A common mistake is to assume that the explanation of the text will be dull, but the application should make up for this by riveting relevance and powerful personal punch. An alternative, but sibling error, is to think that the illustrations will be the source of heartfelt energy, while the text explained remains dull.
Some preliminary thoughts on preaching to the heart:
1. The text is a heartfelt composition, it makes no sense to sterilize it. Sometimes we need to re-tune our theological ears so that we hear inspired human communication, rather than just theological proposition transfer embedded in inspired packaging. If you don’t hear a heart beating in the Psalms you are really in trouble. And what about narratives written by someone who cares deeply that the story be heard? And even the epistles are far more rich in tone than we tend to make them sound.
2. The text communicates to the heart, don’t neutralize it. Epistles don’t just inform, they were written to stir, to encourage, to rebuke, etc. Poetry, almost by definition, is meant for pondering and heartfelt response. Narratives, by nature, will captivate, characters drawing us in to identify, or causing us to disassociate, tension in the plot gripping the listener for more than just a statement of truth, but for truth dressed up in real life. We have a habit of disengaging truths from the packaging in which they come. This is not to minimize the importance of truth, but to recognize that God’s choice of genre packaging was intentional and effective for life transformation.
3. God reveals His heart in the Word, don’t hide it. The Bible is, supremely, God’s self-revelation. But we’re often too quick to cover over that self-revelation. Oh, that’s just an anthropomorphism (using human form descriptors to communicate about God who is Spirit and absolutely nothing at all like us), or worse, an anthropopathism (same again, this time removing any possibility that God might have any passions at all)! Really? God only pretending to have emotion? Our theological assumptions can quickly override the plain truth of Scripture and leave us with a God so distant and uncaring that he might as well be the god of the Greek philosophers, and a Jesus only feeling and loving and dying “in his humanity,” and other such confusion.
Preaching to the heart is not primarily a matter of homiletical technique. It is an issue of our theological assumptions and the accuracy of our exegesis. Tomorrow I’ll add another three thoughts.