So how do we present practical application without promoting an outside-to-in simplistic copyism in the church? Yesterday we started by stating that the human fleshly tendency will be to perform in order to maintain autonomous distance from God. Furthermore we added that practical preaching can give people lists of things to do, but not address the heart issue. Continuing on . . .
3. Heart transformation is not something listeners can self-generate, neither is it something we can force on folks. Actually, if it is about response, then the burden is on us to offer Christ and the gospel so compellingly that perhaps some might respond. This means that we don’t simplify our view of preaching to explanation separate from application, for it is in the explanation that hearts should be stirred for the application.
4. Listeners have a sensitivity to the integration of the preacher. That is, whether the explanation we offer has obviously marked our lives from the inside-out. Listeners don’t just look for conformity to our own lists of practical applications, they sense the importance of heart change in the truths of what we say. If we don’t have a vibrant and real walk with Christ, then the practical application content will be meaningless.
5. Take the opportunity afforded by practical applications to drip-feed a critique of copy-ism and do-ism. Over time, week after week, perhaps people will start to sense the difference between writing a list and trying to live up to it, as opposed to a from-the-heart response to the grace of God in Christ. Grace truly transforms values and therefore behaviour. Part of our task is to make sure we don’t reinforce the post-Genesis 3 notion that informed choices will lead to success in our performance before, but distant from, God.
6. Reinforce that it is possible to perform without being transformed. The Pharisees should helpfully haunt churchy types like us. It is possible to look really good on the outside, but God wants to transform us from the inside. Perhaps we settle too easily for conformity to church social mores, rather than having appetites whetted for the wonder and glorious privilege of knowing God in Christ. If listeners don’t pick up that possibility from the preaching they hear, where will they develop such an appetite?