by: Darren DePaul
Several years ago, I read a book by Jerry Bridges in which he said, “Preach the gospel to yourself everyday.” That simple yet profound statement sent me on a quest to gain an understanding of the type of “preaching” Bridges was encouraging. I now realize that preaching the gospel to myself everyday means that I must see my sin as an offense to God while also seeing God’s love and grace for me in Jesus Christ. Paul’s words in Romans proclaim this truth:
"But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 (ESV)
Everyday I need to be reminded of that truth.
Preaching the gospel to myself changes how I live each day. It changes how I see my own sin and reminds me of my desperate need for Jesus. It enables me to love my wife and children more completely, and helps me better care for my staff and the people whom I pastor. Preaching the gospel to myself daily even impacts the way I interact with complete strangers by helping me to see them the way Christ sees them: as His beloved. The moment I stray inwardly from my need and trust in Jesus, my outward expressions of love diminish, and no matter how hard I try, my attempts to love become imperfect and self-serving. By the grace of God, we need to cling to Jesus, moment by moment, so that we may love as our Savior did: sacrificially.
Sacrificial love can be scary because it always carries a cost. For Jesus, it cost His life. What will it cost you? Biblical love is denying yourself, living for Jesus and then truly loving and serving the person or community to which He sends you. Maybe that is why many of us are struggling to truly love. We are looking for the perfect community or person to invest in, but we are unwilling to “empty ourselves” (Philippians 2:5–11) and lay down our lives for others. We are only willing to love “so far.” In his book, A Loving Life, Paul Miller said, “You don’t find community; you create it through love … if we pursue hesed (“steadfast”) love, then, wherever we go, we create community.” Sacrifice creates community. Sacrifice builds relationships. Sacrifice reveals redemption.
True love, biblical love always has a cost because it is about denial of “self” for the care of another. Francis Schaeffer noted in his book The Mark of the Christian, “The word love should not be just a banner. In other words, we must do whatever must be done, at whatever cost to show this love.” True, biblical love does the hard things and says the hard things. It is not apathetic, but engages the person for the glory of God first, and second for the person’s benefit. Love is about pursuit when it is easy to love, and pursuit when it is difficult to love.
God exemplified this love perfectly in sending His Son.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:10–11
Because of this incredibly sweet redemption, we are able to love, not out of our own power, strength and ability, but out of the undeniable love and grace of God.
Preach the gospel to yourself, and in the words of Pastor Jack Miller: “Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you ever could have imagined.” Today, tomorrow and each day thereafter, acknowledge your sin, but even more, embrace the love and grace of Jesus Christ, and that love and grace will flow out of you into every area of your life.