Maintain a posture of humility and submission to the Word. We can easily get distracted or think, “I know this already!” when a common passage is preached. We are always under the authority of God’s Word and our focused listening and submission to His Word will serve as worship to our God. Apply truths from the message to yourself—and write them down. We don’t want to be top-heavy Christians–that is, have disproportionately big heads from Bible knowledge but a small body from not walking it out.
“Pay attention to what you hear.”
Those were Jesus’ words to his followers shortly after sharing the Parable of the Soils in Mark 4, a parable that explains the different results of Word proclamation.
In that parable, some hear the Word, only to have it snatched away by the devil. Others do not receive the Word due to tribulation on account of the Word or are choked out by daily life and the cares of this world. The ones who hear the Word and accept it are the only ones to bear fruit. As believers, we are to pay attention to what we hear so we can bear fruit of “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20).
How we listen to and receive the preached Word will greatly impact our Christian maturity and fruitfulness.
Jesus wants us to be active listeners—men and women who work hard at understanding God’s Word with their minds and applying it to their hearts. This truth can be applied in many different settings but perhaps none more obvious than from the pulpit on a Sunday morning.
On any given Sunday, there are countless distractions that can hinder a hearing and receiving of the Word: crying babies, a bad night’s sleep, thoughts from earlier in the day, or a short attention span. This is not to mention the spiritual war taking place as the Word is preached. That is why gospel proclamation is part of the armor of God (see Ephesians 6:15, 19). It advances the cause of God against the enemy.
How can we best listen to a sermon so we will receive the Word of God?
15 Practical Tips for Receiving the Word
1. Prepare your heart in prayer. Pray to have listening ears and that the Spirit would sow the Word into your heart. Confess your sin and examine yourself to see if any cares of the world might be choking out your desire to receive the Word and obey it (Mark 4:18-19).
2. Pray for the proclamation of the Word. Pray for your pastor to faithfully proclaim the Word in the Spirit’s power. Pray that the congregation would be challenged, instructed, and built up from the preaching of the Word.
3. Read the passage to be preached before the service starts. This is done preferably at home to set your mind on the eternal truth you will receive during the message. Humbly pray over the passage for the Spirit’s illumination and help applying it.
4. Prepare your mind and body for receiving the Word.
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By William Robfogel — 11 months ago
The Bible tells us, “So teach us to number our days … that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ESV), and Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Numbering our days is much more than keeping track of how many days we have lived or counting our birthdays. It is the reality of life’s shortness.
On Monday, January2, 2023, I started to watch the NFL game between Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills. In the first quarter a Buffalo player, defensive back Damar Hamlin, made a tackle and got right up afterwards. He immediately fell down again. There was nothing obvious in the tackle to cause an injury. For a while after that, according to the commentator, the medical people had to give him CPR to restore his heart beat. Today the Bills are saying he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field after making a tackle. Damar is just 24 years old.
Both teams were devastated and silence reigned in the stadium. Neither team wanted to continue the game and it was suspended. They were in shock.
The Commentator made a statement something to the effect that this incident was not about football, or a player being hurt, or, to some extent, even about Damar Hamlin. It was about life and death. He said it well. His statement is extremely true.
Here was a 24-year-old man – in the prime of life and doing just what he wanted to be doing – playing Professional Football. Then he was lying on the ground having CPR to revive him and keep him alive. I am sure that while all of the players and officials were concerned for Daman, they suddenly realized that it could be them in that situation. That realization brought about by the event that just happened is sure to cause most of us to face our own humanity and face the fact that we won’t live forever, in fact, we may not live a minute longer. That is a staggering thought.
Humanly speaking, death is final. Just what is after death? We can’t comprehend or fathom it. That realization brings us to a sudden stop. It’s no wonder that those on the field were unable to continue playing.
The Bible tells us, “So teach us to number our days … that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ESV), and Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Numbering our days is much more than keeping track of how many days we have lived or counting our birthdays. It is the reality of life’s shortness. As a youngster, we look at life and think, “I’ve got a long life ahead of me yet. I don’t need to think about death yet.” Actually, we have no idea of how many days we have to live. People die at different ages. Some are very young when they die Others live for many years. But what does 80 or 90 years look like when you consider the earth has been around for at least 4,000 years. What claim on life do we have for tomorrow. Even if all those at the Stadium in Cincinnati never outwardly considered the shortness of life and our lack of control over what may happen to us in just a few minutes, the knowledge of the shortness of our life span is built into us. Confrontation with death (or even near death) of ourselves or those near to us is absolutely overwhelming. It brings us face to face with the great fear that we have of dying. That is what happened last night.
We are called upon to number or consider our life span, the lack of control we have over our own life. We are told that “numbering” our days will “get us a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom tells us how to use whatever days we have in the proper way.
But what is wisdom? It is more than being knowledgeable. Many men of great knowledge lack wisdom. Some very unlearned people have great wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 tells us what the very beginning of wisdom is – the fear of the Lord. While fear includes being afraid, it is much more. The idea of fear includes holding that person as being so far beyond us that we are in utter awe of them. Such awe leads us to revere and worship that Person. And that reverence and awe leads us to desire to be like him or her. So, we seek Him/her.
Now, since God is a Spirit, and not flesh and blood as we are, He is impossible to know from our stand point. God had to make Himself known to us. He did that through His Word, the Bible that He caused to be written revealing himself to those whom He inspired to write it – and through taking on a flesh and blood body and living among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Since we cannot know Him in any other way, God had to reveal Himself first through the Prophets and their writing. But that wasn’t all he did. He also lived and experienced all that is man – including death.
That is the “beginning of wisdom.” Once God shows himself to us and convicts us of our need of salvation, he brings us into his presence and continues to teach us and to make us more and more like Him over the course of whatever length of life He gives us.
As part of that He removes the fear of death from our lives. After all, If Jesus was raised from the dead, and he promises us that He will not let death keep us from him, what do we have to fear?
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:28-39 ESV
Perhaps God has used the events of last night to show you your need of salvation. God has promised that everyone who calls upon His name shall be saved through Christ Jesus. Find an evangelical believer or pastor and talk with them about salvation.
Also, take to heart and believe each of these verses taken from Romans . They are from God’s Word and are God’s way to Salvation – your first step in wisdom (Look up the passage in the Bible and read the verses in context All passages are quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV)):
What then? Are we Jews[a] any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
William A Robfogel is a retired missionary living in Sebring, Fla.
By Kim Riddlebarger — 5 months ago
We should never glory in trials and persecutions, as though these were good things–they are not, especially when others commit acts of evil toward us, or belittle us because of our faith in Christ, or mock us because we refuse to indulge the sinful flesh as they do. Rather, in the midst of trials, we give glory to God, because Jesus has suffered for us and in our place to save us from our sins.
Peter’s Desire to Comfort His Readers
Peter’s purpose in writing this epistle is to comfort persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, many of whom who have been displaced from their homes because of a decree from the Roman emperor Claudius. Peter reminds them that despite their struggles, in God’s eyes, they are elect exiles, citizens of heaven, and when worshiping together they compose God’s spiritual house (the church), even as they sojourn upon the earth until the day of final judgment when God will dispense his covenant blessings and curses.
Through a lengthy series of imperatives (commands), Peter told these struggling Christians how they are to differentiate themselves from the Greco-Roman pagans around them–through their profession of faith in the Triune God who sent his Son to die for his people’s sins, and through their honorable conduct before the pagans. Christians are to think and live as God’s people. They must live a life of self control, in contrast to their pagan neighbors who live to indulge every urge of the sinful flesh.
But even if Christians do all of the things Peter exhorts them to do, they should not be surprised if their struggles continue and the persecution they face remains intense. As Peter has stated in verse 4 of chapter 4, the pagans “are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.” Evil-doers want nothing more than for professing Christians to join them in their self-indulgence. Having made this point in the first part of the chapter, Peter describes their troubles as a fiery trial, and a time of judgment. Yet, this is also a time in which God’s purposes will be realized, and through which these struggling Christians will grow in their faith.
We Should Not be Surprised by Trials
We conclude our time in chapter 4, as Peter acknowledges that his readers and hearers have been through very difficult times. So much so, that in verse 12, Peter writes, “beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Some commentators take Peter’s statement as a warning of an impending calamity, and that extending this warning is the reason why Peter sends this letter to Christians of the Diaspora in Asia Minor . On this reading, for those hearing/reading Peter’s letter, things have been bad, but they are about to get a whole lot worse. Peter is understood to be writing to warn them in advance so that his readers and hearers can prepare themselves for what is about to come.
Most commentators take the view–I think correctly–that verse 12 of chapter 4 begins a new section of the letter in which Peter is not warning of an impending trial, but is instead making the point that Christians must realize that professing faith in Christ, as they have been doing in the midst of a pagan culture, is itself a fiery trial . In fact, Peter made this point clear back in chapter 1 vv. 6-8 when he wrote, “for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
The Christians to whom Peter is writing are being put to the test. They are undergoing a fiery trial–yet a trial with an important purpose. The time of trial is difficult in itself, but such trials are much worse if they are random with no discernible purpose to them. Peter’s point is to remind the Christians of Asia Minor that the fiery trial they are currently experiencing has a purpose, and that keeping this in mind will help them endure their trying circumstances.
Trials Are Part of God’s Purpose for His People
Peter knows that Christians who expect the Christian life to be a bed of roses, and one in which everyone will love them and think it wonderful that they are believers in Jesus Christ, are being utterly naive. Being a Christian while living among the pagans is a fiery trial in its own right. As Peter has already stated, God allows these trials to test us, so as to refine our faith like a metal worker uses a furnace to purify and strengthen the metals with which he works. Therefore the trials facing the Christians of the Diaspora are not random acts of a universe out of control. Rather, these trials are sent by God (in the sense of God allowing them), to test these Christian’s faith, and to refine them to even greater purity (holiness). Christians should keep in mind that all such trials have a purpose.
This is why Peter can tell his readers that Christians should “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” There is no prosperity gospel taught by the Apostle Peter. Peter is convinced of the reality that suffering and trials are often part of life in a fallen world. As our Savior endured his trial, so must we.
Although no one wants to suffer–and Peter is not teaching a form of masochism (finding joy in pain and suffering), or the Eastern Orthodox notion that we are saved from our sins to the degree we suffer and are purified from them in this life (as in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov)–suffering is one of the means God uses to strengthen our faith. Let me put it this way. Do you tend to seek God more when times are good, or when things go bad? Do you tend to pray more during times of trial or uncertainty, or in good times? God is not being mean to us, or punishing us, when he allows us to suffer and endure trials. Because God is with us in such trials, he uses them to draw us to himself, and so that we learn over the course of our lives to trust him more and more for those promises which we cannot see. The consequence from enduring these trials is that we will appreciate the good times and blessings and give thanks for them with the same fervor with which we seek God when things go wrong. This is how trials strengthen faith and draw us close to God.
Peter is not alone in using language of fiery trial. John warns of the fiery trials to come upon Babylon (Rome) in Revelation 18. There the image of a fiery trial is one of God’s judgment upon unbelievers. But Peter instead is using the metaphor as in Proverbs 27:21, where we read, “the crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.” The refining fire draws out the dross and purifies us from the guilt and power of sin. This process increases our praise for God. The trials these Christians were experiencing were a refining process which reveals the genuineness of their faith and should not be seen as something unexpected. Christians know that such things will come because we live in a fallen world, and we should prepare for them well in advance.
Sharing in Christ’s Suffering
There is also another consequence of such trials. As Charles Cranfield reminds us, “those whose Christianity is not real vanish from the ranks at the approach of danger.” This fact, no doubt, explains the decline in the vitality, numbers, and theological commitment among American evangelicals, now that American culture is increasingly secularized and Christians are losing some of our privileged status. Those who identify themselves as Christians, but who are truly not, will drop out quickly when they first encounter even a hint of persecution, or when someone criticizes them for their Christian beliefs.
But since Christians are believers in Jesus, who himself experienced suffering unto death upon the cross before being raised to glory on Easter Sunday, Christians cannot expect to follow a different path from that of their master. What is more, the degree to which we share in his suffering, is the degree to which he shares in ours . This is why Peter can exhort his readers in verse 13, “but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” Here, the critical question is, “what does it mean to share in Christ’s suffering?” Throughout the New Testament, the phrase the “sufferings of Christ” refers to Jesus’ entire life–from the moment of his miraculous conception in the womb of the virgin until the moment of his death upon the cross. Because it is Jesus’ suffering which saves us from the guilt and power of sin, his suffering is said to be once for all. This is what theologians mean when speaking of Christ’s state of humiliation. Of course, we do not share in Christ’s redemptive work, except in the sense that because we are in union with Christ through faith, we share in the sense of receiving all of his saving benefits.
But there is a profound sense then that we share in Christ’s suffering because we share in his humiliation. If Jesus was hated because he was without sin in a world of sinners, we can expect the same treatment when we profess Jesus as Lord and trust in his suffering to save us from our sins. The irony is that Jesus encountered far more opposition at first from the self-righteous Jewish religious leaders than he did from the Jewish people. Yet, many of the people too eventually turned on Jesus when they realized that he had not come to deliver them from their hated Roman occupiers, whose soldiers were billeted adjacent to the Jerusalem temple and were constantly seen throughout the city and the nation.
Caesar Is Not A God
In the situation in which Peter’s audience finds itself–Greco-Roman paganism of Asia Minor–Christians are distrusted by the political authorities because they would not worship Caesar as a god, nor would they participate in the worship of the pantheon of gods, which dominated Greco-Roman life.
By Femi Osunnuyi — 3 months ago
There was Christian activity in Africa way, way back—centuries ago. Maybe a more recent history of African Christianity can be traced to European missionaries. But it isn’t true that Christianity was as a result of colonialism in Africa.
Christianity Was in Africa Before Colonialism
Well, the answer here is no. And it’s a firm no. Here is the reason why this narrative has persisted. Most times, when the history of Christianity in Africa is told, or the history of Christianity in Nigeria is told, it’s really from the standpoint of the 19th and 20th century European missionaries. They came at the same time when their governments were actually pursuing and implementing colonialist policies.
Sadly, many of these missionaries themselves had a colonialist mindset. So, their only understanding of Christianity was garbed in the European culture. So, when they were bringing Christianity here, they weren’t asking us to just convert to Christianity. They were asking us to convert to European Christianity. And that’s why we started changing our names, we started changing the way we dress and all of that.