A few of you have asked about some of the quotations cited in our recent sermons on Mark 4, so here they are. “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you” (Mark 4:24): how much we get out of hearing a sermon depends in large part on how much we put into hearing it. Let us hear well: below is some wisdom on how to do so.
The degree of benefit which men receive from all the means of grace depends entirely on the way in which they use them. Private prayer lies at the very foundation of religion; yet the mere formal repetition of a set of words, when “the heart is far away,” does good to no man’s soul. — Reading the Bible is essential to the attainment of sound Christian knowledge; yet the mere formal reading of so many chapters as a task and duty, without a humble desire to be taught of God, is little better than a waste of time. — Just as it is with praying and Bible reading, so it is with hearing. It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and “be nothing bettered, but rather worse.” “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how ye hear.”
Would any one know how to hear aright? Then let him lay to heart three simple rules. For one thing, 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, “not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb. vi. 2.) — For another thing, 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.” (I Thess. ii. 13) — Above all, we must hear 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.
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 shall hear with profit, and return with praise.
— J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, vol. 2: Luke (on Luke 8:16-21, emphasis added)
The quotation from Phil Ryken came from an article on Reformation 21 entitled “How to Listen to a Sermon” which can be found here.