Friday, October 17, 2008

Good Listening

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In continuation to Good Sermons, i thought it is common and completely unfair to put the whole responsibility on the preacher to preach. For someone to preach, there must be someone to listen. Quoting girltalk, "If our pastor, whom God has called and gifted to preach, spends many hours studying God’s Word to share it with us, shouldn’t we be humble and diligent to review and apply that truth?"

Having listened to many sermons among other sorts of speeches, here are some things i found in my process of being a better listener:

  1. It is never helpful to switch off during a sermon (bad or not).

    It is easy to pay attention to a good sermon. It is even easier to switch off to a bad sermon. However i've found that it doesn't do us any good to switch off to anything. What does help, is by listening attentively and learning to identify what the preacher is trying to say in his sermon and checking that up with Scripture. I can't really say it better than this, when Paul and Silas went to Berea in Acts 17, where they received the word with all eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 

    Why is it important to examine everything that we hear so carefully? Because preachers are only human. That's why we need the church, to serve God together and serve each other. It is our responsibility to make sure that all our fellow members of the family of God stay faithful to Scripture. And you can't really do that if you're not paying attention to the speaker. 

    1 John 4 says,

    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

    You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

  2. Always take notes.

    This always helps me, especially if i find it hard to pay attention. By jotting down stuff that the speaker mentions, it helps me to focus and even if i don't manage to figure out what he's trying to say, i can always look back at my notes and figure it out at a later time or ask questions where i don't understand. It also helps in the process of checking Scripture to make sure what the speaker says is true. I can't really check with Scripture if i didn't write anything down, and i would be going on my memory alone, which is faulty and often misremembers details.

  3. Preach to yourself.

    If indeed you have checked with Scripture and found it to be a bad sermon, preach the sermon to yourself. NO, not the bad one, but figure out how a sermon with such a topic or such a text should sound like. It helps to try and figure out what the original readers were supposed to understand from the text and then in light of the Gospel, figure out what God intends for all readers to understand. And any Christian can do this, reading and understanding Scripture is not some miraculous talent only bestowed on preachers. We've been given the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit helps us understand what God is saying to us.

This is also not an exhaustive list, just the basic few that help me listen better. That concludes my tiny two-part post. However, a few last words before i end - read the Scriptures faithfully, always check all that you hear with Scripture and don't be discouraged in reading Scripture. In conclusion, a reminder from Paul to Timothy (emphasis mine):
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
If you put these things (ref:verse 4) before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Suggested reading : What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile


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