The man of God must be inspired by God’s Truth. Does the preacher demonstrate that he has it in his heart to preach? It is possible for the preacher to explain, discuss, and do this according to expository methods. Yet, all the expository preaching in the world will fail if it does not exalt the greatness of God’s Truth. The Truth demands evidence of our personal, passionate exultation of God in our hearts. John Piper explains:
“Preach the word” means “exult in the word.” That is, announce it and revel in it. Speak it as amazing news. Speak it from a heart that is moved by it.
There are two reasons why this kind of speaking in the church is so crucial. One is that the subject matter is infinitely important. There is no other organization on earth that deals in matters of eternal life and eternal death — matters about God and his Son and his Spirit, matters about salvation and judgment. . . . This means that there is a form of speech that . . . fits the greatness of that truth — namely, preaching. So the first reason for preaching is that the nature of the Truth calls for something more than mere explanation or discussion or conversation.
The other reason why preaching is so crucial is that our hearts yearn for the Truth to come to us in ways that highlight the worth of the truth. In other words, not only does the magnificence of the truth call for a heartfelt heralding and passionate exultation, but our hearts call for this too. Our hearts will not be drawn out to worship if someone just dissects and analyzes the worth and glory of God but does not exult in it before us. Our hearts long for true preaching. . . .
God exists to be worshipped — to be admired and treasured and desired and praised. Therefore, the Word of God is written primarily to produce worship. This means that if that Word is handled like a hot-dish recipe or a repair manual, it is mishandled. . . . The Truth of God begs to be handled with exultation. And our hearts yearn for this and need it. Something in us starts to die when precious and infinitely valuable realities are handled without feelings and words of wonder and exultation. That is, a church starts to die without preaching.
But, of course, this assumes something massive. To treasure the Truth, and to love the Truth, and be impassioned about the truth, and to exult in the Truth, you have to know the Truth. So it’s not enough to say that preaching is exultation. We must also say it is “expository exultation.” It is exultation in the Truth of God’s Word. . . . You can never twist or exploit the Word in order to increase the emotional response of the people. Preaching is not exultation without exposition of the Word. Nor is preaching exposition of the Word without exultation. One error cuts off the head. The other rips out the heart. In both cases the victim dies. No heart. Or, no head. You’re dead. And so is preaching. And not too long after, the church.
So the command of the Lord is, Preach the Word. Keep your head on (exposition) and keep your heart alive (exultation). Handle the precious living Word of God accurately. And come to this pulpit week after week and do expository exultation. Don’t out-exult the Word. And don’t under-exult the Word. There is enough glory in the Word that you need add nothing artificial. Just eat it until your heart is deeply and truly satisfied and then serve the same banquet for your people. . . .
Scripture turned into glad tidings — that is what happens in expository exultation. Pastor, if the Lord wills, there are many years in front of you and many trials. You will be tempted in many ways to give up preaching. Satan will lie to you that it is not a great thing. Or that you could devote yourself to something more significant. But when that happens go back to 2 Timothy 4:1-2 and listen to the apostle. “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word.”
Then you will rise up and say with Martin Luther, “If I could today become king or emperor, I would not give up my office as preacher.” (“Advice to Pastors: Preach the Word,” an installation sermon preached 2/4/96)
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