Yesterday I suggested that preaching with applicational goals is entirely appropriate. Furthermore, if done appropriately and sensitively (not to mention specifically), application that is very pragmatic certainly has a place in our preaching. But we have to see the rest of the list too:
2 – Belief (the head) – It is important to recognize that behaviour is driven by belief. If we only ever seek to fix behaviour, we will be frustrated because of the influence of underlying belief. If a message calls for thinking a certain way about God, about life, about salvation, about conflict, about ministry, about whatever . . . then don’t feel bad about applying accordingly. Sometimes a message transforms lives without a call to action, but with a call to respond in belief, in changing perspective, in thinking well about something.
1 – Affection (the heart) – If behaviour and conduct is driven by belief and thought processes, then it is important to recognize what drives our thinking and belief . . . the affections of the heart. It is the heart that supplies values which function like software in the mind. It is the hardening of the heart that stood at the root of the wrong thinking and bad behaviour of “the Gentiles” Paul wrote of in Ephesians 4. And it is a new heart that is so transformative in the new covenant. How easily we try to live new covenant Christianity as if we still have hearts of stone! Applicational preaching needs to reach deep into the hearts of listeners and not settle for pragmatics or information transfer alone.
I know it is the work of God’s Spirit to change hearts. But isn’t it only the Spirit who can truly influence thinking and action too? Apart from me you can do nothing, Jesus said . . . so we must lean fully on the Lord as we preach His Word, but part of our task is to emphasize the relevance of the preaching text; the relevance to our conduct, to our beliefs, to our affections.