Sometimes I find people enjoy the ‘idea’ of preaching God’s Word over the actual preaching of God’s Word itself. To some the idea preaching sounds good, respectable, comfortable, and delightfully honorable for one to do. The rub comes in when the sermon doesn’t approve of the way we live our lives or we find the teaching challenging to accept. What are we supposed to do with that? While one person may submit to the teaching of the Bible and leave church humbled and thoughtful, another person questions its teaching (or the one doing the teaching) and leaves church trying to find ways around what they just heard.
What do you do when the Bible disapproves of your lifestyle? Do we fight against it and seek to establish our own standards to live by or do we submit to the Bible and endeavor, by the grace of God, to bring our lives underneath the authority of Scripture.
We don’t want to do that though. We come to the Bible with all sorts of prejudices, theologies, desires, passions, and ideologies. We don’t listen to sermons as blank pages. We come believing a million pre-existing ideas: that we are ok and can live however we want to, that the ‘preacher’ (notice the quotes here) is only here to tell us that we are ok and don’t need to change anything about how we are living, that God loves us just…the…way…we…are.
But, everything is not ok as far as the Bible goes. It’s not ok to leave you as you are. It’s not ok to not challenge you, and because God is the Inspirer and Author of the Bible, He too is not ok with leaving you just as you are. If your pastor actually uses the Bible in his sermons (which he ought to do and is no pastor at all if he doesn’t), those sermons will eventually make you squirm because the Bible describes the human condition not as praiseworthy but as blameworthy. We are sinners all of us, and every human who comes to the Bible will find themselves judged and condemned by God in it. There is much good news in the Bible, but we cannot embrace the good news unless we first embrace the bad news. There’s no way around it.
Listening to a sermon should be similar to visiting the dentist. It’s not all bad, and ultimately it is for our good. Just as cavities and fillings may be required to be fixed, our hearts are in constant need of attention and need to be fixed as well. And just as fixing those maladies in our mouths won’t be pleasant while they’re being fixed, the same rings true with the re-shaping of our hearts. More so, as the dentist is working for our long term good, so too is God in infinitely greater ways.
You may feel offended, you may feel insulted, you may even feel flabbergasted. But guess what? That’s ok. In fact, if you never felt insulted or offended in your pastors sermons something is probably wrong with his preaching. This doesn’t mean you should always be offended, sometimes extreme comfort should flow into your soul from hearing the preaching of the Word, but offense will come, and that’s a good thing.
When offense comes will you listen humbly or will you reject what you heard and conclude the Bible or the pastor is wrong? How you handle this will tell you a lot about where you are spiritually.
Steps to take:
1) Answer these three questions: a) which part of this week’s preached Bible passage challenged your belief’s or lifestyle? b) Does the passage clearly teach these things? c) Do you need to change something about what you believe or how you live?
2) Pray for the work of God’s Spirit to enable you to submit to what the Bible clearly says and help you conform to its standards.
Adapted from LISTEN UP! Christopher Ash, 2009