Over the past two Sundays, I preached two fairly well-known texts, Jesus calming the storm and Jesus healing the demoniac. While studying for the first sermon, I began to think about all the possible applications that could be made from that passage, yet increasingly, I became even more rooted in my conviction that Mark particularly is fixing our focus onto Christ and His majesty rather than upon ourselves.
This week, I then read R. C. Sproul’s sermon on the demoniac passage, and he made a similar point:
I’m sure you have heard sermons on this text, and most of them probably dealt with the psychological benefits that come to Christians who put their faith in Jesus, when Christ comes to us and frees us from the violent forces that torture our souls inwardly. Again, I do not know why the Spirit inspired the record of this incident in the life of Jesus, but I am convinced that the purpose of this narrative is not to give us psychological tranquility. It is not about us.
I think this text, which follows right on the heels of the narrative about Christ’s calming of the tempest on the Sea of Galilee, is intended to reveal to us the character of Jesus. John writes, “these [accounts] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31), and that applies to every word in the gospel narratives. Therefore, our study of this passage ought to increase our understanding of the deity, majesty, and power of Christ.
Other than giving me the satisfaction of being on same thought line as Sproul, reading those paragraphs cemented my resolved to write a post about a point that didn’t make it into either sermon: Jesus is the application. You see, my fear is that we tend to only want sermon applications that are “practical” rather than “theological.” For instance, while I was preaching through the Apostles’ Creed, the primarily application was simply for us to consider whether or not we truly believe those core doctrines of the Christian faith. The Ten Commandments, however, provided lifestyle patterns to follow, sin to repent of and obedience clarified. With these two series as examples, I believe that many would call the Ten Commandments practical while labeling the Apostles’ Creed theological. We could also make similar examples of the two halves of Ephesians.
A problem with such labels (however subconscious they may be) is that they remove the nuance from biblical texts or even within a single passage. More theologically-heavy studies like the Apostles’ Creed are very much practical, and command-centered texts like the Ten Commandments are still unapologetically theological.
But the bigger problem is with the premise itself. We often treat theology and practicality as barely relating to one another. Theology, however, is practical. As those whom God has redeemed for His own possession and who will spend all eternity with Him, there is no matter of greater importance than to know our God. Indeed, knowing Him more and more will be our eternal pursuit. Jesus, after all, said that knowing God is eternal life (John 17:3), and the point of theology should always be to know and love God more. Therefore, the most practical and eternal application of any sermon should be to see and hear our Lord more clearly.
In fact, we could compare different types of application to physical objects. Sometimes an application addresses a particular need, just like a lawnmower or dish soap address particular needs. Other times the application is more like a diamond or even the Grand Canyon. From a pragmatic standpoint, what can you do with either? Both must simply be admired, and as God’s image-bearers, we are draw to their beauty. Sometimes particular sin must be addressed, and particular obedience must be commanded. Yet as we study Scripture, we should also regularly be called to simply bask in awe and wonder at the holy splendor of our triune God. Jesus is far more glorious than anything of beauty on earth. Do you rejoice, then, when Jesus Himself is the application?
 R. C. Sproul, Mark: An Expositional Commentary, 88.