It is so easy to believe untruths about yourself.
Sometimes, during training periods of exercise, I will be so focused on achieving a goal that I become obsessive about goal-setting, checking my weight and my progress. Eventually I start to believe that whatever I am doing is not enough and I am failing.
In these moments, the very best thing anyone can do for me is to remind me about the truth. Often this falls to my wife. She reminds me that when I follow Jesus, I'm not my worst day or my best day, but that my identity is found in who Jesus is and what he says about me. This is the vital art of gospeling one another. Jeff Vandersteldt calls this 'gospel rhythms' or 'gospel fluency'—the ability to fluently speak gospel truth into the lives of others.
Throughout the New Testament we see the apostles and disciples reminding people of the gospel and the good news it brings for all people. Paul reminds the church in Corinth that the gospel is of first importance (1 Corinthians 15). Peter writes that God has granted us his 'precious and very great promises' (2 Peter chapter 1, verse 4) and that he intends to 'always remind you of these qualities, even though you know them well' (2 Peter chapter 1, verse 12). Jesus himself reminds us not to forget our first love (Revelation chapter 2, verse 4).
We believe lies about ourselves
The other night some friends and I were discussing why our feelings and thoughts don't instantly change when we become Christians.
We know in our mind that God is our good father, who loves us, who offers us intimate access, who forgives us our trespasses and has washed us white as snow but why doesn't it feel like that?
It is hard for us to comprehend the shifting truth about ourselves. Our old lives and their old lies start to call out to us and soon enough, we fall back to who we think we are. Yet, it's all a vicious lie.
When someone becomes a Christian, it is no small thing. We are forgiven of our sins, we are justified, we are redeemed and adopted into the family as one of God's children. We are buried with Christ, raised with him and born again. We are dead to sin and alive in Christ. Our sins are washed white as snow. That is a lot of truth to believe about ourselves, when the opposite has been true for all of our life.
In some way, it's like turning 18 or 21. There is very little physical difference from being 17 years old and 355 days old, to being 18, yet socially and culturally things are different. I can now drive, I can vote, I can own a house and I can get married.Nothing has changed, but everything changes.
But if someone doesn't remind me of the truth, then I might never actually experience the freedom that comes with it. I'm not the old man anymore. I am loved by God. I am adopted into his family. My sins are forgiven. I am white as snow. But often it doesn't feel like that, so in those moments what we need more than anything else is gospel truth.
What does that look like?
Preach the gospel to yourself
You are in a constant, unending conversation with yourself. You are talking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organising and analysing everything you see and everything you feel. These are the musings of writer and pastor Paul Tripp, who says we must talk back to ourselves. He asks some good questions:
What do you regularly tell yourself about yourself, God, and your circumstances? Do your words to yourself encourage faith, hope, and courage? Or do they stimulate doubt, discouragement, and fear? ... Here's the question: how wholesome, faith-driven, and Christ-centered is the conversation that you have with yourself every day? Do you remind yourself of your need? Do you point yourself once again to the beauty and practicality of God's grace?
Have others remind you of the truth
We all need other people to come alongside us and speak the truth in love. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about being involved in Christian community, such as churches and small groups—even when it is difficult and inconvenient.
Christian community reminds us of who we are in Christ. We encourage one another and remind each other of the sufficient work of Jesus on the Cross. This is one of the most important daily tasks of the Christian.
This has been something I have been mulling over for the last couple of weeks.
My greatest fear is that when the time comes to meet God, instead of hearing the beautiful words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' (Matthew chapter 25, verse 23), I will hear that I fell short, once again.
This is, of course, a clear lie.
How can I preach the gospel to myself?
I can remind myself that:
- It is by grace I have been saved through faith; not as a result of my works but as a gift of God (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8–9)
- God is merciful towards me when I fail, and doesn't even remember my sin anymore (Hebrews chapter 8, verse 12)
- There is no condemnation for those who place their identity in Christ (Romans chapter 8, verse 1)
- God's love is so great, he has even granted me a place in his family (1 John chapter 3, verses 1–2)
And this, is very good news indeed.
Jimmy Young is a writer and youth pastor from Melbourne who loves the church and youth ministry. This article originally appeared on his personal blog, The Radical Change.
Jimmy Young's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jimmy-young.html