I understand life application preaching. Really, I do. I believe that all preaching should be applicable to life in some way. It’s the preacher’s challenge to figure out how that’s so. But at the end of the day, as helpful as life application sermons are, I find that it’s theology that keeps me. Well, it’s God that keeps me, but it’s thinking theologically that keeps me rooted in God.
The type of preaching that gets believers from one day to the next is important. Really, it is. But we were making it from one day to the next before we knew Christ. There has to be something more. And there is! Now take Paul for example, and he’s a good example since his letters all have real life concerns and applications. Did he stop with the just the ethical exhortations or did he continue on to something else, something deeper?
Or perhaps he started with something else, something deeper, and then moved onto the ethical exhortations. I submit that both are true. His writings aren’t formulaic and he let the situations he was speaking to determine how he addressed them, but my point is really that Paul didn’t shy away from the deep theological truths in order to focus on getting believers through their week.
For instance, he spends quite a bit of space talking about eating food sacrificed to idols but he grounds this in relational categories. The believers relationship to one another is rooted in their relationship to Christ, which is rooted in his relationship to all other reality. This is weighty stuff! And it’s this type of stuff that I think about when the times get tough. I think about my relationship with Christ on a macro level. Big picture stuff. I’m not just trying to get from one day to the next but rather I’m thinking about the transition from this age to the next.
I think about covenant and what that means. I think about service and what that entails. When times get tough, as they often do, I don’t throw in the towel because I know that God is working through his people in order to establish his kingdom on earth and that means that there’s work that gotta get did! So it’s great to hear that God loves me! It’s great to hear that he’s provided me the means to make it to tomorrow. But for me, and I can only speak for me, this isn’t the stuff that keeps me going. The stuff that keeps me going is the stuff I’ve yet to see and that stuff is rooted and grounded in a God I’ve yet to see but have come to know intimately.