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"Good Sermon, Preacher!"

I suppose that no one receives more praise for his work than a preacher when he gives a sermon.  Nearly every member of the church congratulates the preacher for a good sermon as they walk out the door after worship.  Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody was praised by their bosses, coworkers, and family members every time they did a good job in their work?  As it is, most people take care of their responsibilities without much praise or recognition at all.

As much as a preacher appreciates the praise, he knows that his sermon cannot be effective for his listeners unless they will make the proper use of his lesson.  The kind comments and praise that he receives are hollow if they are not followed by meaningful application of the message he has taught.  Unless the listeners will do the things that are enjoined on them through the word of God and the preacher’s sermon, the preacher is nothing more than a performer who provides entertainment for his audience.

Sometimes a preacher can relate to the watchman Ezekiel, for God told Ezekiel that the people would listen to his words, but they would not do them.  Notice Ezekiel 33:30-32 – “But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’  And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.  And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them.”  The figure of a “sensual song” conveys the idea of God’s messenger being regarded as nothing more than an entertainer.  His words entertain for a time, but then they are disregarded in favor of worldly indulgence.

God’s words through Ezekiel are very similar to the words spoken by Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27) and the words written by James (Jas. 1:22-25).  Jesus compared those who hear His words and act upon them to a wise man who built his house on a foundation of rock, while those who hear His words and do not act upon them are like a foolish man who builds his house on a foundation of sand.  James wrote that we should be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  In both teachings, we see that those who think they have accomplished something of value simply by hearing the word of God are foolish and self-delusional.  Only those who do the word of God are counted as wise.

These teachings and our own logic tell us that in relation to the word of God, there are essentially three categories of people: those who hear the word and act upon it, those who hear the word and do not act upon it, and those who do not hear the word at all.  Those who hear the word and act upon it are wise, for they please God and secure for themselves a place in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21).  Those who hear the word and do not act upon it receive the same results as those who do not hear the word at all, which is failure to please God.  However, those who hear the word and do not act upon it often feel as if they have accomplished more than those who have not heard at all.  This is the self-delusion of which James wrote.  In truth, hearing the word is of little value if it is disregarded, for the word becomes a wasted seed that never bears fruit in the hearer.

Therefore, we see that it is good to desire the hearing of God’s word, but we have to love the doing of it also.  Our ears may be stimulated by a “good preacher,” i.e. a man who speaks eloquently and powerfully, but our souls should be stimulated by a preacher of good, i.e. a man who speaks the good word of God.  Our emphasis should not be on the quality of the speaking but on the content of the speech.  If we have learned to love the hearing of God’s word, then let us make ourselves complete by acting upon the word of God also.  When we have learned this, then we can say to the preacher, “Good sermon,” and we can really mean it.

Stacey E. Durham



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