Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: … (Deuteronomy 4:9)
It is easy to fall into the trap of listening to sermons (or reading our Bibles) and thinking of others. “How I wish ________ could hear this message!” “I hope that brother or sister across the church aisle is listening to the preacher this morning.” “I know that when the invitation is given that brother should be down the aisle.” The truth of the matter is that there is a wide gulf between a genuine spiritual concern that edifies and spiritual pride that hinders. One can think of an individual in need of biblical truth and then pray for them in humility and tenderness. This is right even to the point of communicating to them those truths that are helpful. On the other hand, statements that cross our minds like the ones above tend to come from a nature that has exalted himself against the other brother or sister. Our diligence must be directed to ourselves without mercy. Only then, can we apply them graciously and with mercy to others.
Jonathan Edwards’ Advice to Young Converts briefly challenges this new disciple of Christ in this area. Edwards’ advice was sound for this young lady and still valid today. Let our readers pause, meditate, and correct if needed, our attitude towards biblical preaching and teaching. Instead of focusing our attention on others, let us sit at Jesus’ feet – engrafting His Words for ourselves, abiding in those Words, and living out that quickening Word before the world.
When you hear sermons, hear them for yourself, even though what is spoken in them may be more especially directed to the unconverted or to those that in other respects are in different circumstances from yourself. Let the chief intent of your mind be to consider what ways you can apply the things that you are hearing in the sermon. You should ask, What improvement should I make, based on these things, for my soul’s own good? (Stephen Nichols, Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions and Advice to Young Converts, 29)