Greg Heisler has a thought provoking section on limiting how we apply a text. I have always thought that the more specifically we apply a text the better. But he counters that in doing so we are trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit and are in fact counter-productive;
Partnering with the Holy Spirit in application means we let him be the one to fill in the blanks for a persons life. We lay out for our listeners the general application, perhaps give them some examples from contemporary life, and then trust the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks for their own specific life. Preachers who try to fill in the blanks for their listeners tend to come across as push, manipulative, and legalistic. Rather than trust the Spirit, they try to be the Spirit. Teach the audience the truth of the text–God expects purity of mind in all our thinking–and then apply it by saying, "This text applies in all our thinking–and then apply it by saying, "This text applies to what we allow to come into our minds. Our television viewing habits must line up with what Paul is saying here in Philippians 4:8-9." But let the Spirit fill in the blanks and convict them about their own questionable viewing habits and whether their favorite shows line up with the moral grid of Philippians 4:8-9.
Legalistic preaching fills in the blanks for the people and does not build disciples. Spirit-led preaching trusts the Spirit to make the connection and builds mature, Spirit-filled fruit-producing disciples. Tearful stories with guilty endings may stir people for a moment, but only the Spirit’s stirring causes people to change forever. (p. 123)
While I will have to give that some more thought, I believe that Heisler makes an important point. What do you think?