These are some questions to ask yourself before assembling with the people of God under the preaching of the Word of God:
1. Did I come to hear something new and trendy, or did I come to hear ancient truth that transcends time and transforms souls?
2. Did I come to hear newly discovered insights from the Bible, or did I come to hear the Christ-centered message of the Old and New Testament, the very message that every faithful pastor has preached for 2,000 years of church history?
3. Did I come simply to have my head puffed up with more knowledge, or did I come to have my heart revived, my soul replenished, my mind renewed, my strength restored, and my eyes refocused by the Word of God as it’s applied to my life by the Holy Spirit?
4. Do I consider the preaching of God’s Word a “common” thing to be taken for granted, or do I regard it as the greatest of all privileges on this side of eternity?
5. Did I come to stare at the familiar meal that God places before me, or did I come to eat, drink, and be satisfied by the faithful God who promises to fill the wide-open mouths of His hungry people?
6. Did I come to be entertained for an hour, or did I come to be equipped for the great commission?
7. Did I come to have my ears scratched, or did I come to be equipped by the Spirit of God to take the gospel of Christ to the nations in my home, workplace, school, city, and world?
8. Am I praying with the psalmist,
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)
9. Have I taught my children about the sobering and blessed privilege of sitting before the preached Word, or does my lack of reverence and respect for this experience show them that it’s no different than sitting before the television or some other form of entertainment?
10. Do I plan on speaking to my children about the sermon, to ensure that they’ve understood the main point(s) of the sermon?
11. Have I prayed earnestly for the Lord’s servant who’ll be preaching, that the Chief Shepherd would speak clearly and mightily through him?
12. Am I more concerned with the preacher being culturally relevant, or do I desire and pray that he remains faithful and clear in his delivery of the Word of God?
13. Am I willing to lovingly overlook the weaknesses of the preacher in order to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, or will I focus on what I don’t like about God’s servant and fail to receive God’s Word?
14. Am I prepared to be a “doer” of the Word, or will I content myself in being a mere “hearer” of it, and so deceive myself?
15. Have I confessed and dealt with known sin in my life in order to receive the Word with all meekness and humility, or will I foolishly sit under the exposition of God’s Word with a clouded mind, an uncultivated heart, and a partially seared conscience?
16. In light of the parable of the sower, will I hear God’s Word with an impenetrable heart, a shallow heart, a distracted heart, or a well-prepared and softened heart?
17. What measures am I going to take to make sure that I don’t forget the main point of the sermon (which should be the main point of the passage of Scripture)?
18. Am I prepared to give God my best attention and to ensure that I get a good night’s rest on Saturday so that I can be attentive on Sunday morning, or will I go to bed late after hanging out with friends (“friends don’t let friends show up to church tired”), watching television, binging on Netflix, browsing the Internet, or scrolling on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and/or Instagram?
19. Do I approach this sacred experience with the sense of anticipation, expectation, and determination that we read about in Isaiah 2:3?
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. (Isaiah 2:3)
Note the expectation of the people: “that He may teach us His ways.” Note also their determination: “that we may walk in His paths.” It’s very clear that they ascend the mountain expecting something. Their minds are prepared. Their hearts are eager.
There is an expectation to hear from God and a determination to respond to God.
Though we may not adopt everything that came out of the Puritan era, we would do well to adopt their high view of the Word of God. A simple glance at this period of church history will reveal that Puritan preachers actually preached sermons on how to listen to sermons. Why? Because they understood something of the awesome weightiness of assembling under the Spirit-empowered preaching of God’s Word.
Along with Martin Luther, the Puritans viewed the pulpit as the throne of the Word of God. They believed that preaching was the primary means of unleashing the light and heat of God’s saving and sanctifying Word. To them, the pulpit was where the Good Shepherd fed His sheep, where the Captain of salvation armed His soldiers, where the Great Physician performed His operations, where the Head addressed the Body, where the Bridegroom smiled upon His Bride, and where King Jesus refreshed weary pilgrims as they journeyed to His Celestial City.
Yet, this awesome view of assembling under the preaching of the Word did not arise from themselves. Their basis for their high view of gathering under the preaching of God’s Word arose from the pages of the Word itself. They caught something of the significance of Isaiah 55:2-3:
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…
Our souls eat and find delight by listening to our God. We come to Him by inclining our ear to Him. We live and flourish when we hear Him speak. This does not mean that God speaks to His people solely through preaching. However, in light of the New Testament, the primary place of equipping, arming, nourishing, growing, maturing, edifying, unifying, instructing, and fortifying is in the context of the local church where faithful pastors and shepherds are faithfully preaching the Word of God. Therefore,
Take care then how you hear. (Luke 8:18)
Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured? . . . Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.