3 Simple Rules for Listening to a Sermon

“It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would any one know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.

1) We must hear with FAITH, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The word in old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).

2) We must hear with REVERENCE, remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s message, “not as the word of men, but the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).

3) We must bear with PRAYER, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.

► Summary:

Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we will hear with profit, and return with praise.”

-J.C. Ryle, http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/04/18/3-simple-rules-for-listening-to-a-sermon/

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 258-259. {Luke 8:16-21}

Preaching: The Central Ministry of the Church

“Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office, and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances are of more importance than sermons. Let us give to every part of God’s public worship its proper place and honour, but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.

By preaching, the Church of Christ was first gathered together and founded, and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity. By preaching, sinners are awakened. By preaching, inquirers are led on. By preaching, saints are built up. By preaching, Christianity is being carried to the heathen world.—There are many now who sneer at missionaries, and mock at those who go out into the high-ways of our own land, to preach to crowds in the open air. But such persons would do well to pause, and consider calmly what they are doing. The very work which they ridicule is the work which turned the world upside down, and cast heathenism to the ground. Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook. The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher. For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel. Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side, sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea. But the great work He took up was always one and the same. He came always preaching and teaching. “Therefore,” He says, “came I forth.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.) The minister we hear may not be highly gifted. The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor. But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance for converting and saving souls. The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ. This is the work of which Christ has said, “Therefore came I forth.””

-J.C. Ryle,  Expository Thoughts on Mark (London: William Hunt, Steam Press, 1859), 20-21.

Beware! The Narrow Way is Dangerous

“Do you want to understand what the times require of you in reference to your own soul? Listen, and I will tell you. You live in times of peculiar spiritual danger. Never perhaps were there more traps and pitfalls in the way to heaven; never certainly were those traps so skillfully baited, and those pitfalls so ingeniously made. Mind what you are about. Look well to your goings. Ponder the paths of your feet. Take heed lest you come to eternal grief, and ruin your own soul. Beware of practical infidelity under the specious name of free thought. Beware of a helpless state of indecision about doctrinal truth under the plausible idea of not being party–spirited, and under the baneful influence of so–called liberality and charity. Beware of frittering away life in wishing and meaning and hoping for the day of decision, until the door is shut, and you are given over to a dead conscience, and die without hope. Awake to a sense of your danger. Arise and give diligence to make your calling and election sure, whatever else you leave uncertain. The kingdom of God is very near. Christ the almighty Savior, Christ the sinner’s Friend, Christ and eternal life, are ready for you if you will only come to Christ. Arise and cast away excuses; this very day Christ calls you. Wait not for company if you cannot have it; wait for nobody. The times, I repeat, are desperately dangerous. If only few are in the narrow way of life, resolve that by God’s help you at any rate will be among the few.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Needs of the Timeshttp://jcrylequotes.com/2012/05/17/beware-the-narrow-way-is-dangerous/

Stop Starving Yourself

“Are you indeed Christ’s sheep? Then beware of wandering from the pasture He has provided. The devil and the old Adam would often persuade you there is no need for this diligence in using means of grace: “Surely,” they will say, “you are not such a babe but you can leave these fields for a short season; surely you need not keep so closely in your Shepherd’s sight.” Christian, take heed and beware of the charmer, charm he uses ever so wisely. Diligent private prayer, diligent Scripture searching, diligent gospel hearing—these are the pastures in which Jesus feeds His flock, and if you turn aside, if you become slack in using them, be sure your soul will soon starve for lack of its accustomed nourishment, and you will return to the fold weak and lame and lean and diseased.”

-J.C. RyleTract: The Privileges of the True Christian

Search Your Heart for Self-Righteousness

“You cannot search your heart too diligently, for self-righteousness is the subtlest enemy of all. Beware of thinking, as the devil would have you, that the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector [Luke 18:9-14] is a very good one for everybody else, but does not exactly touch your case. Be sure in this way you will lose your own souls. Know for a certainty, if you never groan under the burden of sin and never make the tax collector’s prayer your own, you cannot be saved. And if you feel this minute any doubt about your salvation, it were far better to give your soul the benefit of it, and re-lay the foundation of your faith.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Self-Righteousness,
http://www.reformedsermonarchives.com/ryle47.htm

The Proof of God’s Love

“The love of God towards the world is not a vague, abstract idea of mercy, which we are obliged to take on trust, without any proof that it is true. It is a love which has been manifested by a mighty gift. It is a love which has been put before us in a plain, unmistakable, tangible form. God the Father was not content to sit in heaven, idly pitying and loving His fallen creatures on earth. He has given the mightiest evidence of His love towards us by a gift of unspeakable value. He has “not spared His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all.” (Rom. 8:32). He has so loved us that He has given us His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! A higher proof of the Father’s love could not have been given.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Faith

5 Gospel Warnings

1. Substitute anything for Christ, and the Gospel is totally spoiled!

2. Add anything to Christ, and the Gospel ceases to be a pure Gospel!

3. Put anything between a person and Christ, and that person will neglect Christ for that very thing!

4. Spoil the proportions of Christ’s Gospel, and you spoil its effectiveness!

5. Evangelical religion must be the Gospel, the whole Gospel and nothing but the Gospel!

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Evangelical Religion
http://jcrylequotes.com/2011/11/18/5-gospel-warnings/

True Faith Requires Compassion

“We ought to feel compassion when we think of the wretched state of unconverted souls, and the misery of all men and women who live and die without Christ. No poverty like this poverty! No disease like this disease! No slavery like this slavery! No death like this: death in idolatry, false religion, and sin!

Ask ourselves this: Where is the mind of Christ, if we do not feel for the lost? I lay it down boldly, as a great principle, that the Christianity which does not make a person feel for the state of unconverted people is not the Christianity which came down from heaven hundreds of years ago, and is embalmed in the New Testament. It is a mere empty name.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Athens; http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/03/05/possessing-compassion-for-the-unconverted/ Read the full tract here: http://www.reformedsermonarchives.com/ryle39.htm

5 Traps for Young Men

1. Pride

“Young men, do not be too confident in your own judgment. Stop being so sure that you are always right, and others wrong. Don’t trust your own opinion, when you find it contrary to that of older men, and especially to that of your own parents. Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect.”

2. Love of Pleasure

“Youth is the time when our passions are strongest—and like unruly children, cry most loudly for indulgence. Youth is the time when we have generally our most health and strength: death seems far away, and to enjoy ourselves in this life seems to be everything. ‘I serve lusts and pleasures’, that is the true answer many a young man should give if asked, ‘Whose servant are you?’”

3. Thoughtlessness

“Not thinking is one simple reason why thousands of souls are thrown away forever into theLakeofFire. Men will not consider, will not look ahead, will not look around them, will not reflect on the end of their present course, and the sure consequences of their present days, and wake up to find they are damned for a lack of thinking. Young men, none are in more danger of this than yourselves. You know little of the perils around you, and so you are careless how you walk. You hate the trouble of serious, quiet thinking, and so you make wrong decisions and bring upon yourselves much sorrow.”

4. Contempt of Religion

“This also is one of your special dangers. I always observe that none pay so little outward respect to Christianity as young men. None take so little part in our services, when they are present at them—use Bibles so little—sing so little—listen to preaching so little. None are so generally absent at prayer meetings, Bible Studies, and all other weekday helps to the soul. Young men seem to think they do not need these things—they may be good for women and old men, but not for them. They appear ashamed of seeming to care about their souls: one would almost fancy they considered it a disgrace to go to heaven at all.”

5. Fear of Man’s Opinion

“It is terrible to observe the power which the fear of man has over most minds, and especially over the minds of the young. Few seem to have any opinions of their own, or to think for themselves. Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide. What others think is right, they think is right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. There are not many original thinkers in the world. Most men are like sheep, they follow a leader. If it was the fashion of the day to be Roman Catholics, they would be Roman Catholics, if it was to be Islamic, they would be Islamic. They dread the idea of going against the current of the times. In a word, the opinion of the day becomes their religion, their creed, their Bible, and their God.”

-J.C. Ryle, Thoughts For Young Men, [Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishing, 2002], 18-31. http://jcrylequotes.com/2010/11/15/5-dangers-for-young-men/

Jesus’ Plea

The Lord Jesus does not bid the laboring and heavy-laden “go and work.” Those words would carry no comfort to heavy consciences – it would be like requiring labor from an exhausted man. No! He bids them “Come!” He does not say, “Pay Me what you owe.” That demand would drive a broken heart into despair – it would be like claiming a debt from a ruined bankrupt. No! He says, “Come!” He does not say, “Stand still and wait.” That command would only be a mockery – it would be like promising to give medicine at the end of a week to one at the point of death.” No – He says, “Come!” Today; at once; without any delay, “Come unto Me!”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come,  http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/02/02/the-plea-of-jesus-come-unto-me/