Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Family at Church, Part 3 (Receiving the Preached Word)

In this chapter, Beeke exhorts us as Christians to "take heed to how we hear" the preached Word on Sunday, for growth is impossible if the listener does not profit from the Word.

The four practical ways he outlines to help us better receive the preached Word are as follows:

1. Listen with an understanding, tender conscience

Matthew 13 presents us with four types of listeners, all of whom hear the same message.
  • The stony-hearted, superficial listener. Such people are at church only because 'they have to be there.' As a pastor, I grieve over those who are asleep, busy with their smart phone, who are more intent on watching the clock than listening to the gospel. Not surprisingly, such "listeners" leave more hardened than when they came.
  • The easily impressed but resistant listener.  Such people like to add religion to their life, but do not really want to hear about the kind of radical discipleship that involves self-denial, taking up one's cross, and following Christ. When the going gets tough, [true] Christianity is jettisoned for the world. 
  • The half-hearted, distracted listener. This kind of hearer tries to absorb the Word of God with one ear while thinking about business, lunch, sports, money, and anything else under the sun. Such listeners 'serve' God partially, and what is 'heard' is quickly choked by the thorns of this world's cares.
  • The understanding, fruitful listener. Such people have hearts that come prepared. They are eager not only to hear, but to do the Word. Not surprisingly, fruit is abundantly manifest in their lives as they intentionally seek to apply the teaching they have heard on Sunday to their everyday lives throughout the week.
When the preacher stands up to expound God's glorious Word, we must ask ourselves, "how am I going to listen to the Word?"

2. Listen attentively to the preached Word

Such attentiveness involves banishing wandering thoughts, dullness of mind, and drowsiness.

The reason so few listen to the preached Word with anticipation and attentiveness is that so few of us actually regard the sermon as a matter of life and death.

Therefore, we must listen to sermons not as spectators but as participants; the minister must not be the only one working on Sunday! Good listening is hard work: it involves worshiping God continuously.

All too often, many people come to church expecting to be spoon-fed; they often have no desire to think or learn or grow. For us to grow, we must come hungry, willing to exert whatever effort necessary that we might feed on the living Manna.

Finally, a good listener responds promptly - whether in repentance, resolution, determination, or praise.

3. Listen with submissive faith

Faith is the key to profitably receiving the Word. If the chief ingredient of a medicine is missing, the medicine will not be effective.

Hearing is not enough. It must be mixed with faith, or else it will do us no eternal good (Hebrews 4:2 KJV). Actually, hearing without faith has a hardening effect. "Therefore," says the author of Hebrews, "we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it" (2:1).

Let us then not trifle with the preached Word.

4. Listen with humility and serious self-examination

Do we humbly examine myself under the preaching of God's Word, trembling at its impact (Isaiah 66:2). Often we listen to sermons, seeking to apply them to others. But if we are to profit from the Word, we must seek first to apply it to our own lives.

As Robert Burns put it, let us pray that the Spirit apply His Word to "our business and bosom."

May God by His grace enable us to better received the preached Word on Sundays! May we as Fathers especially endeavour to plead before the throne of grace on behalf of our families, that they too might receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save one's soul! (James 1:21b)

In Christ, and for His glory to the ends of the earth,
Pastor Ryan

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