For the last month, I have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and hear preaching instead of being the preacher. As I am waiting for God’s direction into a new pulpit, I am striving to discover and demonstrate the marks of a healthy church member (or attendee as is the case currently). I think bare minimum that includes serving in the church and supporting the pastor, though we could discuss many elements. But in this season of sitting under another man’s pulpit ministry, I have asked myself the question, “what should be happening to me as I come and hear the Word of God proclaimed?” Too often I have been guilty of coming to worship, taking my seat, singing the song, listening to the message and then going home. But should I not go into the house of God with an expectation to leave differently? Should not every Sunday be an exercise of sanctification for my soul? In asking these questions I have come to understand that there should be at least three results evident after I have sat under the Word of God
1. The mind should be INFORMED. Regardless of what church you go to, true preaching is a monologue. It is a proclamation of truth that demands a response, but that response is demanded AFTER the facts have been declared. Too many believers today hold low standards of expectations for the preaching of God’s Word. “Just give us that good ol’ gospel preaching.” Now I love the gospel, but knowing the gospel and loving the gospel is a lifelong endeavor. Paul always preached the gospel, yet gave practical insights into the daily lives of believers. We should expect to come to church and learn new truths or discover old truth in new light. Now this means that if I walk away from the preaching without my mind informed, one of two problems has occurred. It could be that the preacher has not effectively done his job. God’s Word must stretch him before it stretches me. Too often pastors fall to the extreme of preaching a commentary they have read the week prior. I fear that too many preachers spend more time studying their commentaries than the text of Scripture. Or the opposite extreme is that they treat the message as an emotional pep talk or entertainment platform. In this case performance and relevance overshadow the text of Scripture. But let me be honest at this point. I have sat under preachers who may be less than par according to my preferences, but are faithful men who love Jesus and study the Word to be approved workmen. More often than not the reason my mind is not informed is because I am not engaged in the Word. Satan is not just a deceiver and a destroyer, he is a distracter. So many times the worship experience itself is spiritual warfare and I must fight the good fight. Every true gospel message, even by the poorest of preachers, will provide some nugget of truth that I can store up in my mind and walk away amazed at the glory of Jesus.
2. The heart should be REFORMED. The Bible has a great deal to say about my heart, and for the most part it declared how corrupt and wicked it is apart from Jesus. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” That is a fearful thought when I look at what lies within my heart. I think Proverbs 4:23 captures it clearly in saying, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” So when I come to worship something should happen in my heart. My mind can be informed, but if my heart stays the same then I have not truly been impacted by the Word of God. Every time we come to the text of Scripture, whether publicly or privately, the goal should be to leave differently than when we came. Reform is a change; it is taking a shape that already exists and making it better. So in this case, it is taking my sinful, corrupt heart and reshaping it to be more like the heart of Jesus. My prayer every Sunday should beg Jesus to change my heart to be like His. I believe that many who read this post are pretty good at the informing part of preaching, but here is where we truly need God to give us grace.
3. The life should be TRANSFORMED. While this result may only result after the first two are accomplished, this is the only one that has visible evidence. Only God will see the first two; here is where we can worship by edifying other believers in Christ. If the Word of God consistently affects my life and how I go through each day, that will be seen by others and will build them up by saying, “if God can do this in me He can and will do it in you too.” If you and I were to leave worship this Sunday, go home and meditate on the text for the morning, praying that God would give us grace to become more like Jesus, and then go to work or school living out that reality, what would be the result among our peers? My prayer tonight is that God will take the Word I hear on Sunday and allow me to live it on Monday. How about you?