It’s easy to become a passive sermon consumer. As a young Christian, I started to sense this tendency in my own sermon listening, so one Sunday I brought a notebook to church and devised a simple little practice to get my discernment juices flowing before listening to sermons. It was as simple as asking three little questions, and it stuck with me. Over time, I began to use this same technique when listening to sermon podcasts, when reading Christian blogs and books, and eventually while listening to Christian music.
The process points to an important fact we all know: All of us need to be saved by someone or something. But, as an active listener will quickly see, the world is full of variant gospels, and every preacher, writer and artist has a message of salvation. We must examine the veracity of the gospel they share, and these three questions have simplified the process for me.
So before I listen to a sermon, turn on a Christian album or open a Christian book, I ask myself these three questions:
• How am I saved?
• What am I saved from?
• What am I saved for?
The questions are short, easy to remember and could not be bigger. At first I wrote them on paper and filled in the answers by hand, and later it just became an intuitive mental exercise.
It also became apparent over time that these same questions are useful in many other contexts. They are gospel questions, helpful inside the church. But they also help shakedown any worldview to its core essence. They work on advertisements and the messaging of presidential hopefuls (yes, even Donald Trump—try it).
Four Common Answers
For the sake of this article, I will focus on sermons. Ask the three questions above, and the answers you hear will commonly fall into these four categories:
1. You will hear a therapeutic gospel:
• We are saved by becoming self-authenticated and affirmed.
• We are saved from self-destructive negativity.
• We are saved for self-confidence.