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Home School Of Preaching How to preach to the inner man for his conversion

How to preach to the inner man for his conversion

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How to preach to the inner man for his conversion

Hywel Jones

There is a Great Need to Learn How to Preach to the Inner Man.

As preachers we are in need of a “fresh anointing.” We need to be reinvigorated
and empowered anew (Ps 92:10-15). God’s anointing is needed because we are
called to a ministry that is impossible apart from divine enablement – we are called
to make a vital connection between the Word of God and our hearers.

Our preaching is intended by God to connect two worlds; the world of the Bible to
the world of our listeners.

In order to do so, it must impinge upon our hearers

where they are. So often we fall short of making this connection. There is a kind of preaching that is clear and perspicuous, faithful to the narrow and wider context of the canon, doctrinally accurate, BUT inadequate at reaching the inner man.

We must strive to preach to the inner man. Many expositors focus almost totally on
the meaning of the text, but do not set their sights on targeting the inner man. We
must not satisfy ourselves with the thought that our listeners “have learned
something.” We must aim at reaching the inner man. We must preach so that our
listeners’ reflection and conviction is, “This is what God is saying to me today.”

If reaching the inner man is not the goal of our exposition, our preaching will
seldom rise above the didactic. This is a cause for serious self-examination. Our
messages tend to be too “lecture-like.” They have a term paper feel to them, but
they are not nearly prophetic enough in character. They are “atomistic” in the sense
that they are consistently precept oriented, but lacking in the ability to stick in the
conscience and the affections.

We must develop a deeper awareness of the prophetic character of preaching.

A prophetic thrust to preaching begins in the prayer closet and in the study. Our
tendency is to tackle our text with this goal in mind, “I’ve got to deal with this
passage.” If our preaching is to be prophetic, we will have to ask the question,
“How is this passage dealing with me?” “What on earth has this to do with me?”
Our goal is not just to reach our hearers, but the inner man of our hearers. The inner
man cannot be reached unless the mind and conscience is jabbed. Have we allowed
the biblical passage to deal with us; has it jabbed our own mind and conscience?
We must have the text deal with us first before we can reach the inner man in our

We must preach with the intent of bringing God into the view of our hearers.

The inner man is transformed by beholding God (2 Cor 3:16-18 ). We are able to
preach with the confidence that we have a new covenant ministry; the wall (veil)
between our believing hearers and our message is gone. That is the assurance given
in 2 Cor 3:12-4:6 . It is a cause for great boldness in our preaching (3:12).

This passage in 2 Corinthians gives us an analysis of our believing hearers: their
hardness of heart has been removed (3:16); they are beholding the glory of the
Lord (3:18); they have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ(4:6); they are
ready to have their consciences addressed (4:2).

Now that the veil is gone (3:16), we can devote ourselves to preaching a life toward
God; a life of towardness to God.

Preaching to the outer man is common in contemporary Evangelicalism. But true
preaching is not merely focusing upon what we have found in the Word and have
mined from Scripture. True preaching brings the inner man to his senses and to
his knees. It does so because it touches the conscience in a profound manner (4:2).
In true preaching, God comes into the view of the hearer in a life-transforming
manner (3:18).

What kind of preacher can preach to the inner man? It is but one man in a thousand
who can preach this way. A portrait of this kind of man can be found in John
Bunyan. He was grave, serious, earnest in habit, not flippant. His constant mindset
was to begat, bring forth, and nurse.

Bunyan matched the description given of the teaching Levite priest in Malachi 2:5 -
7. “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an
object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My Name. True
instruction was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he
walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity.
For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction
from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”

The man who is able to preach to the inner man must be in the habit of hearing
in his own inner man.

He must see himself as a “beggar” speaking to other beggars. We must experience birth pangs and growing pangs in our own life if we are to reach the inner man in other individuals.

There is a Great Need to Preach for Growth in the Inner Man.
The image of God in man is hopelessly defaced by sin; men are beyond human

Yet people tend to live as if the power of repair is under their control. The
knowledge of God’s truth is preached in order to transform and repair. The
righteousness of God is preached that men might know the sinfulness of sin and the
righteousness of Christ. Christ’s righteousness was evinced in His love for God, by
His fulfilling of the Law in the place of the sinner.

God alone gives the increase in spiritual growth that we are preaching to induce.
Our preaching cannot produce regeneration or sanctification apart from the Spirit’s
work. We must maintain dependence upon God in our preaching for growth. We
tend to regard growth as conformity to truth and principles – this is certainly true in
part, but there is a dimension we tend to ignore. Growth is the new man asserting
itself more and more by the power of the Spirit.

Great care is needed when handling the subjects of the law and sin. If growth is
to be equated with more life, freedom and righteousness, then we must not
communicate that growth is merely mastering a code (God’s law).

Our emphasis should not be upon keeping the creed or the law, but upon living the
life in the Son. It is so easy to burden and to deaden. Christ said that His yoke was
easy and His burden was light. The child of God by definition is not under sin and
law as a dominating, controlling, condemning force. He has passed from death to
life – he is free from the law of sin and death.

In order to preach for growth in the inner man, we must deal with our listeners in
their being alive! We must not make the Christian life a burden. Avoid generating
a sense of condemnation. We must steer clear of forever talking about duty,
focusing on failure, intensifying a sense of grievous disobedience, and deepening a
sense of condemnation. This doesn’t promote growth.

If we hammer duty too much it can be a symptom of imbalance in our own
ministry. Are we trying to make up for our lack of preaching to unbelievers? Are
we seeking to assuage our sense of evangelistic failure by muscling in on believers
and imparting our sense of failure to them?

Great transparency before the throne of God is needed in the life and ministry of the
preacher. Are we piling up precepts on our people? We must guard against “be
good” sermons that leave the listener with the impression, “You have so many
commissions to fulfill, so many duties to accomplish.” To preach in this manner is
to make them far from grace – it is to place them back under law. It builds a wall to
separate them from the fullness of Christ.

Our entire eligibility for God’s favor is Christ; we have the Savior’s blessed
availability -- all by gracious donation. We must avoid grieving the hearts of the
righteous. Sanctification is relational; it is living the life of toward-ness to God in
Christ as His beloved possession.

When promoting growth in the inner man, we are to press down the die of truth
on the understanding and the affections. There are particular truths that promote
growth. Make much of the love of Christ. The truth concerning His love is a
constraining truth that promotes likeness to Him and conformity to His commands.
Our obedience is achievable by virtue of His energy. When we deepen these
“indentations” by means of the die of truth, growth will result.
How easy it is to lose sight of the Lord Jesus Christ. Other things become central
and He is marginalized in the process. Beloved, the Church thrives only when
Christ has preeminence in all things.

Christian people are right and correct when they hunger to hear how perfectly suited
Christ is for their every need (Heb 7:26 , 27). Our preaching must hold Him before
Christian people. Set Him before them as their “Source Person” and it will cause
them to be like Him.

Our motivation for obedience is the love of Christ. Our framework is His law
(Christ holds the law in His hands as a placated Mediator of the new covenant who
rules His people by love). Our strength and energy for obedience is His Person.
Christ is to be preeminent and central in all of ministry. He is to have preeminence
in everything. Don’t talk more about God than Christ (1 Cor 2:1-3 ).

The motivation for growth is the Gospel, not the Law.

Use the Gospel to keep your people aware of what they owe, who they are, what they were, and where they are headed.

The precepts and laws of God must be filtered through Christ and Him

Are we consciously seeking to bring our listeners to delight to receive Christ’s love and law in their hearts? Our tendency as ministers is to make biblical commands stand alone from Christ’s finished work and present power. But, it is the experimental knowledge of Christ’s love that gives us the disposition to love one another, and to bear one another’s burdens. His love gives us the disposition to please.

His precepts give us the specifics of how to please God; He directs our love
by His precepts. (We need to view our living the Christian life in this way instead
of merely adherence to a code.)

We must understand that our being “in Christ” is our strength. Our union with
Christ is vital, living, and organic; it is not merely federal representation. The
mind of Christ is available, the might of Christ is available – we don’t have to fulfill
a single command by ourselves, in our own strength. We operate in the realm of
grace full and free. We cannot barter for God’s infinite goodness in Christ, we
cannot exchange anything for it; it is still for nothing, it is still all of grace (Rom 5:1 ,
How do we press down these truths upon the minds and hearts of our hearers?
This ministry of pressing down the die of truth has three “tones” or “strands” that
function together. The Apostle Paul used them in conjunction (1 Thess 2:11). “Just
as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of
you as a father would his own children.”

Exhorting: is to appeal by argument. It is not the same as laying down the law. It is
face to face, side by side ministry as when the Apostle Paul acted as a spiritual
father and mother. Laying down the law is not as effective, though it might seem
so. By contrast, the exhorting pastor asks the question, “What will make people rise
up, want to be more like Christ, and want to obey?” “What will make them more
like Christ in attitude, word, and deed?”

Encouraging: is to comfort humans in their frailty. Distressed minds and hearts
need to be consoled. So many are distressed within and without. They are living
with turmoil of soul, with stress, fear, anxiety, and condemnation. Even under the
Old Covenant, the Levitical priest exemplified compassion and empathy (Heb 5:2 ,
3). How much more do we, under the new covenant, need to show compassion and
empathy – we must not send the message that we have arrived spiritually. We can
be too hard. Our own infirmities are always with us. Let us not be too censorious,
too overbearing, or too demanding.

Imploring: is to warn the indifferent; it is to withstand the rebellious face to face. It
is to confront in specific areas where obedience is lacking. We implore in the
context of a “spiritual family.” We are to implore our people to go to perfection.
Yet, some are not of us. If individuals persevere in disobedience, that sin might
bring them to a point of irrevocable apostasy.

Disobedient believers must be taught to submit to the Heavenly Father’s discipline.
In some cases of protracted disobedience in a believer, that correction from God
may claim the health and life of the individual that their spirit may be saved in the
day of Christ Jesus.

In all three of these tones (exhorting, encouraging and imploring), God is the
One who is ultimately speaking. He is the One who calls us to call His people into
His glorious kingdom. We are called to communion with Christ. We are called up
into the light, even at death.

Christ is the gift of all gifts. We need to inculcate more longing and more yearning
to know Christ and to be like Christ in Immanuel’s land. In order to preach to the
life of God in the soul, we must preach and speak in all three tones: in speaking
truth, we exhort, in communicating compassion, we comfort, in exercising firmness
we warn.

The Apostle Paul spoke in all three of these tones (1 Thess 2:11).

There is a Great Need of Preaching for Conversion.

Of course it is only the believer that has an inner man. We will be preaching to
many unregenerate men in our congregations. The decay of the outward man is a
sad spectacle because in the unsaved man, it is the decay of all that is there. (By
contrast, the Apostle Paul did not lose heart amidst the decay of his outer man
because his inner man was being renewed day by day – 2 Cor 4:16 .)

Preaching evangelically is a serious weakness in Reformed preaching. Not only
should we be preaching to produce growth, we should be preaching to produce a
birth (James 1:18 ).In the Gospel idea of preaching, one takes a “die” into his hand in order to form impressions. The impression is the divine image of the knowledge of God and true holiness. God made the soul. Our task is not to criticize it, reform it, or alter it.

We are simply to take the die and press it down. The preacher’s business is simply to take what he finds in the Scriptures and press it down on the heart, conscience, and understanding of men. The die is perfect to produce the impression God desires. We must press down this die as those who have had the selfsame die pressed on us in the sight of God (see Dabney, Theological Discussions, pp. 596-601).

There is a morphology in preaching to bring for the new birth. The planting of
life (regeneration) takes place beforehand. We do not preach in order to
regenerate. The dead sinner’s heart is not reached by our appeals, pleas, and
reasons. We preach to bring out the babe that God has conceived. Our task is more
of a midwife than a mother or a father (1 Cor 4:15 ).

We are to harmonize with, as much as possible, the effectual calling of God, so
that a healthy birth takes place. What lines of truth are necessary so as to produce
the inner man? What truths does God utilize to bring forth life? (James 1:18 ). (The
issue here is the Gospel truths, not just selective texts.)

We must major on the truth of Christ’s cross and the significance of His death.
This is our canon within the canon. For in the cross and the Gospel is the message
of the love of God providing an escape from the enslaving, corrupting power of sin
and from the condemning power of God (in the Law).

Our mission is to press down these truths upon the mind, affections, and conscience. This means we will have to deal with personal sin. We need to bring
to bear on our listeners that they have to come to terms with God’s Law. They are
dealing with the Holy One of the universe. They must come to term with God’s
love. They will have to come to terms with what God has done for sinners.
In order to press down these truths, we will have to preach so as to produce the

* a proper recognition of sin (CONVICTION).
* a proper repudiation of sin (REPENTANCE).
* a proper reception of the Savior (FAITH).

To receive Christ’s person is to receive His righteousness in His life and in His
vicarious death; it is to receive His perfect satisfaction on behalf of believing
sinners. To preach the recognition and repudiation of sin is to exhort the sinner to
recognize his personal sin and create an antipathy toward it.

The preacher faces two obstacles in his task to produce conviction: the nature of
the sin, and the condition of the sinner. The nature of sin can be described as
blinding, enslaving, and deceiving. The condition of the sinner is as follows: his
inability lies in his corrupt nature, his inability is traceable to his darkened
understanding, his inability lies in the corruption of his affections, and his inability
resides in the total perversity of his will (Arthur Pink, Obstacles to Coming to

Sin lives, rules, and reigns in the sinner. Sin is beyond all human knowing. It is so
deceitful one cannot know it comprehensively. It is impossible to run an objective
analysis upon it. It is not superficial. It has literally captured the heart and made
the sinner a willing hostage. “Dead in sin” can be defined as that which disables
and blinds (see Lloyd Jones, Ephesians Commentary, Eph 4:17-19 ).

To get the sinner to identify his sin, and reject his sin goes against his whole
nature. He is willing to die for his sin, he loves it. If he could plunge a knife into
the heart of God in order to keep sin, he would do so. Sin makes one daring to commit high crimes against heaven. It destroys the fear of God; it is presumption. It is spiritual insanity. It is suicidal in its course. The false prophet Balaam pursued the object of his lust with abandon and “madness” (2 Pet 2:15 , 16). Sin is deceitful because its father is a liar (Jn 8:44 ). Sin promises, but never delivers what it promises. We must show its deceitful character by unmasking its true colors. We are preaching to sinners who are blinded to what sin is and what it does to the sinner and to God.

We are to depend upon the Word and the Spirit in order to explain what sin is. The
law is a standard, a yardstick expressed in specific commandments, each of which is
“exceedingly broad” (Ps 119:96).

Romans 7:9 declares, “when the commandment came sin became alive.” That is the
Spirit taking up the commandment and bringing it home to the mind, affections, and
conscience. The Spirit makes a man realize the inward influence of sin
(subjectively). The sinner has to be brought to that level. The Spirit will take it
infinitely deeper than we can take it so that the sinner will know sin and feel death.

Prior to the Spirit’s conviction, the sinner thinks that he can ingratiate himself to
God. He imagines he can obligate God with a little moral exertion. People need to
die to their pride, their confidence, their hope. They need to die to everything but
an ever-increasing comprehension of the nature of sin. As preachers we must deal
with sin and death. We must make people aware of what wretched men they are.
Jesus called sinners, not the righteous. He alone is fit to handle our ruin. He is
perfectly suited (Heb 7:25-28 ). He kept the Law, and bore its curse.

When we preach, we are to call for the obedience of faith. In saving faith there is a
giving of oneself away to God; it is casting one’s entire welfare upon the Lord.
God justifies the ungodly. We are to call upon people to turn, to flee, to look past
themselves upon Christ who lived, and died, and rose again.

So great a salvation, full and free, was at the behest of the Father. Command them
to come, command them to repent. Assure them that they won’t be cast out. If they
will but call, He hears, He will answer. Like the father of the prodigal son, He will
run and meet him, He will kiss him and clothe him, and reinstate him.

As preachers, we have to plead. We’re better at commanding than pleading,
better at assuring than pleading. If we do not plead, we are not proper
ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20 ). There must be pleading and beseeching in Christ’s
stead. He is speaking through us. Our listeners must know that God wants them
saved and Satan doesn’t.

The ambassador maintains dignity, but descends to entreaty – he communicates
God’s condescending grace. God is Savior. He goes before us to regenerate. He
takes the poor soul from darkness to light, from the kingdom of Satan to the
kingdom of His dear Son.

Once God produces the spiritual infant, the inner work will become visible
(Jn 3:7 , 8). There may be a difference of degree of vigor in the life principle
imparted. It may be a whimper, or a cry, but in regeneration, new life is present
(see Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience, p. 23).

Your view on God’s regenerating work will affect your ecclesiology. Do you lean
toward a position of decisional regeneration in which man’s, decision initiates
regeneration? Then you may focus more on faith made visible in a decision.
Pastors operating from that perspective may assume a higher number of their
parishioners to be saved. They will tend to not expect too much of everybody.

There is another view of the regenerating work of God. Do you regard the
regenerating power of God to be of the same magnitude of might God exercised in
the resurrection of Christ? (see Eph 1:19 , 20). If that is your position, then you will
correctly expect some degree of vital faith, life, light and love to be evident in each
and everyone of those spiritually newborn. You will preach to that new life
accordingly – as a newly conceived inner man whose life needs to be asserted by
the Spirit’s power.

Adapted from a Lecture by Hywel Jones, Banner of Truth Conf., 1997

Copyright - Hywel Jones 1997


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