hearer (James 1:25). But if you honestly learn better without taking notes, then so be it. But be honest. The point is that each of us must make it our aim to remember key points of what God’s Word says in the passage.

Also, through the public preaching during Worship Service, the church is addressed as a whole. As a church, we learn what we ought to be. So, when we listen to messages relating to the church during Sunday messages, we must not want to know “what’s in it for me personally”? You, as a worshipper, are part of God’s church if He has placed you here. You make up the church. So, when it is a message relating to the church, think in your heart “what, as part of God’s church, must I do”? When everyone in the church thinks this way, then the church becomes what God intends the church to be. This again is part of true listening to worship God.

These are but only a few ways that we ought to listen to a Sermon. We pray for BPCWA to be kept faithful. We pray for our pulpit to always uphold the Word of God. And we do this so that we can hear God’s voice, follow and do it in our lives. There is no point praying for the pulpit if we would not care to respond by listening carefullly to what God brings through the pulpit preaching. Only when we truly listen to the Word of God can our lives be transformed, our church grow spiritually, and thus glorify Him.

Lu 8:18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

Yours in our Lord’s service