Chicago Emerging Baptists

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

What to Do with Sunday Sermons on Monday, Part 3
(or: Sunday to Monday 'til He Returns- Disciplines for Not "Wasting" Lord's Day Preaching)

If you are just joining this blog, I have been talking about how to get Sunday's sermon into weekly practice. This part 3 is the salient part of the series that I intended to write about in one shot. As I outlined the post, it seemed necessary to cover some preliminary points that connect corporate worship (Sunday) with "all of life" worship (24/7). See Part 1 & Part 2 for those connections.

We have seen thus far that to take our corporate worship experience into all of life, [part] 1) We must get from Saturday to Sunday, and [part] 2)we must get the most we can out of the Sunday sermon itself. Finally, (borrowing the words of the Divinely inspired sage), we must "get understanding."
Proverbs 4:7 states, "Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (NIV)". The interplay between Old Testament wisdom and understanding are very close, and it is not my purpose to expound the differences here. For our purposes, this verse really hits the "bull's eye" of connecting truth and practice, and it captures for us what ought to be happening when we hear the truth. If wisdom is the skill to apply truth, then getting wisdom and understanding is the end of listening to God's word preached.

A few suggestions...
First, make it a point to review the sermon notes for your Word time on Monday. Especially if you struggle for consistency in the Word or you do not have a reading "plan" per se, this is a great way to start off your work or academic week. I try to build this into my weekly reading plan. It really doesn't take a long time to go through the notes AND the text (!). Think hard about what this teaches you about God, about sin and/or about yourself. There is something about the text that you can take away whether as a reminder or a charge to change your thinking, speaking or conduct.

Second, in conjunction with the first point, note your thoughts in a journal or diary. This is a good form of meditation. Sometimes, we read mindlessly, but when we write, we have to think about words and logic. I think it is healthy to keep a journal going as a chronicle of God's dealings in your life. For some, this might mean you should blog about it. I generally don't post my devotional meditations for public display (nothing against those who do). For those who are "tight" with the technology, excercise care that when you blog your devotional thoughts; maybe wait until after prayer or later on in the day to blog. We all know how easy it is for technology to crowd out our attention to the basic Christian disciplines.

Third, pray through the text/your notes for yourself, your family, the elders of your church and friends. Here is another way to reinforce the truth of the text in your mind and heart. In a sense, it is healthy to pray the words of God back to God. A few weeks ago I was praying w/ a brother in the church. I noticed in quick retrospect that I had basically prayed the theme and outline of last Sunday's sermon (and this was a couple days after the Sunday sermon!). In so far as that the theme and outline were biblical, then my prayer was pleasing to Christ.

Fourth, as alluded to in a previous post, apply the text corporately. How does the text apply to our "life together"? What I do not mean here is finding out to obey in the same way because obedience looks different from person to person. Simply drawn out, call or email a friend(s) about the sermon. Talk about what it means for them this week. You could start an online group or blog about the sermon. Think rigorously of how the text applies to you first. We all need each other in the body of Christ. After I have done such scrutiny, I still need the input of others to cover my "blindspots." Even more ideally would be to weekly follow the sermon in the small group (if your church has them). This corporate aspect of biblical application is alone worthy of a book , imho.

Fifth, sing about the gospel truth you have heard preached! Find a song to reinforce the text. In churches that deliberately structure the sung part of worship around the preaching, reviewing the songs sung in the worship service can assist in reinforcing the Word in your heart. This may mean (as it has for me recently) learning a lot of new songs, choruses and hymns. I had the privilege of visiting two of the churches that famous John Newton pastored. It was said of Newton that in one of his parishes, he would write a hymn every week to complement the sermon he had just preached as a means of assisting those in his congregation to remember the sermon. If no song exists that you know of, compose one! I highly recommend Sovereign Grace Ministries and the ministry of Indelible Grace for fresh renditions of old hymns and/or new compositions. The songs pumped out by these ministries have aided in my sanctification greatly.

Last, memorize the text. This could be hard to do but not impossible. I recommend a memorization system taught by Rev/Dr. Andrew Davis of First Baptist Church, Durham, NC.

Keep in mind that by virtue of our finite nature, we are forgetful. Furthermore, we are sinners whose wills still don't mind "forgetting" the Word. Putting into practice some of these suggestions does not necessarily guarantee practice perfected. The truth is that we all need to hear the same texts pounded into our heads and hearts throughout our Christian journey. You know how that eureka experience goes: "I have read this passage a hundred times in my life and I never saw it that way before. The lights finally came on!" The truth is that sometimes not all sermons you hear will take root the first time. Most likely, you will hear other sermons on the same text by other justified sinners that will elucidate more clearly what your duty to God is. The point of all of this is that until Christ returns for us, we are embroiled in a battle to remember his Word and do it. We will forget the words of God. We will often forget sermons and lose sermon notes, but we must persevere in the faith. We must embrace more seriously our responsibility to not be a "forgetful hearer." Truthfully, we must fight to not waste what God in his mercy and grace has given us--a more sure word of prophecy.



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