Reformed experiential preaching explains how things ought to go in the Christian life (the ideal of Romans 8), how they actually go in Christian struggles (the reality of Romans 7), and the ultimate goal in the kingdom of glory (the optimism of Revelation 21–22). This kind of preaching reaches people where they are in the trenches and gives them tactics and hope for the battle.
Perhaps you have heard preaching that fills the head but not the heart. You come away better informed and educated, but little moved by God’s glory to do God’s will. In the worst case, such preaching puffs people up with knowledge. At its best, it is light without heat. You may also have heard preaching that touches the heart but not the head. Hearing it can be an emotionally moving experience. People leave the service excited, fired up, and feeling good. But they have zeal without knowledge. Like cotton candy, such preaching has lots of flavor but no nutritional value. It might bring people back for more (until they get sick), but it will not nurture life or develop maturity.
The greatest tragedy about these two abuses of preaching is that they sever the vital connection between truth and love in Christ: “But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15). It’s not just that we need both truth and love.
Therefore, the truth of Christ must be brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit in order to produce love. That’s the kind of preaching we need.
Reformed experiential preaching is not merely aesthetic, causing people to walk away thinking, “What a beautiful idea!” It is not merely informative, imparting knowledge about the Bible and theology. It is not merely emotional, warming hearts and producing strong feelings. It is not merely moralistic, instructing and exhorting in what is right and wrong. All of these elements are present in good preaching, but none of them is the heart of the matter.
It breaks us and remakes us. It is both exhilarating and humbling. Such preaching brings us face to face with the most glorious and delightful Being in the universe, and also face to face with our own profound wickedness.