Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How To Respond to a Sermon

Leslie Basham: The believers you read about in the New Testament didn’t relegate their spiritual lives to one hour on Sunday morning. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: They’re taking this seriously. This is serious church. This is kind of fanatical really, when you compare it to the way we go to church today. We do our little thing, 11:00 to 12:00; that’s my tip at God, my nod to God, doing my church thing.

These people took this seriously. This was the core of their lives, the core of their week. It was their life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 19th. How many great sermons have you heard in your life? Actually, the more important question is: How many sermons have you put into practice?

No matter how eloquent, moving, or truthful a sermon is, it won’t do much good if it doesn’t affect your life. Nancy will help us put more of the truth into practice as she continues in a series called How to Listen to a Sermon.

Nancy: Well, we’ve been talking all this week about how to get the most out of a sermon, how to listen to your pastor’s preaching, I trust that the things we’ve shared are going to help prepare your heart as you get ready to worship with God’s people this coming Lord’s Day.

We talked about how to prepare our hearts with the preaching of the Word. We talked about how to actually listen to a sermon, how to go to church, and how to participate in the service.

But I want to focus today on what I think is really an important part of listening to a sermon, and that is what you do after the sermon’s over—the importance of responding to the Word we have heard proclaimed.

First of all, just practically, I encourage you to ask God as you’re listening to a sermon this coming Lord’s Day to give you at least one takeaway from the message, maybe a key phrase, maybe a verse that you can take with you and review throughout the week. Jot it down so you don’t forget it. It’s amazing how well our forgetters work.

I’ve experienced this, as I’m sure you have, that by Sunday evening sometimes, I can hardly remember what it was I heard just hours earlier. That’s because we leave church and immediately we’ve got the world pumping itself into our system.

We’re reading books and magazines, and TV programs and radio programs, and talking to people, and we leave church and we just forget what we just heard. So jot down something you want to take with you and review throughout the week.

Then when the service ends . . . now, I know people do this differently, and church services end differently, but I want to encourage you at the close of a service not to be too quick to jump into conversation that doesn’t relate to what you just heard.

As you have opportunity, talk with the people around you; take some time to talk about what you just heard. If you just hear something, you’re going to remember a small percentage of it. If you write down notes about what you’re hearing, you’ll remember more. If you tell somebody else about it afterwards, you’ll remember a whole lot more.

Which, by the way, is one of the reasons I love my job, because I not only get to study the Word and hear it taught, but I have the responsibility day after day of sharing it with others. I get the biggest blessing out of that. It helps me keep in my heart the things I’ve studied when I get to share them with you.

So, you be a teacher. You be a reproducer. Share with others how God has spoken to you. Don’t be afraid to be honest. That’s a novel concept for church. Be honest? Yes!

If you’re under conviction, if God has pointed out something in your heart and if you’ve asked Him to, then don’t be afraid to turn someone else and say, “You know, God really spoke to me this morning about ____.”

It may not even have been something that the minister specifically said in his message, but the Holy Spirit made an application to your heart.

Moms (and I know we have some dads who listen to Revive Our Hearts), this is a great way to disciple your kids from the time they’re little, is for them to hear you humbly saying, after you hear a message—instead of critiquing a message, the way the guy spoke, the way he didn’t speak, how boring he was—if they could hear you talk instead about what you heard.

Moms, don’t you wish your teenagers had humble and receptive hearts to the Truth? Are they seeing that modeled in you? Do they hear you say, “God spoke to me this morning”?

“I realize that in our home, the way I’ve been talking isn’t consistent with what God’s Word says. Would you please forgive me?”

Those are amazing words. What would that do to the climate in your home, as your kids hear you humbling yourself and responding to the Word of God?

If we’re too quick to jump into meaningless conversation about the game the night before or the game that’s coming up that day or the television program we just saw or the movie we just saw, what we may do is to abort the work of the Holy Spirit in our own heart or other people’s hearts—the conviction of the Spirit, the work of the Spirit.

So be sensitive as the service ends to what God is saying, to what God is doing in the people of God who come together. Look for opportunities to share with others, and while it’s still fresh on your mind, be discussing it with others.

Then, as you leave the service and the days following, be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. It’s not enough to hear it, not enough to tell someone else about it, but the real test of how you heard that sermon comes when you get home.

It comes Monday morning when you’re at work. It comes Tuesday night when your family’s in the middle of a big argument. That’s what the first thing in your mind needs to be: what you heard Sunday morning, applying it through the week to real-life, everyday circumstances and situations.

Letting it change the way that you think, the way that you respond, the way that you are as a child of God—not just a hearer of the Word, but a doer.

James 1:21 says, “Get rid of all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness [humbly accept] the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The Word of God transforms us, but we have to receive it with humility. Then James says, in verse 22, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (NKJV).

If I hear the Word of God, whether it’s in my own personal quiet time . . . when you go to church, when you go to a Bible study . . . every time you hear the Word of God proclaimed and you let it go in your ears but you leave the place and don’t do anything about what you’ve heard, the Scripture says you are self-deceived. You’re lying to yourself.

You’re getting something in your head that’s not in your life. That’s hypocrisy. We don’t like to see it in others, but we’re really quick to excuse it in ourselves. The danger is that I would hear more than I am living.

I quoted earlier in this series from E. M. Bounds. He says, “A good hearer is a doer of the word. His weekday life is an application and reproduction of the last Sabbath sermon, and this gives him good readiness for the good next hearing” (page 226).

If I’ve been applying what I heard in the last sermon, it’s preparing my heart to listen to the next one. It’s like when I had piano lessons growing up. I was a piano major in college, and I’d had years and years of piano lessons, and I would go and take my lesson. My teacher would teach me what I needed to know.

But there’s only one way I really learned what I learned in that lesson. And what is that? Go home and practice—those scales, those chords, the hard parts of that music—over and over and over again. That’s how you really learn something. That’s how you get it.

God spoke to his servant Ezekiel, a prophet in the Old Testament, and He said, “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.” They come to church, they do it consistently. They come and listen to you, they sit in front of you, they listen to your words, but they don’t do anything about it.

“With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you [Ezekiel the preacher] are nothing more than one who sings loves songs with the beautiful voice and plays an instrument well” (Ezekiel 33:31-32 NIV).

He’s saying, people leave the service and they say, “Oh, wasn’t that a lovely sermon! You preached so beautifully, Pastor. That was just a great sermon. He is so eloquent. He’s such a great preacher. He’s so entertaining. He’s so interesting to listen to.” They make compliments on the sermon, but they hear Your words but do not put them into practice.

Listen, the most beautifully crafted, the most incredibly delivered sermon is useless if you don’t do something about what you just heard.

In the last session we looked at Nehemiah, chapter 8. We looked at the first 12 verses. I want us to pick up in that account and see what happed after that incredible worship service we read about yesterday, where the people stood and listened to the Word being preached for six hours. Talk about a long service! Talk about hungry hearts!

Look what happened after that. Nehemiah 8:13-14:

On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month.

That’s the Feast of Tabernacles. That’s when they were meeting, in the seventh month. They read the Word of the Lord, and they found that every seventh month of the year “we’re supposed to celebrate this Feast of Tabernacles by building booths and living in them during this feast. We haven’t read that for years. We haven’t been doing that.”

They heard the Word of God. They saw what they were doing that wasn’t consistent with the Word of God. So what do they do? Verse 16:

So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.

I mean, they didn’t just go half way. They went all the way out to obey the Lord. “God wants booths. He wants us to live in them.” They didn’t ask why. They didn’t say, “That’s old fashioned!” They didn’t say, “That doesn’t apply to today.” They went out and made booths and they put them everywhere. Verse 17:

And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.

We come to our church services, and we want the band to make us happy. No, that’s not what’s going to make you happy. What’s going to make you happy is hearing the Word of God and doing it. That’s what brings joy. “Very great rejoicing.” You shouldn’t have to leave church sad.

Oh, you may leave sad, but once you obey what God has said, once you’ve repented, once you’ve said “Yes, Lord,” once you’ve applied the Word to your life, the sadness will go and joy will come.

Verse 18, “And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God.”

This was an eight-day feast, if I recall correctly. Day after day they gathered to hear the Word of God. They couldn’t get enough of it. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

So we have here corporate listening to the Word, the people of God coming together to hear the Word of God.

Then we have, as we saw yesterday, corporate repentance. They wept as they listened to the Law, because they saw that they had disobeyed it.

Then we see today corporate obedience. They went out and did what God said to do.

Then we have corporate joy—great rejoicing!

That kind of joy and excitement and enthusiasm cannot be manufactured. You can’t pump it up. Oh, you can try, but it will be short lived. But when it’s joy that’s produced from inwardly responding and saying, “Yes, Lord!” that’s unquenchable joy!

The people of God ought to be the most joyful people on earth. Our places of worship ought to be joy and celebration, and they will be when they become places of listening to and responding to the Word of God.

Just imagine if the people of God in your church and mine and in churches all across this country not only came to church, not only listened outwardly to the preaching of the Word, but actually received and went home to obey what we heard in church on Sunday.

Can you imagine the impact in the community when the people of God . . . we study about forgiveness on Sunday, and the people of God go out into the community on Monday to actually be forgivers? When the people in the world see that, they will stop and take notice. They’ll say, “This thing is real!”

Otherwise they look and they say, “They’re just like us, except they go to church on Sunday. Why, I’d rather sleep in on Sunday.” That’s what the world is thinking because they’re not seeing in us something that makes them hungry to have what we have.

By the way, sixteen days later after this moving of God’s Spirit among His people, the people were back at it again. Look at the very next verse. Nehemiah chapter 9, verses 1-3:

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God.

They’re taking this seriously. This is serious church. This is fanatical really, when you compare it to the way we go to church today. We do our little thing, 11:00 to 12:00; that’s my tip at God, my nod to God, doing my church thing.

These people took this seriously. This was the core of their lives, the core of their week. It was their life.

God’s Word is your life. Some of us are spiritually emaciated, pathetic, and malnourished because we haven’t been giving true attention to the Word of God. In our public and corporate worship, we go through the motions but we’re not seeing this kind of responsiveness to the Word of God.

So for a quarter of the day—that’s three hours, in the way their clock was set up—for three hours they read from the Word of God. They listened to it. For another three hours, they responded. How? In confession and worship! Notice the order: First confession, then worship.

When you’ve confessed your sins that you’ve been convicted of and God shows mercy to you, then you’ve got something to worship about. At the end of this, the people made a national covenant to obey God.

In the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, the author reflects back on the Children of Israel in an earlier period in the Old Testament, He says the message they heard in those days was of no value to them. Some of your translations say, it did not profit them.

Why? Because those who heard it did not combine it with faith. They didn’t believe it! And how do you know if you really believed what you heard? You do it! You obey it!

Ladies, young women, you can hear God’s Word until you’re blue in the face. You can go to church every Sunday of your life. Some of you don’t have a choice, you have to be there. Some of you don’t have a choice about being in Christian school, you have to be there.

But I’m telling you, you do have a choice about how you listen to the Word of God. You can hear the Word of God Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, day after day after day, and it will be of absolutely no value to you if you don’t respond to it with faith and obedience.

So, as we try to do each day on Revive Our Hearts, let’s make it personal. Let me ask you some questions, and you just respond in your heart.

Do you have a commitment to obey anything God shows you from His Word? That is, do you act on the Word that you’ve heard?

Is your heart good soil that receives the Word and produces fruit? Are you willing to let the message that you hear sit in judgment of you rather than you sitting in judgment of the message?

I’m telling you, there’s something very wrong with the way we go to church today to critique the minister, to critique the message, to tear it apart, to pick it apart, to evaluate it. The message is supposed to evaluate us.

I have heard some really bad preaching. By that I mean some ministers who were maybe not gifted communicators and could really put somebody to sleep.

But if your heart is prepared and you are listening to the Word of God, letting God speak to you, you won’t be able to fall asleep. Especially if you got to bed on time the night before so you can stay awake. That’s why we say you have to prepare your heart on Saturday night for Sunday morning.

But if you hear the Word of God preached, even if it’s by somebody who’s very simple or not an eloquent communicator . . . I let the Word of God evaluate my life. I humble myself. I sit under the preaching of the Word of God, and I sit in a submissive spirit.

The Scripture says, “Let a woman learn . . . with all submission” (1 Timothy 2:11 NKJV). That means we’re supposed to learn the Word of God. We’re supposed to hear it.

But what’s our heart attitude when we hear it? It’s one of submission—submission to the Word of God. Do you take the message personally? Or do you tend to think about how it applies to the people sitting near you?

“Boy, I sure hope my husband’s listening to this! Oh, my sixteen-year-old, she . . .” Listen, and you give that mother’s eye down the row to your teenager: “You need to hear this!”

Now, pray for your teens, pray for your husband, pray for little ones, pray for others who are listening to the message. But first, make sure you’re listening to the message for you. Do you take it personally? Do you pass on to others what you’ve learned from the Word of God?

Are you quick to respond in humility and obedience when the light of God’s Word exposes spiritual need or darkness in your life, as the children of Israel did in the days of Nehemiah?

Let me throw this one in since it’s Pastor Appreciation Month; it’s a good time to mention it. Do you express appreciation and gratitude for those who minister the Word of God to you?

If you haven’t done so recently, it would be a good time for you to write a note to your pastor or to your Sunday School teacher or somebody that teaches a Bible study class that you’re in and say, “Thank you for the time that you take to prepare these spiritual meals for us. God has been speaking to me through your ministry, and I just want you to know how grateful I am, how much I appreciate it.”

I try to do that on a regular basis—periodically, at least—for those who are ministering the Word of God to me, to say thank you. I know this takes time. I know it takes work. Believe me, I know, and I thank them. I appreciate it.

We have, by the way, through Revive Our Hearts a Pastor’s Wife’s Appreciation pack so you can express appreciation not just to your pastor but to your pastor’s wife, because she’s making sacrifices as well as he is, serving and ministering to the congregation.

We’ll tell you more about how you can get that, but I want to just encourage you to be expressing gratitude and appreciation to those who minister God’s Word to you.

Do you know the best way you can do that? By being a responsive hearer! So that they can look out in the congregation and with joy they can think about that person and that person and that person and that person who is responding to the Lord and their life is being changed as a result of their ministry.

I know as a teacher, when I can look out and see faces of people who have said “Yes, Lord” to the Scripture I have taught, oh, that brings me such joy! It will bring you joy as you respond, “Yes, Lord.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us how to respond to a sermon. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard anyone speak on this topic before, and I’m glad someone helped me realize it’s my responsibility after a sermon is over.

Will you respond to Nancy’s message? You can do it in a couple of pretty easy ways.

First, write a note to your pastor thanking him for preaching the Word of God.

Second, plan a gift for your pastor’s wife during Pastor Appreciation Month, which will be over very soon.

You heard Nancy mention the Pastor’s Wife Gift Set that Revive Our Hearts has put together. It’s a convenient way to say thanks to your pastor’s wife with a book from Nancy, gourmet teas, a mug, and some other gifts. You can order this gift set when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com or call 800-569-5959.

When you contact us to order this gift, or for any other reason, we want to give you a gift, too. It’s the Revive Our Hearts 2007 wall calendar. Our listeners look forward to this free, uniquely designed calendar every year. This year’s theme is forgiveness. It features quotes from Nancy’s new book, by the same name.

You can ask for your free calendar, one free per household, by visiting our website or by calling 800-569-5959.

What discourages your pastor? What challenge does he face? You may not always see the struggles he goes through, but they’re there. A panel of pastors will talk honestly about the ways you can be an encouragement in your church. I hope you can join us tomorrow. Now let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, for the incredible privilege we have week after week, day after day, of sitting in church, in a Christian school, in a home school environment, in Bible studies, and listening to the Word of God. Lord, my heart goes out today . . . I’m thinking of people in parts of the world where, if they were to do that, they would have to fear what may happen to them from the government.

But it’s legal here. Lord, may You keep it legal. May You bless this nation with the continued freedom to read and listen to your Word.

But I’m afraid that if we don’t take advantage of what You’ve given to us, You could take it away from us. So Lord, help us to appreciate and treasure and value the privilege that it is to sit under the ministry of Your Word. May we sit not just as spectators but as participants, eagerly responding, saying, “Yes, Lord, I hear what You’re saying, and I’ve come here to obey.”

Change our lives, Lord, through the proclamation of Your Word. This coming Lord’s Day I pray that You would move and empower in might in pulpits and churches across this country, that You pour out Your Spirit as we listen to Your Word.

Oh Lord, may there be an outpouring of Your Spirit on those pastors as they preach and on our ears as we listen. Oh God, come and visit Your churches with Your presence! May we encounter You, and not just go to church and do business as usual, but may we go to church to be transformed and to see Your glory.

We pray it for Christ’s sake and for the sake of Your great kingdom, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

E. M. Bounds. Powerful and Prayful Pulpits.

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