Disclaimer: I don’t mean for the title of this blog post to sound so self-serving. “I want this, I want that, me, me and more me.” I’m not coming at it from that angle. I’m coming (hopefully) from the angle of Scripture and what we ought to want from the preaching of God’s Word. My goal in this post is to share four ways to approach listening to sermons. I should also mention that this is my approach to delivering sermons, as well as listening to sermons.
Though not exhaustive, here are four things to look for when listening to a sermon.
1) I want to hear from a man who has been set on fire by the text. Don’t get me wrong, I want information. I want to see the context and the text ,which means that I will have a Bible in my lap, ready to follow along and flip to another passage if need be. I want to not only see the text but feel the text, too. I know that sounds silly, but I’m serious. I want the text to come alive. I want to know that the preacher has wrestled with it and that the text has sunk deep down into his soul. I don’t need stories, I need text. I don’t need jokes, I need Gospel proclamation. I’m not looking around to see who this applies to, I’m looking at myself. I want to know that the text has infiltrated the preacher’s head, heart, and hands so that the same can happen for me.
2) I want to be confronted. I am expecting this. I want to be told how sinful I am because I’m in denial the rest of the week. I don’t mind being confronted with my sin, because I’m the chief of sinners anyway, and have nothing to hide (1 Tim. 1:15). I want the text to confront me. I need God’s Law to be a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105). I need to see how I fall short of God’s glory by seeing how holy and just God is, and how His Law is the perfect standard of righteousness. Don’t be shy in confronting sin, preacher, I need it. Let the Scripture cut me deep (Hebrews 4:12).
3) I want to be given good news. No matter the text, I want the Gospel. After all, the Gospel isn’t a footnote, it’s the font. I want desperately to not only know my sin (see point #2) but to see my Savior tell me again and again how good the Gospel is! Demonstrate for me how Jesus perfectly submitted Himself to the Law, how He died a substitutionary death, how He stabbed death in the heart by rising from the dead, and how He rules as King of the universe right now. Tell me the good news! I want to return to it, revel in it, marinate in it and find hope in it. I need to be reminded (1 Cor. 15:1) because I’m not looking for 5-steps to anywhere…I’m looking to be comforted. I long to hear the Story. Tell it again!
4) I want to leave impressed not at the preacher, but at the Savior. Don’t try and be funny when you’re not; don’t try and loosen the blow–just state the truth with boldness. I don’t need it to be sugar coated, nor do I care to have my best life now. I do not need entertainment; I need Jesus. Desperately. Help me process my desperation and show me that the Gospel can bring comfort to my weary soul. I trust that the Spirit is at work during the sermon because preaching is, after all, God’s means for edifying the saints (Ephesians 4:12).
You should know something, preacher. During the singing, I’m praying for you. I’m asking God the Holy Spirit to assist you in magnifying Christ. Oh, and one last thing I want…
I want to know that the Father loves me, the Son was condemned for me, and that the Spirit in this very moment is challenging me so that I can walk away moved into holiness.
Keep preaching; when it’s popular, and when it’s not (2 Tim. 4:2). And be encouraged. We may not shout, “Amen!” but know that we’re out there, listening intently, holding on to your words knowing that preaching is God’s ordained means to reach His God-glorifying ends.