Over and over again, I discover how easy it is to say the right things, yet how often I must be reminded to live them.
Over and over again, I am reminded how necessary it is that I preach the Gospel to myself.
I know that I am a sinner saved by grace. I have memorized the Scriptures, including whole books of the Bible in my teen years. I have sung the songs and read the stories, and the truths that have shaped my life are settled in my soul.
There is great danger in this kind of knowing. It means that I can say all of the right words without my heart’s chords stirring to the tune of the Gospel. In my daily, ordinary, unseen, unsung life, it means that I can speak of the work of God and fail to recognize how deeply and desperately I need that work in my own life.
To make this practical, let me share a few examples. I have been reading the book of Esther; the story of kings and kingdoms, banquets and brides, feasts and fairness. In the first chapter, we read of Vashti, who refused the summons to the king’s presence. I have heard this passage taught many ways, but the simple application I received as I read was that one woman’s choice held massive implications, not just for her own relationships, but for her whole nation.
Quietly but insistently, God spoke to me:
“The choices that you make hold weight far beyond what you even realise.”
In the light of the Gospel, this means that my God is at work redeeming my poor choices and calling me to the choices that will reflect His sacrificial love.
Practically, this means that I must recognize, in light of the Gospel, that some of my choices will be the ones that must be redeemed. I am a sinner, eternally saved by grace.
It is far easier for me to tell others that their sins are ransomed and redeemed than to examine the ugly reality of my own poor choices. And yet…I am continually discovering my own faults and failings.
To choose another example, for years I have told teenage girls to wait to share their hearts to the one who is God’s best.
Until I fell in love myself and couldn’t figure out how to release that love for over a year. It is easy to say that I should give God my love life. It’s much harder to actually surrender what I desire. It is in light of these failures that the glory of the Gospel becomes ever more radiant. Although I know this is not true, I sometimes imagine that I have earned the relentless love of God. Preaching the Gospel to myself reminds me that every good gift in my life is an act of grace.
In subtle ways, I tend to package grace.
In my life, grace unwrapped looks like the gift it always has been: The unearned favor of a God who gave us a garden and the joy of His presence. In my life, redemption unfolded looks like the tree that springs forth with life from what seems bitter, the cross that carried the death of God Himself that He might live again, the hope that the only true King walked in humility; so that He could live in victory forever.
When I preach the Gospel to myself, I rediscover the wonder, the mystery, the radical awe of a triune God who is Father, Saviour, and Spirit. I re-engage with a love that precedes history and stretches past one trillion tomorrows.
When I preach the Gospel to myself, the story is no longer about me. I am so glad that there is a true and better hero. All of heaven sings His name.