Reading Reflection:

Note to Self, Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011) Have you ever thought about preaching to yourself? That’s what this book is about. Think about it; we are telling ourselves all kinds of things throughout the day. Not long ago, I wrote an article that is complimentary to the subtitle of this book, The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Sometimes our thought life is just full of junk. But how are we directing our thoughts when they pop in our heads? Anyway, Joe Thorn makes a great case for our need to apply what we hear from our sermons, read in Scripture, and other Christian material to our thought life and self-talk. Whatever the situation or mood we are in, our mind needs to have what I like to call a gospel-filter. This great little book opens up with a wonderful explanation of God’s law, and God’s good news proclaimed in the gospel. The rest of the book gives short, 2-page examples of how to preach the gospel to yourself in all the various areas of life. I love it. Here is an excerpt from (mini) chapter 6: Remember Your Sins, that I thought pierced right to the struggle many of us have with our past and present sin. He uses Psalm 32:5 as his opener:
Dear Self, Yes, part of your confidence before God is that he has forgiven you of your sins and remembers them no more. But sometimes you have a hard time forgetting all that you have done wrong. Of course, God doesn’t actually forget your sins. He remains omniscient, knowing everything all the time. Saying God does not remember your sins is a way of saying he will not hold them against you as judge. He has thoroughly forgiven you in Jesus. You need to hear that. Those who believe in Jesus are truly forgiven. Yet, recalling your sins can lead to a perverted relationship between guilt and pride, which is a very popular method for dealing with the feeling of guilt. It works like this. You are aware of the sins you have committed and consequently feel guilt—paralyzing guilt that says you are unworthy of even talking to God. Seriously, some of the things you have done are pretty messed up. As you consider your sins and feel their weight, you decide to embrace the guilt and even heap it on. Then, only after you have felt sufficiently bad about all that you have been and done do you begin to feel better about it all. It’s as if amassing feelings of guilt becomes a perverted kind of penance in which you pay for your transgression by making yourself feel bad—as if your guilt is a means of getting clean. It may be hard to see it, but you probably remember times when you felt as if you could not approach God because of your sin. So you waited, heaped on the guilt, and after you felt bad enough and sorry enough, you began to try to draw near to God as if you had somehow become more acceptable. Look, the memory of your sins is no cause to beat yourself up and wallow in guilt. Instead, it should lead you to rejoice in the redemption you have in Jesus. So you will (and should) remember your sins but not be plagued by them. As a Christian you must see them in light of the cross. You need to remember your sins for what they are—lawlessness that stemmed from a heart that hated God. It wasn’t just what you did; it was who you were. And in remembering these sins, you hold fast to Jesus. This remembrance does not encourage you to shrink back from God but to draw near, seeking him because of the hope of the gospel. When you remember your sins, you learn humility, love Jesus, and make much of the gospel (45-46).
The fact is, we are a lot worse than we think we are, and our God is a lot greater than we think he is. Do any of you feel the need to hold on to your guilt, as if confession and repentance to the Lord is not enough? Or, on the other hand, do you have a hard time letting go of other’s sins? Then maybe you should be preaching something like: Dear self, You have greatly offended God—much worse than anyone could ever offend you. Yet, he sacrificed his very own Son, even while you were still his enemy. In fact, you weren’t even led to ask for forgiveness until his Spirit filled you with his love and grace.  Only after Christ’s beauty was revealed, did you even want the most precious gift of his salvation. And he provided for both your righteousness and atonement while you were still filthy ugly. Because of this, you have the power through his Spirit to forgive all who sin against you. And you can do this joyfully in gratitude, as God reveals his love through Jesus continually every day.