It is so easy to believe untruths about yourself.
One of the clearest ways that I can see this in myself, is when I become obsessive during training periods of exercise. I will be so focused on achieving a goal, and become obsessive about goal-setting, checking my weight and my progress, that I start to believe that whatever I am doing is not enough, that I am failing and become intensely frustrated with myself.
In that moment, the very best thing that 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 it gospel rhythms or gospel fluency. I think that makes a lot of sense, because it is the ability to fluently speak gospel truth into the lives of others. Someone who has gospel fluency can speak bible-saturated, life-bringing gospel truth into the lives of people who have started believing lies about themselves.
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 1:4) and that he intends to ‘always remind you of these qualities, even though you know them well’ (2 Peter 1:12). Jesus himself reminds us not to forget our first love (Revelations 2:4)
The other night I was reminded of this when some friends and I discussed why our feelings and thoughts don’t instantly change when we become Christians. We can believe and 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?
We Believe Lies About Ourselves
I think the heart of the issue is that we have lived one way for so long 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 (Luke 7:48), we are justified (Romans 5:1), we are redeemed (1 Peter 1:18-19) and adopted into the family as one of God’s children (Galatians 4:5). We are buried with Christ, raised with him (Colossians 2:10-12) and born again (John 3:3-7). We are dead to sin and alive in Christ (1 Peter 1:18). Our sins are washed white as snow (Psalm 51:7). 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
No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do – Paul Tripp
You are in a constant, unending conversation with yourself. You are talking to yourself all the time, interpreting, organizing and analyzing everything you see and everything you feel. These are the musings of 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? Do you remind yourself that God is near, or do you reason within yourself that, given your circumstances, he must be distant?
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? Do you tell yourself to run toward him in those moments when you feel like running from him?”
Have Others Remind You Of The Truth
There is nothing easier as a Christian to continue to believe untruths about yourself. It is in some very real sense, it is all we have known and there are some days, no matter how much truth I try and tell myself I still continue to walk in untruth. I need other people to come alongside me and speak the truth in love to me. 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.
They are places where I can hear what is true about myself and what is false. They are places where others can point out the lies I have come to believe and walk alongside me whilst we expose it together in the light. They are some of my closest friends, who come together across cultural, social and economic divides in passionate pursuit of Jesus.
Yet one of the dearest services they give to me is telling me gospel truth about myself, and desiring that I tell the truth about them. This is also not just an exercise in telling truth, such as that I need to have a haircut but in telling and reminding me of the deep truth about myself that I am now a son of God. It’s reminding each other in dire circumstances that we can trust God, because if he has already risen us from my the dead, then how much more can I trust God with my daily situation.
This is one of the most important daily tasks of the Christian.
This has been something I have mulled over for the last couple of weeks.
I’m starting to realize that one of the reasons I’m in a constant state of doing for God is a nagging sensation that I am not enough for Him. My greatest fear is that when the time comes to meet God that instead of hearing the words I have wanted to hear all my life, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matt 25:23) that I will instead hear that I fell short, once again. This is, of course, a clear lie that I have come to believe over many years.
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 2:8-9)
- That God is merciful towards me when I fail, and doesn’t even remember my sin anymore (Hebrews 8:12)
- There is no condemnation for those who place their identity in Christ (Romans 8:1)
- That God’s love is so great, that he has even granted me a place in his family (1 John 3:1-2)
And that, is very good news indeed.