So often we listen to an encouraging and useful sermon but either forget the telic point (the overarching purpose of the passage) within a week, or fail to respond to it practically. I speak for myself, first and foremost here; guilty as charged! How then can we use what we have learnt and apply it meaningfully?
Some people take notes and I find this incredibly helpful. I like to write in or underline a verse or two in my Bible or circle a reference or take down a quote. This can often aid concentration and when you next read through that passage, something of the sermon will often return afresh in my mind.
Discuss the sermon after the meeting
It is so easy to simply say “that was a good sermon” and leave it there. Instead it would be a blessing to others to mention maybe the single most important point to someone you talk to afterwards, ask them for any of their thoughts, or speak with the preacher on occasions about applying the sermon.
Discuss the sermon at dinner time
This is a perfect opportunity to have fellowship with family or friends and to take it in turns to comment constructively about helpful points and then consider how those things can be applied.
Midweek Bible Study
Someone might say that they already considered the passage during the sermon at the weekend. However, forty minutes will not exhaustively expound a chapter of the Bible. The website Studylight.org will give you scores of commentaries. The midweek Bible study will help to cement the passage in one’s mind by revisiting the text during the week, and the study itself will provide others to share thoughts and fellowship with, which is a tremendous privilege and blessing.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you remember what you have learned
Our Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all the things He taught His disciples (John 14:26). We should pray this for ourselves and for others.
The purpose of sermons is to change us for the better so that we come to trust in the Lord and become more like Him in character and conduct. They are to improve the way we relate to God and others. Sermons are never to be existing in a vacuum or in a hidden compartment of our minds, never affecting how we live and what we are committed to. Sermons are never to be used and left on the shelf like a consumer product that are of no more benefit than life coaching and riveting TED talks.
Imagine a coach and an athlete that studied mounds of training journals, examined the biomechanics of a sporting discipline through video, learnt about diet, stretching and various forms of training, knew what level of rest was optimal, but never went to the athletics track, instead just meeting once a week to think about ‘it’. Theologians sometimes talk about “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxy”, in other words, “right doctrine” and “right practise”. Matthew 7:24 reminds us to hear the Lord’s words and to do them (some translations say put into practise), since He will liken us to a wise man who built his house upon a rock.