God speaks today with just as much authority and clarity as he did in Biblical times, but he speaks to us today through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible isn’t the product of human imagination, or ingenuity, or creativity. When you open the pages of your Bible, you do not read a word about God from men, rather what you read is a word from God to men. That is why the Apostle Paul charged Timothy and all pastors through the ages to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2-3). A pastor is not to preach his prejudices or opinions, he is to proclaim what God says in his Word. For example, the existence of hell is not popular, but we have no right to ignore teaching its reality just because its existence is unsettling.
On Sunday mornings you come to hear a word from God, not a word from man. That is why we should listen reverently as God’s word is being taught from week to week. We need to listen reverently as God’s Word is being taught, we also need to listen critically (Acts 17:11). “Critical” can mean either, “inclined to find fault” or “careful and exact evaluation”. It is the latter meaning that I have in mind. We should exercise discerning scrutiny when listening to a message you have to be an active participant, not a passive recipient.
You have an appointment with God each Sunday, and he wants to speak to you, even through imperfect spokesmen. If this afternoon at 3:00 God was personally going to deliver that message, how would you spend the hours preceding that encounter? You would probably spend time in prayer; you would confess any sins of which you were aware. You would prepare yourself emotionally for whatever you might hear. And when the big moment finally came you would listen intently as God spoke, taking notes so as not to miss anything. And when God concluded by saying, “Now this is what I want you to do…”, I suspect you would make some changes.
But in order for God’s Word to impact our lives there is one more step we must take. We must listen submissively (James 1:22). God did not give us his Word to make us smarter sinners, but to make us more like himself. As your pastor, my task is to present Biblical truth in such a way that you understand what God has to say about a particular matter, and that you know how to apply it to your life. And what is your responsibility? During any given sermon you are to listen reverently, critically, and submissively. And during the week you are to seek apply God’s message to your life.
Spiritual maturity is the product of truth applied over time. Your maturity is determined by what you do with what you know (Matthew 7:24-27). When we hear God’s word and carefully apply it, it gives us a firm foundation for living. Blessing comes, protection comes, security comes, resilience comes, to those who both hear and apply biblical truth. Listen reverently. It is a word from God. Listen critically. Be an active participant, not a passive recipient. Listen submissively. Ask yourself, “How can I apply what I have heard today? What changes would God have me make?
Application / Challenge
During the Sermon:
- Listen reverently.
- Listen critically.
- Listen submissively.
After the Sermon
- Use your copy of “Talking Points Walking Points” (download below) in your personal Bible Study to apply what you are learning.
- When possible, share what you are learning with others.