When you’re searching for a church, you often put a great deal of emphasis upon the way in which the pastor preaches God’s word. This is a very important part of the way the church functions and will tell you much about the health of the church. However, that’s not the only important aspect about the Lord’s Day sermon that matters. The way in which the church engages with the sermon will tell you much about the health of that local church. Consider the importance of receiving the word of God preached week-by-week.
Engage with a Worshipful Heart
When we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we are not entering a time of biblical academics. This is true for the pastor preaching and church who receives the preached word. We are not gathering together for academic purposes. We are gathering to worship a thrice holy God. While we may gather knowledge and learn things about our God in the process, which is an aspect of worship, the main goal is to worship our triune God in spirit and truth.
Far too often, Christians search for a church that makes them feel a certain way through the music and singing. While we know this is a wrong motive to avoid, how many others search for a church where they can have a certain feeling from the preaching too? As the Psalmist writes, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness” (Ps. 29:2). We must engage in the preaching with the goal of worship.
Our goal in worship is not to receive a certain feeling or joyful experience, but rather to ascribe glory to the LORD. Furthermore, when we consider the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 96:9, it puts worship in a sobering category. He writes, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” In other words, worship is not about me and my feelings. It’s about God and his glory. How much of our shallow and man-centered worship services would be dramatically altered on the next Lord’s Day if we took this verse seriously.
Engage with a Discerning Ear
When we consider the size of many false churches who are led by false teachers, we are reminded of the importance of being able to discern truth from error. Even more important is the ability to discern truth from “almost truth.” We must be on guard so that we are not carried about by every wind of doctrine and deceitful scheme of man (Eph. 4:14). Far too often heretics alter truth just enough to where it sounds biblical, but it’s just off point enough to be a damning error.
As we engage with a preached sermon, we must listen to the biblical text read, expounded, explained, illustrated, and applied to the modern audience without distorting the truth that was communicated to the original audience. The discerning ear listens for biblical fidelity and ensures that what is being preached is not the opinions of a man but is indeed the word of God. Consider the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:6-10).
When we take Paul’s words to the Ephesians as well as to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, it’s essential that we are growing in our faith so that we are able to discern between the deceitful schemes and twisted doctrines of false teachers. Paul warns:
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears (Acts 20:29-31).
Engage with a Submissive Spirit
One key aspect to the weekly worship of God is a submissive spirit. A prideful posture that refuses to bend to align the human will with the will of God that is clearly revealed to us in the pages of Scripture is beyond stubborn—it’s sinful and rebellious.
One of the critical mistakes that people make while engaging with a sermon is to be thinking of everyone else that this text addresses rather than considering how the text must be brought to bear upon one’s own heart and soul. Long before we think horizontally about the application of a biblical text in the lives of our fellow church members, we must first look internally to our own heart and devotion to God.
When the sermon is being preached, it is not our duty to bow to the authority of the preacher. We must always remember that the preacher has no authority beyond what the Bible says. We must submit to the preaching of pastors so long as they are preaching faithfully the sacred text. Consider the words of Hebrews 13:17:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Such obedience to leaders and submission to their authority is directly connected to the authority of God’s word. It’s not the preacher’s title or his eldership that possesses authority worthy of submission. It’s the Scriptures that he weekly engages, studies, and proclaims with authority.
It was John Calvin who stated the following:
Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.
When we hear the Scriptures rightly preached, we must hear the words of God thundering from heaven. It’s our duty to obey. While we must put emphasis on the right preaching of the word and be certain that pastors are rightly dividing the word of truth—the congregation has a responsibility to be rightly listening, receiving, and engaging with the word that is being proclaimed. When the pastor is preaching and the church is receiving the riches of God’s holy word—there is a beautiful engagement of worship that brings God glory among his people on a week-by-week basis. Never underestimate the value of rightly engaging in the preached word.