A number of years ago, I read a book by author Jerry Bridges called Growing Your Faith. I cannot remember where or how I came by the book, but God used that book in powerful ways during a transformative time in my life. One of the practices I learned from Jerry Bridges in that book is something he calls, Preaching the Gospel to Myself (pg. 133). It was a very brief part of the book, but still impactful. His discussion of preaching the gospel to himself received about half a paragraph, but it stuck with me. I began to put it into practice in my own life as well, and it has had a profound impact.
What does it mean to preach the gospel to myself? How does it work?
The actual practice is quite simple. I pick out five different passages of Scripture that highlight the truths of the gospel message. There are many to choose from (I have included some suggestions below), but I just choose five. When I am having my quiet time, I will recite these five passages to myself as a constant reminder of the gospel. I usually write each of the five passages out into my journal, and then I just turn to the page with the verses and read them to myself. Whenever I start a new journal, I choose five new passages that I will use to "preach the gospel to myself."
Increases our love for Jesus
One of the reasons I have found this practice helpful is because it reminds me of what Jesus has done, and this increases my love and commitment to him. Our love and appreciation for Jesus is directly impacted by our recognition of the significance of what he has done for us on the cross. Jesus tells a short parable in Luke 7:41-42:
"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
The answer to that question is that the one who was forgiven the greater debt will love him more. Jesus is suggesting that our love for him is tied to our understanding of the degree to which we have been forgiven. Ultimately, we all suffer an infinite debt before God because of our sin. Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice to satisfy that debt. Therefore, the one who loves Jesus the most may not always be the "worst sinner," but rather the person who most recognizes the great debt that has been paid on their behalf.
When I preach the gospel to myself each morning, it reminds me that Jesus loved me first. It reminds me that the innocent God-man became sin on my behalf, that I might become the righteousness of God in him. It reminds me that I was once a child of darkness, but now I have been called into the light. It reminds me that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It reminds me that Jesus took upon himself the iniquity of us all. When I preach the gospel to myself, it reminds me of the truly good news that is found in the gospel, and it increases my love for Jesus.
It gets the gospel in our head
The second reason I have found the practice to be helpful is that it gets the gospel in my head so it is there when I need it most. For example, I am thinking about the times when I have repented of a sin, but I still feel a deep sense of shame that goes beyond healthy conviction or remorse. I need the truths of the gospel available and ready, like tools in a tool belt.
Another time when I need these gospel truths is at the end of a long day that just didn't seem to go as I had planned. The days when I wake up late and get angry with my wife and kids. The days I am late to work. The days I don't contribute well in meetings and discover that a project I was working on had failed miserably. At the end of these days, I often feel terrible and I need to be reminded that in the gospel, I am more loved than I ever thought possible.
I also need to remember these gospel truths after my day goes exceptionally well. At the end of those days, I can often find myself trusting in my own "righteousness." I can find myself believing that I have earned something from God, when in reality, even on my best days, I am still desperately in need of the salvation and life that Jesus offers. It is good to remember the gospel at the end of those "good days," when pride can creep into my mind.
We need to get these gospel truths in our head like tools in a tool belt, so they are ready and available when we need them. My brother is a trained electrician and he has collected a significant amount of electrical tools over the years. Many of these tools are not ones that I own, nor will I ever probably own. He often has many of his most important and useful tools with him in his truck, so they are available when he needs to use them. It is not uncommon for him to be at my house, discover that we need something electrical fixed, and run out to his truck to retrieve the tool he needs to fix our problem.
When we preach the gospel to ourselves it is like putting tools in our gospel tool belt. We won't always know when we need to be reminded of the gospel, but we know that the tool will be there when we need it most.
Passages that Preach the Gospel
There are many passages that we can use to preach the gospel to ourselves. Here are a few suggestions that you could begin using right away (all verses are in the ESV):
2 Corinthians 5:21
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
"All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."
"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"
"as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,according to the riches of his grace,"
“Come now, let us reason[a] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool."
Here are more passages that you might consider using when you preach the gospel to yourself: Romans 4:7-8; Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12;
Do you have any suggestions?
If there are other passages that help you remember the gospel, please include them in the comments. I would love to hear from you!