During our brief Wednesday night study prior to our time of prayer we've been considering how to profit from preaching. Preaching is a large part of what we do when we gather for worship at GBF. We believe it is the means that God has ordained for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of the saints. So the preacher must labor diligently to bring the Word of God to bear on the lives of each one in the congregation. Assuming that you have a preacher who faithfully proclaims God's Word, how can you profit from his preaching? Robert Spinney gives 6 principles in his booklet, How to Survive Your Pastor's Sermons: Six Ways to Make Pulpit Messages More Profitable to Your Soul. I am simply going to list the 6 principles here. If you'd like to read more, you can buy the booklet here.
1. Listen to the weekly Sunday sermon as if your life depended on it.
2. Look for God’s remedies for sin and His instructions for living in a sinful world.
3. Expect to be taught by the Holy Spirit as you hear God’s Word proclaimed.
4. Be determined to listen…regardless of the speaker’s oratory skills.
5. A profitable Bible message is one that delivers one life transforming truth.
6. Pre-commit to apply and obey God’s Word as it is set forth in the sermon.
Here also is a helpful blog post by Philip Ryken on how to listen to a sermon. He emphases a prepared soul, alert mind, open Bible, receptive heart, and readiness to put what you hear into practice. Enjoy! And when you listen to your next sermon, make sure you walk away the better for it.
Two cents on Lent
Shocker. Two blog posts in two days. I know. I’m still recovering myself. But I have recently heard of more than one evangelical friend giving up something for Lent. Hmm. This is troubling to me in some ways (depending on their reasoning for doing so which I have not investigated). So since this is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent (a season of preparation for Good Friday and Easter), a few brief thoughts: I'm not going to address every aspect of Lent, every question you've ever had about it, the benefits of learning self-denial, etc.
Jesus assumes that his followers will fast. There is real benefit to foregoing food for a time in order to focus on prayer. Even the hunger pangs themselves can serve to remind us of our poverty before God and his rich abundance to provide all that we need, whatever the situation we are facing. True fasting is good for God’s people and honoring to him. It is not about manipulating God or trying to earn favor with him.
That said, 3 troubling things about Lent. Giving something up for Lent is not fasting. Fasting is giving up food altogether for a period of time. So not eating chocolate or no soda or not watching American Idol for 40 days is not fasting. Second, telling everyone what you’re giving up for Lent (and how hard it will be/is for you) goes against what Jesus teaches regarding fasting. After warning against those who fast to be seen by others, he says in Matthew 6:17-18, "But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." And finally it smacks of trying to earn favor with God and trying to pay for our own sin by our own "suffering" – things we cannot do and don’t need to do because Jesus has accomplished all that we need before God. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, let's focus on Christ and his perfect work.
This might be a rather self-serving post, but I hope it will be an encouragement to you as well. Pastors need prayer. I know this by personal experience. You probably do too whether you are the pastor or the one who sits under the pastor's ministry. The apostle Paul asked for prayer. For example in Ephesians 6:18-20 he says, "To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel." Paul needed prayer and so do I. The obvious benefit of praying for the pastor is the help that is afforded him in the work of the ministry. But does praying for your pastor help you too? I believe it does. I ran across this quote from Philip Ryken.
Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a
sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends
studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense
of expectancy for the ministry of God's Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations
generally get what they pray for.
So please pray for your pastor. This one certainly needs it. But you may find as you pray for him that you profit more from his ministry. It is easy to criticize the preaching (and we need this too!). It is harder to pray for the preacher. But multiple blessings await us as we pray for the things God calls us to pray for! May we often be found at the throne of grace where mercy and grace are dispensed to us in our time of need.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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