Expository Listening, Ken Ramey (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010)
Unfortunately, our generation is full of lazy listeners. The information age has bombarded us with a cacophony of informative interruptions. Information is packaged as entertainment now. Heck, Neil Postman lamented about the news no longer being the news back in 1985. With all the information available to us on the internet and other media, we have become scanners instead of readers –impatient to reflection (congratulations for making it this far in my article without clicking to another blog!). We have become sound-bite consumers.
This makes it very hard for the church service. Faithful pastors are challenged with how to accommodate their message to their specific congregation without succumbing to the world’s faulty methods. They will be judged on how they fulfill their calling in proclaiming God’s Word and shepherding their flock.
But what is the responsibility of the listener? It seems even more of a struggle in our cultural environment to be active listeners. Do we properly consider what we are subjecting ourselves to as we sit under the Word of God? It isn’t just a blog article or news blurb. It is The News, The Great News of the gospel of Jesus Christ (if you are under good preaching). God’s Word tells us that it will not return to him void (Isaiah 55:11). Something happens in our hearts as the word falls upon them—they soften or harden. Ramey gives illustration, “It’s been said that the same sun that melts butter hardens clay” (98).
One thing is for sure: an active listener needs to know their Bible. We must compare the pastor’s words with Scripture. It is the listener’s responsibility to discern whether they are actually hearing the Word of God. Luke applauded the Bereans for receiving the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11), and Christ himself told us that the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd (John 10:27).
Our minds are prone to wander. Listening is an active discipline. Martha didn’t think so (Luke 10:40-42), but Mary had chosen the better portion. The thing is, the information blitz that we get throughout the week is not satisfying. We end up making ourselves sick from drinking soda all week and yet our thirst has never been quenched. We need the beverage with no caramel coloring and corn syrups. We need natural ingredients–the real deal. Yet we train our tongues to crave junk. We’re always thirsty and we just don’t get it. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). Do we come to hear God’s Word on Sunday morning recognizing our thirst? Then I don’t think we’ll have any problem listening. Let’s be like this woman, who asks for this good water. Let us be like those in Antioch, after hearing Paul preach Christ. As Paul and Barnabas “went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42).