Bryan Chapell suggests that preachers should ask four questions if they are to offer faithful application:-
1. What does God require of us? (Instructional specificity)
Preachers answer the question, What does God now require of me? by providing instructions that reflect the biblical principles found in the biblical text. This instructional specificity translates the text from ancient history to present guide. For the guidance to reflect accurately the Bible’s intent, a preacher must discern the biblical principles reflected in the text that were directed to the people of that time and then apply them to the people of this time. These universal principles are then applied by giving instructions consistent with and derived from the text that direct believers in present actions, attitudes, and/or beliefs.
2. Where does God require us to do it? (Situational specificity)
The instruction moves from generic principle to poignant application when a preacher identifies the contemporary situations that listeners should address with the biblical principle evident in the text (e.g., loving the neighbor who supports a different political party, raises hateful children, laughs at your faith, or backs into your car and drives away without leaving a note).
Think through the types of people – young parents, harassed clerks, lonely teens, new believers, tired saints – whose situations require scriptural guidance, comfort and challenge. Preachers cannot speak to all groups every week, but since people confront no temptation but such as is common to all, speaking to specifics will have relevance to each person.
The following categories of common concern may help you begin to consider specifics in your congregation that need application of the principles in a text:
- Building proper relationships (with God, family, friends, coworkers, church people, etc.)
- Reconciling conflicts (in marriage, family, work, church, etc.)
- Handling difficult situations (stress, debt, unemployment, grief, fatigue, etc.)
- Overcoming weakness and sin (dishonesty, anger, addiction, lust, doubt, lack of discipline, etc.)
- Lack or improper use of resources (time, treasures, talents, etc.)
- Meeting challenges and using opportunities (education, work in or out of church, witnessing, missions, etc.)
- Taking responsibility (home, church, work, finances, future, etc.)
- Honoring God (worship, confession, prayer, devotions, not compartmentalizing life, etc.)
- Concern for social/world problems (poverty, racism, abortion, education, injustice, war, etc.)
3. Why must we do what God requires? (Motivation)
Guilt drives sinners to the cross, but grace must lead us from there or we cannot serve God. Christ-centered preaching keeps redemption by grace alone as central to the message of sermons as it is to the scope of Scripture. This is necessary because there is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises. When love motivates, then the Lord, his purposes, and his glory are our aim. Without this motivation, no application challenges believers to serve any object greater than self.
4. How can we do what God requires? (Enablement)
The how of application includes practical steps that will aid obedience (flee places of evil, seek mature counsel, count to ten) and the use of the means of grace (prayer, study, fellowship) but it implies much more because these activities too may be perceived as the human efforts that bribe God for blessing rather than the free provisions from God that enable us to walk in his wisdom and presence.