To be sermon-proof is to hear God’s Word, claim to love it, profess to obey it, but then not act on it! It is to become so hardened, the heart is no longer moved and is totally unaffected by what is preached. Some call it “gospel-hardened.”
Think of all the old Bible stories and Bible characters. Who do you think was the most sermon-proof? Who sat under the clearest, strongest word and was totally unaffected by it?
Was it Saul? He heard a clear, strong word: “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul disobeyed this message. Instead, “Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good” (1 Samuel 15:9). Then Samuel appeared and Saul became a liar! “Saul said unto him . . . I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel was horrified because he could hear the bellowing of the sheep that were spared. “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but did what was evil in His sight?” (see 1 Samuel 15:19).
Was Saul hardened? Was he sermon-proof? Why else would he tell such bold-faced lies to a prophet of God who had the goods on him? Listen to him lie again with the evidence of his lying all about him: “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me” (1 Samuel 15:20). Caught red-handed, Saul blamed others and contrived incredible excuses for his sin: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen . . . to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God” (1 Samuel 15:21).
Samuel got to the heart of the problem. He knew that Saul was sermon-proof because his heart had already been given over to witchcraft. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee” (1 Samuel 15:23). Sermon-proof Saul ended up getting guidance from a witch and died an early, cruel death.
God is behind every glorious work and He will not share His glory. He will not allow any obstacle to get in the way of the shining brilliance of His Son. Therefore, He needs clean vessels to do His work. At the peak moment when His blessings and power are flowing freely through His people, He tells them, “Pause now and put it all on hold. I want you to examine your heart.”
That is the word I sensed God wanted me to preach when our church celebrated our third anniversary. You can imagine my hesitation. I pictured the whole congregation staring at me, puzzled, thinking, “Wait! You’re telling us we’re all great, but then you turn around and say we need to change.” It would be like the husband who takes his wife to dinner for their anniversary and says, “Honey, I was hoping to talk about the extra weight you’ve put on.”
That’s not exactly what it’s like when God asks us to examine ourselves. After all, we’re aware that our righteousness is as filthy rags, that we need His grace. But the fact is, just when we’re poised on the brink of God’s greatest work in our lives, He asks us to reflect on these questions: “Is there anything in my heart that’s displeasing to the Lord? Have I neglected to do something He has asked of me? I want nothing in my life to hinder what God wants to do.”
God is forever bringing His people to this point. Why? Because before He can bring about His best, He has to do something deep in us. He wants to give us His victory, but He also wants our complete devotion to Him.
What is the Lord putting His finger on in your life? Is it to take away one small thing? Or to add something you’ve neglected? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice. Dealing with one small thing can determine your whole future. Will you examine it? If so, you can know God’s best is ahead—and you can rest assured that you have pleased the One who wants to bless you.
“Let us test and examine our ways” (Lamentations 3:40, ESV).
Are you longing to do great things for God—to serve Him and love Him until your dying breath? Are you wanting God to define a glorious future for you?
Then stop trying to do it on your own. Don’t try to set a course for your life and then ask God to bless it. Instead, spend your time getting to know Him. Learn to bask in His presence. Worship Him with abandon. Praise Him and love Him from the depths of your soul. Obey Him, even in the smallest detail. Pray and meditate on His Word. Appreciate the glory of creation!
Learn to set your heart on God, and God alone, and He will take notice.
There is one truth you can know for certain: God has a covenant prepared just for you. A special plan and purpose set aside for your future. And it is more glorious than you could ever imagine on your own. If He hasn’t laid this covenant on your heart, it is only because He knows you are not ready. He’s waiting for you. Watching. Longing to share this vision with you and help you embrace it.
When I was a young man in my early twenties, confused about my future, I could never have imagined the plans God had for my life. I was just a young man in love with Jesus, longing to spend the rest of my days in His presence. I had no idea He had a covenant prepared for me. No idea He had such a powerful purpose for my life.
At the time I couldn’t even begin to imagine myself as an evangelist. I was young and unprepared. I had no capabilities that would have led me to think I could preach in front of an audience. My Bible knowledge was immature and limited. My accent was thick and my manners were awkward. I was just a streetwise kid, and that was all I had going for me.
But I loved Jesus with a passion, and I determined to obey God, regardless of what He would have me do. So I embraced His covenant, little by little, day by day, month by month. I tried my best to stay faithful. And God has never let me down!
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
All the mourning, brokenhearted men of God in the Bible had one thing in common: They identified with the sins of the remnant!
They never prayed like the publican, “Thank God I am not like others.” They mourned over the adultery, treachery and compromise but humbly prayed, “God, I am also guilty.” Not guilty of those gross sins, but of falling short of God’s glory.
Ezra prayed, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. . . . All that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass . . . behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this” (Ezra 9:6, 13, 15). “Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God” (verse 10:1).
Nehemiah prayed, “We have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee” (Nehemiah 1:6-7).
Daniel also identified with the sins of God’s people. He prayed, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we harkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. . . . I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people” (Daniel 9:5-6, 20).
These were all holy men, blameless before God. They were not compromising or mixing with the world. Still they stood in the gap, confessing the sins of the people as well as their own.
If you follow in the same path as these men and determine in your heart as they did to seek the Lord—fasting, praying, weeping, mourning for sin—it will have the same effect on you. God’s hand will touch you, and He will send His word to you. You will share the very heart of God and enter into His glorious presence. And once there, you will understand how far short of His glory we all have fallen.
Nehemiah was a man of great intensity for God. “Hannai, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:2-4).
The remnant had returned to the holy place, but reproach and lethargy had crept in. Things were still in a dilapidated condition—no spiritual progress was being made.
Scripture says Nehemiah began to weep, mourn and “pray night and day” (verse 6). It was not a matter of being awakened by God in the middle of the night and a burden being dropped into his soul. No! This man of God initiated the burden! He asked for it! “I asked my brethren about the remnant” (see verse 2).
Likewise Daniel spent hours, days and weeks studying God’s Word. God did not drop a supernatural burden into his heart; rather, Daniel chastened his own heart. He developed and nurtured a true burden for God’s people by diligently studying and gaining an understanding of what God was saying. “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
Talk about intensity, mourning and weeping! Daniel said, “I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. . . . I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:2-3, 8).
When the hand of God touched Daniel, these words came from the throne: “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (verse 12). In Hebrew, the word “chasten” means to browbeat the flesh in order to bring it into submission. Paul also said, “I bring my body under subjection!”
The Lord is going to have a people today who are wholly given to His work—intense, passionate and broken—giving every spare hour and dollar to that which represents His interests on earth.