3 Aug 2010

Bible Study and Worship Tips: What to Look for in a Sermon or Passage

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I have encouraged readers in recent posts to take notes when listening to a sermon and to set goals for responding. I thought it may be helpful though if I offered some suggestions as to what to look or listen for. When I am either doing bible study or listening to a sermon I listen for what I call three basic callings. They are principles, tasks and changes.

  • Principles or life lessons are instructions for how we should live as disciples. For example, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is a general guiding principle that we should seek to be mature in all the time.
  • Tasks are measurable commitments that you believe God is calling you to accomplish. For example, you might read a passage on forgiveness and feel led to reconcile a particular broken relationship.
  • Changes are shifts in who we are that need to be made in order for us to follow God more faithfully. For example, you may realize that you have a problem with judging other people and know that you need to learn to extend to others the grace you have been given by God.

Identifying a principle, task or change is just the beginning. Once identified you need to set concrete measurable goals for how you will pursue the calling. Some callings can be accomplished via a goal and some callings require an ongoing discipline. Particularly, I find that life changes requiring repentance often times necessitate the adoption of some form of ongoing spiritual discipline.
Lastly, I need to add that not every sermon or bible lesson is going to necessarily leave you with something to do. Sometimes you simply get exposed to a truth that you need to know or understand. For example, a sermon may teach you about the divinity of Christ. That is a truth you need to understand but there may not be a particular calling in it. So, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t walk away from every scripture passage with a mission. Similarly, I found that sometimes God gives me comfort or assurance. In those instances, where I do not sense any immediate calling I simply  thank God for the truth revealed or the comfort given.
Next time you read try looking for one of these specific ways God speaks to us through his living word.
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