We hear about preaching needing application. Some end up at one extreme offering to-do lists for successful living that make the Bibles bulge (and the listeners feel overwhelmed with pressure). Others end up at the other extreme of rejecting all reference to application since it is supposedly the work of the Spirit (implying that communicating the passage, pointing to Christ, etc., are not works of the Spirit?), and you hear things as misguided as “now may the Spirit apply to our hearts the truths we have seen in His Word.” Wrong! Preachers should not abdicate any of their role, neither should they think of any part of their role as being completely on their own shoulders either.
I have previously written about the need for our application to go deeper than conduct. There is a place for conduct in our application, of course. There is also the need for our application to reach to the thinking and worldview and belief systems of our listeners. And there is the deeper level of the affections, the values, the emotional centre, the loves of our listeners. Affections, belief and conduct. Three levels of legitimate and necessary application.
But let me offer another nudge. Not a three-layer nudge, but a two-part nudge. Instead of always offering “do” to our listeners (with the attitudinal companion of pressure), let’s consider our role as nudging listeners with a “look!” (with the attitudinal companion of enthusiasm).
As we offer the Word, explaining and applying it to our listeners, let a large chunk of the application be “look!” As people see the God of Scripture, revealed in the Son, by the power of the Spirit, their lives will be transformed: inside to out, affections, belief, conduct.
Our task is not primarily to be a conveyor of our exegetical insights, opaquely offering the Bible to contemporary folks. Our task is more to be a lens, effectively handling the Scripture to offer a glimpse of the One revealing Himself in the Word, transparently letting God be seen to contemporary listeners with eyes to see. So we speak and they listen. And we say Look! And by God’s grace they see.