Recently I read “Listen Up” by Christopher Ash in which he gives “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” This is what I learned:
1. Expect God to speak
Each week God has something to say directly to me. I have to come expecting to hear His voice. “The preacher stands in the great tradition of prophets and apostles who spoke the word of God.” Therefore, there can be “nothing casual about our listening” (4-5).
2. Admit God knows better than you
The Bible and the preaching of the word were not created to tell me that I’m ok, or that what I’m doing is ok. Each one of us stands before the Bible as a “messed up person.” As we hear the word of God preached “it will never make me comfortable or complacent in my sin” (7). This is where I must admit that God knows what is best for me even if it feels painful. And even if I am offended or insulted, I should listen humbly and admit that “the Bible is right and I am wrong, that God is God and I need to change” (8).
3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
A great question to ask while listening to a sermon is “Where did the preacher get that from?” Make sure what the speaker is teaching is in Scripture otherwise it is simply one person’s opinion (10).
4. Hear the sermon in church
I know it is tempting to stay home and stream a podcast, or listen to a sermon on an iPod while at Starbucks; however, we should listen to sermons in a local church. When we sit under the word of God together, we are “shaped together by His word” (12). This creates accountability.
5. Be there week by week
I want to see a “lasting work” in my life and in the people of God. The only way this can happen is if we are weekly under the teaching of the word. We can’t have “instant fixes.” If we only go to church every once in a while we will be like a “spiritual firework.” We won’t produce any lasting light (15-16).
6. Do what the Bible says
This is the hardest one for me! James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I can not go to church to be amused or entertained, otherwise it is worthless. I must obey the word of God. Obedience is only something Christ can produce in us, so pray that the Lord continually opens your heart.
7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice
Psalm 95:7-8 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” The key is obedience- today. “Tomorrow will never come.” Today I need to repent again. Today I need to “trust in Christ again.” Believer or not, “every time we hear the word of God preached”, we must respond to Christ (20-21).
God is speaking to us today. I pray that as we hear His word preached we will respond in obedience.
I encourage you to read the rest of “Listen Up” by Christopher Ash. It is a really short little booklet.