Jesus compassion for the lost multitudes led Him to call upon His followers to pray. Paul’s anguish for his fellow Jews (9:1-3) led him to pray that they would be saved (10:1). Real heart preaching will come from hearts that are broken because of the blindness, slavery and deadness of the people to whom God has sent us. And that brokenness will lead to fervent heart felt praying.

Ezekiel 9:3-6 – Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writing case at his waist.  [4] And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”  [5] And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity.  [6] Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house.

Those spared the punishment of God in Ezekiel’s vision are those who grieve over the sins of Jerusalem. Their hearts were broken. Heart preaching will preach from the brokenness that results from preaching and pastoring and witnessing to those who choose rebellion and sin, to those who think that their rebellion is not rebellion at all, to those who turn grace into licentiousness and to those who just don’t care. Heart preaching will weep over the enslavement that sin exerts over the lost. It will mourn for sinners, for the glory of God denied and for the openness people show for all things except Gospel truth. It will grieve over believers who after years of faith in Christ and hearing countless sermons and serving on Boards and teaching Sunday School and even daring to vote for who should be their pastor, they are yet babes in Christ.  It will feel the stabs of pain that result from dealing with saved people whose knowledge of Scripture is barely past the kindergarten level and for those who know much of its teaching but whose mastery of the Word has done nothing to bring them one step closer to the Kingdom of heaven.

A broken heart hurts. But it is necessary for the work of Gospel delivery and true pastoral care. Do not doubt this. Do not think that a heart that is immune to the pain and suffering and lostness and ignorance and intransigence of your people is better suited to help them. Do not think that a heart that is able to talk of eternal life and have people reject it and leave no scar on the heart is what preachers need. We need just the opposite. We need hearts that break and stay broken. We need to feel the agony of souls going to hell. We need to be like our Saviour whose heart broke over those who listened to Him and who now invites them to come and be saved.

I prayed for years for God to take my hard heart and turn it into a heart that cares and cries and mourns and aches. “Make me feel” was my prayer and God did. He gave me feeling through all kinds of difficulties and hardships in the ministry and in my personal life. There are times when I wonder if I really asked for all this. But I did, and God was gracious enough to give it to me and I am very grateful. I needed a heart transplant and God gave it to me and it was not pleasant. But I would not replace it for anything.

Let us not waste our trials. God has given them to us for all kinds of reasons, the least of which, is not getting a heart of compassion that will be more useful to Christ in the delivery of the Gospel to lost sinners. There will be no true heart preaching if that heart has never been wounded and broken. There will be no heart preaching if Paul’s attitude in Romans 9 and 10 is not ours. There will be no heart preaching if we do not ask God to grant the kind of heart that delivers it.

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