Application of truth is important. Just ask God:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matt. 7:24, 25)
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)
The title of a teacher training worksheet says it well: Application: It’s God’s Idea, Not Merely a Good Idea
However, if we emphasize application (obedience) over a love relationship with God … we could have mere religious activity.
Jesus died on the cross to bring us into a relationship with the Father. (Jn. 14:6; Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18; Heb. 4:16)
- It’s about showing love to God by doing what He says not trying to earn His favor. (Matt. 22:37-38; Jn. 15:10; 1 Jn. 5:3)
- It’s about getting to know God better which comes as we step out in faith and do what He says. (Col. 1:9-10; 2 Pet. 3:1)
When we are in a love relationship with God, we have added motivation to do what pleases and honors Him. Obedience is not a burdensome.
A Word to the Church: When life in Christ becomes little more than religious activity, we have little to offer people who need Jesus. We could find ourselves with a dull, lifeless group of people busy doing what appears to be all the right things with little to show for it. Where is the appeal in that?
If we emphasize application over internal change … we could have mere external conformity.
God isn’t looking for mere external conformity. He looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). Notice how the heart factors into loving Him, trusting in Him, and also obeying Him.
“love the Lord with all your heart …” (Matt. 22:37)
“trust in the Lord with all your heart …” (Prov. 3:5)
“keep your precepts with all my heart …” (Ps. 119:69)
When our whole heart is given over to God, we will do what we are supposed to do. Obedience is not in question.
A Word to the Church: If we are satisfied with mere external conformity, we could be building a church full of hypocrites. We could find ourselves with a group who are quick to give up when the going gets tough because their heart is not in it. How is that honoring to God?
Whether you preach, teach, or disciple others one-on-one, remember that application is important to God but we must put more emphasis on a relationship with Him and on what is happening in the heart out of which obedience flows.