Preaching to Ourselves
- Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Asaph was tempted to listen to himself. "God isn't there. God doesn't love you. God isn't good to Israel." And we are tempted as well. We often hear in our heads, "You will never change. You are a loser. You will not make it. Your sin is too big. God is nowhere near you."
This is when preaching to ourselves is most critical. We need to hear the truth, and ponder what is real; what we may not actually see with our eyes. What should we be doing when we preach to ourselves? It will include at least 3 components.
Preaching to Ourselves Means We Look to God
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God...
(Psalms 73:16 ESV)
Preaching to ourselves is not a self-centered discipline. It is not a looking in as much as it is a looking up. Asaph goes into the Sanctuary and gains a truer perspective on reality than his circumstances were leading him to believe. In the context of worship he was reminded of the holiness of God and the destruction of the wicked. It's easy to allow our circumstances to lead us, but it is Scripture that ultimately interprets what we are going through, so we must look in them to God. Preaching to ourselves begins here.
Preaching to Ourselves Means We Address Ourselves
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
(Psalms 73:21 ESV)
Preaching to ourselves means we address ourselves, and our sin and unbelief in particular. We need to properly diagnose our sickness to find the remedy in the word. This is not a time to beat ourselves up for being sinners. Preaching to ourselves is not morbid introspection, but a pinpointing of our unbelief and idolatry. We do this so we can more accurately speak truth to ourselves. The aim is to stop doubting our God and start doubting our doubt, applying the healing truth of God's word to our specific struggles and weaknesses.
Preaching to Ourselves Means We Set Our Hope on the Gospel
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand...
(Psalms 73:23 ESV)
The gospel is what makes and sustains a Christian. This is our great hope, and it is the one message we need to hear the most; that we are reconciled to God, that he is our God and we are his people, that our sins are forgiven and eternal life is ours all through the person and work of Jesus Christ - this is where all preaching must lead. It is when we lose sight of this "good news" that the voices in the world begin to overpower the words we have heard so often before.
You have to preach to yourself because the world is broken, the devil is scheming, your heart is corrupt, and you need the gospel. Preaching to ourselves does not mean we must always be in the word, but that the word must always be in us. It means we must pray through our theology and circumstances. Thomas Manton said that prayer "is a preaching to ourselves in God's hearing. We speak to God to warm ourselves, not for his information, but for our edification."
I am convinced now, more than ever, that this is the personal discipline that is most necessary for our progress in the faith. Preach well to yourself, for the glory of God and the good of your own soul.
Joe Thorn is Lead Pastor of redeemer fellowship in St. Charles, IL and blogs at joethorn.net. His book, note to self: the discipline of preaching to yourself,was released through Crossway/ReLit. You can follow him on Twitter @joethorn.
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