Benefiting from Sunday on Monday

27 Feb

It is strange that people can hear the Word of God repeatedly and sit under a gospel ministry and experience no saving effect.

Knowing what we know about the power of the gospel, why is that?

One reason has to do with the fact that there is a Satan. There is a supernatural being who wants to keep us from benefiting from the Word of God.

Another has to do with the fact that doing what the Scripture says isn’t always easy. Sometimes people will seem to get all excited about the Word but when they find out that it is going to be really hard to put the Word into action, they give up.

And yet another reason has to do with the cares of this world. Check out Mark 4.

Jonathan Edwards once preached a sermon on this very thing. He writes, “The cares of this life often hinder the saving effect of the Word of God.”

And we might add, the transforming effect of the Word of God. Many of us sit under good, solid preaching week after week and yet, we aren’t always changed by it as quickly as we would hope. One big old reason for that is that when we leave church and go about our business throughout the week, the cares of this world often make it difficult for us to remember to put the Word of God into practice.

Jonathan Edwards illustrates a number of ways they do that.

First, he says the cares of this world keep the Word of God from making the impression on their minds as it naturally would.

Our hearts are kind of like a cup.

If they are filled with one thing, they can’t be filled with something else.

Or to put it another way, the cares of this world and the Word of God are like opposite ends of magnets. If your heart is centered on the cares of this world when the Word comes, it is going to repel it.

It makes your heart like cement. The Word of God is like a basketball and if you are focused on the here and now, no matter how hard it is thrown on the cement, it just rebounds right off.

The preacher can get up there, he can give all kinds of great illustrations, he can be real logical, he can show you what he’s getting from the text, he can speak with great authority and power and yet, it makes no impression because your mind is somewhere else.

The way the soul is, Edwards explains, two concerns of an opposite nature cannot possess it at once. So if your soul is all wrapped up in the cares of this world, then the Word of God is not going to make much of an impact on you. You just aren’t going to be able to really focus.

Second, he says that the cares of this world tend to erase impressions by made the Word.

You are sitting there in church and you are convicted by the Word of God. You just know that it’s right and that you’ve got to change.

You get up and leave, go back to work and start hanging out with your friends, watching television, whatever and slowly but surely that concern about your soul just doesn’t seem as important anymore.

Third, he says that the cares of this world indispose men to the duties of religion directed by the Word.

We only have so much time and energy and if we use all our time and energy on pursuing the things of this world, we aren’t going to have much if any left for doing what God has called us to do.

I don’t know if you have ever seen a huge, musclebound weightlifter try to run a race. It can be kind of funny. He is so focused so much on one particular aspect of physical fitness, that it makes it difficult for him to exercise in any other way. When we exercise ourselves so much regarding the cares of this world, it makes it very difficult for us to get fit spiritually.

Fourth, he explains that the cares of this world expose men to many temptations that keep them from really pursuing the Word.

If I were in China and I were talking to people who were being persecuted, I would have certain cautions to give them. They are obviously in a dangerous situation. But what I am not sure we always realize, sitting here in America, is that we too are in a really dangerous situation spiritually.

Affluence, prosperity, the cares of this world may in fact have done greater harm to Christians throughout the ages than all the persecutors and tormentors combined.

Fortunately Edwards doesn’t only point out the danger, he also gives several specific directions to help us.

First, he says don’t aim at great things in this world.

Try preaching that at a graduation service.

But he’s got a point and it’s not that you don’t try to honor God with the gifts He’s given you, instead it is that you need to be careful that you don’t make the world’s priorities your priorities. I guarantee you if you go to heaven or hell and talk to the people there, there’s not a single one of them who is going to counsel you to make it your life’s goal to be great in the eyes of the world.

Second, he says watch over your heart.

Any time you feel a stirring of the Holy Spirit as you listen to the Word of God, jump on it. Imagine that conviction like a precious jewel and guard it lest anyone take it from you. As you leave church, you might imagine that there are any number of armed robbers who want desperately to steal that diamond from you, and those armed robbers are the cares of this world.

Think of how you are when you are really focused on something and seek to be that way with the Word of God.

Third, he says never trust your heart about the future.

In other words, don’t rest in resolutions you make when you hear the Word of God. Obey immediately. You don’t want to give the devil time to mess with your convictions.

Fourth, he says watch out for concerns that might entangle you. Know yourself. Know the kinds of things that get your mind racing in the wrong direction, and learn what kind of thoughts you should put on in their place.

Fifth, he says to give yourself many reasons your soul is important.

If you are in a burning building, you are going to run even if you don’t like running.

You may not like listening to preaching and you may not like reading, but listen, if you know how important your soul is and if you know the dangers of sin, you are going to be pretty passionate about doing those things despite your natural inclinations.

Think long and hard about the threatenings of God’s Word.

Think about the uncertainty of this life.

Think about the length of eternity.

Finally, Edwards says, whatever you do, pray, pray, pray that God’s Word would transform you and don’t stop praying until your heart is affected and changed by it.

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