A couple of years ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Leeman's Reverberation: How God's Word Brings Light, Freedom and Action to His People. The book was applicable to a class I'm currently teaching, so I picked it up again. This quote stood out to me a few weeks ago and keeps coming back to my mind. On preaching and application he says:
The language of application works when we regard words as little vessels of information that sail from one brain to another through the act of speaking. Give me data that I don't have, and I will apply it. Notices the emphasis is on the preacher and the listener's activity. It's on the human half of the equation. The preacher applies the text, the listener applies it to his life. It also treats the human problem as one of ignorance. In the Bible, God encounters us, and he changes us.
Ignorance is indeed on of our problems, but even worse is the stiff neck and puffed-out chest of our self-rule. God gives us new information in the Scriptures, but He also confronts us with His crown. He confronts our idols and false gods. He confronts our pride and fear. He confronts our pain and weakness. He confronts our autonomy and impulse to self-help. He confronts the lies and false realities that we dearly love. Most fundamentally, He confronts our self-rule.
And then--amazing grace!--He breaks that self-rule. I was blind, but now I see.
God does all this when we pick up His Word to read by ourselves. He also this through the Sunday preacher...
...That is why our churches must be utterly centered upon God’s words. If our basic problem is self-rule then we must be confronted again and again.” (142-143).