Summary: How many sermons have you heard in your life? What has been the result of all those sermons you have heard? Are you any closer to the Lord as a result of all those sermons?
HOW TO LISTEN TO A SERMON
How many sermons have you heard in your life? Depending upon your age, you may have heard hundreds of sermons. Say you hear about 40 to 50 sermons a year based on your worship attendance. For the average person who has been attending church for about 40 years that comes to over 1000 sermons. Some of you have heard well over 1000 sermons. Others of you have heard at least hundreds of sermons. How many of those sermons do you remember? Most of us have trouble remembering last Sunday’s’ sermon. I don’t want to put anyone on the spot, but how many of you remember the sermon you heard last week? Some of us forget the sermon before we leave the church. What has been the result of all those sermons you have heard? Are you any closer to the Lord as a result of all those sermons? What changes have occurred in your life as a result of the sermons you have heard? Why do we have sermons in our church service? Why not just sing a few hymns, read some scriptures, pray a few prayers, listen to the choir or a soloist and then go home? You may protest and say, “But we have to have a sermon?” But why do we have a sermon? Sermons have been preached almost from the beginning of the church. Why are they so important? The Bible says that people need to hear the word of God and how can they hear without a preacher? The Bible also says how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel. But what difference does the sermon make in our lives? In other words, how can we listen to a sermon so that it makes a difference in our spiritual lives? How do we listen to a sermon? Our text is taken from the gospel lectionary for today taken from the gospel of Matthew. The gospel text for July 13 is Matthew 13:1-9 and verses 18-23. This is one of the parables Jesus spoke in this chapter. The theme of this parable is what happens to the word of God presented to the people who hear it. How do the people receive and react to the word of God? Jesus illustrates his point by calling his listeners to a sower who sows seed in the hope of reaping a harvest. Jesus told this parable while he was speaking to the people from a boat. The people were lined up along the shoreline while Jesus spoke from a boat. In fact, there may have been a sower in the field nearby sowing seed even as Jesus spoke. It was a common thing in those days to see a sower at work. The sower could walk up and down the field scattering the seed as he walked. If the wind was blowing, the seed could be carried all over the place and out of the field altogether. Then sometimes a sower would put a sack of seed on the back of an animal, and tear or cut a hole in the sack. As the animal walked up and down the field the seed would fall to the ground. In either case the seed could fall in different places. It could fall along the wayside where it would be trampled by people walking by. Then the seed could fall on a shallow skin of earth on top of a shelf of rock. The seed might grow quickly from the heat of the sun, but when the roots sought nourishment and moisture, the hard rock would choke its growth. Then the seed might fall among weeds which would kill the life out of it. Then, fourthly, the seed could fall on good ground where it would grow and flourish bringing forth an abundant harvest. Jesus used this parable as an illustration of what could happen to the word of God as it was received by the hearers. The seed that fell by the wayside represented a listener who heard the word and did not understand it. The evil one or the devil would snatch it away. The seed that fell on the rocky places represented the listener who at first eagerly accepted the word but since he had no root when trouble and hard times appeared, he quickly fell away. The seed that fell among the weeds represented the listener who heard the word but allowed the cares and riches of the world to choke the word so that it bears no fruit. The seed that fell among the good soil represented the listener who heard the world with understanding and obedience so that he bore an abundant and fruitful life. So Jesus is focusing on what happens to the preached word when it is heard by the listeners. Although the parables are not to be interpreted as allegories where each part stands or represents something else, we can safely say that the sower represents the one who presents the word of God. The seed represents the word of God itself. The soil represents those who receive or hear and listen to the word. So getting down to the basic purpose of the parable, we ask the question: what kind of listener are you? How can we listen to a sermon so that it bears fruit and makes a difference in our lives? We can see from this parable that from the 4 places where the seed was sown, only one of them bore fruit. Based on this analysis, only one out of every four people who hear a sermon will be changed by it or do something different as a result of it. How can you be one of the four people who will benefit from listening to a sermon? The first thing is that we need to listen to a sermon with an open mind. Now we assume that to listen to a sermon means we have to hear it. We can hear something without listening to it. But we have to hear it first. So we can’t expect the person who sleeps through the sermon to get anything out of it. I remember the story about a minister who was disturbed that one old gentleman always went to sleep during his sermons. The old man was always accompanied by his young grandson. So the minister said to the young boy, “I’ll give you a quarter every time you keep your grandfather awake during the sermon.” Everything went well for a few weeks, and the old man stayed awake during the sermon. But after a few Sundays the old man started going to sleep again. So the minister said to the boy, “What happened? I gave you a quarter to keep your grandfather awake during the sermon. What happened? He is going to sleep again.” The boy replied, “Well pastor, what happened was that my grandfather gave me 50 cents to let him sleep.” So we must at least hear the sermon in order to listen to it. Then we have to listen to it with an open mind. How do we listen to a sermon with an open mind? The Pharisees had a closed mind when it came to Jesus. No matter what he said they would not accept it because they were jealous of his acceptance by the people and his challenge to their authority. Some people listen with a closed mind. They are not open to any new thing. Sometimes they may have something against the preacher which keeps their mind closed to anything the preacher might say. Sometimes sin in one’s life can lead to a closed mind. Listeners may be bound to some habit or addiction which they refuse to let go of regardless of what the preacher may say. Their minds are closed to any suggestions which would make a change in their lives. They are satisfied with things as they are in their lives. Nothing that the preacher says will change their minds. We have heard that saying that none are as blind as those who will not see. The first step in listening to a sermon is to have an open mind. Are you listening? If you are listening say amen. The next thing in listening to a sermon is to listen with an attentive spirit. Dissect what is being said. Try to understand what is being said. Many people take notes during a sermon which helps you remember some key points. We cannot overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit is a factor in how we receive and accept a sermon. Sometimes before the sermon we will pray for illumination. We ask God to open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of his word. We cannot overlook the fact that God through the Holy Spirit leads us in understanding the word of God. The ability to understand the word of God is a gift from God. The Holy Spirit has to open the eyes of our understanding that we may comprehend what is being said. We do not know how well we listen is dependent on our own endeavor or how much the Holy Spirit guides our understanding. But we cannot overestimate the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding our understanding of a sermon. Listen to a sermon prayerfully asking the Spirit to broaden your understanding Sometimes a sermon will speak to our emotions. We can almost be swept off our feet by the emotional effect of a sermon. But do we understand what has been said? Some people may get so excited about a sermon that they will say, “Honey, the pastor really preached this morning.” “Yes, what did he preach about?” “I don’t know but we sure did preach.” That sermon was not received with understanding. Then again, a sermon calling for a response to Jesus Christ by accepting him as Lord and Savior may catch us up in the impulse of the moment. We react on our emotions yet fail to realize the cost of becoming a Christian and what it demands of us. That response is like a seed that falls on rocky ground but does not take any root or produce any fruit. Emotions must be accompanied by a sense of understanding responsibility. I was talking one time to an elder in the first church I served. He said that recently number of people united with the church but before long became inactive. When they were asked to do something in the church they backed down. Emotion has to go hand in hand with commitment. To listen with an attentive spirit also involves focusing on the content of the sermon. Some people listen to a sermon but their minds are focused on something else. Weeds come in and center their minds on something else. Weeds come in and focus their attention on what they are going to have for dinner this afternoon. Weeds come in and focus their attention on something that happened at home this morning. Weeds come in and focus their attention on what will happen tomorrow at the job. You know what I mean. Some weeds may be keeping your attention from this sermon right now. Some people’s bodies are here but their spirits are far away. They are listening but their attention is on something else. Actually listening to a sermon can be difficult. You actually have to think about what is being said. That’s hard for a lot of people. That’s too much like school. We like to sit back and be entertained. We really don’t like to think. You have to thing actively. How does what is being said relate to me? What do I think about what is being said? Do I agree or disagree? You have to react to what is being said. You have to exercise your thinking when you listen to a sermon. So let me ask you, are you listening? If you are listening say amen. Finally we listen with an obedient heart. What is the sermon requiring me to do or to think? Every sermon should have some purpose. Sometimes the preacher will make the purpose clear. But sometimes you have to come up with your own purpose? What am I going to do as a result of this sermon? What have I learned from the sermon? What is God asking me to do? What do I need to change in my life? God desires an obedient heart on the part of his people. There is no use of listening to a sermon if you are not going to respond to it. A sermon is not a lecture. A sermon must be responded to in some way. After every sermon you ought to ask yourself what now? What do I do next? If you came to church anxious about something, your purpose will be to cast all your cares upon God knowing that he cares for you. If you came to church sick, your purpose will be to cry unto God who can heal you in mind, body, and spirit. If you came to church impatient, your purpose is to wait on the Lord and be of good cheer. If you came to church fearful, your purpose is to fear not for God will never leave you or forsake you. If you came to church shackled by disappointment, your purpose is to hold on just a little while longer. If you came to church tired and weary, your purpose is to lean on the everlasting arms. If you came to church discouraged, your purpose is to build your hope on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Listen to a sermon with an obedient heart. What is the sermon saying to you and what are you going to do about it? Sometimes preachers get discouraged in preaching. They wonder if anybody is listening to the sermon. Is anybody here being changed by the sermon? We need to remember that only one out of 4 responded to the preaching of Jesus. But that one out of four responded in obedience to the word and produced an abundance of fruit. That one out of four yielded much fruit, a hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold. That one out of four is enough to keep us preaching. God’s word will accomplish its purpose if only for one out of four. God’s word will not return to him void. God’s word will accomplish its purpose if only for one out of four. If one out of 4 was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us. We need to praise God for the one out of four who responds to the word and who produce an abundance of harvest and fruit in their lives. So we preachers will preach. We’ll preach and bid the whole world God’s grace to receive. We’ll preach to make the great commission known and show God’s word to be true. We’ll preach in season and out of season. We’ll preach because as Jeremiah said it’s like fire shut up in my bones. But will you respond to the gospel? The question you have to answer today is will you be the one out of four who responds to the gospel? Will you be the one out of four who will produce fruit in your life? Will you be the one out of four who really listens to a sermon so it can make a great change in your life? Will you be the one out of 4 who fills your pastor with joy because you have listened to the sermon? Will you be that one out of four that will bear fruit for Jesus? Will you be that one out of four that will serve the Lord with gladness of heart? Will you be that one out of four who will be dedicated to the cause of Christ? Will you be that one out of four who will be a true disciple of Jesus Christ? Will you be that one out of four who will bring in some fruit for Jesus? The truth of the matter is that you can be that one out of four seeds that falls on good ground. Ask God to make you the one out of four that you may be a blessing to him and to others. Ask God to make you that one out of four who really knows how to listen to a sermon. Ask God to make you that one out of four that listens to a sermon with an open mind. Ask God to make you that one out of four who listens with an attentive spirit. Ask God to make you that one out of four who listens with an obedient heart. You too can listen to a sermon. Let me ask you one more time. Are you listening? Are you listening with an open mind? Are you listening? Are you listening with an attentive spirit? Are you listening with an obedient heart? Are you listening? Are you really listening? If you are listening say Amen.