When you go to church what do you hope to get out of the sermon? This is a question we should ask ourselves on a regular basis. I think most people rightly want to be edified, encouraged, and comforted. There are plenty of circumstances in life that cause us to desire these things—we want to grow in our sanctification, we want to be encouraged when we lack hope, and we seek comfort in times of trial or loss. But I do also hope from time to time that the preaching of the word makes me uncomfortable or even offends me. Why would I desire such reactions?
The plain and simple truth is, I’m a sinner, and unless I’m perfect in my sanctification, unless I am virtually sinless, there have to be some points in my life when the sermon should make me uncomfortable—it should challenge me. If the sermon, for example, is on some portion of the law of God, I should realize how far I fall short, and this should make me uncomfortable to the point that, by God’s grace, I repent of my violations of the law. My fear is that too many preachers are afraid to let the word loose in their sermons—they’re afraid they might offend and thus inadvertently or perhaps consciously defang God’s word. I can remember, for example, being fearful of preaching about gluttony—I didn’t seek the topic because I had an axe to grind. Rather, it came up in the natural course of my lectio continua expositional preaching. I knew there were some in the congregation that might be offended. I was a bit concerned but nevertheless proceeded with my message. I bathed my sermon in prayer, ensure that I was not needlessly or carelessly offensive, but then spoke about the sin of gluttony. Praise God no one complained and my long-term hope is that anyone who needed the message heard it, even if it might have been a hard message to hear.
There are many sins of which the Bible speaks that should hit us head-on if we’re listening to the text and if the preacher is faithful to preach what’s there. Don’t fear having the Scriptures go against the grain of your life. Rather, pray that by God’s grace he would make you receptive to his word and seek out the every corner of your heart to bring you in conformity to his will.