Monday, January 4, 2010

Putting Expositional Listening into Practice

As I've been thinking about becoming a more diligent recipient of the Word of God preached -- or, as Thabiti Anyabwile puts it, an expositional listener -- I've been struck by the thought that I don't want this to just be something I talk about. I want to take advantage of the opportunity God has given me to consistently listen to the preaching of His Word, a privilege that many don't enjoy enough.

To that end, I tried to summarize both Tim's and Thabiti's posts into a sort of practical application format for me. Hopefully it will be helpful to you, and will encourage you to put these things into practice as well.

During the Week Before the Sermon

  • Pray for your pastor (or pastors), that God would work in his heart, illumine the Word to him, grow him in his faith, and protect him from the accusations and temptations of Satan.
  • Encourage your pastor by telling him that you are praying for him and are preparing to listen to the sermon.
  • Resolve any conflicts with brothers and sisters, as following Matthew 5:23-24.
  • In your devotional time with the Lord, study and meditate on the passage to be preached.
  • As part of your study, outline the text. Use good commentaries to supplement your study if necessary.
  • Be sure to get a good night's sleep on Saturday night. Commit the late Saturday night hours to the Lord as part of your preparation to meet with Him in His Word the next morning.
Sunday Morning
  • Be sure to sanctify time with the Lord on Sunday morning. Take that time to confess any unrepentant sin.
  • Pray according to Psalm 119:18, that in the coming hours God would prepare you to listen to His Word, and that He would illumine it to you that you might behold wonderful things.
  • Come to church expecting and excited to hear Divine words that will change you. Expect to meet with God through the proclamation of His Word.
  • Immediately before and during the sermon, pray for focused attention and against distractions which abound.
After the Sermon
  • Do pursue fellowship with friends and family immediately after the service, but don't talk about trivial and non-spiritual things at such a pivotal time.
  • Talk and pray about the sermon in conversation with friends. Discuss the point of the passage. Ask such questions as, "How were you affected by the Word of God today?"
  • Share what you learned from the sermon and what you thought was significant.
  • Ask trusted others if they know of an obvious application of the sermon for your life (this will reveal areas of sinfulness in you). Receive that well (Psalm 141:5; Prov 9:8b; 19:25; 25:12; Ecc 7:5).
  • Pray with fellow believers that you and the rest of the congregation would be properly affected, not become dull of hearing, and would be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
  • During your personal quiet time Sunday afternoon or evening, pray for Spirit-led application and obedience.
  • Seek to make applications of the passage preached to your own life.
The Following Week
  • Listen to the sermon again mid-week. Pick applications to focus on and put into practice throughout the week.
  • Study the passage preached, using the sermon as the chief aid, in small groups, one-on-one discipleship groups, or in family devotions.
  • Study further to find answers to questions that you had about the text during the sermon.
Thabiti concludes, "Church members are healthy when they give themselves to hearing this message as a regular discipline. Expositional listening promotes such health for individual members and entire churches."

Love the Word of God. Love the Church of God.

Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances.
But examine everything carefully;
hold fast to that which is good;
abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely;
and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete,
without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faithful is He who calls you,
and He also will bring it to pass.

- 1 Thessalonians 5:20-24 -

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