Monday, October 17, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Listening (1 Thessalonians 2:13-20)

The majority of my sermon yesterday had to do with the topic of listening to God's Word, or specifically, how to listen to sermons. Obviously, if you know me, you know this has been a topic that consumed my thinking for years as I wrote my dissertation on it and then published my first book on this issue (Helping Johnny Listen). I spent most of my time on 1 Thessalonians 2:13, which says:
"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, 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."
It was obvious to Paul that when they came into the city of Thessalonica and opened up the Bible, explained & reasoned from from the Bible, their words were God's words for the people. God's messenger must rely upon the bible, and every loyal preacher or teacher of God's truth is a channel of the Word of God--as long as they are faithful to the Bible. That does not mean the preacher has some special power or is special by themselves. It is the truth of Bible that is important. As a man is faithful at standing before an audience, opening the Word of God, explaining the Word of God, then God is speaking to that given audience.

For the people of Thessalonica, there were two different responses Paul says that they received the Word of God. This means they were receptive, they were willing to allow someone to come alongside of them and teach them. I have heard it said before that it means they listened with interest. It means they prepared themselves to listen. As I studied this once again, I kept coming back to this one question:

Do you want your preacher to prepare for the sermon every Sunday with less, the same, or more energy than you use in preparing to listen to the sermon?

What are some things you can do to prepare? Be at church. Come early. Spend time with the Lord in the morning before church. Have a heart of prayer. Do your best to avoid distractions. Bring your Bible. Come hungry to the Word of God. Don't leave the service during the message. And the list can keep going (if you want to see an extensive list, check out chapter 2 of my book).

So, they received the Word, but then they also accepted it. This means they took it internally. They made the message from God as part of their life. And as they did it, it started to do a work in their life as they believed it. When the Word of God is welcomed with a heart of faith, God is continually at work. For us to do this, we need to respond to the message in faith. It is faith in what God is saying that will motivate us to be different people (read Hebrews 11 and notice what it was that moved those people to do crazy and amazing things for God).

So, how are you listening to God's Word? Are you receiving it? Are you accepting it? It is my contention that they only way anyone will have an authentic ministry is if people are correctly listening to the Word of God in their life.

If you want to listen to the entire message, you can find it HERE.

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