It’s Sunday morning. You eat breakfast, get ready, and go to church. You are excited. The music is great. You open your bulletin and underline a few upcoming events you are interested in. You place your offering in the plate and then… “open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 5…” How do you respond? With excitement? Joy? Anxiety? Fear? Dread? I have heard from more than one Christian that they always “got more out of” the singing part of service than the preaching. This is not reflective of the words of Peter, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). What is it about preaching that is off-putting and sometimes dreadful even to professing Christians?
I don’t think that all people feel this way all the time. I know of several Christians who love to hear a sermon preached. I have dear saints in my church that regularly tell me they enjoy my preaching, and I believe they are sincere. I think it has mostly to do with the condition of the hearer’s heart. Jesus told the religious leaders in Jerusalem, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (John 8:43, ESV). Jesus’ audience in this instance could not bear to hear Jesus’ words because they were unsaved. Their hearts were dead to God and His Word. I think this is true in many cases today. When we see people that have a fearful aversion to the Word of God and preaching, it should alarm us because the true sheep hear the voice of the shepherd (John 10:25-27).
It is understandable that those who aren’t Christians feel this way toward the Bible, but why do professing Christians sometimes distance themselves from God’s Word and God’s preachers? I think this is due to our fallen, sinful nature. It isn’t so much that every sermon is a scathing rebuke of our lifestyle, as it is we fear the scouring presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We know that the message of God uncovers sin and calls us to respond with repentance. When the preacher opens his mouth to speak, we sometimes cringe knowing that we are exposing ourselves to the sharp, double-bladed sword of Truth. Even a born-again believer who is not in the will of God, can at times dread a powerful sermon, but this should not be the normal attitude of a Christian. A true believer should be eager to hear God’s Word, and not take a defensive or fearful attitude towards it. Before we head to church Sunday, let’s prepare our hearts to receive God’s Word so we can say with the psalmist: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103, ESV).