Archive for September, 2013
The author of Hebrews writes this to believers:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
One way we can help our spiritual leaders (DSC’s elders/pastors) lead us with joy is by asking good questions. DSC’s elders are available in the halls around church, by email, and once each year they set aside an evening to take questions in the context of a corporate gathering. We call it, an “Elders Q&A.”
Our next Elders Q&A will take place on the last Wednesday of this month, September 25, at 6:30 PM.
If you have a question, submit it. If you don’t, think of one and then submit it. Here are three ways to ask your questions:
- Submit your question using your bulletin Comment Card next Sunday and drop that in an offering box.
- Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Show up with your question on the 25th. The elders will take some questions from a mic in the course of the evening.
Of course, we appreciate your questions early. This helps us notice recurring themes and spend our time in a way that best serves the congregation. Any questions that are not addressed at the Q&A will be answered through the DSC Blog or by email.
This Sunday will begin a new sermon series through 1-2 Samuel, “In Search of the King.” Here’s Ryan’s description:
The book of Judges ends with these ominous words: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The books of 1-2 Samuel pick up the story through the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David. Israel’s search for a king reaches some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the Old Testament. We’ll explore why that’s so in this new sermon series beginning next Sunday.
With a new series is an opportunity think about what we’re actually doing on Sundays. Ryan is preaching, but what are we doing? What does it mean to listen to a sermon? How should we listen? President of Wheaton College, Phil Ryken answers the question in his article, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”
So what is the right way to listen to a sermon? With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.
The first thing is for the soul to be prepared. Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.
The soul needs special preparation the night before worship. By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord’s Day. If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching. We should also be sure to get enough sleep. Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God’s Word.
If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert. Good preaching appeals first to the mind. After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2). So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged. Being attentive requires self-discipline. Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream. But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God. It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice. We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds. God is speaking, and we should listen.
To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand. Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon. It is also a valuable aid to memory. The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds. Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference. We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.
The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon. Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached. But this is folly. Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page. It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed. This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.
There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture. The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, “that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11; NKJV). One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul. On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.
Listening to a sermon–really listening–takes more than our minds. It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit. Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us. Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God’s grace, and reassure us in the faith. But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise. We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.
The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice. Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life. It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform. There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word. We are called to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; NKJV). And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us.
Do you know how to listen to a sermon? Listening–really listening–takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart. But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live. Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard. As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).
This Sunday we will wrap up our series studying God’s name, Yahweh, with a sermon from Ezekiel 48:35, “The Lord is There.” On the following Sunday, September 15, Ryan will be back in the pulpit to begin a new series through 1 and 2 Samuel, “In Search of The King.”
Before this series is over, though, we simply must include here the text of a reflection on God’s name from an article by John Piper, “Yahweh Is the Sweetest Name I Know.” Enjoy!
You are not wrong to sing, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” even though Yahweh is.
God gave himself the name Yahweh. No man gave him this name. It is God’s chosen personal name. He loves to be known by this name. It is used over 5,000 times in the Old Testament. It is almost always translated by Lᴏʀᴅ (small caps). But it is not a title. It is a personal name, like James or Elizabeth.
You know the name Yahweh best from its shortened form Yah at the end of Hallelujah, which means “praise Yahweh.” I love to think about this when I sing. When I sing, “Hallelujah,” I love to really mean, “No! I don’t praise you Bel, or Nebo, or Molech, or Rimmon, or Dagon, or Chemosh. I turn from you with disdain to Yah! I praise Yah. Hallelu Yah!”
God announced his name to Moses in Exodus 3:15. God said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers. . . . This is my name forever.”
He preceded this announcement with two other statements so the meaning would be clear. He said, “I am who I am” (verse 14a). And he said, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (verse 14b).
The Hebrew name Yahweh is connected to the Hebrew verb “I am.” So Yahweh is most fundamentally the One-Who-Is. “I am who I am” is the most foundational meaning of Yahweh. It means: My am-ness comes from my am-ness. My being from my being. My existence from my existence.
There are vast personal and covenantal implications of this. But this is foundational. No beginning. No ending. No dependence. He simply is, always was, and always will be. He communicates all of this with a personal name. To be sure, he has titles, and he has attributes. But this is a personal name. He packs the weightiest truth about himself into a personal name. Infinite greatness and personal knowability are in the name Yahweh.
Then in the fullness of time, Yahweh came into the world to seek and save the lost. The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is an English transliteration of the Greek Iesoun. And this in turn is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Joshua. And Joshua is a combination of Yah and “salvation” or “save”. It means “Yahweh saves.”
So Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus is Yahweh with a human nature coming to save his people from sin.
Paul confirms this in Philippians 2:11. He says of the risen Jesus, “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That is a quote from Isaiah 45:23 where Yahweh is the one to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Paul is saying that, in the end, the whole world will acknowledge that Jesus is in fact Yahweh incarnate.
So you don’t have to choose between singing, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” and, “Yahweh is the sweetest name I know.” Indeed you dare not choose.
Yes, it is true. One clear and astounding evidence of God’s mercy for sinners is that he came to us himself in the person of his Son. Jesus is Yahweh come to his people.
If you haven’t had a chance to join us for each of the last five Sundays, each of the sermons is available in audio and video at the Messages page:
- “The Lord Provides,” Ron Giese
- “The Lord, Your Healer,” Trent Hunter
- “The Lord of Hosts,” Trent Hunter
- “The Lord Is Peace,” Nathan Sherman
- “The Lord, Our Righteousness,” Trent Hunter