Effective Bible Teachers teach for application. Relentlessly. Constantly. Aggressively. For Effective Bible Teachers, teaching is all about application.
In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “teaching them to obey. . .” Not, “teaching them everything I have commanded.” But, “teaching them to obey.” For Jesus it was all about application. Jesus’ brother, James taught that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Amen and amen. How do we do that?
I make a distinction between application questions and commitment questions. Application questions are about brainstorming the various ways we could apply a truth to our life. For example, suppose we are looking at the verse that says, “Be kind one to another.” Let’s suppose we are making application around being kind to your wife. I might ask, “What are 10 ways a husband could be kind to his wife?” So, the list might look like this:
- Buy her flowers.
- Let her pick out the movie.
- Wash the dishes.
- Listen to her without interrupting.
- Walk the mall with her.
- Watch the kids.
- Take her out on a date night.
- Buy her chocolate. What woman doesn’t like chocolate?
- Buy her a card for no reason at all.
Notice I have not asked the group to do anything (yet). I’ve only ask them to make a list of things they could do. Then, we asked them to pick from a list. We asked them to do one thing on the list.
With this application in mind, Effective Bible Teachers follow up with two magical questions:
- How will it benefit me if I do?
- What will it cost me if I don’t?
These two questions are based on a fundamental assumption I have of Christian living: it is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. It is always good for me to follow God. Obedience is always good for me in the long run.
How does it benefit a husband to buy his wife flowers or do the dishes or take out the trash or take her on a date night? Much in every way!
What will it cost you if you don’t love your wife in practical ways like listening to her and serving her and buying her cards for no reason at all? Trust me, if you lose your marriage, you will spend the rest of your life regretting it.
Hebrews 11.6 is my favorite verse:
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.—Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
God is a rewarder. It is impossible for me to draw near to God except that I believe that God is a rewarder. If God is a rewarder, I will be rewarded for seeking Him. It is always in my best interest to live the Christian life. It is always good for me to follow God.
This is important because we are all irrevocably hardwired to do what we believe to be in our best interest. The key word is believe. This is why faith is so important to Christian living. What we believe determines what we do. If we believe that God is good; if we believe that He is smart; if we believe that He has our best interest at heart; then trusting Him is relatively easy.
But if in my heart of hearts I believe that God is not good, that He can’t be trusted, that He is not after my well-being, it is impossible—impossible for me to draw near to Him. Not because this belief that God is a rewarder is some kind of magic key that opens the door; it is simply the nature of things. I am irrevocably hardwired to do what I believe to be is in my best interest. I will only seek God if I really believe He is a rewarder.
I must come to love the Christian life or I will never come to live the Christian life.
The people you teach must come to love the Christian life or they will never come to live the Christian life.
Prayer must become for them a sweet hour of prayer, or I will bet they didn’t pray this morning.
Service is either a joy or a struggle.
Self-control will only get us so far. We will only make it so far forcing ourselves to do what we fundamentally don’t believe is in our best interest. Sooner or later we will do what we believe is best for us. We either come to believe that God is good, that God is a rewarder, that it is good for us to follow God, or we will not follow God very far.
There is a place in Christian living for self-control. There are times when we must force ourselves to do what we don’t feel like doing in the moment. There are times we must force ourselves to give even when it hurts. But, we either become joyful givers or we end up becoming stingy, selfish, people.
We must come to love the Christian life, or we will never come to live the Christian life. This is the key to application.