To become a doer of the Word, you must first be born again. Only God can give you a heart of faith and obedience. James writes in James 1:18, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Those who are regenerated by God then become doers of the Word. John writes in 1 John 2:29, “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”
However, those who are regenerated by God must grow in practicing the Word. You may not rest in your past conversion but press on in spiritual growth. Every time you hear the Word you must exercise obedience as a doer of the Word. “HEED” the Word by following this simple acronym: be a
- Humble hearer;
- Earnest hearer;
- Eager hearer;
- Doing hearer.
Here is some practical counsel on how to grow as a doer of the Word.
1. Familiarize yourself with the truths you have heard.
Meditate in private on what you heard in public. The Westminster Directory for Public Worship advises parents to engage in “repetition of sermons, especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard.”1Westminster Confession of Faith, 386. When you come home from church, speak to your children about the sermon you have heard in an edifying, practical manner. Talk about the sermon in words that your youngest child will understand.
Encourage your children to take notes on the sermon. My wife and I have trained our children since they were age seven to take notes. After the last service each Sabbath, we read through those notes as a family and talk our way through the sermons. Sometimes the discussions help our children more than the sermons do. Even when conversation does not produce the desired results, continue this review of Sabbath sermons. It is better to fall short than not to attempt at all. One sermon properly meditated upon with the assistance of the Holy Spirit will do more good than dozens of unapplied and quickly forgotten sermons. Thomas Watson said we should not let sermons run through our minds like water through a sieve. “Our memories should be like the chest of the ark, where the law was put,” he wrote.2Watson, Body of Divinity, 378.
2. Pray over what you have heard. Bring back to God in your prayers what He has given you in the Word.
Joseph Alleine said one way to remember the preached Word is to “come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the sermon to your knees.”3Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 29. An elderly woman once told me, “I take thorough sermon notes. When I bow my knees on Sunday evening, I put my notes in front of me, underline those things that I should strive to put into practice, and then pray through them one at a time.” Imitate this woman, and encourage your children to do the same.
3. Engage your affections with the truths you have heard.
Take what you have understood and use it to stir up hatred for sin, love for Christ, and compassion for people. We cannot be passive in the spiritual life. Yes, it is true that God must work within us; but when God works, He move us to work. Part of our work as hearers and doers of the Word is to stir ourselves up. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul, ‘Why art thou cast down’…. Exhort yourself, say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’…. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.4D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 21.
4. Make specific resolutions of how you intend to obey the Word.
Too often application fails because it remains too general and never touches the details of life. “I will be a more loving husband” is really not a decision to do anything. Better would be, “I will take my wife out to eat next week, ask her how I could be a more loving husband, and start to work on whichever point she feels is more important.” Don’t let the day end until you write down a specific resolution or two of how you will be a doer of the Word you have heard.
5. Tell a godly friend how the sermon applies to you.
This practice not only encourages edifying conversation on the Lord’s Day, but it also gives you more motivation to follow through. You are more likely to remember what you say than what you think. You and your friend may then talk about how you can work out your obedience practically. Your friend may ask you next week what you did. Better yet, he may pray for you. Furthermore, you might be surprised that after you tell your friend how the sermon applies to you he might say, “I think I should do the same thing as you!”
6. Build your obedience to God’s law upon your faith in God’s gospel.
Remember that the order of the Christian life is never obedience first, but faith first, then obedience. The apostle Paul says, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Obey by faith in Christ. Self-reformation by self-will cannot produce anything more than superficial change. The law of God can convict you of sin and direct you in the way of duty, but it cannot give you a heart to fulfill it. Only the Holy Spirit can do this, working faith in your heart through the gospel of Jesus Christ. So let your obedience be the obedience of faith, grasping hold of Christ as the Prophet, Priest, and King to teach, forgive, and rule you. Then move ahead to action, leaning on the Holy Spirit, and not on your own wisdom or willpower.
7. Put the sermon into action and persevere in obedience and good works.
A sermon is not over when the minister says “Amen.” Rather, that is when the true sermon begins. In an old Scottish story, a wife asked her husband if the sermon was done. “No,” he replied, “it has been said, but it has yet to be done.” Always seek to live out the sermons you hear, even if that means denying yourself, bearing your cross, or suffering for the sake of righteousness.
8. Use the Word preached and read to put into practice the task of evangelizing others.
Let the Word change you and then let it work through you to reach others and draw them to Christ. There is no more powerful or persuasive witness than the testimony of a changed, renewed life. True listening includes applying the Word of God. If you do not practice the Word of God after you have heard it, you have not truly listened to God’s message.
The Beauty and Glory of God’s Word
By Joel R. Beeke