It is not enough that we go to church and hear a sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would anyone know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.
We must hear with FAITH, believing implicitly that every word of God is true, and shall stand. The word in the old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not mixed with faith in those who heard it (Heb. 4:2).
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 messages, “not as the word of men, but the word of God” (Thess. 2:13).
We must hear with PRAYER, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon over. Here lies the rand 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 will hear with profit, and return with praise.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. (II Peter 3:18)
True grace is progressive, of a spreading, growing nature. It is with grace as it is with light: first, there is the daybreak; then it shines brighter to the full noonday. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth (Isa. 61:3; Hos. 14:5) A good Christian is not like Hezekiah’s sun that went backwards, nor Joshua’s sun that stood still, but is always advancing in holiness, and increasing with the increase of God.…. (T. Watson)
The growth of grace is the best evidence of the truth of grace. Things that have not life will not grow. A stake in a hedge will not grow. But a plant that hath vegetative life will grow. The growing of grace shows it to be alive in the soul.…. (T. Watson)
Christian, as ever you would stir up others to exalt the God of grace, look to the exercise and improvement of your own graces. When poor servants live in a family, and see the faith and love and wisdom and patience and humility of a master, shinning like the stars in heaven, it draws forth their hearts to bless the Lord that ever they came into such a family…. When men’s graces shine as Moses’ face did, when their life, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, is a very heaven, sparkling with virtues as so many bright starts, how much others are stirred up to glorify God, and cry, “These are Christians indeed! These are an honour to their God, a crown to their Christ, and a credit to their gospel! Oh, if they were all such, we would be Christians, too!….. (Thomas Brooks)
The right manner of growth is to grow less in one’s own eyes. “I am a worm and no man” (Psalm 22:16). The sight of corruption and ignorance makes a Christian grow into a dislike of himself. He doth vanish in his own eyes. Job abhorred himself in dust (Job 42:6). This is good to grow out of conceit with oneself….. (T. Watson)
In is a sign of not growing in grace, when we are less troubled about sin. Time was when the least sin did grieve us (as the least hair makes the eye weep), but if he neglected closet prayer; now he can omit family prayer. Time was when vain thoughts did not trouble him; now he is not troubled for loose practice. There is a sad declension in religion, and grace is so far from growing that we can hardly perceive its pulse to beat….. (T. Watson)
If now you would be rich in graces, look to your walking. It is not the knowing soul, nor the talking soul, but the close-walking soul, the obediential soul, that is rich. Others may be rich in notions, but none so rich in spiritual experience, and in all holy and heavenly graces, as close walking Christians….. (Thomas Brooks)
It is a sign of not growing in grace, when we grow more worldly. Perhaps once we were mounted into higher orbits, we did set out our hearts on things above and speak the language of Canaan. But now our minds are taken off heaven, we dig our comforts out of these lower mines, and with Satan compass the earth. It is a sign we are going downhill apace, and our grace is in a consumption. It is observable when nature decays, and people are near dying, they grow more stooping. And truly when men’s hearts grow more stooping to the earth, and they can hardly lift up themselves to an heavenly thought, if grace be not dead, yet it is ready to die….(T. Watson)
Experience will tell every Christian that the more strictly and closely and constantly he walketh with God, the stronger he groweth in duty. Infused habits are advantaged by exercise. As the fire that kindled the wood for sacrifice upon the alter first came down from heaven, but then was to be kept alive by the care and labour of the priests, so the habits of spiritual grace are indeed infused from God, and most be maintained by daily influences from God, yet with a concurrence also of our own labours, in waiting upon God, and exercising ourselves with godliness; and the more a Christian doth so exercise himself, the more strong he shall grow. (Collings on Providence)
Let them be thy choicest companions, that have made Christ their chiefest companion. Do not so much eye the outsides of men as their inside: look most to their internal worth. Many persons have their eyes upon the external grab of a professor. But give me a Christian that minds the internal worth of persons, that makes such as are most filled with the fullness of God his choicest and chiefest companions….(T. Brooks)
Christians may be growing when they think they do not grow. “There is that maketh himself poor, yet he is rich” (Prov. 13:7). The sight that Christians have of their defects in grace, and their thirst after greater measures of grace, makes them think they do not grow. He who covets a great estate, because he hath not so much as he desires, thinks himself poor… (Thomas Watson)
Souls may be rich in grace, and yet not know it, not perceive it. The heir is heir to a crown or a great estate, but knows it not. Moses’ face did shine, and others saw it, but he perceived it not. So many a precious soul is rich in grace, and others see it and know it and bless God for it, and yet the poor soul perceives it not. Sometimes this arises from the soul’s strong desires of spiritual riches. The strength of the soul’s desires after spiritual riches doth often take away the very sense of growing spiritually rich, yet they cannot perceive it, they cannot believe it. It is just so with many a precious Christian: his desires after spiritual riches are so strong, that they take away the very sense of his growing rich in spirituals. Many Christians have much worth within them, but they see it not. It was a good man that said, “The Lord was in this place and I knew it not.” Again, this ariseth sometimes from men neglecting to cast up their accounts. Many men thrive and grow rich, and yet, by neglecting to cast up their accounts, they cannot tell whether they go forward or backward. It is so with many precious souls. Again, this ariseth sometimes from the soul’s too frequent casting up of its accounts. If a man should cast up his accounts once a week, or once a month, he may not be able to discern that he doth grow rich, and yet he may grow rich. But let him compare one year with another, and he shall clearly see that he doth grow rich. Again, this sometimes ariseth from the soul’s mistakes in casting up its accounts. The soul many times mistakes; it is in a hurry, and then it puts down ten for a hundred for a thousand. Look, as hypocrites put down their counters for gold, their pence for pounds, and always prize themselves above the market, so sincere souls do often put down their pound for pence, their thousands for hundreds, and still prize themselves below the market. (T. Brooks)
J. C. Ryle, Holiness pp.95-97