“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
“Chicken again?” Those are words that my wife and I hear again and again in our household at supper time. Unfortunately, as much as we enjoy it our daughter does not (unless, strangely enough, it is chicken Mcnuggets – go figure!). Maybe that is how you feel about Saturday night into Sunday morning, “Church Again? I have to listen to that guy preach again?”
Not so with saints of Thessalonica! In spite of severe suffering they “welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” and “became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). Virtually overnight, these idol worshipping pagans were radically transformed into devoted followers of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Thus Paul is unceasingly thankful to God for their two-fold response to the preaching of God’s Word (see verse above – 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
“Hearing of the Ear”
First, they “received the Word of God.” This refers simply to the fact that they heard Paul preaching and objectively understood it. It is the outward reception of words into the mind through the ears.
“Hearing of the Heart”
Second, they “accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God.” The word “accepted” was used to describe welcoming a guest in your home. The picture here is of one “putting out the welcome mat” for God’s Word of truth as one would a good friend or guest, and inviting entry into one’s house. In other words, the Thessalonians had swung the door of their hearts wide open and warmly embraced the Word as a cherished guest. They understand that by heartily welcoming the words of Paul’s preaching, they were welcoming the authoritative counsel of God Himself into their hearts and lives. They not only heard and intellectually understood the message (received) but also appropriated and welcomed it into their hearts (accepted).
Unfortunately, not all exhibit this receptive attitude toward God’s truth.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11Paul speaks of those who will perish because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul tells us that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
In 2 Timothy 4:1-4 Paul charges Timothy to faithfully preach the Word, especially in view of the fact that a time was coming when people within the church “will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Those days are upon us. All around us, clear, convicting, authoritative preaching straight from God’s Word is being devalued by both those standing in the pulpit (if they haven’t already thrown it out in the trash) and those sitting in the pew (or around the coffee table). In great contrast to this and as a model to us are the Christians of Thessalonica who had great appreciation and affection for the preached Word. They loved to listen to Paul preach. They were preaching enthusiasts.
How Many Sermons Have You Merely Heard?
What about you? Do you attend preaching with a burning thirst and fervent listening heart?
Do you believe with the Thessalonians that when a man is faithfully preaching the Word of God it is actually the voice of God being heard? If so, should this not cause you to pay earnest attention to every sermon of God being heard? Ken Ramey in his book Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word makes this striking thought:
Let’s say you came to Christ at age ten and you live to be seventy-five. If you average two sermons a week, you will listen to over seven thousand sermons during the course of your life. And at the end of your life you will stand before God and give an account for every sermon you heard. On that day, God will essentially ask you, ‘How has your life changed as a result of the thousands of times you have heard My Word preached?’ So we see that it is vital that you are ever welcoming the Word of God and diligently seeking to put what you hear into practice, thus proving ‘yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves’ (James 1:22).
So how is your responsiveness to God’s Word?
Would Paul rave about you, like he did about the Thessalonian saints?
How are you at listening?
George Whitefield, one of the most dynamic preachers of all time, once said:
If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s stronghold.
By the grace of God, let’s stir ourselves up to attend church tomorrow and every Sunday passionate to honor God’s Word through passionate devotion to the Word. Let’s come as thirsty men, women and children craving to drink from the soul satisfying truth of God’s Word. Let’s come with hearts fervently longing to hear the Word faithfully preached because we know that in it God speaks to us!