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“And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor, and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9).
Principle number one: Stay awake.
Okay, that’s all I have to say about Eutychus. But we can use him as a poster child for people who get very little or nothing from a sermon, agreed?
If you live a long time and go to church regularly, you will hear thousands of sermons. It seems therefore that at least one message should be devoted to the subject of how to get the most out of them.
Let’s let this be the one.
Tagamet and Pepcid A/C, Prilosec and Omeprazole, are popular acid blockers. Take one before eating a pizza or other spicy foods in order to avoid heartburn. The pills shut down the flow of stomach acid. This is all right once in a while, yet it’s not recommended regularly for the simple reason that the digestive system counts on bile (stomach acid) to help in the digestion. A few years back, doctors put me on a seven-day regimen of pills designed to destroy the H. Pylori bacteria in my stomach. Two of the pills were antibiotics and the other shut off the flow of acid into my digestive system. For one solid week, in order to heal my system, I was not getting full value from my food.
Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.
These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they….
–nitpick him. They listen for grammatical errors or doctrinal lapses. They check out his clothing, his haircut, and mannerisms. They look to make sure his wife is in her place and their children are behaving.
–plan the week ahead. They take out their iPad or a piece of scrap paper and make notes on people they need to see, projects needing their attention.
–shift into neutral and become passive. Granted, that’s better than throwing it into reverse and becoming hostile. (I had that happen once in a prison. The inmates clapped and stomped their feet in order to drown out my sermon.)
–send their mind off on a mini-vacation. I once watched a movie in the dentist’s office as he performed a root canal in my mouth. I was almost unaware of what he was doing. There are people who wish they could do that in church.
–listen with their ears but not their hearts. As Dennis the Menace once told his mother, “I hear you but I’m not listening!” When church is over, they can’t even tell you what the sermon was about.
–do not bring faith to what they are hearing. Hebrews 4:2 speaks of this phenomenon. “The word they heard did not profit them because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”
These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.
Three “pre-suggestions” on how to make the most of the sermons you will be hearing….
1) Get saved. After all, “the natural man does not receive spiritual things; neither can he discern them as they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14). You want to have a heart receptive to the things of the Lord.
2) Plan in advance. Get enough sleep the night before, then rise early. Have a quiet Sunday morning. Bring your Bible to church. Take notes. Sit where there are fewest distractions.
3) Pray for the pastor throughout the week while he’s doing the work of a shepherd and preparing the sermon. Ask the Lord to anoint his ministry, to encourage his spirit, and to show him wonderful riches from His word.
If you have prayed for him faithfully during the week, I can guarantee that you will approach the Sunday service with more eagerness and higher expectations. (Caution: Always put those expectations on the Lord, not on the man. The Lord is your Shepherd, and He will give you what He wants you to have. I have had members tell me they prayed for my preaching, but then reject everything I said from the pulpit.)
Three instructions from God’s Word for those who listen to sermons….
First: Listen actively and expectantly for the voice of the Lord.
“When you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)
When you hear a sermon, listen for the Lord. If you are in a Christ-honoring church, sitting before a Godly minister preaching from the Book, you will be hearing from the Holy Spirit. Accept this as from Him.
Second: Look up the scriptures cited and study them.
“Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those who were in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
If you don’t have time in the worship service to look up references the pastor is giving, write them down and find them later. Then, if you are puzzled about the pastor’s interpretation of a verse, call him. Maybe you misunderstood him or are missing something in the Word. He will appreciate that you are taking this seriously, and the next time he’s in his study preparing a sermon, he will be reminded that some in the congregation are on their toes.
Third: Listen to the sermon for instructions from the Lord for you personally.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).
Question: How do hearers of good sermons and lovers of great teaching deceive themselves? Answer: By convincing themselves that in hearing a teaching they have obeyed it.
Hearing and obeying are two separate things.
“Knowledge puffs up” (I Corinthians 8:1). That is to say, some people grow spiritually obese from gorging themselves on the rich food of spiritual banquets. They need to push away from the table and go to work.
Obeying the Word–that is, applying its message to my daily life–is the object. John 13:17 should be a major pillar in every believer’s life: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
The blessing of heaven was never promised to those who love the word or read it, who memorize it or teach it, who publish it or even proclaim it. Heaven’s blessings are upon those who obey the Word!
I can tell you for a fact that if you have no intention of obeying the message you are hearing, you will find great faults with it and get little good from it. The enemy of all that is good and the attacker of everything righteous will see to that. He loves to assist those looking for reasons not to obey the Lord.
Only the obedient receive.
“Trust and obey. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus.”
“For this purpose I wrote to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15,21,23).
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock” (Matthew 7:24).
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