I don’t know if it’s all preachers that get sheepish around the recitation of the explanation of the 3rd commandment, but I sure do:
What is the 3rd Commandment?
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
“We do not despise preaching” . . . . Well, it feels almost self serving for a preacher to ask you to recite that explanation. However, it isn’t my own explanation, and it is something that is an especially hard commandment for us preachers to follow. I have written before about how I do try to listen to my own sermons, and sometimes, amazingly, the Holy Spirit uses my own words to both convict me of my sin and to increase my assurance in faith of God’s promises for me. But in addition to that, I listen to a select group of preachers throughout the week. On top of that, because I am a preacher, I get invited to church services where I have to/get to listen to other preachers.
All of this is to say that I am no stranger to listening to sermons, I have probably listened to more than most people, and I have probably struggled in some of the same ways that you have concerning them. This is how I tend to despise preaching:
- I despise the “same old” preaching – I’ve been listening to sermons for a while, and I will sometimes play “name that tune” with a sermon, assuming that I know where the sermon is going, and then feeling especially haughty if I get it right.
- I despise “uninteresting” preaching – I think especially because I know a lot of the theological concepts already, I am a big critic of theological lectures that don’t attempt to connect my interest.
- I despise “practical” preaching – Don’t get me wrong, I think sermons should contextualize God’s Word to our place and time. What I don’t like is the “practical” preaching in which the preacher gives me the seven steps that he took to solve a particular problem – because the assumption is that my problem is the same as his, which is often not the case.
But calls me to NOT despise preaching, specifically because it is God’s Word being proclaimed. Because of that, I have to use a few correctives on my attitudes about sermons to keep me from despising that which I should hold sacred:
- God’s truths are timeless, and because of that, some of the “same old” preaching is going to come up. I dare not think that I’m too sophisticated for God’s messages (even, or perhaps especially, the repeated ones).
- God’s truth is interesting in and of itself. If I think something about God’s truth is “uninteresting” perhaps I should consider why I’m listening to the sermon. Is it for my entertainment or my formation?
- God’s truth is practical, and sometimes the step-by-step fits my life better than what I think it will. God doesn’t always work in ways that seem super spiritual to us, sometimes, it seems like a slog. I’ve been impressed when I have actually put aside my own priorities and followed the step-by-step discipleship instructions I’ve heard from some preachers.
All of this isn’t to say that you need to take my word for it. Explore your own heart and soul the next time that you’re tempted to despise preaching or God’s word. What is going on in there? What are your reasons for despising? What don’t you like? Why not? And how might God be arguing for you to listen to that preacher or that message? How might He be challenging you to gladly hear and learn His Word?
And if He is, He is inviting you to find enjoyment in that preaching. He wants preaching to be something that speaks into your soul, something that makes you glad. Could we ever get to a place where we say, “I can’t wait for the preaching to come”? Maybe, and maybe it has more to do with us and our ears than it does with the preachers we’ve been listening to.