Application: Pressing the Text upon the Heart (Part 6)

Today we will discuss what I refer to as the four aspects of application. These aspects should be kept in mind both for our own personal application of Scripture as well as attempting to make application when you are teaching or preaching.

For most people, when we think of the area of application, our thoughts turn to asking the question, “What does the next tell me to do?” This can be true for pastors as well, who feel the compulsion to end every sermon with two or three tangible action points that the congregants can do that week. Imagine that a pastor is creative enough to come up with three new action points each week. If he preaches 50 times in a year, the congregation has walked away with 150 things to do over the course of a year. In such a situation is it any wonder that Christians become legalists?

The answer to this problem is to take into account all four aspects of application:

  1. Think: What does the text want me to think? What false beliefs does the text correct? Remember that central to what God does in us as believers is transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2). Since we are called to take every though captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5), it is essential that we allow God to change our understanding of who he is and the world around us.
  2. Believe: What does the text want me to believe? What false beliefs does the text correct? It is one thing to understand something, another to put your trust/faith in it. If we are going to take seriously that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17), then we must move from simple comprehension to trust in / reliance upon the truth of what God’s Word says.
  3. Feel: What does the text want me to feel? What sinful emotions does the text correct? While it is fashionable for people to say that no one has the right to tell them how to feel, God has absolutely no qualms about telling exactly how we should feel. The Psalms are filled with commands to rejoice, while the prophets often tell people to weep over their sin.
  4. Do: What does the text want me to do? What sinful actions does this text correct? While we do not want our application to consist solely of doing, that does not mean we ignore the many places where Scripture specifically tells us to do things like pray, speak the truth in love, forgive one another, etc.

Let’s take an example to flesh this out. Here is Philippians 4:4-9 (ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So in light of this text, let’s walk through each of the different aspects.

Think:

  • The Lord is near (both in that he is present with us no matter where we are and in the sense that Christ’s return is imminent). 
  • The peace of God transcends my ability to completely understand it.
  • I must fill my mind with things that are true, honorable, etc.

Believe:

  • I must believe that Lord is near even when he does not feel near to me
  • I must trust the God’s peace is capable of protecting my heart and mind from anxiety no matter what my circumstances
  • I must believe that things I have learned and received and heard and see in God’s Word are sufficient for my growth in godliness.

Feel:

  • I must rejoice in the Lord and not find my joy in the things of this world.
  • I must not be anxious because God is the God of peace

Do:

  • I must let my “reasonableness” be know to all people, not just those who are easy to along with.
  • I must let my requests be made known to God through an active prayer life
  • I must practice the things I have learned and received and heard and seen in Paul and other godly examples.

While this is far from an exhaustive list, it should be enough to give you an idea. The important thing is to recognize that application is a much broader concept than simply “do this.”

In our next post, we will look what I refer to as the different levels of application.

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