It would probably come as a shock to many preachers to discover that their preaching seems to skirt around the personal nature of our God, but listeners pick up on it once their antennae are tuned to the difference.
The sermon may be engaging, illustrated, perhaps personal in terms of the preacher’s own life and personality. The message may encourage, exhort, rebuke, educate, etc. The preaching may be lively, energetic, enthusiastic, humorous or whatever. But somehow, if the preaching doesn’t offer the personal God of the Bible, then it will always feel inadequate.
Somehow preaching that misses the person ends up targeting elsewhere, and with a different tone. It becomes educational and exhortational, focusing on us and our responsibility to implement some biblical advice or instruction. The difference when the person is preached, is that the focus shifts to response rather than responsibility, an invitation rather than imposition.
It is so easy to pressure people to perform, or to offer a gospel of private benefits, but to fail to mention the person who is at the heart of the gospel both offered and applied.
I was reading a book looking at a time in history when two streams of preaching could be traced. Those deaf to the difference seem to deny the distinction, but just reading the different ways in which Christ was described was so telling. One side offered a few cold truths, the other side were overflowing with description of a compelling and captivating Christ, and then only seemed to scratch the surface. I can tell you facts about lots of people, but I will talk about my wife differently. It was almost as if one side had barely met Christ, or if they had, hadn’t found him particularly gripping.
What if we could invent a double thermometer? One part to measure the warmth of the preacher toward Christ, and the other part to measure the heat of the pressure on the listeners to perform? I suspect that if the thermometer were measuring the temperature from the preacher in pressuring the listeners, then there might be a sense in which the two measures are almost mutually exclusive.
Let’s pour our energy into effectively speaking of the God who reveals Himself in the Word. Let’s trust that to draw and stir and motivate and captivate and challenge and convict people who are listening.
We need to preach Him. He changes lives.