My first visit to my church with my husband, one summer Sunday morning a few years ago, left me concluding: well, the word was good. That was my thought. The word was good.
The word was good compared to what? That is what I had not really noticed. I simply grouped that “good word” with all of the other sermons I had heard before without any distinguishing note.
It wasn’t until I had heard from others who had visited my church, of three plus years, describe their experience just as I had – “the word was good”, that I realized looking back, that it had been the week by week repetition of God exalting, Christ centered, intentional exposition of the word of God, that I am now able to recognize that in fact, it was so much different than what I had been hearing.
In fact, even the prayers were different, but I didn’t hear them until I returned to hearing them week after week, confessing specifically how we have sinned against the Almighty God, how desperately we need the righteousness of his Son, and how we needed his Spirit to live.
I suppose that I can take solace in that I am not alone. I can hear truth, appreciate it, and yet not respond in an appropriate way. In the 14th chapter of Acts the Apostle Paul preached the gospel and heals a man. Yet the response of the people was to attribute it to their idol gods coming down in the likeness of Paul and Barnabas.
11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. Acts 14:11-13 ESV
Strange how that worked, but not unlike how we respond, at times.
Certainly, the sermons I had heard did point to Jesus as the way of salvation or at least I knew that, but the focus was not on the sovereignty of God and his redemptive plan. Although, in all fairness, I cannot remember any particular sermon, I do remember the feeling or the lack of feeling how great God is and how small and unworthy I am.
I don’t ever remember hearing sermons that take us through a book or even a chapter of the Bible. The sermon was often based on a few verses that appeared to only serve as the supporting text to the sermon title, but not expounded. A lot of the sermons called us to live better, about God’s wonderful plan for our lives, how we can live successfully, and how we can get our best life now. Trials were never seen as from God but were blamed on the devil. It was much like Pastor John Piper described about “a god created in the image of our felt needs”.
Thankfully, God through the Spirit, used even those sermons for my good to cause a hunger in me, leaving me searching for deeper knowledge of who our Sovereign God is.