Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Hear Good News: The Preached Word
See. Taste. Hear. God is so eager to give us the good news about Jesus that he uses all of our senses to do it.
Reading our Bibles privately is one way to take in his message. But it’s not the only way. In fact, it’s not actually the primary way.
Today I want to talk about the central place of hearing the good news through the preached word. And not just through MP3 downloads or podcasts, but in person at the church where you are a member.
I know. This is mind-boggling for individualistic, independent people like you and me. I’m right there with you. But if we look at Scripture, I think we’ll see that this is God’s idea. Let’s examine it through three questions:
- Why is it primary?
- What should we listen for?
- How does it change my at home Bible reading?
God’s Appointed Means
Why should the preached word be primary in the believer’s life? Because it is God’s appointed means for his message, Christ crucified and raised for us, to be spread.
The first preacher of that gospel was Jesus. It was his priority to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, in fact that’s how he understood his mission. His healings and miracles accompanied his message by demonstrating both mercy and power, but they were never meant to supersede it. Mark ‘s gospel makes this priority clear:
And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:38
The mantle of preaching was passed on to the apostles through Jesus’ words to Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Peter and the other eyewitnesses did just that, and then passed it to the next generation who hadn’t actually seen Jesus, but had heard the word from those who had. So Paul solemnly charged his spiritual son Timothy in what was possibly his last communication to him,
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2
Timothy was then told to guard the message and pass it on to the next generation. That’s why today true faith in Jesus still “comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” a word that is only heard because it has been preached. Romans 10:14-17.
So hear I am sitting in church, and my pastor, preacher, rector has just stood up to deliver his sermon. What am I listening for?
I’m listening for the proclamation of news, the great news of what God has already done for me in Christ. Not 10 tips for a better marriage. Not 5 ways to be a better Christian. And definitely not self-help advice or heart-rending calls to help others.
In short, I’m listening for Christ to be preached from whatever text the pastor has chosen. I want the truths of the gospel to arise from the Biblical text, too, not just from the pastor’s personal experience. And I want to hear a message from God in community with other believers.
The fact is I’m going to need to sort out the implications of the sermon, and I’ll need help to do that. I want the company of others who have heard, been encouraged, experienced conviction, and received mercy to help me apply the gospel to whatever I’m dealing with. And I want to help them.
That’s how I grow as a Christian, by placing myself under the word of God and in community with the people of God.
Ears To Hear
Why bother with reading my Bible at home, then? Or going to a Bible study? Because the preached word, understood and believed, changes me. It gives me ears to hear the gospel in the pages of my Bible during the week.
Jesus frequently closed his parables with the words,
He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:9
Hearing words doesn’t mean we understand them. As my gospel preaching pastor takes me through the Bible, I learn how to understand the Bible for myself. I begin to see Jesus in the Old Testament, taste God’s grace in passages about the law, and hear the good news when I’m bracing myself for bad news.
I even begin to hear God’s tone of voice through the voice of my pastor. He’s not just preaching, he’s ministering the word of God to people he knows well. The choice of text, topic, and even illustrations reflects his relationship with those sitting before him. I can feel that, and begin to recognize the voice of my great Shepherd in his words.
So let’s hear the good news sisters! First from our pastor, then from our own Bibles, in private or in studies. That word will then dwell richly among us as we share our joy in believing it together.