This week we are starting our life apps series and I’m really excited about it because we are going to be looking at 5 applications – or principles – that can fundamentally change our lives. Now I want to be clear, these are not 5 arbitrary ideas that we pulled out of the air to talk about, these are 5 principles that are given to us by God with the command to apply them to our lives and the reason God commands us to apply these principles isn’t because God wants to saddle us with a lot of rules and regulations, it’s because God knows if we live out these principles our lives will be better. Our lives may not get easier, some of these applications are difficult, but our lives will be more balanced and filled with peace and purpose and power because we will be living the way God created us to live.
We can never forget that we have been created in the image of God, which means God knows how we are wired and put together and God knows how we should order our lives if we want to be happy and fulfilled and the good news for us is that God doesn’t keep this information a secret – God reveals it. God shares with us clearly many principles that will improve our lives when we apply them consistently and intentionally. So we are going to take the next 5 weeks to look at 5 of these principles, but here’s the thing we have to remember, it’s not enough to learn about these principles. It’s not going to be enough for us to come together in worship and in small groups to just listen to what these principles are and how we should live our lives – these are applications we need to live out – we have to apply them.
Application is everything. You are going to here this again and again, so why don’t you say it with me: APPLICATION IS EVERYTHING. It’s like an app on our phones – they can get us organized, they can monitor our health and track our diet, but they aren’t any good unless we use them. Listening and learning about these 5 apps will be good, but listening and learning won’t change our lives. Listening and learning won’t make our lives any better or our experience of God more personal or our faith more powerful because it is application that makes all the difference. Application is everything.
Now there are 2 people in the New Testament who teach us that application is everything and as you might guess, one of them is Jesus and the other is someone very close to Jesus, his younger brother, James and we are going to first look at what James has to say about applying the word of God. James 1:22-25.
So James says we should not merely (or just) listen to the word we have to put it into practice because if we don’t we deceive ourselves. How is it that just listening to God’s word can be deceiving? Well, just listening to God’s word and never living it out is like owning a Nordic Rider and never using it. I was deceived. I thought I was healthier, I even felt healthier when I sat on it – but I was deceived. I wasn’t any healthier; in fact I put on weight. The same thing can happen to our faith.
I hate to tell you this, but just coming to church doesn’t make our faith stronger. Staying awake through the sermon isn’t living a life that pleases God. Even being part of a small group or Sunday School class and learning all we can doesn’t make the difference. If we listen and learn and think that we are growing in our faith and living the life God wants for us – we are being deceived. If all we ever do is come to church and listen and think God will bless us for just being here and listening – we are in danger – because it isn’t a life of listening that is blessed – it is a life of doing – again look at James 1:25. It is those who act on what they hear, those who apply God’s principles, that are blessed.
So just being in church and staying awake and listening isn’t enough and the truth is that it has never been enough, God has always been interested in how His people apply his word. If we go back to the Old Testament we see that just listening and being in worship brought God’s people a false sense of security, in other words they were deceived. The people of Israel believed that as long as the Temple was standing and they could offer their sacrifices and listen to God’s word that they were safe. Like many people today, they believed that as long as they went to worship and listened – God was going to bless them, but they were deceived because God was not calling his people to listen –he was calling them to obey and be faithful, look at 1 Samuel 15:22.
But the people weren’t faithful and they didn’t follow the principles God gave them or apply the word of God to their lives but because the Temple was there and they could offer their sacrifices – they felt strong and secure. Their deception eventually led to the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of their nation. What happened to them is exactly what James is talking about here; they only listened and so were deceived. They thought just going to church would earn God’s favor but what they forgot is that they were called to faithful obedience. They forgot the one thing we can’t forget and that is that application is everything.
Now James gives an interesting illustration of what people are like who merely listen and don’t act on what they hear, he says they are like people who look at themselves in a mirror and then turn and immediately forget what they look like. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing this, but I did this very thing almost every morning my first two years of High School. When I would get ready for school in the morning I would look at myself in the mirror and I could see clearly that I needed to brush my hair (remember this was the late 70’s so a full head of hair was in), but I would walk out of the bathroom and forget what I looked like. I’d eat my breakfast, grab my books and walk to the bus stop where my sister would then take one look at me and say, Andy did you brush your hair this morning and I would reach up, feel my hair and say, Oh I forgot. She would then throw (and I do mean throw) her hairbrush at me and I would stand at the bus stop and brush my hair. (I’m sure my sister wanted to disown me on those days!)
I know this sounds silly, but the truth is we do this all the time. We will come to worship and listen to God’s word or we will read the Bible and hear God’s teaching and we will hear about some principle that we know we need to apply to our lives, but then we will walk out the door or close the Bible and forget what we heard. We do this all the time – we will look into God’s word and see who God wants us to be – but then we will turn away and immediately forget what that life looks like and how we are supposed to live it out, and yet we will feel more faithful because we were in church or we were reading God’s word. Again we are being deceived because listening and learning and being in church doesn’t change us – it is living out what we see and hear that makes a difference. Application is Everything.
Now you can probably guess that today I spend a lot more time looking in the mirror and acting on what I see. Most mornings I spend a lot of time making sure every hair is in place. Not only that, I will evaluate when I need to get them cut, I try to figure out if any of them are their original color, wonder about the increasing number of lines and wrinkles and spots I see and what I should do about it all. Most of us will look intently into the mirror each morning and do something about what we see. We spend a lot of time (and money) making changes to the outside of us and yet we fail to look into the word of God to see what changes we need to make on the inside of us – where it really matters. And yet what James says is that if we will look into God’s word and apply what we find there we will find freedom and blessing. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we look deep into God’s word and apply the principles that are so easy for us to see?
One reason is because I’m not sure we agree with what James says. James says that applying God’s word brings freedom but many times we think applying God’s word will bring limitation not liberation. Too often we think that applying God’s word will bring bondage not a blessing. A good example of this is God’s teaching about how we order our finances. The Bible is clear that at the minimum we should give a tenth of our income to God – it’s called a tithe and we find it used as a Godly principle all the way back at the beginning in the book of Genesis and then in Malachi 3:10.
So we look into God’s perfect law and it says that when we give one tenth of all we have to God we will be blessed abundantly, but we struggle to really believe this. How can giving away our money bring financial freedom, it doesn’t make sense and actually applying God’s word here seems limiting not liberating and yet if we talk to people who tithe on a regular basis, they would tell us that tithing has actually brought incredible financial freedom to their lives because it helps them order their entire financial picture. But because it doesn’t make sense to us and it seems limiting to us, we don’t do it and look at where it has gotten us? We are not only a nation deep in dept but we are individuals living beyond our means. We aren’t free at all – we are slaves to our debt. We turn away from God’s principles because we think it is too limiting and because we turn away we lose our liberty. We experience bondage not blessing.
So James is clear that listening is not enough, we have to live out God’s word if we want to experience the blessing of freedom and life. Application is everything, but where did James get this idea, my thought is he got it from his big brother, Jesus. In Matthew 5, 6 & 7, Jesus gives one of the most powerful sermons ever, the Sermon on the Mount, and this sermon is filled with principles that need to be applied to our lives. There are teachings about forgiveness and marriage and how we need to give our offerings to God as well as how we are to pray and ask God for help and how we are not to worry and judge others. At the very end of this incredibly practical sermon Jesus says this – Matthew 7:24-27.
Jesus says, if we don’t apply the words we hear, we are a fool. We think our lives and our faith are strong and secure, but they are not and as his brother James would say, we are deceived because just listening doesn’t make a difference. Just listening won’t support us when the storms come, our faith needs to grow which means our lives need to change and change comes with application, but let’s be clear, application is not easy. Jesus tells us this; he says that applying God’s word is like building a house on a rock not on the sand. Now think about these two builders for a moment. The big difference between them is that the one who built on the rock had to dig a little deeper to get to the rock. He had to work a little harder and yet the work pays off in the long run.
One of the things we are going to realize over the next 5 weeks is that application is hard work. Forgiveness is hard work. Confession is hard work. Building trust in relationships is hard work. Rest can actually be hard work. Encouragement is hard work. These applications are not easy and they will require us to take a hard and honest look at our lives to see what needs to be changed, it will require us to find people who can help us make sense out of these principles and their application, and it will require us to find people who will help us live them out and hold us accountable to applying them in the long run. This kind of fundamental life change is hard work and many people just don’t want to invest the time, energy and effort to do it. My hope is that we will be willing over the next 5 weeks to work hard and apply these principles to our lives so that we can experience the power of God’s blessing. My hope is that we will be doers of the word and not just hearers because application is… EVERYTHING!
Life Apps ~ Application is Everything
Application of God’s word is what makes the difference, but application (putting God’s word into practice) is hard work.
1. As we begin this “Life Apps” series, take some time to reflect and ask God to show you the areas in your life where you might be just listening to God’s word and not living it out.
2. Who can help you with the hard work of application?
• Who can you ask to help you make the changes you might need to change in the next 6 weeks?
• Who can hold you accountable?
• Can you ask them this week?
3. Jesus gives us many “apps” (principles) in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7.
• Read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
• Identify the apps (principles) found there.
• Which principles do you need to apply?
• How can you apply them this week?
4. It is never too late to join a small group to learn more practical ways to apply these principles and find support and accountability in living them out. Stop by the Connection Table to find out when groups are meeting.