Application happens when we understand the meaning of a Bible passage (i.e. we see Jesus and our need for him) and conform our lives to it. This conformity to Christ is the great purpose of God from the foundation of the world (Rom 8:29).
But the chief obstacle to vigorous application is insight. As we gain more insight into the Bible, we become more prone to revel in the insight itself and not in the life-change that ought to result from that insight.
For example, have you ever read a verse like Romans 8:29 (which I referenced above) and turned it into a theological debate? What does this verse mean about the predestination/free will controversy? Which side is right? Who has the best insight into what Paul meant by the word “foreknew”?
I’m prone to feel good about myself if I can answer these questions. I really want to win such debates. I’ve invested much time fighting my way through them.
But the chief question shouldn’t be whether predestination or free will is right. The chief question is: How is my life becoming more and more conformed to Christ? It doesn’t matter which side of the debate I fall on; God’s purpose in my life remains the same. What must change in order for me to be more like Jesus, so he can have pre-eminence as the first-born?
Insight can get in the way of application in other ways too. Have you ever felt disappointed after reading the Bible because nothing new and fantastic had occurred to you?
In contrast, have you ever felt the warmth splash over your heart when you see something you’ve never seen before in God’s Word? Maybe you found an allusion to another Bible passage that wasn’t immediately obvious. Perhaps a repeated word or idea became clear. Maybe you felt like you could relate to a Bible character due to some recent experience of your own. Perhaps you just started to get the hang of this OIA stuff, and you’re amazed at the beauty and joy that results when you can find an author’s main point.
Such insight into the Bible can be invigorating, but don’t let it distract you. The task isn’t complete until you change. Keep moving forward into Application.
Jesus warned us of the danger of insight when he used the image of architecture (Matt 7:24-27). The one who hears the Word, and stops there (possibly rejoicing in his keen insight), is like a foolish builder constructing a beach hut in a hurricane zone. The wise builder is the one who hears the Word and does it.
What other hindrances to Application can you think of?