What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself?

What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself?

In C.S. Lewis’ book The Silver Chair Aslan the Lion, the Christ figure, gives a mission to a character near the beginning of the story. Here’s the exchange:

Aslan said, “Remember the signs.  Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night.  And whatever strange things may happen to you let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.

And secondly, I give you a warning.  Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly.  I will not often do so down in Narnia.  Here on the mountain the air is clear and your mind is clear.  As you drop down into Narnia the air will thicken.  Take great care that it does not confuse your mind, and the signs which you have learned here will not at all look like you expect them to look when you meet them there.  That’s why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.  Remember the signs and believe the signs.  Nothing else matters.

In the story, Aslan’s advice to Jill is not dissimilar to the advice that we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day.  I (Sean) first came across this idea from Jerry Bridges while we studied through his book Respectable Sins a number of years ago in our church.  If you want to read his own words on the matter, you can do so here.  You can also watch Paul Tripp discuss preaching the gospel to yourself daily here.

Personally, the days when I actually remember to do this, it takes the form of having a conversation with myself.  There isn’t a day that goes by when this conversation doesn’t need to happen.  It begins by reminding myself that I am one of God’s creatures, which serves to also remind me that God is the Creator.  Without beginning here existence, reality, and life make absolutely no sense.  Passages such as Genesis 1 and Psalm 139 are vital to inform this part of the conversation.

From there, I must remind myself that I am a sinner.  I’m not a sinner because I sin.  I sin because I’m a sinner.  Genesis 3, Romans 5, and Ephesians 2 are passage of Scripture that inform this part of the conversation.  I am guilty of wilful acts of suicidal rebellion against this holy creator God.  This is the playing out of the sinful nature I inherited as one of Adam’s descendants.  As Paul puts it in Ephesians 2, at one point in my life I was a child of wrath.  In my present state, there are yet times when I choose to obey my former master and decide to disobey God’s standard.

If it weren’t for the next piece of the conversation I would be crushed under the weight of what my sin should earn: death, judgment, and eternal separation from the God who made me.  However, as captured again in Ephesians 2 by the apostle Paul, two words at the heart of the gospel ring out: But God.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Why would we ever not remind ourselves of this truth daily, even multiple times in a day!  Who I was is not who I now am.  Previously I was dead.  Now, I’m alive.  Previously I was a child of wrath.  Now, I’m an adopted son.  Previously my identity was wrapped up in the first Adam who fell.  Now, my identity is wrapped up in Jesus Christ, in whom I am a new creation.

Previously I was a slave of sin.  Now, I’m a slave of righteousness.  On and on we can go.  There are times in life when these truths are gloriously clear and ever on my mind.  Yet at other times, like Aslan explains to Jill, sometimes the air is thick, life is hard, temptation presses in, discouragement is around every corner, and the passions of the flesh are let loose.  That’s why we need to preach the truth of the gospel to ourselves every day.  It reminds us who God is.  It reminds us who we were.  It reminds us of what God has done in Christ to save us.  It reminds us of the gift of the Spirit we have indwelling us.  It reminds us of who we are.

And we must not stop there.  Often, when we quote a passage like Ephesians 2, we stop at verse 9 and forget about the very next verse:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Preaching the gospel to myself doesn’t end with what God has done in Christ in the past.  It also reminds me that there is work to be done now, even as the gospel points forward to the restoration of all things.  The gospel isn’t only about salvation, the Lordship of Christ implicates all of life, and so preaching the gospel to myself helps me to continue to live out what it means to be a disciple as a man, a pastor, a husband, a father, a member of society, a steward of resources, an employee, and so on.

Preaching a whole gospel to ourselves will ensure that we don’t shrink it down to fire insurance, relevant only at the moment we believed, when we die, or when Christ returns, but rather applying and living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all areas of life.  That’s what we need to repeat to ourselves daily.