The Controlled Fire of Passionate Preaching

The summers in East Texas are miserable. They are dry, humid, and downright unbearable at times. As a result, it is common to be placed on a “burn ban” for fear that a fire would start an out of control blaze. An out of control fire has the potential to devour everything in sight without any regard to property or person. But there are times when the ban is lifted and a “controlled fire” can take place. A controlled fire is still a fire placed under control to accomplish a particular purpose.

A lot of preaching is simply an out of control fire, devouring whoever in its path. I’m sure we are all familiar with the “hellfire” preachers who spit and yell to make their point. While passion is important in the act of preaching it should never make up for lack of content. There are those whose preaching is in a burn ban condition. Instead of passion with passion, such preachers are as dull and dry as a Texas summer.

Good expository preaching is a controlled fire. Such preaching is under the control of the Holy Spirit, who allows the expositor to proclaim the sacred text passionately without convoluting the biblical text. In a controlled fire sometimes you pour more gasoline on the fire to cause it to flare and burn hotter. Sometimes you pour water on it to calm it down. Nevertheless, it is a fire that burns at different rates depending upon the purpose. The Holy Spirit guides the act of proclamation, setting the preacher “on fire” at the right time.

Passionate Preaching on Fire

Three points here will show the importance of Spirit-controlled preaching.

First, Spirit-controlled preaching has Pointed Exegesis that drives the sermon. Solid expository preaching is nothing more than the Spirit-empowered exposition of the biblical text. The message of the sermon is the meaning of the text. Preaching with authority requires the preacher to proclaim the whole counsel of God. This is why it is imperative to exegete the biblical text faithfully.

Sound exegesis should lead to worship. There are several methods when it comes to doing exegesis. Exegesis not only involves understanding the words and the clauses but also the genre. The genre of the text will help facilitate the communication of the text. In the end the question, “What does the text mean?” must be answered. Pointed Exegesis drives the sermon.

Second, powerful application is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we should ask ourselves in the study as we’re preparing the sermon, “How does this text apply to my life and the life of the congregation?”

There are two extremes when it comes to application. First application can become a simple “1, 2, 3” process – nothing more than just a list of do’s and don’ts with little to no gospel. The other extreme is simply to leave out application altogether. The sermon that is not applied is no sermon at all. This is why we need the Holy Spirit to control not just our exegesis but also our application.

This is a significant step in exposition as the preacher seeks to show the congregation how the particular insights in the sermon relate to their daily lives. One example of what I’m describing is to pose a series of questions to the congregation. Another is to apply the biblical text through illustration or to capture the main idea of the passage. In the end, the bridge must be crossed from exegesis to application.

The last step is passionate proclamation. This is the means of proclaiming the content of the text in an understandable form, using illustrations, and resulting in useful application. Sunday morning, in the sacred hour, the preacher stands to deliver Divine Truth. How is he going to communicate that truth? If it is indeed the divine truth, this should lead to passionate proclamation.

The result of the preacher prayerfully working through the text and the text working on him is he will arrive with a passion to faithfully proclaim the biblical text to God’s people on Sunday. Since the Bible is God’s Word and the Holy Spirit inspired God’s Word, it is the Spirit that moves the preacher to proclaim the biblical text faithfully. The Holy Spirit produces the passion, the urgency, and the drive to preach. The “old” preachers called this “Unction” – The Spirit’s empowerment to preach. It’s been said that Spurgeon, as he ascended the Metropolitan pulpit, would pray, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” over and over again to himself. Listen to E.M. Bounds explain:

This divine unction is the feature, which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth…Unction is simply putting God in his own word and on his own preachers. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

Unction comes from the Holy Spirit filling the preacher in the act of communication. The Spirit lights a fire in the preacher, controls the fire, and spreads the fire of God’s Truth in the hearts of the congregation. We need this Spirit controlled fire in our pulpits.

Seek the Empowerment of the Spirit

God filled His prophets, apostles, and preachers with His Holy Spirit, empowering them to speak His message. May we seek the same Holy Spirit to control our preaching, lighting a fire in us, and letting it burn to give life and light through God’s Word to God’s people.

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