Sunday, August 21, 2011

Preaching to Yourself (Not really a review of Note to Self)

This is a cool book. It's RELIT. It's 48 tiny chapters in a pocket size book. I had this planned to be my bathroom book for 48 days. It's aim is to address the question of what it means to preach to yourself. This isn't a review of the book, it's more a thought that sparked from reading it. 

PREACHING TO YOURSELF has become popular of late. Mostly I think lifted from Biblical example, mediated by Martyn Lloyd-Jones' exhortation in Spiritual Depression to spend more time talking to yourself than listening to yourself. Which is a great thing. There is a need to address our souls, to speak to our hearts. Joe Thorns book seeks to show HOW to speak to yourself.

The introduction immediately threw me off with it's call to not just preach gospel to ourselves but to preach law and gospel too. There are several evangelical approaches to law, and my disappointment is probably that mine isn't the same as Thorns. My view (Modified Lutheran) shoots for law being Scripture that shows us Christ (though it originally had other purposes for Israel).

Note to Self follows a Reformed (possibly even Lutheran) approach that says we need the law to show us we're sinful before we come to Christ. I say: I need Christ to turn me to Christ. And the books of law can do that as well as the rest of Scripture. I think that's the root of my problem with Note to Self. Thorn is a cool Classic Reformed guy which is fair enough. And from that view of law/gospel this probably an excellent book. More than that he's a brother who can teach me a lot. A lot. I'm not really picking a fight with this book.
It just got me thinking about how to preach to myself. The book is framed as law then gospel, but it felt more like law. Much like many of my encounters with more classic reformed approaches in preaching.
Thorn repeatedly assures me I'm sinful and that change is needed, and even that the hope I need is in an aspect of the gospel. What's happening? I'm being told to believe the gospel, rather than having Christ publicly portrayed to me that I might believe in him. It's one thing to tell me I'm loved, it's another to be apprehended by his be stopped in my tracks as my heart is confronted with the beauty of the Christ. I think the difference is significant.

I hoped Note to Self might be a little sweet 21st Century puritan number... 48 chapters that would preach Christ to my heart, not necessarily hitting my sin head-on, but causing me to embrace Christ again instead of sin because I see Christ so wonderfully. I wanted to taste that honey was sweet rather than be told that it was. I need the Christ, I need to see how he's loved by his Father, and loves and catches me up in his love in the Spirit... Christ is my life not me.

I'm wretched in my dead old self, I know that all too well. When preaching to myself I need Christ. The key is not in learning and remembering, nor the failure in my failing to do that. One look to self with ten looks to Christ. I do not... but Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ. The fault may well be in me, but for me this was a book that - to borrow from Antoine de Saint-Expury - taught me about boat building rather than making me dream of the sea.


  1. I really enjoyed Note to Self but i absolutely hear what your saying. Have you ever read a book called 70 Lessons in Preaching and Teaching Jesus Christ by George Goodman?
    The title's a bit misleading but this book is really all about Jesus. Sometimes it feels quite a simple book, almost for children, but it is brimming with Christ.

  2. 'Listen up everyone! You all need to evangelise more because our message is so good!'


    'Here's Jesus. Isn't he amazing, wonderful, brilliant, lovely?'


    'We need to be people who sing loudly in Church, like we mean what we're singing'


    'look at the wonderful salvation we have in Jesus, who was dead and has been raised to life and ascended to the Father's right hand where he intercedes for us'.

    In other words, show me, don't just tell me.

    The telling's important too, so I wouldn't rule out other approaches but it's in beholding Jesus that the Spirit most powerfully seems to work in us.

    As I'm sure you know, the reformed tradition has plenty of both as its heritage.

  3. Still continuing your reading marathon :-) Appreciated your points.

    It is no good telling ourselves to love God. Or even repeating to ourselves that he is lovely. It is seeing him as lovely in his laying down of his life for our sins that we are are brought to life.

    I had some thoughts sparked in part from the post.

  4. my other reflection is of course i dont mind being told "believe the gospel" more that showing beats telling. why do the latter when we can do the former?

  5. Jared Wilson (I love that guy) echoing some things in this post:

  6. Yeah, I think Jared nails it again. Preach Christ.

  7. Mr Bish,

    Is the happy life afloat not the product of both a dream and a reasonable amount of skill and some wood?

  8. Sure, Tom, but without vision they'll build furniture instead of boats.

  9. Have you read anything by Paul Tripp?