Sunday morning (7/1/18), I heard an excellent sermon from Austin Kopack on having our hearts strengthened by the grace of the gospel. We were reminded that our hearts are weak and that if we seek to strengthen them by imbibing "diverse and strange teachings" we'll wind up spiritually sick. Austin likened this to trying to live off of only coconuts or taking wonder pills filled with mercury and winding up near death. (see story about the coconut man).
Now your back at home and going about your life. The words of sermon and song that were ringing in your ears are now being drowned out by all kinds of other stories about how to get the "good life" and your heart is beginning to falter. So what does one do to continue strengthening one's heart with grace?
Monday - MEDITATE ON THE SERMON
One thing to do is to keep meditating on the sermon you just heard preached. Don't just forget it and move on. God was speaking through the preaching of his word. Not only that, he was speaking a message that was uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit for the congregation of MERCYhouse on July 1, 2018. There was something unique that happened in that room and it won't happen again, at least, not in the same way. So go back over the sermon text and your sermon notes and think about what God was saying to you through the sermon. If you didn't take notes, start taking them. If God is speaking, I definitely don't want to miss what he is saying to me so I always write them down when I'm the hearer and not the preacher.
Tuesday - TAKE A CUE FROM THE MH WEEKLY RECAP
Each week you receive an update about the sermon that was preached the Sunday before and some suggestions for how you can go deeper in reflecting on and applying the content of the sermon (thanks Meghan!). If you don't get the update, you can sign up HERE. Once you read the "How Should We Then Live" section, take a cue from some part of it and take a next step.
Wednesday - ATTEND A SMALL GROUP
One big reason we offer small groups during the week is because we know that a weekly gathering on Sunday is not going to be enough to keep our hearts strong. We are going to need additional exposure to the gospel in community and small groups provide the perfect place for that. That said, we are between summer and fall small group offerings and don't have the usual menu of small groups available. This means you have more time in your schedule to gather with friends to enjoy time together and talk about what God is doing in your lives. Make sure you ask some good questions to get people talking about more than the latest Red Sox game or fashion trend. A few good questions I like to ask is "What's going well for you right now?" What's really hard right now?" "How can I pray for you?"
Thursday - READ THE BIBLE
I know you're supposed to read the Bible every day but why not use at least one day to focus on studying some part of it for a little longer than the usual quick devotional. Most working people don't have a lot of free time. I do find that most working people do have an evening where they can forgo the usual TV show or social media binge and spend some concentrated time reading the Bible. Lately, I've been using these scripture journals to help me focus on a particular section of the Bible and study more deeply than a cursory read. No Christian is going to grow in grace if they don't do some deeper dives in scripture. You can also listen to scripture using the ESV website or YOUVERSION app. Take a cue from Austin's sermon and listen to the book of Hebrews this week.
Friday - TALK WITH FRIENDS
I know I mentioned this earlier, but something I pray for our congregation is for people to feel more comfortable "gospeling" each other in the course of normal conversation. It may seem awkward at first, but our hearts are all longing for their to be friends in our life that are sharing about the significance of the gospel in their daily experiences and encouraging us to do the same. Genuine sharing about our hearts as they relate to Jesus is part of how we can actually succeed in applying the gospel in a way that will actually strengthen us.
Saturday - PREPARE OUR HEARTS FOR SUNDAY MORNING
I mentioned earlier that one of the ways to get more out of the weekly gospel preaching is to take notes. The other is to prepare oneself for that preaching the night before. Because we preach through books of the Bible, you usually know what is next. Sometimes we even provide reading guides to keep you on track. Next week (7/8/18) I'll be preaching Hebrews 13:10-14. Take a few minutes on Saturday night or early Sunday morning to read the text and pray for the receptivity of your own heart and the hearts of others. Also pray that God would use the preacher to illuminate God's word in a way that would strengthen our hearts with gospel grace and show us what to do once we've received that fresh power.
Sunday - ATTEND CHURCH WITH A HEART THAT IS READY
Once you've engaged your heart in the kinds of things mentioned above, you will be much more alert to what God is doing in you and in others. Pray for yourself, for others, for the preacher and others who are leading in worship. Be ready to take notes and always be asking yourself, "What is God saying to me and our church and what am I supposed to do about it?" If you are not interested in doing the types of things mentioned in this article, I guarantee you will find your heart in a state of weakness. You'll find yourself wondering why you don't have spiritual strength to carry on. The reason will always be that you need to lay off the coconuts and do as the writer of Hebrews tells us - to have our hearts "strengthened by grace".