Do you ever find yourself saying things like, “I should be sharing the gospel with more people, but I just don’t. I should be more thankful for and amazed by the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus, but I’m just not. I should be more confident and secure in my identity and self-worth in Christ, but I’m just not”?
I first became aware of my “Christian schizophrenia” a few years ago as a college student. During my senior year I was enveloped by a dark cloud of depression. Up to that point in my Christian walk, my identity as a believer had been secured by how good I was at pleasing people and God. I lived as if my salvation depended on how happy God was with me moment by moment. If I was consistently doing the things a Christian is “supposed” to do, then I figured God must be pretty happy with me. If I slipped up in any way, I fearfully believed God was darkly disappointed with me and it was up to me to win back His favor by harshly condemning myself while striving for perfection once again. I was living as if to say “Jesus, thanks for salvation, but I’ll take it from here.”
My identity as a believer had been secured by how good I was at pleasing people and God.
Then God graciously crushed me. He took me to a place and stage of life where I could no longer see any good in myself. I no longer had the strength or ability to perform for God. The heavy fog of depression wouldn’t allow me to see past my own faults, ugly sinfulness, and total lack of anything good in my heart. I was shocked, confused, disgusted, and bitter. I thought I was better than this. I had always thought I deserved the grace of God (ironic I know). I thought I could earn His favor with my perfection. How could I be this messed up and this messy!?! Other people are this messy. Not me.
I say that God “graciously crushed” me because He loved me enough to painfully squeeze the mass amounts of self-sufficiency and self-righteousness out of me. Only then could I begin to understand just how desperately I needed the work of Jesus in my life. Without the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on my behalf there is no hope of pleasing God and meeting His standard for life. With Jesus, I began to understand that His life was taken instead of mine; His righteousness replaces my lack of righteousness. Now God looks at me and offers new life, new hope, new identity, and new worth. Life is about what Jesus has done for me, not about what I can do for God. It’s not about my future accomplishments; it’s about His past accomplishment. That is it.
Without the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on my behalf there is no hope of pleasing God and meeting His standard for life.
I would love to be able to say, “Yes, that is it. Now my understanding of the gospel perfectly matches my thinking and living. I now understand the goodness of God and no longer live driven by the fear of displeasing Him. I’m so passionate about what Jesus has done for me that I can’t stop sharing it with anyone who isn’t wearing a Well Community Church t-shirt (obviously anyone that isn’t wearing Well gear needs Jesus). That’s it.” But that’s not it. Too often I feel as if I have short-term memory loss when it comes to grasping, believing, and living out the good news of the gospel. Too often I tend to be passive about sharing the gospel because I am not passionate about what He has done for me. Too often I doubt my identity and self-worth as a person because I don’t see myself as God sees me.
Impassioned pastor and author John Piper has said “Do you realize you listen to yourself more than you talk to yourself!?” When we listen to ourselves we allow the old voices of doubt, insecurity, and even pride to infiltrate our thinking while pushing out the truth of the gospel. This is why we must talk to ourselves. We must “self talk” the gospel. When we choose to preach the good news of the gospel to ourselves, we allow the truth of God’s Word to flush out our naturally negative thoughts by replacing them with the life-giving substance of what Christ has done for us!
I find that my identity in Christ, my grateful amazement for Christ, and my passion to share Christ begin to dry up and waste away when I forget to remind myself of the truly great news.
How about you? Do you spend more time listening or talking to yourself?
Here are a few ways that I choose to battle my short-term memory loss when it comes to receiving, believing, living, and sharing the power of God’s gift offered through Jesus…
Memorize the Gospel
Find as many verses as you can that point you to the work of Christ and how that affects your identity and status before God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
- Psalm 103:8-12
- 1 John 1:9
- Galatians 2:20
- Isaiah 1:18
- Romans 5:8
Too often I doubt my identity and self-worth as a person because I don’t see myself as God sees me.
Meditate on the Gospel
Along with Scripture I like to meditate on a few of my favorite quotes that clearly lay out the gospel.
“The gospel is the life of Jesus for sinners. His righteousness is our righteousness, and this gives us hope and confidence before God. Here the broken find encouragement, for in Christ we are righteous.”
“Gospel confidence is not found in our best religious performance, be it guilt-penance or law keeping, but in the merit and mercy of Jesus on our behalf.”
“To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth.”
Great resources to pick up and work through slowly and daily
- Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn
- Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper
- The Gospel-Centered Life Participant’s Guide (small group resource) by World Harvest Mission
And people think it’s strange to talk to yourself!? Enjoy.
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