There is an almost universal trend today to teach God’s Word then finish it with “what does this mean for our life? How can we practically apply it?”
On the surface that sounds great, and on the surface I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. But on a deeper level, it exposes something that is terribly wrong in Christianity today: the need for all things about God TO BE ABOUT US, to make it “relevant” (as if God’s Word needs US to make it relevant), to drag down the majestic Truth of God’s Word to our level so we can feel like it is useful to us.
We can’t hear the Scripture expounded, it’s Truths illuminated, the revelations proclaimed and simply accept them as God revealed… our need to have all things be therapeutic causes us to feel such teaching is not useful, relevant or enriching unless it can be “applied to our daily lives”.
Jesus the Improver
How can Christianity improve MY life? How can it make ME feel better? How can it bless MY existence? How can it solve MY problems, fix MY failures, heal MY wounds? It’s therapeutic “Jesus will improve your life” Christianity.
Is there anything wrong with “practical application” of Scripture? Of course not, especially Scripture that begs for practical application such as teaching on how to live the Christian life or how we should treat each other. Nor, I suppose is there anything inherently wrong with finding a practical application for a chapter of Psalms that describes God’s majesty, or a passage from the Apostle Paul about theology.
It’s not the practical application itself… it’s the modern trend and need to make the Bible “relevant and timely” which is marketing-speak for “how will this benefit ME?”. It’s the competitive Church-growing requirement to have people feel better about themselves when they walk out the door giving them a reason to return. It’s the creeping into Bible teaching the worship of SELF that has saturated the world outside in all it’s “self-isms” (self esteem, self love, self forgiveness, self improvement, self focus, etc). The religion of SELF is preached 24/7 in the world and is carried into the Body of Christ finding fertile ground in relevancy, timeliness, life application and “how will this improve, fix or bless my life?”.
We Should Apply It
Like most things harmful that invade God’s Kingdom, there is much that is useful and right. We should apply the Bible Truth to our lives. We should see blessing from it. We should improve, change and find it meaningful to us personally. But common Christianity today as taken a dangerous step further making it not applicable to SELF but rather ABOUT SELF.
The personal litmus test is this: can you be exposed to some timeless Truth in Scripture and be satisfied, enraptured, engaged and lifted up without ever hearing “how does this apply to my life”? Do you ever find yourself thinking a message from Scripture was boring or useless because you couldn’t answer (or weren’t told) “what does this mean FOR ME”?
So, What Then?
Should teachers and preachers have “life action steps” or “application points”? Sure, when it is appropriate, when the message calls for it. Should they have a steadfast rule that every message MUST end this way? Should they feel their words are going to be less relevant without them? No. If you are a teacher reading this and disagree… I hope you’ll really do some soul searching about why God’s Word needs YOU to make it relevant and useful; why every Scripture and teaching needs to culminate in action steps or application points (if indeed that is your conviction).
Is this what God’s Word calls for? Or is it an artificial construct we’ve forced on preaching and teaching because of competition, church growth, marketing or the world’s relentless need to feed its “self”? I’m not indicting Pastors and ministers who give “life application” points routinely at the end of sermons. I do it often. I’m indicting anyone who feels God’s Word is less than relevant without some “life application”.
Making the Bible Relevant
I hate it when I read a description of a Bible teacher or Pastor that says something about how they make the Bible relevant, timely or useful for today’s Christians (and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I had used this marketing lingo about myself some time in the past 25 years). What arrogance. What pandering. What an insult to God’s Word. God needs me or you to make His Word relevant for today? Puh-leeze. We need God’s Word to make US relevant, to make our teaching relevant… not the other way around.
The Bible is often about US. It’s more often about God. It’s always about Jesus. We need to learn to simply hear and accept the Truth of Scripture in all it’s transcendent glory. STOP. That’s it. STOP. There is a time for “life application”. Often. We’ve made it “ALL THE TIME” for the most part. We need to correct this imbalance, this need to drag God down to our level to make it “relevant” for our daily lives which again is Christian-marketing for “how will this improve my life? What’s in it for me?”
Our collective need to make all of Scripture about ME exposes much about our worship, focus and motivation for living a Christian life.
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
That’s not about how God can improve my life. It is relevant without me expounding on how you can apply it to your life. It is Truth for Truth’s sake. It is Truth for God’s sake.
In closing, let me finish with three points you can apply to your life today…