Pleasing God … or entertaining Him?
Acting on God’s word
Here you are in the pews squirming on a hard chair, or perhaps on a scatter cushion if you’re emergent (or even in a diver’s suit if you’re submergent!), pen in hand, Bible primed, notebook open. The preacher begins and for the next chapter of your life – anything from twenty minutes to two hours – you have engaged your mind possibly to an extent that is proportional to the speaker’s eloquence and/or relevance to your life at the moment, notwithstanding any anointing his (or her) words may carry from the Holy Spirit speaking through her (or him).
The preacher finishes and you finish your notes (or doodle), put your Bible away and your life slips into the next chapter. The question we ask is this, how closely connected are those two chapters? How much space are we given, in our Church services, to actually engaging or following-up with what we may have heard from the preacher or speaker?
Just think for a moment what has just happened.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:13)
Unless the preacher is abiding by these principles then he may as well have not bothered. We are not looking for eloquence or what we may think relevant, but words taught by the Spirit, anointed words in season, words that convict those who are listening, even including the preacher himself! The preacher is nothing more than a conduit for the Holy Spirit, a channel for every listener to pick up something of divine origin. It may just be a word, or a Bible verse, or it may be the whole sermon. The point is that the preacher’s cleverness (human wisdom) has nothing to do with it, this is God speaking to us.
If that is so, then it could be a good idea for us to mull over what we’ve just received, just to do justice to the occasion. At our Foundations conferences now, we optionally follow every preaching session with what we call a yeshiva. What is that?
It is a Jewish place of study, typified by small groups of students engaging in discussion, even argument, over Scripture or Jewish interpretations of it. These are not known for their politeness and decorum, but rather like a boisterous dinner party without the food. This is the Jewish model and our job is to adapt it for our own circumstances, to create a Christian model that works for us.
The preaching of the Word should have real power. Here’s a familiar Scripture:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Of course the sermon may affect you in other ways. You may not be inclined to transition into a ‘time of study’. Instead, it may inspire you into a ‘time of worship’. Problem is that the service has often moved into the next item of the agenda. You are hearing church notices but all you want to do is to thank the Lord for His life-giving Word and want to do it now! Or, something has hit you deep in your spirit and brought up an issue that you need to deal with, now that you are in the moment.
Sometimes we just need to have some space to respond. This is not consistent with the linear nature of ‘doing Church’ we have inherited, with ‘orders of service’. Orders of service? Since when has God done anything in order? He has a tendency of breaking into our lives when we are not expecting Him, or disrupting our plans. He is, of course, a ‘God of order’ but He is not an ordered God. That would be a very English God, one who abides by our programmes and schedules. Who heals only when we ask Him to, Who wakes up just in time for our earnest ‘times of worship’. We must think Hebraically, as He does, expect the unexpected, even when it gets messy!
This is an extract from the book, Livin’ the Life, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/livin-the-life-151-p.asp