We heard a sermon at our church recently on the two ‘Bunnings men’ in Matthew 7:24-27. Two builders: one wise and one foolish, one building on the rock and one on the sand, one whose building stood in the storm and one whose building fell with a great crash. It’s a parable of sorts. The builders are like a wise person and a foolish person in relation to the reality of God’s kingdom. Perhaps surprisingly both listened to Jesus’ words but the vital difference between them – the wise man put those words into practice while the fool did not.
It is not enough for us to inform people of what God says, to explain, to interest them with observations of the text; we must help them do what it says. We must apply! We must be careful to apply in our own lives and we must show the people God has given us to shepherd how to live, to do, to practice what he says.
Perhaps you read this and think, ‘I know, I need to work on application. Not the same things week after week in a way that listeners tune out because they’ve heard it before.’ There are a number of approaches that can help us as we come to think about application. Since you’re reading this post, you’re probably familiar with the necessary, possible and impossible. There are also ‘repent and believe’ with the flavour of the particular issue of the passage at hand; or how does this passage teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness? 2 Timothy 3:16; or what does this passage mean for head, heart and hands? Perhaps some variety can help us out of an application rut, so I offer another.
A second part of the same sermon looked at the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6 and though not directly intended in the sermon I think it may provide a frame for thinking in a fresh way about application as we take up Jesus’ model for responding to God’s word.
- Consider ‘Our’ – how much of our application is corporate? Individual responses matter of course but perhaps considering our corporate ‘doing’ and how we can help each other walk in obedience could bring a fresh edge to your application.
- Consider ‘Father’ – what grace God the King has lavished on us that we can call him Father! What is there in the passage you’re preaching about the character of God? Teach about that character and preach it – show hearers how this works out in awe, trust, repentance, worship, thankfulness, praise.
- Consider ‘Hallowed be your name. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ – how does this passage address a concern for God’s name, his reputation? Where does it lift our eyes to see ‘He is worthy’? Where does it point to our falling short of honouring him, loving him, obeying him as we ought? Is there a warning here to be heeded? Where is his will not being done in our lives? Where does it grow our delight in him and overflow in our speaking and living?
- Consider ‘Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. Where does this passage show us God’s provision, rescue, deliverance? What does it look like to depend on him rather than living with our own mere and inadequate resources? Preach his grace – we are doers of his word not to be saved but because we are.
While a variety of approaches may prove helpful, they are of course inadequate. Let’s pray that we and those we preach to would be hearers and doers, wisely living in line with the realities of God’s kingdom.