I believe that one of our biggest problems as Christians is that we do not do enough preaching. Now, I don’t mean behind a pulpit every Sunday or even on the street corner throughout the week. And I’m not thinking here about preaching to your unsaved loved one or neighbor, though certainly you should be sharing the gospel with them whenever you are provided the opportunity. I am talking about personally preaching to ourselves every single day. Specifically preaching the gospel message to ourselves. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right, “most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986; 20). Let me explain what I mean by this.
Every morning we wake up with thoughts going through our head. Perhaps they remind us of sins we committed yesterday; an ugly thought that we had, that unkind and hurtful word which we said to our spouse, the wrong way we responded to our children, or the jealousy we had for what someone else had been given instead of us. These thoughts condemn us wearing us down. We can either listen to these thoughts and allow them to defeat us or we can battle them by preaching to ourselves the truth of the gospel message. Telling ourselves that Jesus Christ died for all of those sins 2,000 years ago experiencing the punishment for them that we deserve and if we are united to Him through faith, God no longer sees those sins when He looks at us. We have been forgiven of all of them through the shed blood of our Savior. Nothing that we do can separate us from the love that He has for us in Christ (Romans 8:35-39). When our thoughts point out that we can’t do enough or will fall short of the next task, we need to preach to ourselves that Jesus did all that was necessary for us to be in a right standing before God and our acceptance before Him is not based on our imperfect deeds but Christ’s perfect righteousness. Also, we remind ourselves that we have His Holy Spirit dwelling inside us whom we can rely on to give us the ability to do whatever it is that He has called. Or the thoughts tell us some negative things about ourselves after looking in the mirror or being given the pink slip at our job. Preaching the gospel to ourselves is saying to ourselves that in light of that, our real identity is still found in being a chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven child of God in Christ (Ephesians 1). When we look at our circumstances and our thoughts conclude that God has abandoned us, preaching the gospel to ourselves is telling ourselves that God uses such times to strengthen our faith and to increase our trust in Him as we are made more aware of how good He is to us (Job 42:5-6; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; James 1:2-4). That He is forever for us and working all things for the good of our ultimate redemption (Romans 8:28-32). Preaching the gospel to ourselves is basically taking the truths of Scripture and telling them to ourselves to combat these thoughts in our minds.
This practice is exactly what the author of Psalm 42 does in battling his depression. As he goes through and recounts his longing to be back in God’s presence at the temple and the tears that he has been shedding day and night as well as the taunts of his enemies as to where his God is, he stops and begins to talk to himself. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (v. 5). He encourages himself in the midst of the pain and woe that he needs to find his hope in God, not in anyone or anything else. That in God is found his salvation from whatever it is he may be experiencing. That God is still his God regardless of it all. We see that he ends the Psalm on the exact same note (v. 11). That is the method which he employed to pull himself out of the pit of despair and depression; preaching the gospel to himself. We would do well to follow his lead.
It appears that Jeremiah also, in a sense, preached the gospel to himself in the midst of his lamenting over how bad things had gotten with the Babylonians ransacking of Jerusalem. Roughly halfway through the book of Lamentations, he states, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ ” (3:21-24). He preaches to himself the character of God to bring him back to the hope that he has only in Him. A hope that he obviously was losing sight of in the thick of the circumstances he found himself in.
So the next time those thoughts come into your head, don’t listen to them. Preach the truth of the gospel to yourself instead. And keep preaching until you stop giving heed to such thoughts but embrace the truth. When the thought returns, then begin preaching again. Continue to preach the gospel to yourself everyday.
Love in Christ,