As we preach the Bible we have to make sure we don’t simply offer historical and theological instruction. Part of our responsibility is to present what difference the message should make in a life. We need to give a sense of what this truth looks like dressed up in everyday clothes. But therein lies a challenge.
How do we present practical application without promoting an outside-to-in simplistic copyism in the church? Here are some thoughts:
1. The human fleshly tendency will be to perform in order to maintain autonomous distance from God. I know that we tend to think of fleshliness as rebellion alone, but we need to see how the flesh can also play up to a religious role. The essential impulse remains the same as it did in Genesis 3 – I can be like God. This is why we need to be so careful in our preaching. Simply pounding the pulpit and demanding greater morality does not avoid the problem of rebels becoming religious, but still keeping God at arms length. The older son in Luke 15 matched his brother in viewing the father as employer and purveyor of benefits, and went beyond his brother in resisting the father’s extreme desire for relationship.
2. Practical preaching can give people lists of things to do, but not address the heart issue. Notice that I wrote that it can, not that it must always do that. I think preaching should be practical. But if we think that adding practical suggestions to historical explanation amounts to good expository preaching, then we know neither our Bibles nor our listeners very well. We need more than practical instruction. We need heart transformation. And that requires an awareness of the difference between response and responsibility. Consistently presenting responsibility to people will not auto-generate any sort of responsiveness in people.
I will continue the list tomorrow…