"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16
How many times have we zoned out in the middle of a sermon, then jolted back to reality with the ever popular phrase, "Ok! Now for a few points of application." Why does James seem to the be the most often and easily studied book in the New Testament?
Lets face it. We like application! We want to hear simply and straight forward a list of things to do. Its simple; it doesn't take alot of brain power. I think we often study the word in the same way. Have you ever (like me at times) been reading a passage that you are familiar with, skimming through Paul's theological jungles until we get to the "point of application", the part that we know and understand? Lets take a look at what we're doing here.
First of all, I'm not trying to say that there is anything wrong with straight forward lists. Several books of the bible are full of them! The difficulty in the book of James is not found in comprehending what he is trying to say, but struggling through the immanent impossibility to live up to what is Required by God in his word. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with a pastor finishing his message with some clear straight forward biblical commands and ideas. It brings all the ideas together in a coherent understandable manner.
There is no problem an any of this; I love the book of James. I read through it often praying that God will cram some of it simple yet difficult commands into my thick skull. We are studying it at PURSUIT and God is showing me many things through Ryan's teaching.
But hears the question we need to ask ourselves. Is Romans 5-8 (explaining the details of Justification and the nature of our Salvation) any less applicable? Are the first 2 chapters of Ephesians explaining our calling and adoption to be less studied and emphasised? If all scripture is God breathed, his inspired word, then every word of scripture must be completely applicable. Should the only part of scripture that has a direct effect on our lives be the section that start with "do" or "don't"? Of course not!
Take Romans 5-8, study it, learn it, memorize it, pray over it, and let the awesome knowledge of God's Amazing Grace change you! Don't be afraid of theology; keep in mind that it is useless to have good theology unless it possesses you, but study who God is and let it change your life! While it is important to know what a holy God requires of us, we must also know his love and grace; it should change our lives just as much, if not more!
Bad things can happen when you get caught up in the legalism of simply abiding by written commands without the true intent in mind. Jesus shows us this in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) what these commands really imply. I have never murdered. I have never taken another persons life. What does Jesus say? He says if I have ever hated, then I am a murder; well, that makes me a murderer. And wouldn't you know, just a few verses later, I become an adulterer. Do you see that these commands are all heart issues? We need not study the bible like a checklist of points of application. Study God's word to learn who God is and let it change your heart!
Ryan pointed out tonight at PURSUIT that we as Christians need to the the appliers. We don't need a pastor or teacher to explain to us how to integrate the truth of scripture into our hearts. We have the holy spirit! The preacher's job is to study the word of God and preach Truth! Its important, completely necessary, and in fact fundamental to growth as Christians. But with this in mind, it is OUR JOB to apply it to our lives. Every inspired word of God should be lived out.
Next time you read a passage, don't think "what is the main thing I can get out of this passage." as much as you think "how can I display the truth of these inspired words to the glory of God in the way that I live my life."
To God alone be all glory. He deserves it. We are here for it.