At the end of a sermon, how often have you said out loud or to yourself, “There are a lot of people here who could use that sermon.” Or, “I hope brother _______ was paying attention to that.” Or, “I wish sister ________ had been here to hear that lesson.” For most of us, it’s easy to see how the Scriptures apply to others, but it’s not as easy to understand how they apply to us as individuals. This was one of the main shortcomings of the Pharisees. Jesus said of them, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4).
I’ve heard old time preachers talk about preaching ricochet sermons. They would preach a lesson aimed at convicting a particular individual, only to have that individual remain entirely unaffected, but someone else in the congregation would holler and complain about how that sermon had been aimed right at them. Apparently, the lesson bounced off one person and hit someone else! A ricochet sermon!
A bullet won’t ricochet off butter. It has to hit something hard. That’s true of God’s word too. When hearts and minds are hard, even God’s word cannot penetrate. The person who rejects and deflects the Scriptures will not be changed by them and cannot be helped by them. The seed that falls on the hard wayside soil can’t penetrate, so it doesn’t germinate, and it never has a chance to bear fruit (cf. Matthew 13:18-19). In those whose hardened hearts deflect God’s word, “the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them'” (Matthew 13:14-15).
My friend, the truth of God’s word is for you. It applies to you. It will help you. Receive it and examine yourself to see how. “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).
— Steve Klein