Application vs. Learning

January 23, 2011

David Sorn

What's more important? Learning about Jesus or implementing what he says? There's got to be a balance, right?

Application vs. Learning

January 23, 2011

David Sorn

What's more important? Learning about Jesus or implementing what he says? There's got to be a balance, right?


Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.

Thanks to Rachel this morning for leading worship. Not only does she work with our youth group and our children, but leads us in worship. So thanks to her.

Zach and some of the guys from our church our leading worship for a few hundred high school students at Camp Shamineau this weekend.

We are finishing our Church Teeter-totters series this morning.

If you haven’t been here the past few weeks or this is your first time at renovation, we’ve been talking about how churches (like so many other organizations) often just default to one side of the other, rather than trying to find a balance.

And we as individuals often do the same thing

This morning, our last teeter-totter is a little bit unique.

There are indeed churches that go to one side of the other of this teeter-totter, but I want to primarily focus on individuals this morning.


(Put up topic slide)

Today’s teeter-totter is “Learning vs. Application”

On the one side of the Teeter-totter is the thought that churches should be heavily focused on content. Teach, teach, teach. Teach and Preach the Word. Learn the Bible. Learn theology. Go Deeper!

On the other side is the thought that learning is not nearly as important as what you actually do. What you do with your life, what you do with your community, what you do for your friends.


So, that being said, there are certainly extremes that churches fall into regarding this teeter-totter.

However, what I want to focus on, and what I think is really unique about this teeter-totter is the incredible amount of people who are on both sides of the teeter-totter within a given church.

Here’s what I mean: In regards to some of our other teeter-totters, most people within one particular church, are usually almost all on the same side of the teeter-totter (if they’re not balanced)

For instance: The big churches vs. small churches teeter-totter: If you go to a big church, what side of the teeter-totter do you think people are on if they attend that church?

Or, in the entertainment vs. authenticity teeter-totter, if you go to a church where everyone sits on couches and the worship leader sits on a stool w/ his acoustic guitar, what side of the teeter-totter do you think almost everyone is on???

But this teeter-totter is really unique.

Because within each individual church, there are tons of individuals on both sides of the teeter-totter.

A lot of it actually has to do not only with your personality temperament, but it often (not always) is related to how long you’ve been a Christian.

In fact, if I may, let me speak to those of you who’ve been a Christian for a while

If you’re not a Christian or you’ve only been one for a few months or years, just go to your happy place for a few minutes.

Actually, listen now, because then you’ll know to not go down the same path 5 years from now.

Let me tell you one of the most common phrases that pastors hear from people who’ve been Christians over 5 years.

We haven’t heard it a lot here, but I’m not naïve enough to believe it won’t come

The phrase is this: “I just want Sunday mornings to go deeper.”

“My pastor just isn’t taking me deep enough on Sundays,” (and here comes another one), and I’m “not getting fed.”

Now, part of this is connected to what I said last week.

Sunday mornings are just one meal a week. You can’t live off of one meal a week.

But people sure try. We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that the only place we should get spiritually fed is on a Sunday morning.

So Christians clamor for the deepest and richest of content. The salivate about their pastors diving into deep theology and Hebrew and Greek.

& then when pastors instead spend time talking about how the Bible applies to our marriages or to talking to our neighbors, masses of Christians respond with: We know that already! Now give us something deep

“I know! Forgive my friends for what they did to me. Heard that the 2nd week I was a Christian. Tell others about Jesus. Duh. Learned that in about week 3. Be kind to others. BORING. Learned that in Kindergarten! Can we seriously move beyond some of this basic garbage and dive into some Bible history or something!”

But yet, we’ve got to ask ourselves is “content,” is “learning,” really all it’s about.

The apostle Paul, before he was converted to Christianity, was not only a persecutor of the church, but he was a devoted Pharisee. He knew the Bible like no one else. He knew it all. Look at what he writes in Philippians 3:

(Philippians 3:4-8) – NIV

4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ

Listen, It doesn’t mean anything if you can quote Scripture. It doesn’t mean anything if you can read Greek. It doesn’t even mean anything if you have the whole Bible memorized.

If your HEART is not captivated with Jesus, it simply doesn’t matter what your MIND knows.

It’s rubbish.

Besides as John Maxwell has famously said, most American Christians are educated way beyond their level of obedience.

Churches have, and many of you have taken, Bible studies for every issue under the sun, but until we start doing something with it, it doesn’t matter!

Let’s look at the words of Jesus Christ

(Matthew 7:24-27) – NIV

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

It’s easy to dismiss this and be like, “Oh, I’m a Christian, so I’m on the rock.”

You might be a Christian, but just because you believe he died for you, doesn’t mean you are any longer actually putting his words in practice.

In fact, are you? Are you doing everything you can to PUT HIS WORDS INTO PRACTICE?

To those of you that have known Him for a while, are you more concerned about putting his words into practice or just learning more content?

At the core, we have to remember our mission

This is a real “life verse” for me, but in a sense, it should be a life verse for all of us.

In Luke 19:10, Jesus explains his mission

(Luke 19:10) – NIV

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

And The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost, not so we could isolate ourselves into having more Bible Studies.

So let’s ask ourselves then: Why is it that SO many Christians get sidetracked and get SO obsessed with “going deeper?”

Why are we so overly focused on just learning?

Honestly, and maybe this is hard to hear, I think most of the time, the “I need to go deeper” thing is just an excuse to not actually go out and fulfill our true mission.

I heard Perry Noble say once that when people tell him they want him to go deeper on Sundays, he says, “What you’re really saying is you want me to stand on stage and confuse the heck out of you so you don’t have to apply what I’m saying”

Let me tell you the truth here. People who ACTUALLY want to go deeper. Find a way to go deeper.

When I was a youth pastor at Constance Free Church in Andover, we would often have people come to us because they left another church because the teaching wasn’t deep enough

And we would often smile, and then say to each other, they’ll be gone in 2 years.

And you know what? Almost every time, we were right.

AND, I think Pastor Randy from Constance is probably on the upper half of depth as for as just content.

It’s just that people who complain about needing their pastor to go deeper, don’t actually want to go deeper.

And here’s why: People who really want to go deeper in their relationship with Christ, guess what they do? They go deeper.

If I want more food. I go to the refrigerator. If there’s nothing in the fridge, I go to Culver’s. I DO something about it.

If you want to go deeper (in terms of content), pick up your Bible. Go online: There are plenty of online Bible studies. Buy a commentary about a book of the Bible. Go to iTunes and start listening to podcasts of sermons (plenty of pastors out there that are incredible at teaching the Bible).

And if you don’t know where to start, ask somebody.

I’ve seen hungry Christians before. I’ve seen a lot of them. & you know what they have in common? Hungry people find a way to get food

Just this week, I got an email from a guy where God was moving in his heart. Drawing him closer. Deeper.

And he didn’t say, “Feed me more!” He said, “I want to go deeper. Where do I read? Where do I go?”

And I know this is an intense thing to say, but who is it in real life that cries out, “Feed me! I’m hungry!”

Infants. Toddlers. Although, often even toddlers find a way to get in the cupboards and feed themselves.

The apostle Paul targets exactly this while speaking to the Corinthians:

(1 Corinthians 3:1-3) – NIV

1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, 3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?

Tough passage. He straight up says to the people at this church: Listen, I wanted to go deeper with you, I wanted to feed you SOLID Food, but instead, I had to treat you like infants.

And what was his reasoning?

Was it because they were still new in the faith and didn’t have enough knowledge yet?

NO. It was because they were being controlled by their sinful nature.

They weren’t giving up enough control of their life to God yet.

They were still fighting, they were jealous of one another.

They weren’t ready to move on.

Discipleship in churches oughta look more like karate than our current educational system

Let me explain. How do you advance in karate? How do you get the next belt?

Do you just go up to your teacher and say quiz me on karate? Do you sit at a desk and answer questions about certain kicks and blocks?

No, they could care less if you know it, they want to see if you can do it!

And that’s what Paul is saying to the believers in Corinth.

Why in the world would we start feeding you solid food when you still keep spitting up milk all over yourself!

We’ve got people in our churches everywhere demanding to go deeper when they’ve never even invited one single person to church.

And I think part of the reason we’re in this mess is we don’t have a good barometer in place to know if we’re doing well in our relationship with God.

Too often, our only way of measuring our spiritual growth looks just like our educational system. We ask: What do I KNOW?

Which isn’t always the best measurement

When I went to St. John’s University, I had some theology professors that knew the Bible like crazy, but but in NO way shape of form for were they living their lives for Christ.

I’m not anti-learning. Not at all. I love to learn. I went to school more years than I ever wanted to. I’m the type of nerd that will sit at home on the weekend and read Wikipedia for fun. I’m not anti-learning

I’m just saying we need some other ways to measure our spiritual growth, so we don’t trick ourselves into thinking we are “Deep” when we are nowhere close. Application has to factor in

I was buying a book on Amazon the other day to help me prepare for an upcoming series, and I ran across another book that I thought was quite interesting

It was called “10 questions to diagnose your spiritual health”

And I thought, huh. This is good. This is much more holistic than testing Bible knowledge.

Look at these 10 questions. If you want, google it later, or if you can’t find it, email me about it, and I’ll send you a link

Do you thirst for God?

Are you governed increasingly by God’s word?

Are you more loving?

Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?

Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?

Do you delight in the bride of Christ? (the church)

Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?

Do you still grieve over sin?

Are you a quicker forgiver?

Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

GREAT questions that remind us that spiritual growth is so much more than just head knowledge.

And discipleship (that is, becoming like Jesus) is so much more than just learning. That’s part of it, but it’s more than that.

This has MAJOR implications for our House Groups (which we’ll talk about this week in House Groups)

But one of them is what we do in small groups.

For instance, think of our plan for discipleship as a week-long process.

Most of you get 30 minutes of teaching here on a Sunday morning. 5-7 more in a house group, and after nearly 40 minutes of CONTENT, we get into small groups and say, “TEACH ME MORE!”

But by the time you get into small groups, it should be time to finally start actually applying some of it to your own life.

Plus, our small group leaders are incredible. They know God, they know the Bible, but they’re not theologians.

They are shepherds.

Let them help you take this content and start applying it to your life.

Because the truth is, you don’t even really KNOW it, unless you KNOW it.

You don’t really believe the truth of it until the truth transforms you.

(John 13:35) – NIV

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, (your knowledge of Bible History!) if you love one another.”

Listen, God isn’t just something you know about, He’s someone you know.

Christians, let me ask you a question:

Are you in love with Jesus?

No, I’m serious.

Do you love Him?

Sometimes we get sidetracked, and “ we substitute falling in love with learning about Him, rather than loving Him.”

And we end up loving Him more like a historian loves Abraham Lincoln than loving him like someone loves his or her spouse.

Timeout: Do you know how in love with you He is?

He can’t stop thinking about you. All He wants to do is be with you.

And even before you knew Him, at the height of your sin, He looked at you, and he said, “You, I want YOU in my family. I’m going to die on the cross, and take your place because I love you.”

Don’t JUST spend all your time going through his Word, spend some time letting His Word go through you.

If you’ll let it, if you start to open up your HEART along with your mind, it WILL transform you.

It doesn’t know how to anything else.


But remember the Teeter-totter here. Remember the Pendulum.

We absolutely…can not…over course correct here.

It is SO easy…and so many churches have fallen into this trap of saying, “Well, it just doesn’t have that much to do with the Bible, let’s just love each other and love God and go out and love others.”

Let me make a helpful clarification.

See there are two common errors. The first one is this:

See, the Bible, is like a map. A map that is leading you to Jesus. So you can find Him, be with Him. So you can read what pitfalls to avoid, which places to be, but mostly how to get closer to God.

But some of us get so overly focused on learning. The Bible. Bible history. Learning this, learning that.

And it’s like we start looking at the map w/ intentions on it navigating us closer to Jesus, but all of a sudden we start noticing things. We stop. SIT DOWN>

Oh wow! Look at this road. Scale! Key!

But at some point, what we need, is someone to come knock us upside the head and say, “HEY. It’s a map! Get up, and follow it!”

And the Bible is just that: a map.

It’s NOT the final destination! God is the destination.

It’s just a map.

But there’s another common error here.

I was reading this week (fascinated w/ other cultures), reading about Haiti…and how many joke that the national religion is voodoo

It’s not, but it’s incredibly present. And there is a lot of religious syncretism

Meaning, they blend together religions. Like Christianity and voodoo. So, they go to church, love Jesus, worship Jesus, try it APPLY it to their lives

Then, go see a voodoo specialist midweek to try and appease their evil ancestors from making them ill

You might think, “How does that happen? Aren’t they trying to love Jesus or apply Jesus to their lives?”

Yes, they are. But, like a lot of places, people don’t know the Bible. They don’t even have enough Bibles.

And what happens is, they’re trying to seek God, they’re trying to find Him, they’re trying to serve Him.

But when you have the wrong map. Or know one’s taught you how to read the map. Or you don’t have a map… It doesn’t’ matter.

And similar problems happen in our own country when we try and serve God without the Bible as our guide.

So, Our Map, the Bible, is incredibly important.

It teaches us where to go, it’s a light unto our paths, it tells about the love of Jesus Christ, it tells us how to truly love other people, it tells us about the power of God

And without, we can’t successfully do much of anything.

And churches in America, especially over the last half century, have unfortunately started to just focus on application.

“We don’t really need to focus on the Bible THAT much. After all, it’s kind of harsh sometimes. And intense. Let’s just focus on loving God, loving others, and loving our community.”

And however good your intentions, as soon as you push the Bible aside, it’s like pulling the foundation out from under you.

It’s like trying to navigate a massive team of people without a map. Without a mission. Without a purpose.

Yes, the Bible is not, and should not be the object of our worship, but it is indeed our map that shows us WHO to worship and HOW to do it!

And for many of you, especially if you’re newer in your faith, it is so imperative that you are building your life on a good foundation.

And that foundation is God’s word.

The Bible is not just a map to find God

It’s a key source of hearing from Him. Learning about Him. Finding out how to better surrender. Finding out more about his unbelievable love despite our constant rebellion against him.

It’s our source for all of that.


The Bible really is amazing.

It’s the main reason I became a follower of Jesus 10 years ago.

After 6 months of sitting in my room and secretly reading through the Gospels each night, God completely changed my heart

But it’s helpful to know how to read it. Where to read it. To know how to read the map if you will.

If you’re even a little confused about where you should read, etc., I highly recommend picking up a Bible pyramid on the way out

Pyramids we made to help people know how to read

Start w/ a chapter a day.

And get some accountability in this.

Have people keep you accountable as to if you’re reading. What you’re reading.

House Groups is a great place for this.

Not only to have people ask you if you’re reading, but to ask questions as well.

The Bible is SO GOOD, but remember…it’s just a map. The best map ever! But a map.

A map that leads us to the true source of Goodness. Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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