Pastorally Applying Scripture

Keller suggests twelve categories of people that the text may be speaking to:

  1. Conscious unbeliever: Is aware he is not a Christian (e.g., immoral pagan, intellectual pagan, imitative pagan, genuine thinker, religious non-Christian).
  2. Nonchurched nominal Christian: Has belief in the basic Christian doctrines, but with no or remote church connection (e.g., churched nominal Christian, semi-active moralist, active self-righteous). 
  3. Awakened: Is stirred and convicted over his sin but without gospel peace yet (e.g., curious, convicted with false peace, comfortless).
  4. Apostate: Was once active in the church but has repudiated the faith without regrets.
  5. New Believer: Is recently converted.
  6. Doubtful: Has many fears and hesitancies about his new faith (e.g., eager, overzealous).
  7. Mature/growing: Passes through nearly all the basic conditions named below but progresses through them because he responds quickly to pastoral treatment or knows how to treat himself.
  8. Afflicted: Lives under a burden or trouble that saps spiritual strength (e.g., physically afflicted, dying, bereaved, lonely, persecuted/abused, poor/economic troubles, desertion).
  9. Tempted: Is struggling with a sin or sins that are remaining attractive and strong (e.g., overtaken, taken over). 
  10. Immature: Is a spiritual baby who should be growing but is not (e.g., undisciplined, self-satisfied, unbalanced, devotee of eccentric doctrine).
  11. Depressed: Is not only experiencing negative feelings but also shirking Christian duties and being disobedient (e.g., anxious, weary, angry, introspective, guilty).
  12. Backslid: Has gone beyond depression to withdrawal from fellowship with God and with the church (e.g., tender, hardening). 

Andy Naselli, quoting Tim Keller, in How to Understand and Apply the New Testament (pg. 316-17).

Sermons–Their Matter

Some brethren have done with their text as soon as they have read it. Having paid all due honor to that particular passage by announcing it, they feel no necessity further to refer to it. They touch their hats, as it were, to that part of Scripture, and pass on to fresh fields and pastures new. Why do such men take a text at all? Why limit their own glorious liberty? Why make Scripture a horsing-block by which to mount upon their unbridled Pegasus? Surely the words of inspiration were never meant to be boot-hooks to help a Talkative to draw on his seven-leagued boots in which to leap from pole to pole.

Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (pg. 73-74).