February 12, 2013 by Dwight Bernier
In many of my sermons, I speak about preaching to ourselves. Not only do we need Jesus-exalting, gospel-centered preaching on Sundays as well as in our headphones throughout the week, we need gospel-centered preaching from our lips to our hearts throughout the day (usually many times per day). And this preaching should be done aloud most of the time! We need to remind ourselves of what is true when we hear lies from others or most often ourselves.
It’s easy to get sucked into a string of thoughts which leads down a rabbit hole of seemingly no escape. We can end up creating scenarios and motivations about people that aren’t true! We must stop listening to our hearts and start preaching to them.
In the introduction to his book, Note To Self, Joe Thorn helps us understand what ‘preaching to ourselves’ means. He defines this phrase as: “the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness” (p. 24). Now, some of you will respond, and rightly so, “I thought it was about preaching the gospel, not the law”. This is correct. We want to preach the gospel. But the good news can only be properly understood and applied when we come to terms with the bad news.
Thorn uses “the law” in this instance as God’s revealed will and standard of righteousness, summarized as loving God and neighbor. From this law, we should see three things: what is right, what is wrong, and what is needed.
The law is not bad, but perfectly what is right. It is holy. It shows who God is and how He calls all people to relate to Him and one another. But as we see the calling of the law (not covet, honor parents, don’t lie, don’t lust, love God with all heart, mind, soul, and strength, etc.), we feel the impossibility of every being able to accomplish the requirements. The law does not lead to celebration of our ability, but recognition of our inability.
The law shows us what is wrong with us. It exposes our sin, unbelief, and shows us why we properly deserve condemnation and separation from God. The law shows that our motives are not pure, that our actions fall short of perfection, and that we have a huge problem of which we can not provide for!
The law then shows us what’s needed – redemption. We need someone to come and pay for our law-breaking. We need someone to remove our condemnation.
By preaching the law to ourselves, it should always lead us away from the bad news of our hopelessness, and back to the good news of the hope we have in Jesus. This is where the preaching needs to be strongest and loudest!
When we preach the gospel to ourselves, Thorn identifies three areas that we must include:
1 – Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience. Jesus didn’t have to sacrifice. Jesus didn’t ever break the law of God. Jesus was perfect. He did not give into temptation like Adam, but preached against temptation. His life is good news for us.
2 – Jesus is our forgiveness. Jesus’ death in our place is our hope! He bore our sin, shame, guilt, and condemnation. He died for our transgressions of the law so that we can be forgiven and accepted by God. And God doesn’t leave us as orphans, but makes us family. We are a forgiven family, with an older brother that died and paid for all our sin – past, present, and future. The cross brings us hope!
3 – Jesus is our victory. Jesus’ resurrection “offers courage and strength to persevere because His victory over sin and death is ours both in this life and in the one to come” (p. 31). Jesus is alive! Whatever we face in terms of struggles, temptations, oppression, persecution, misunderstanding, racism, suffering, sickness – this is not the end! Jesus will swallow death, and when we see Him, we will be like Him.
Thorn ends the chapter with an incredible paragraph:
“Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. You will have to ask and be honest about your motives, struggles, and needs. You will need to clarify to yourself what God’s law means in principle, but also what it requires specifically of you. You will need to ask how the gospel meets your needs and heals your brokenness. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget” (p. 32).
Preach the law and gospel faithfully to your heart. It’s not crazy to preach to yourself. It’s crazy if you don’t.