"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Application Goes Yard

Sometimes the prospect is easy:  "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Pet. 1:16b) Excellent; my work is to pursue holiness.  The application is apparent.  Sometimes, though, things are more difficult:  "For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place." (Is. 43:3) Where is my application?  Have you seen my application?  It must be here somewhere, but it simply is not apparent.

If my entire goal in studying the Bible is unlocking practical application, the only seeds that will germinate in my studies will often be those of frustration, because immediate application is not always forthcoming.  My marching orders are simply not there, so Scripture, which is purportedly God-breathed, does not seem so very useful after all.  This, see, is the major problem:  God did not fashion His revelation - write it, as it were, on tablets of steel - merely to provide moral direction.  If this is your purpose in approaching the Bible, I might recommend Mother Goose instead - it will require far less study and discipline, and will usually have more pictures.

No; the purpose of the Bible is to reveal God and His character (often spelled g-l-o-r-y).  God creates.  He judges.  He sustains.  He saves!  He promises.  He delivers.  God is the constant in His Word - the only constant; amen?  He is the theme, the central thread.  If I reduce the Word down to "What should I do?", though, I see that the Bible in my hands is nothing more than a pretty mirror.  I have taken something that is so overwhelmingly God-centered that it can prostrate a soul in eternal worship, and have managed to reckon it as something man-centered by focusing upon myself.

Let us not mistake here.  Does God give me instruction in His Word?  Abundantly and definitively so, and you shall never (I pray) find me making light of His commands.  Behind every command, though, is the character of God.  Look again at the 1 Peter quote above - I am to be holy because of His holiness.  And would I indeed rush out to follow His commands, were I not convinced of the extraordinary truths about God which pervade His Word?  Would I concern myself with obedience if I did not understand that He is full of wisdom and care, power and justness?  The Bible is about God, His name, and His work.  All else - not only in the Word, but in creation - flows from this.

Where, then, does this leave the concept of application?  Does it lessen its importance, blunt its proliferation?  On the contrary, a veritable application juggernaut is created, one that goes far beyond the others, and that must come before the others.  This application is worship.  Think on this - it does not matter what passage I read, be it narrative, epistle, poetry, or law, I can always, always trace things back to the Lord, and there is always some facet of His character which beams out with dizzying brilliance. 

The first step, then, is always to worship and to marvel at the glory before us.  We can do this with any part of Scripture - look for this before anything else.  Look for God on the pages of His Word.  If the passage in question has further applicational derivatives, we will thus find ourselves in a far more humble and joyful frame, and will desire to obey the application from a pure heart.  If, however, the passage is devoid of any other application, as is the case at times, we do not come away from the Word disappointed, because we have seen our God, have grown to know Him just a bit better, have worshipped, and have trusted. 

The application of worship is monstrous.  It is undeniable theocentric; it approaches God's book on its own terms.  It forms an excellent and indispensable starting point in the quest for application, and it is unashamedly sufficient as application when it needs to be.  It tells us that, yes, there is worth and depth in coming away from Scripture with the simple awe of seeing God as He is, even without adding three more line items to the applicational checklist. 


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