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TEXT: Revelation 1:3
SUBJECT: Watson on Reading and Hearing the Word #3
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll move on in the study we began a couple of weeks ago. It's called Thomas Watson on Reading and Hearing the Word of God.
So far, we've at three main points:
Are you doing these things? Did you pay attention to last Sunday's sermon? Did you come tonight hungering for the Word? Are you willing to submit to the Word-even though the one preaching it is not worthy of it? These are things we need to do-not just read about, think over, or preach on, but to do!
I am far from a great preacher, but I preach a very great Word! It will do you good, if you listen to it. What the Lord said of His spoken Word applies to all faithful preaching,
"Take heed to how you hear".
If you want to be a better hearer of God's Word, you have to remember what you have heard. Watson says
"Be not only attentive in hearing, but retentive after hearing. `We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest we let them slip'. If the ground retain not the seed that is sown in it, there can be no good crop. Some have memories like leaking vessels: the sermons they hear are presently gone and there is no good done. If meat does not stay in the stomach and digest, it will not nourish. Satan labors to steal the Word out of the mind. Our memories should be like the chest of the Ark where the Law was put".
Remember the sermon! This is the hardest thing Watson says. If it was hard for people of his day, it is much harder for you and me. In 1438, the Gutenberg's invented movable type and made books available to just about anyone. This seems like a good thing-and it is-but not only good. For owning a book-especially the Bible-means you don't have to memorize it! Why should you? You can always look it up!
It's hard for us to believe, but the great books of antiquity-like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid existed for hundreds of years before they were written down! People memorized 600 pages of non-rhyming poetry! Illiterate people!
And though God's Word was put into a Book far earlier than these, we have to remember, Moses was the first man to put it down on paper-Moses! Do you understand what I'm saying? I'm saying people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and many others, had the Word of God nowhere but in their head!
Ancient minds were good at remembering things. They had to be, for there was no other way of retaining them.
We, on the other hand, don't have much need for memory-we think! What the printing press started more than five hundred years ago, TV and the Internet have pretty well completed in the last fifty years or so-they have wiped out our power to remember things.
So, how do we remember the sermons we hear? That's easy-we order the tapes and leave them in the glove compartment for a year or two! No, that's not what we do.
I don't know how to revive the fine art of memory. I suspect it's something adult cannot do. There is hope for young children-perhaps-but for the rest of us? I don't know.
We have to start somewhere. Try to remember one point of the sermon. Turn it over in your mind, meditate on it, pray over it, talk about it, and God give you memory you need.
To help you retain snatches of the sermon, maybe, keep one thing in mind: what you're remembering. It's not just names and dates, and places, but the Word of God! Watson compares the Word to seed-but seed taken out of the ground will not produce anything. It's like water-but water poured into a leaky pitcher won't quench your thirst. It's like meat-but meat that passes right through you, will not nourish. If we loved the Word of God more, we'd remember it better. Maybe we couldn't recite a whole sermon (as people often did in the past), but we'd keep some of it-and some of it is far better than none of it.
The Puritans are sometimes accused of being too clever in their sermons-rhyming things and so on. Watson does it himself-"Be not only attentive, but retentive". But they weren't aiming at cleverness, but saying things in a way that you'd remember. Because they knew how important remembering the sermon is to profiting from the Word.
TALK ABOUT IT
The second thing he wants us to do is talk about the sermon after church.
"If you would have the Word made effectual, discourse on what you have heard when you come home. One reason some people get no more good out of what they hear is that they never speak to one another of what they have heard-as if sermons were so secret that they must not be spoken of again; or as if it were a shame to speak of matters of salvation".
Talking about a sermon is a good way of taking it in. Maybe you misunderstood one part and your husband can set you right on it. Or, maybe the preacher made a good point, but your wife can add a lot to what he said. Or, maybe the sermon was wrong at some point, and the parents can teach their kids better. Discussing a sermon is good for you!
But-let's be clear-talking about a sermon is not the same as passing judgment on the preacher. I know a pastor who was having a lot of trouble with his church. One Sunday night, he opened the floor to anyone who wanted to complain about his preaching. His motive was good, but his judgment wasn't. One bad word led to another and another until finally-that very night-he was fired! He's a sincere man and a fairly good preacher, though he needed some experience at the time.
Talking about the sermon is not the same as talking about the preacher-especially what you don't like about him (and there's plenty not to alike about every preacher, including me). Roast Pastor is not a good Sunday lunch. But marinated sermon is.
I knew a Calvinist pastor (who's now with the Lord) who would not sit down for lunch until his son told him what the sermon was about. The boy wasn't the best listener in the world, but he was smart! When his father asked him before Sunday lunch, "What did I preach about today, Son?" The boy would always reply, "The sovereignty of God". Though his dad wasn't too crazy about the same answer every week, he had to admit that was what he talked about!
If you want to be a better listener to God's Word, pray about it.
"Beg of God that He will accompany His Word with His presence and blessing. The Spirit must make all effectual. Ministers may prescribe the medicine, but God gives the cure. `While Peter yet spoke, the Holy Spirit fell on all them who heard'".
I hope I don't need to labor this point. When it comes to good hearing of the Word, I suspect we often "have not because we ask not". Did you pray tonight for a good hearing of God's Word? Did it even occur to you?
Remember, the sermon is made up of two parts: preaching and hearing-and both parts are equally important! A sermon preached in an empty room does no good at all. A church full of people without a Word from God is a waste. This means: you ought to pray for the sermon as fervently as if.you were going to preach it! If you were up here tonight, you think it might cross you mind to ask God to bless you? I bet it would! Pray just as hard to hear the Word as to preach it!
Finally, if you want to hear the Word of God better than you do, start obeying it.
"Reduce your sermons to practice. Live by the sermons you hear".
The goal of hearing the Word is not hearing the Word, but doing it! Sermons will become very dear to you when you start obeying them. For then, you'll see their true value-not moral uplift two or three times a week, not a way to justify the pastor's salary-nothing like that! No, sermons put into practice will bring you great joy, much comfort, and usefulness.
SUMMARY AND CHALLENGE
Every person in this room tonight hears the Word of God-and that's good. But hearing the sound is not the same as hearing the Word. Good hearing demands: talking about the sermon, remembering the sermon, praying over the sermon, and-most of all-doing the sermon.
This is what sermons aim for. May God give us a bullseye, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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