Hearers and Doers

May 01, 2024

Hearers and Doers

James 1:22 says, be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. And from this verse we learn; we must not only take in the Word but obey it. However, we can’t do that if we don’t listen to Scripture’s message. We must be good hearers before we can be good doers. And the need to be good hearers was reinforced last Sunday. 1 Peter 5:8—Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour. Satan is at work to snatch the good seed of the Word from our hearts, that we might not benefit from it (Mark 4:15). He wants to destroy marriages, hurt families, tear apart churches, and ruin lives. How do we combat him? Be vigilant. Be firm in the faith. Be confident in the Lord. Be a worshipper of God. And be a good hearer of the Word. Give attention to the right preaching, teaching, and reading of Scripture.

What does being a good hearer entail? Christopher Ash provides a practical guide to listening to sermons in his excellent little book Listen Up! In it he gives “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening.” I only mention 4 of them. 1) Expect God to speak. If the Lord’s Word is being faithfully opened, we are to faithfully give attention to it, knowing God will minister to our souls. 2) Admit God knows best. Scripture is the final authority for our lives. As it is rightly heralded, we are to have a submissive posture, even when it makes us uncomfortable. “Faithful Bible teaching will always cause offense.” Our perspective is to be, “God is God and I need to change.”

  1. Check that the preacher is saying what the passage says. Be a ‘good Berean,’ “examining the Scriptures” to see if what the pastor proclaims is biblical (Acts 17:11). Know thy Bible. 4) Hear the sermon in the church. There are certainly times when we can’t do that, but our normal diet of sermon intake needs to be with God’s people. “There is no such thing as a virtual church.” The Bible has no category for it. We are shaped by and accountable to the preached Word together. Being at church will help us hear the sermon well.

There is no question that other things can help us be good hearers. On Saturday night, we can ask the Lord to help us to humbly receive the preaching and benefit from it for repentance and greater faith in Christ. We can get a good night’s sleep, so that we are less likely to nod off. We can take notes and then review those notes throughout the week. As the Puritans would say, we can improve upon the sermon, by meditating on it and then applying it to our lives. To you personally, if the sermon is dull or not up to theological snuff, don’t plan how you will have ‘roast preacher’ for lunch. Plead with God to help you hold onto one important truth for your life. Benefit where you can, and humbly pray for the preacher. We are to be doers of the Word, but that starts with hearing. May the Lord help us to be good hearers.

—Pastor Clif