“It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don’t spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.” (Mark Galli, “Yawning at the Word”, Christianity Today)
I wouldn’t have to exert much energy to make the argument that we have a certain intolerance for biblical preaching. It’s sad but true. We yawn, our eyes glaze over, and we stare lifelessly at our pastors as if we’re listening—even though we’ve already started contemplating where we want to go for lunch after service. You know it’s really bad when speakers at different conferences are asked to cut down on their use of biblical passages because “you might lose some people.” We attend church and listen to sermons, not looking for the biblical principles that might become more clear to us through the message, but to glean the personal applications, examples, and life lessons that usually come at the end.
We listen to God’s words about as much as a young dating couple listens to each other when they’re arguing: each listens only so they have enough ammunition for a potent rebuttal. But it’s not listening if we only listen to the words we want to hear, if we zone out until the very end when the pastor gives us the answers to those annoying blanks we have on our sermon outlines. And by the way, everyone can tell. It’s obvious when we fail to allow biblical preaching to permeate our lives; our friends know when we’re not paying attention, especially when sermon after sermon seemingly fails to call attention to the glaring sins we have in our lives. It seems that writing down personal application points without fully understanding the Scriptural basis from which they are extracted is like using a bandaid to fight cancer.
Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” but how many of us live as if we believe this whole-heartedly? Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” but how many of us treat it as such?
I fear that we are losing admiration for the Bible. As a society we no longer guard and defend the Bible but open the doors to criticism, even in the church. We fear that people will not find messages interesting or they’ll be turned off by too much reading of the Bible, we’re more likely to turn to corporate marketing techniques in our churches. Even in our daily lives we insult Scripture: we are more likely to believe what we read in the daily newspaper than what we read in a book that was written nearly 2,000 years ago and has stood the test of time. We cannot develop a low view of Scripture. We must understand the importance of treating Scripture as the authority in our lives. It is the word of God and that should be sufficient enough to hold our attention and our respect.
If you’re a Christian, then you must believe in the importance of Scripture in our lives (that’s not a command, it’s an acknowledgment we make as Christians). By being a Christian you’re acknowledging the authority that God’s words have in your life no matter what mainstream society might be telling you otherwise. Because of this, we should hold the bible in high respect, revering the word every time it’s read or discussed. Our hearts should be still when God’s word is preached and our minds should be soaking in every hint and detail. It should be a welcome relief from the trials and hardships of this world to hear the glories and wonders of the Cross, the sovereign plan the Lord has set into place for us, and to hear the voice of our almighty God spoken to us on Sunday mornings. Yet we sit there, checking our watches, doodling, or texting, anticipating the end of service.
If we just took the time to listen and learn, to be inspired by the words of God, we would be so much more in love with Him. Like the way we would covet a letter written by someone we love, we need to pour over the letter that God has written to us. We continually fall short of revering God’s word (I of which am the foremost failure), but if we just took the time to listen to biblical preaching or douse ourselves in Scripture we would experience His marvelous love. It’s a good thing that we have a patient God who is as enamored with as we are bored of Him.