Reflections and Blog

When the Sermon Doesn’t Apply to You

Our sermon text this last Sunday focused much on bewaring the forbidden woman (or man) and fleeing from her miserable trap. But how should you respond to the sermon if forbidden romantic or sexual relationships are no struggle for you? Indeed, how should you respond to any sermon regarding a life issue in which you are already walking wisely and faithfully? We can be tempted to tune out of sermons or sections of the Bible that we do not think matter to us, but the truth is that “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable” (2 Tim 3:16). Even if a passage does not seem immediately applicable to our lives, we should still profit from it. Below are five questions to think through when the sermon doesn’t appear to apply to you.

1. How can I grow further in this area? Even if we know the Bible well and are walking in holiness, we should never believe that we have spiritually “arrived.” The exhortation from Scripture to the faithful is to “excel still more” (1 Thess 4:1, 10). When you hear a message you’re already applying, thank the Lord for the gracious work he has already done in your life, but then consider how you can shore up areas in which you have grown complacent and grow to be even more like Christ.

2. How can I prepare for the future? Oftentimes a passage of Scripture will teach us something that may not be directly applicable now but will be in the future. We should not wait till that future time to seek God’s truth, as we may not have the same opportunity and willingness later. Consider that the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were written primarily to young people who had not yet experienced what these books describe, but those young ones were to prepare! So should we store up God’s truth in our hearts for the times that we will especially need it (Ps 119:11).

3. How can I apply the same principles to other areas of life? While the Bible does give special instruction to particular life issues, we should remember that the core truths about sin, holiness, and the gospel apply to every area of life. For example, you may not struggle with the snares of the forbidden woman or experience the misery of bondage to her, but is there another area of life for you where a similar reality applies? Has a different sin ensnared you and started producing its ruinous effect? Is there something else from which you need to flee with your eyes set on Christ? After all, just as the Bible calls us to flee immorality, it also calls us to flee idolatry, which is the root of every kind of sin (1 Cor 6:12, 18; 10:14; 1 John 5:21).

4. What does this passage teach me about God? Similar to the above question, we should remember that every teaching of the Bible is an insight into the glorious character of God. Therefore, even if we already understand and apply a passage, we should worshipfully consider anew what the passage emphasizes to us about God: his holiness, his faithfulness, his love, his wisdom, etc. The Bible says that beholding the face of Christ is how we are transformed, so we should take the opportunity in every passage to consider how we see our Lord’s face (2 Cor 3:18).

5. How can I help others in this area? While our first thought when hearing a sermon should be how we can apply it to ourselves, we should also consider how we can help others apply it. You may be walking in the faithful wisdom of Eccl 7:23-26—praise the Lord! But you are a member of Christ’s body, and other parts of his body may be struggling. Those other members need your help, and if you won’t help, not only will Christ be dishonored, but the whole body will suffer—you included (1 Cor 12:26). Therefore, let’s make it our habit to consider how we can honor Christ and bless his body by helping others apply that which we are already applying ourselves.