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Why I Gave Up Sermon Application

Much of Scripture is meant to be enjoyed, not applied.

Why I Gave Up Sermon Application

It is likely a miracle that I can remember a few sermons from the required chapel services I attended two to three times a week during my year in Bible College. Among the chapel services, youth group services I led on Wednesday nights, and church services on Sundays, I heard anywhere from four to eight sermons a week. Of those sermons, one particularly sticks out. The preacher himself does not stick out in my memory. It's a shame I don't remember who he was, because I wish I could give him credit for the sermon.

The sermon was about Psalm 103, the famous passage beginning and ending with the cry, "Bless the LORD!" The speaker's exegesis of the Psalm was perfect. About two-thirds of the way through the sermon, Christ became clear to me as the preacher set everything in its context and place. As any preacher would want, the preacher made Christ look as Christ does in Scripture: Beautiful. The preacher spoke with authority and let the text breathe all while remaining ...

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Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments

Matt

January 11, 2018  6:01am

The passages you mention that question the ability to apply to our lives are easily applied. Are you going to find yourself in the belly of a large fish? Probably not, but it also shows us how we need to listen to God and if He has something for us to do that He wants us to do, He will find a way for us to do it. I know that's just one example, but I do believe the Bible is meant to both inspire us and guide us in our daily living. Perhaps a particular passage is just meant to inspire or lift up the reader, but perhaps there are those that are meant for application, too? Either way, I don't see throwing the baby out with the bath water to be the answer. Just my opinion, though.

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Clemence Olaoluwa

January 10, 2018  6:30pm

Quite insightful and revolutionary!

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Paul Limato, Jr.

January 10, 2018  11:46am

Thank you for this insightful article. How often have parents said to their children, “The world does NOT revolve around you!”? As a pastor, I’ve not thought about this in connection with preaching a sermon. Thank you for reminding me of what Jesus said to His Disciples, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

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John Smith

January 09, 2018  1:22pm

I've always enjoyed Rutledge's sermons and online posts.

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Mark de Kluyver

January 09, 2018  12:25pm

I have recently discovered that when people tell me that a sermon is "very practical" it almost always means it has been interpreted to be about them and what they can do. It has become man centred.

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Alex Fagundo

January 09, 2018  7:32am

This article is spot on and has caused me to reflect about the purpose of a message. It reminds me of Mary and Martha. Martha was busy doing stuff while Mary just worshiped. Sometimes the point of a passage is just to create awe in us.

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Phil Mclain

January 08, 2018  4:17pm

A good reminder that God's message is not always about us (me).

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Patrick Dominguez

January 08, 2018  4:01pm

I like the focus on proclamation and the telling of Good News. Also, emphasis on beauty. However, "all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for" ...dare I say? Application! God does intend for it to ultimately find useful application in our lives. Still, a thought provoking article. Thanks!

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Rick Thompson

January 08, 2018  12:09pm

Excellent observation here. I once had a pastor who asked me how many "how-to" sermons Jesus preached. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but in my preaching I want the beautiful truths to come through of what God is doing, trusting the Spirit is putting His finger on the specific things each listener will find himself/herself knowing they must do now. NT Wright also reminded me of the importance of Scripture reading in the worship service, not as a set-up for the message so much as an opportunity for us to see and celebrate all the things God has done and is doing in His world among His people. Thanks for this refreshing perspective, Chris Nye.

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EZacharias

January 08, 2018  10:34am

So, bravo to the writer, for he made a great observation about Law and Gospel. However, Scripture is not a matter of enjoyment but a matter of believing. It is God-given, just as faith is God-given. Both are driven by the Holy Spirit. Believing God and trusting in his promises, we will find joy. Even the tough and unbearable parts of Scripture will bring joy for the Christian, for the Christian knows that God is a refuge for all who believe.

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