Seeing and Hearing: Preparing for Sunday’s Sermon

Every Sunday when churches gather for worship, there’s likely to be a message preached from scripture. Maybe you’ll be the one doing the preaching or maybe you’ll be one of the listeners. Either way, we all are involved in this event called preaching. In fact, just as necessary as preaching is, so also is our involvement.

Preaching is Powerful

It might be tempting to dismiss the importance of preaching but don’t. Like singing and praying, preaching has always been a practice of the church but that alone is not the only reason for preaching.

Preaching is powerful because it is the proclamation of the word of God. According to Hebrews 4:12, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” (NRSV). When the word of God is faithfully proclaimed it is able to convict, encourage, and inspire us to walk in the way of God as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. As a minister, I have witnessed the changes in people, including myself, because the word of God was preached.

To be clear, the power of preaching does not rest upon any human ability. Before Jesus was crucified, he promised that his Father in heaven would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would convict and testify to the truth (Jn 16:7-15). Likewise, the Apostle Paul taught the Christians in Corinth that the church has received the Holy Spirit so that it may have understanding (1 Cor 2:12). So the power of preaching, which teaches us and calls us to live more deeply and faithfully in the way of God, is the work of the Holy Spirit living among us as the church.

Preparation Is Necessary

There’s a human element to preaching that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. First of all, there is the preparation of the one who will preach the word. Whoever preaches the word has the responsibility of preparing for that message through prayer and study. Occasionally I’ll hear someone say that this is unnecessary, suggesting that preparation stifles the Holy Spirit. They’re wrong! In fact, most of the time this is just a veiled excuse for laziness.

Those who think preparation is unnecessary for preaching the word of God might suggest that it gets in the way of the Holy Spirit working. That is absolute nonsense! If the Holy Spirit works during the preaching of God’s word, which it does, then he is also able to work in preparation for a message.

Yet there’s more to the human element than just the preparation of the preacher. There’s the part of the church as well. Allow me to explain…

Preparing Our Eyes and Ears

Have you ever wondered why, as Jesus preached and did many miracles, some believed while others did not? I have and having spent nearly the last ten years of my life preaching every Sunday for a church, I believe the difference has to do with our eyes and ears.

In Mark chapter 4 Jesus told a parable about sowing seed. In this parable he likened people to soil, some of which was good soil for planting seed while other people were like bad soil unfit for seed. In the middle of that parable, Jesus made a very difficult reference to people seeing but not seeing and hearing but not hearing (v. 12). I’m not so much interested here in how that statement has been understood exegetically in the Gospel of Mark. I mention it in order to point out the fact that we all have eyes and ears and yet it’s possible that we remain blind and deaf.

So what does this have to do with preaching?

Everything!

Typically before I begin to preach, I start with a prayer. I pray for God to pour upon me the gift of preaching through his Spirit. I do so because even though I have spent thorough time in preparation for the message I will preach, I don’t want to rely on my own power in preaching. But I also pray that God will grant the church I serve the eyes to see and the hears to hear. I pray for this so that through the preaching of God’s word, the Spirit may bring an understanding that calls the church into a deeper and more faithful life together in Christ.

Now knowing that your church will gather in worship this Sunday and, among other things, hear the word of God proclaimed, WHAT WILL YOU PRAY FOR?

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22 responses to “Seeing and Hearing: Preparing for Sunday’s Sermon

  1. I also usually begin with prayer … a prayer that asks God to open our ears to what he has to say, open our eyes to its relevance to our lives, and soften our hearts to let it make a difference,

  2. One of my favorite passages right now is 1 Cor 1:20

    “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was PREACHED to save those who believe.”

  3. Do you pray for to receive any other gifts?

    • Certainly… wisdom, discernment, leadership, etc… to mention a few.

      • what about the gift of healing?

      • Good question. I’m not sure I have the gift. he gifts I mentioned earlier are gifts I pray for because I confident God has given me those gifts. And I suppose that if God wanted me to have the gift of healing, he would grant me that gift too and let me know I have it (not everyone has every spiritual gift.

        Having said that, I do believe God can heal whomever he wants and give that gift to whomever he wants for his own glory, I’m admittedly skeptical of some who claim to have the gift of healing. And I say that also as a parent of a child who died, even as people prayed for his healing.

  4. I would add that “spiritual gifts” defined biblically were always received, directly by the Holy Spirit or by the laying on of hands of an Apostle. Those who received such “gifts” at one moment couldn’t do, and all of a sudden they could do. It was the age of the miraculous, an age that came to an end. We can pray for wisdom, the ability to preach and discern, to be a leader. It just won’t come to us as a miracle. We will have to study and work at it and God through his providence will provide, if it is His will to do so. We attain such abilities the natural way, hard work. Your right to be skeptical. God does not hand out “gifts” as was done in the first century. There was a reason for it, it was to provide proof and confirmation that these men were indeed who they said they where, (men sent by God) and the message that they brought could be trusted and believed. The early church needed these gifts just to get them going. We don’t did the miraculous to confirm or prove anything, we have God’s final revelation. The question for people today is, do you believe what God has revealed?

    • I’m not as much as a cessationist in my understanding about the “miraculous” power of Spiritual Gifts. I believe it is very possible that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, does still give gifts such as the gift of healing to some believers. After all, there are dark places in this world where the good news of Jesus Christ and his kingdom is still penetrating. And I’ve heard some stories from people I know and trust who are not out making wild claims that seem self-serving (like we see with some televangelists).

      So while I remain skeptical at many of the claims made in regards to healing, I also try to remain open. I would hate to discover one day that I was like some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law who saw the power of God at work right in front of them but were still unable to see.

  5. But we have to understand how God gave those “gifts”. The Holy Spirit gave directly to the Apostles and the Apostles gave to others by laying on of their hands. We have no biblical example of God continuing this “giving” in any other way. We can only speculate and that’s when we get into trouble.

    • That is to presume a hermeneutic logic upon scripture that finds its roots in the philosophy of John Locke, assuming that the point of scripture is to prescriptively tells us how spiritual gifts are always imparted. The only thing that does is use scripture as a box to bind the work of God within. Furthermore, it defies the language of 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 which says that God gives different gifts—wisdom, healing, prophesy, etc… to name a few—to each person which are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (v. 11, ESV).

  6. All I can know, is what God has revealed, He revealed that the Holy Spirit gave power to the Apostles. We have examples of the Apostles giving “gifts” by the laying on of their hands. That we know, it is truth. God has always revealed His truths by revelation. 1 Corinthians 13 Paul told them that those things (gifts) would cease, they would fail to be. There would no longer be any need for such things, when that which is perfect has come. That would be God’s full and complete revelation. Using your reasoning one could say, just because God revealed that belief, repentance, confession and baptism are to be obeyed to gain salvation, that doesn’t mean that there are not other ways to gain salvation. We have been warned not to add to or take away from God’s word. is that not what we are doing, when we speculate? Adding too, that which has been revealed.

    • I disagree with your understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:10. The belief that the “perfect” refers to God’s full revelation was a common held view in the Restoration movement but just does not hold up exegetically. My friend Bobby Valentine wrote a short blog post a while back on this subject that you might be interested in reading (http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/2009/02/to-toleion-perfect-first-corinthians.html).

      Also, repentance and baptism is a different matter. We have scripture which commands repentance and baptism (e.g., Acts 2:38) and the intent of scripture is to declare what is commanded. On the other hand, a passing comment about the disciples meeting in the upper room (cf. Acts 1) does not mean that the intent of scripture is to prescribe the location of where all disciples should gather. Likewise, a passing comment about the Apostles laying their hands on the twelve so that they would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19)-that is, a passage in which the intent is to tell us what happened on that occasion- does not mean that the intent of scripture is to prescribe howsomething is to happen for all believers.

      Anyways, as I said in another comment, I am skeptical about many of the claims made by those claiming to have the spiritual gift of healing. I’m skeptical because their claims of how that gift is exercised is so different from how Jesus and his apostles exercised that gift. In other words, where Jesus and the apostles performed miracles right in public, many of the contemporary claims I hear of miraculous healing take place everywhere but in public. Secondly, for Jesus and the apostles, miracles were not the end goal but a means to the end so that Jesus could be proclaimed. Yet many of the contemporary Christians I hear claiming to have a miraculous gift of healing seem to treat that gift as an end rather than a means.

      So I remain skeptical. But I remain open because there is nothing in scripture that says the gift of healing has permanently disappeared nor is there anything that says God will not grant a believer that gift. Further more, I remain open because I have personally witnessed a person who appeared to be possessed by an evil spirit be delivered by God’s power through the vehicle of prayer in the name of Jesus.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  7. I would assume then, that what you believe is “that which is perfect” must be Jesus himself? But Jesus had already come, His task on earth was done. In 1 Cor 13:10 Paul uses part for the whole to inform them that these “gifts” would cease, vanish away. Just like the old law which brought man to Christ and then that law was done away with, “gifts” were God’s way of bringing the church to a point that they could function as a body, until His complete and full revelation was made. The mystery of the kingdom was being laid out in parts. God’s word has been confirmed, it has been delivered once and for ALL men. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Peter tells us that God has given us everything that pertains to life and Godliness. We have what we need, we have the perfect will of God revealed. there is nothing more to be confirmed or proven, that has been done. If man today will not believe the word of God, he won’t believe a miracle even if he thought he saw one, he will be like you and remain “skeptical.”

    • You assume wrong :-). I believe the “perfect” (τέλειος) in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is speaking of end, the fullness of time — the second coming of Christ when redemption is finally complete with the full restoration of creation, the eschatological goal (τέλος) which all of history is moving towards. Then there’ll be no more need for prophesies, tongues, and knowledge.

      By the way, it is strange that anyone would want to apply 1 Corinthians 13:10 to the spiritual gift of healing when that gift is never even mentioned in chapter thirteen. It’s also strange because if 1 Corinthians 13:10 is to mean that the spiritual gift of healing is to cease upon the completion of the biblical canon of scripture, then consistency means that all spiritual gifts would cease. However, it seems rather strange that besides “healing, because we have a complete biblical canon of scripture that no Christian is given a “message of wisdom,” a “message of knowledge,” etc… (cf. 1 Cor 12:7-10) and even those gifts named by Paul in Romans 12:6-8.

      Any ways, while there likely will always be some confusion and disagreement among Christians one what the different spiritual gifts are and how those who have them should exercise them, I believe that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is still giving everyone of those gifts to believers because that is what scripture says. It takes some strange hermeneutical gymnastics to make scripture say that some gifts have ceased but others have not.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  8. Paul uses a “part” not listing the whole to show that those things would fail. I believe all spiritual gifts have indeed ceased. There is no longer a need for the miraculous. miracles were used to convince and confirm. That which is perfect is “the fullness of time”? or when redemption is complete? or Christ second coming? So Jesus Christ would be the correct answer as to what you believe? I also think before you pray for a “message of Knowledge” you best do a little prep, and study to show thy self approved. And by the way, if what you say is correct, If everyone and by everyone I mean even the denominations, if they prayed this prayer, wouldn’t everyone teach the same thing? Why does that not happen?

    • I do put in a lot of study time in preparing my sermons, as I alluded to in the post. As for your last question, the answer is that we are still people with limited understanding who learn through a web of biblical revelation, tradition, experiences, and reasoning that becomes a lifelong journey (are not robots whom God simply programs with correct information).

    • BTW… if you believe that “all spiritual gifts have indeed ceased” then you believe that even gifts like service and teaching have ceased (cf. Rom 12:7). I just want to be sure so that I understand your position.

  9. Service and teaching are not spiritual gifts as defined by the bible. Biblically defined they were abilities that we given miraculously, they were Spiritually given. Service and the ability to teach must be learned and it is a command to do. People of the world have the “gift” of service and teaching. God gave all of us a brain so we can learn these things. In the first century God didn’t take natural time to equip his people, He used the miraculous. We are not robots, true, but God has given us His revealed word in which we may study and learn His will. We have everything we need that pertains to life and Godliness, we don’t need miracles. I believe that not only is your view incorrect but dangerous. If we all receive messages from the Holy Spirit, 1. how are they received and 2. how would I know if its Him, Satan or just my own thoughts, wishs and desires? And couldn’t I then say that the Spirit has led me a certain direction, or that He told me such and such and led people astray and they having no way to know? Godly wisdom has given us all the same play book, the bible. They didn’t have the full revelation in the first century. I can be like the Bereans and search the word daily, to see if what I am being told is so. I don’t have to rely on what someone says the Spirit said to them. The idea of praying for a message that we may or may not understand, just doesn’t make any sense.

    • You wrote, “Service and teaching are not spiritual gifts as defined by the bible. Biblically defined they were abilities that we given miraculously, they were Spiritually given.”

      Unless I am misunderstanding you, you are making a contradiction with this statement. The gifts which we have as believers cannot be “Spiritually given” and yet not be spiritual gifts. Any ways, all gifts given to the church are given by the Spirit because it is the Spirit which empowers the church to live as new creation in the world bearing witness to God’s creative-redemptive work in the world.

      As far as the other issues you are raising… remember that as Christians, we are all to be in submission to one another (Eph 5:21). That is, we are to be in submission to the community of believers we are part of, who have the task of discernment. Therefore, if a believer says “I’ve been praying about this and I believe God is saying that we should…” then it is the church who must discern whether this is faithful to Jesus Christ whom the church is called to follow.

      Any ways, just think about all of the hermenuetical gymnastics it requires for you to basically say that everything said in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 is no longer true and necessary for the church but other teaching within the letter of First Corinthians and the rest of scripture still stands.

  10. All I am saying, is in the first century when the church was an infant, the new covenant was being revealed piece by piece. They didn’t have the New testament as we know it in written form. They had letters that were shared. They had to remember what they had only heard. If it were not for spiritual gifts this young church would never had gotten off the ground. God, by way of these gifts, equipped them with the knowledge and abilities they needed. What ever gift they were given, they didn’t have to learn it or study it, they received the ability miraculously. This means of education or rather equipping was used by God until, his full and complete revelation was complete. We are educated, equipped now, by studying God’s word, according to 2 Tim 3:16,17. So what is perfect? It is God’s new covenant with man. As for the one who says, I’ve been praying about this and believe God wants us to do this, I would have to ask, How in the world do you know that? The only way we know to do anything that is spiritual in nature is by seeing it in God’s word. It must be our only guide. When we follow the direction of God’s word, the Spirit is working in us. Don’t get me wrong, God through his providence does help us, how I don’t know. I think that’s the point, we will never be able to know how He helps us but he does. We are called to be one, knitted together, of the same mind. The only way that can happen, is by knowing and following the word of God. We all have the same play book. If we are led directly by the Spirit, why don’t we all see things the same. There would be no room for error, would there? The Apostles who were led directly, they were united, of the same mind. I believe this idea of being led directly today does cause a sense of false security. I don’t have to study to show myself approved, the Spirit will led me down the right path or I’ll pray about it and God will reveal to me in some mysterious way. In these last days, God has chosen to speak to us through His Son. John 1. The word became flesh.

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