“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Mt. 11:15 – NASB95)
[See also Mt. 13:9; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22]
It fascinates me how often in the Bible we are commanded to listen. It is my observation that most people are not very good listeners. Some are better than others, but most people have almost perfected the art of pseudo-listening (acting like you’re listening but not really listening). Really good pseudo-listeners can look right at you and acknowledge you with an “uh-huh” after you say something, but there mind is somewhere else altogether. Why do I bring this up in a church newsletter? Because the Lord wants us to give Him our full attention when He speaks to us through His Word, and I fear that many people have become pseudo-listeners of God’s Word.
What does that look like? One example would be reading the Bible in a daily devotion simply to check it off your list of things to do. You read the words, but your heart & mind aren’t really there. If someone asked you what you just read, you wouldn’t remember. This can even happen when you read out loud. It is incredibly easy to have our attention drawn to something else while we read the words on a page. Another example is when we allow distractions to interrupt us while we are reading (or listening) to God’s Word. Perhaps we are reading the Bible when a notification pops up on our phone, tablet, or computer and we focus on that instead of what God is saying to us.
I imagine this is an especially difficult problem now that we are livestreaming our worship services. When we were able to gather together there was a bit of a social stigma that prevented most of us (not all) from answering a phone call during the service, searching the web for an item to purchase, answering emails, playing video games, getting something to eat, or dare I say it, switching to another livestream from another church?!? Although a lot of people don’t sing in churches (they should), I imagine it is much easier not to sing during the livestream, but critically evaluate the musicians, singers, song choices, etc. I will leave that topic for Pastor Steve to address sometime in the future.
Today I want to give you a few practical suggestions for how to listen to God’s Word from start to finish in a livestream worship service.
- Prepare ahead of time. Don’t wait until the sermon starts to get ready to listen. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open the heart & eyes of the preacher as he studies and to prepare your heart to receive & apply what is taught. Confess sinin your life and turn from it. Come in humility to the teaching of the Word of God with a heart that wants to hear from God and obey. Get plenty of rest the night before so you can be alert and ready to listen to God.
- Turn off the ringer, email, notifications, Social Media, etc., on your phone, tablet, or computer. If you are worried about not turning them back on, set an alarm for 10:30 or later to remind you to do so.
- Prioritize listening to, discussing, and applying the sermon. Get up well before the start of the livestream service so you can get cleaned up, eat a good breakfast, and make sure you are alert when you listen. Set aside 30 minutes before the service and 30-60 minutes after the service to pray and think through what God is saying to you.
- Print out the sermon outline, go to a place where you can have your Bible open, and take notes. See the passage that is going to be preached and prayerfully read it before the service begins. During the service, sit at a desk or table, have a pencil or pen in your hand, and write down things you learn. This will help you stay focused, and it will give you a written record you can go back to the rest of the week. Note: I suggest keeping files of these sermon notes that you can go back to at later dates.
- Write down applications. If the Spirit points out something to you during the sermon, write it down so you can remember to do it.
- Discuss & apply the sermon. You can join a Zoom meeting with one of our Adult Bible Classes or you can discuss and apply the sermon with people who watch it with you. Or you can call someone who watched it and talk with them about it. Go through the questions on the back of the outline, answer all of them, make applications that you can implement right away. Knowing you are going to discuss the sermon with someone helps you stay focused during the sermon.
- Retell the sermon. Tell others what you learned. Write out a main point or application on social media. Discuss it over lunch or dinner with your family. Post a link to the sermon on your social media pages. Make sure you listened carefully and took notes, because your friends might listen and ask you questions.
- Prepare for the next service. On Saturday, pull out your sermon notes from the previous week. Read them over carefully. Pray that the Lord would make you a doer of what you learned. Ask Him to prepare you for what you will hear on Sunday morning. And since we typically preach verse-by-verse through the Bible, you will know the context of the next sermon and be ready to learn. Ask questions of the passage. See if you can figure out what the preacher will say or write down questions that you would like him to answer. Then get lots of sleep and watch the livestream service the next morning with a heart that wants to and expects to learn from God’s Word.