Saturday, April 28, 2007

Living Theologically

My pastor, David King, who gives generously of his time to meet with me for breakfast on the occasional Thursday morning, once remarked that, when attempting to prepare a sermon, the hardest part is often not the interpretation of the text or discerning its main point. Often, he said, the hardest part is the presentation of clear application of the text to the lives of the hearers, to help them know how to also be doers. In my limited experience with preparing and preaching sermons, I've especially experienced this when dealing with texts that present complicated theological arguments without offering any immediate practical application.
Reading a sermon by John Piper on one of these passages, Galatians 3:15-18, I was struck by his response to the lack of immediate practical or moral application in the text. Before even jumping into the exposition, he warns his congregation not to expect a spiritual or moral "pep pill" from the text, but to expect an opportunity to correct and hone the "theological foundation" of their lives. "That is, if we even have such a foundation in the first place," I thought.

Is our system of practice and morality based only on the portions of the Bible to which we feel an immediate emotional response or on those that give specific, step-by-step instructions about how to handle a given situation, neglecting all others? Or do we live our lives based on what the whole of scripture leads us to believe about God and all that he says about his relationship to us? Is this the basis for our behavior and decision making? If we don't have such a "theological foundation" for living our lives, much of the Bible will seem unapplicable to us. If pastors don't work to encourage their people to live theologically, they'll have a hard time bringing out the true application of rich texts like the above one.

As Christians who have recieved a great inheritance in Christ, we should make an attempt at understanding the biblical texts that explain how God saved us. Of course, this isn't to say that everyone must be a theology expert or fluent in Biblical languages, but we shouldn't be afraid to expect our hearers to dig into the technical passages of scripture, to really think about what it means to be an heir of the Abrahamic promise, to be justified by faith alone on the basis of Christ's merit. If we only look to the Bible for a just quick spiritual pick-me-up, or to our pulpits for a practical self-help lecture, we will be dissappointed with much of what the Bible actually offers us for life application, which is a rich understanding of the relationship we have been granted with God through Jesus, in whom we do live and move and exist.

1 comment:

Trey said...

Dude, check out a CD series by Tim Keller through Gordon-Conwell on preaching. It is solid gold and provides some great insight into what should go into the process.