Several Things On My Mind

There probably isn’t a Sunday that goes by where I don’t enter the pulpit to preach without some trepidation. Think about it: it’s not that I’m scared to speak in front of a crowd of people. It’s not that I have nothing to say. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I do have something to say and it is from God.

No, I don’t claim ecstatic revelations and secret prophetic messages. I simply know that when I open up God’s Word and preach from it, it is God who is speaking and it is His Word that is being heard.

This means I take James 3.1 very seriously: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Join that with 2 Corinthians 5.10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” and 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” and you’ll understand why I might experience a measure of “holy anxiety” when preparing to preach.

But I wonder if those who sit under preaching (not just mine, but any true proclamation of God’s Word) take their role as listeners as seriously? Do they enter into the sanctuary with any fear at all? Do they sense the gravity this situation calls for? How well do they prepare themselves before they come to listen to the preaching of God’s Word?

Tim Challies had a post a while back in which he listed three quotes from some good, ol’ Puritan preachers regarding how a person should listen to sermons. Here are the quotes:

Richard Baxter:
Remember that all these…sermons must be reviewed, and you must answer for all that you have heard, whether you heard it…with diligent attention or with carelessness; and the word which you hear shall judge you at the last day. Hear therefore as those that are going to judgment to give account of their hearing and obeying.

Thomas Watson:
You must give an account for every sermon you hear….The judge to whom we must give an account is God…how should we observe every word preached, remembering the account! Let all this make us shake off distraction and drowsiness in hearing, and have our ears chained to the word.

David Clarkson:
At the day of judgment, an account of every sermon will be required, and of every truth in each sermon….The books will be opened, all the sermons mentioned which you have heard, and a particular account required, why you imprisoned such a truth revealed, why you committed such a sin threatened, why neglected such duties enjoined….Oh what a fearful account!

I pray you’ll come well prepared on each Lord’s Day, prayed up for your pastor and prayed up for yourself.

(HT: Challies.com)


Yet I don’t wish that any believer would read this and think, “I can’t do it. I can’t listen like that. I’ll never be prepared enough. How can I go on?” I’m not Moses, coming down off Sinai with the tablets in my arms, ready to club you over the head with Law. There is no “no more… or else” here. Read this, from Of First Importance:

“What is the curse of the law [Gal. 3:13]? It is the or-else-ness of the law: ‘Do this, or else.’ Christ took the or-else-ness of the law onto himself at the cross, so that there is no more or-else for anyone in Christ, as God looks upon us now. Or-else is gone forever from your relationship with God.”

– Ray Ortlund “Christ is Deeper Still” blog post Jan. 13, 2010

Rejoice that God is gracious to let us hear His Word proclaimed. Then prepare yourself well to hear it and receive it.

(HT: Of First Importance)


I’m really hoping this is a perspicuous post for I’d be very disappointed to learn otherwise. And, just in case you’re wondering, this word is apposite to the situation*


And finally, here’s why I believe preaching to be up such great importance (not necessarily mine, of course; although I pray that our congregation finds the preaching absolutely necessary to their lives):


* I wonder who got a Word-A-Day calendar this year?

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