Martin Luther said that we need to be preaching the gospel to ourselves every day because we forget the gospel every day.
I hear from other preachers and authors give this same message. Actually, I say this often because I believe it is the only way to live a life of freedom and grace in Christ. But, what exactly does preaching the gospel to yourself look like? How can you do it?
One way is to think about it in a cycle with four parts.
- First, we are to examine our hearts. This means looking inward and finding the sin hiding in dark places or maybe even out in the open. It means that we do the hard and humble work of scrutinizing ourselves. I realize that nobody wants to be scrutinized, and why would I do it to myself? Because God wants us to be honest with ourselves. God wants us to be open to allowing the Holy Spirit to shed light on areas inside of us that do not look like that character that Christ is cultivating inside of us.
The apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians in this way,
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Self-examination is a healthy exercise for us and our relationship with the Lord. We need to be consistently taking time to ponder and probe our inner being for ways in which we have wandered from the truth of the gospel.
2. Secondly, we confess the sin that we found in examining our hearts. And if you think you didn’t find any sin when you examined your heart then go back and look a little closer. Just read through the ten commandments or read the sermon on the mount and you will quickly find sin to confess.
The Psalmist says,
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)
Confession is good for us because we are able to “get it off our chest”. Hiding sin can be extremely burdensome. Have you ever tried to hide something you did wrong from someone you love? The guilt will ultimately break you. And with God, well, it’s not that He doesn’t already know about your sin but its that He wants you to realize it and say it out loud to Him.
3. The third part of our daily posture is to repent of the sin that we just confessed and believe the gospel. Repentance is simply turning away from sin and its desires and turn to Christ and His promises. No doubt that turning away from something we love doing is difficult. We sin because we love it. We sin because it provides us with temporary pleasure that makes us feel good. But we have to believe that the promises of God are far better than the promises of the world. We have to believe that temporary pleasure is just that, it’s temporary. And it is actually harmful to our spiritual health long term. We cannot allow ourselves to get fooled into thinking that sin is not that harmful. If sin wasn’t that bad then God would not have gone to the most dreadful solution of sending His own Son to die in our place.
Again, Paul tells the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 7:10,
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
4. The last part of this daily cycle is to begin working with the Holy Spirit to obey and work towards change. The law of God and the commands of Scripture are critically important in our becoming more like Jesus. We do not often focus on this part of the great commission.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus wants us to disciple others by teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us. Obedience to Christ is what following Christ looks like. It is walking with Christ, in His ways. The best part is that we have the Holy Spirit living in us, working in us, to prompt us, to counsel us, to help us fight sin, obey Christ and love everyone around us unconditionally.
The gospel-centered life is this cycle of examining, confessing, repenting and believing and then working with the Holy Spirit to obey Christ and be transformed into His likeness. If we pay attention to this cycle every day then we are able to keep the gospel central in our everyday lives. This is how we preach the gospel to ourselves every day. The power of the gospel is beyond our comprehension and yet we get to experience its power every day. How exciting is that? I say living in light of this gospel every day is the best life you could ever have. Because we all know it’s the gospel that changes everything!