A Practical Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word
Publisher: Kress Biblical Resources
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Have you ever arrived at church on Sunday in a “less-than-ready” condition for worship? Maybe you were up too late the night before, argued with your spouse while getting ready, possibly snapped at the kids, or even kicked the dog on the way out the door. By the time you get to church, you’re truly not ready to listen to a sermon! But getting your mind and heart ready is exactly what expository preaching requires. Listening to a sermon, really listening’as in thinking, praying, following the argument, concentrating on the meaning and its application to your life’now that’s hard work! Merely hearing a sermon is easy; it requires a properly functioning auditory system, but it’s essentially a passive exercise. Actively listening to the preaching of God’s Word requires mental alertness, focused attention, and a spiritually receptive heart. That’s the kind of listening Solomon implored his own sons to do:
My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).
That describes an exercise that’s quite active, requiring energy and effort, and that’s exactly what God would have us do each Sunday when we sit down in the pew for the purpose of engaging with Him. If the public proclamation of the Bible is the primary means of change in a believer’s life (and it is: 1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), then it’s vital that we get ourselves ready to listen to sermons from God’s holy Word.
What I have argued for in the above paragraph is precisely why Dr. Ken Ramey’s book, “Expository Listening: A Listener’s Guide To Hearing and Doing the Word”, is so vital and necessary at this time for the body of Christ at large. Frankly, books on Christian preaching abound, while books on listening to Christian preaching are comparatively almost non-existent. It may true to say that all the books dedicated to the sole purpose of teaching believers how to effectively listen to sermons which have ever been written could be counted up on one’s own hands. This book is truly a particularly unique treatise. Let me explain why I believe this. First of all, the book sounds a compelling note on what expository preaching really is and why it is crucial to the role of a God-honoring pastor. The book then moves to the responsibility of the congregational hearer and why effective listening to an expository message is as important as having it preached to you in the first place; for what’s the point of preaching sermons unless there are those recipients who have been taught how to effectively listen to them? It stands to reason that the most effective sermons will hit the heart-center of their targets when listeners know how to best do so: to really listen, and to listen very well. Pastor Ramey capably shows you how to do exactly that because he seeks to establish a “theology of listening” by surveying all the biblical passages which speak of “hear/hearing,” “listen/listening,” and any of those passages which signal the need for the right kind of spiritual “ear’s” to hear God’s truth.
What follows this in the book are also chapters on very practical ways you can prepare your heart to hear the Word of God preached, the need for critical discernment in your listening, as well as genuinely appreciating and ultimately and appropriately applying the biblical exposition to your life. There is even a chapter on the danger of being a hearer of the Word but not a doer of it. The book concludes with the solemn exhortation that your rightly listening to expositional preaching even serves to affect your eternal destiny, a momentous fact which should motivate everyone to listen to God’s voice ever so carefully! Lastly but also very importantly, the book ends with several appendices on various themes of listening and applying sermons, what the Puritans and others have said on these subjects, along with an excellent bibliography which lists other helpful volumes which somewhat touch on various aspects of faithful listening to the truth.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with what my friend, Ken Ramey has done by showing the inseparable link between expository speaking and effective listening. The Christian Church is indebted to him by what he has taught us in this worthy volume. Now, as a result of our investment of time and effort in reading his book, may we all serve this faithful expositor’s Lord Jesus Christ– both his Savior and ours–by preaching and listening to God’s glory.