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Affronted Listeners

The way in which a person listens to his pastor is, I believe, a brand of spiritual stethoscope; a sort of finger upon the pulse of the individual soul. Each week, God opens His mouth through the voices of His ministers; He bids His children to draw near and draw in precious, soul-sanctifying truth. But listening requires humility and therein lies the rub. To listen — whether in the church or out — is to set aside both agenda and impulse in order to concentrate on what is before me. Quite frankly, the entire art of listening is a healthy affront to self — a hazardous step in the quest for personal happiness. Am I willing to cast aside every vain and unteachable thought? Am I willing to come in humility and meekly submit to the instruction laid before me? Am I willing to look beyond the messenger to see the Lord who stands behind him? Do I hear the undertones of the Master within the voice of the man? Indeed, the way in which we respond to bearers of the Gospel is the way in which we respond to the Lord Himself. May each of us endeavor this week to pray — to fervently pray — for our ministers, and to draw near with hearts that pulse with the prayer, “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.”

“A natural heart is offended every day at the preaching of the Cross… The preaching of another’s righteousness–that you must have it or perish–many, I have no doubt, are often enraged at this in their hearts. Many, I doubt not, have left this church on account of it, and many more, I doubt not, will follow. All the offence of the Cross is not ceased. But a broken heart cannot be offended. Ministers cannot speak too plainly for a broken heart. A broken heart would sit for ever to hear of the righteousness without works.”

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Dundee: W. Middleton, 1845, p. 395

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