Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey. The Woodlands, Tex.: Kress Biblical Resources, 2010. 127 pp., $10.99 (paperback).
One of the hardest things to do is to listen. And one of the hardest things for church-goers to do is to listen to sermons. Expository Listening is a new book by Ken Ramey that seeks to help believers in that endeavor. As the back cover of the book states,
Expository Listening is your handbook on biblical listening. It is designed to equip you not only to understand what true, biblical preaching sounds like, but also how to receive it, and ultimately, what to do about it. You need to know how to look for the Word of God, to love the Word of God, and to live the Word of God. In this way, God and His Word will be honored and glorified through your life.
James 1:22 tells us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” This book was designed to help its readers to follow both of these commands from the apostle James: to listen to the Word and to do what it says.
In order to help with that, Expository Listening is divided up into six chapters: Biblical Audiology: A Theology of Listening, Hearing with Your Heart, Harrowing (Preparing) Your Heart to Hear, The Itching Ear Epidemic, The Discerning Listener, and Practice What You Hear. Because of space, it is not possible to discuss the contents of each one of these chapters, so here is a brief summary of Chapter One: A Theology of Listening.
In one of the opening paragraphs of the chapter, it says “Almost every book of the Bible contains some reference to hearing and obeying God’s Word” (p. 10). The authors of Scripture obviously thought that listening was very important. With just a few exceptions, every one of them talked about it. What did they say and how does it apply to us today?
According to the book, the authors of Scripture said that God has spoken to men and He commands men to obey what He has said. Second they said that we all fail to listen to God and obey Him, and we deserve to be punished for our disobedience. Third, they said that God grants us the ability to listen to Him and obey Him by His Holy Spirit, whom we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. Fourth, the authors said that God promises to bless us both now and for all eternity if we listen to Him and obey Him. Concerning this last point, Ramey writes that,
Listening to and obeying God is the key to experiencing abundant life now and spending eternity with Him in heaven. Not listening to
and obeying Him results in having to live a life without His help and hope and then being separated from Him forever in Hell (p. 21).
Expository Listening is highly recommended by this reviewer. It is a great reminder for pastors that, when they preach the Bible, they are preaching the very words of God and there is a great responsibility that comes with that task. Pastors are not to be cute in the pulpit and to try and gain an audience by being culturally “relevant.” They are to proclaim to others what God has said in His Word and to make that proclamation as clear as possible.
Expository Listening is also a great book for the man in the pew. A big part of the average Christian’s life is spent listening. He listens to sermons. He listens to Sunday school lessons. He listens to wisdom from his church leadership in the counseling room and in discipleship contexts. And this book is a great reminder that how he listens to all of that determines the quality of his Christian life here on the earth and the quality of it in eternity.
Ken Ramey is the pastor of Lakeside Bible Church in Montgomery, Texas, and a graduate of The Master’s Seminary.
Reviewed by Jeremy Cagle