Why go to church, listen to a sermon?

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Good sermon, Pastor.” Sometimes we hear this encouraging comment after a church service.

But what is a sermon? The dictionary defines it as 1. “a religious discourse delivered in public usually by a clergyman as part of a worship service,” or 2. “a lecture on conduct or duty,” or 3. “an annoying harangue.”

I was once asked if I preached any good sermons. My response was that I hoped I had. Really, to me a sermon should fit into the first two categories mentioned, but specifically it should be information taken from the Bible, God’s Word. If that’s from where sermons come, they are good because God’s Word is good.

Sadly, some people categorize sermons as “an annoying harangue.” But words, instruction, stories and counsel from God’s Word are extremely valuable, and everyone needs to hear and contemplate the message of the Bible.

We might look at the Bible and think that it’s an awfully big book, so let’s just leave it alone — ignore it. However the theme of the Bible is to show people the way to life, and as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

There are words in a song with which I’m familiar that say, “People need the Lord.” I believe these words reflect the theme of the Bible, how we, people, need salvation, or the way to eternal life that will come by knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour. John 3:16 states that God loved the world — people — so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to bring life everlasting, eternal, to those who would receive Him as Saviour, believe Him and follow Him, serve Him, and live a Christian life.

As we read through the four Gospels of the New Testament — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — which specifically recount Jesus’ life here on this earth, we see in a little story in John 2:19-23 that Jesus told some of His critics. He said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days.”

The critics thought He referred to the temple building, but Jesus was referring to His body,and how He would be crucified, and three days later, He would rise again. It seems that so many didn’t realize what Jesus meant at the time, but verse 22 says that after Jesus’ resurrection, His disciples remembered and then realized what Jesus had meant when He made that statement.

So often Jesus gave illustrations, told stories or parables, which had great meaning but many, and it seems nearly everyone, didn’t understand what Jesus was really saying. Jesus indicated to His disciples that those who had interest in what He said would understand the meaning of His illustrations and stories or would seek to understand. I believe this is what God desires for people to do, to realize the importance of the words of the Bible and seek to understand them. To that end, we’ll attend churches that proclaim the Gospel week after week, because this Gospel is the way to life.

May we not be those who ignore or reject Jesus or the Gospel. In doing so, we reject eternal life. God really wants everyone to have eternal life. 2 Timothy 2:4 states that so clearly when it explains God’s desire: “Who would have all men to be saved and come into the knowledge of the truth.”

When the Gospel, the Word of life, is so readily available to us, we must reach out for this truth, this way to eternal life. Ignorance or lack of knowledge of this wonderful plan of God seems so often to be willing ignorance because there is so great an opportunity to hear this Gospel; there is an abundance of Bibles, especially in our country; and God speaks in different ways to us. People should actively, aggressively seek after the everlasting life the Bible reveals.

What we experience after this physical life is over will be more real and last longer. We should make every effort to fit into God’s plan, to obtain the eternal life God wants us to have. Seek to hear those sermons, seek to read those words that will point us to God, to Jesus, to eternal life.

The Rev. Charles Long is pastor of Bethel Assembly of God. Contact him at 509-527-3900. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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