You must know how to apply the gospel to your own life. Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up this skill well,
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.
Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you . . .”
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: “Why art thou cast down” -– what business have you to be disquieted?
You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: “Hope thou in God” -– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.
Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.”
I’ve struggled with depression for my entire life. No lesson was longer in the learning but more beneficial than preaching the gospel to myself. I recall sitting in my room during high school struggling with my faith. Struggling with life. I allowed everything but God to define who I was. So, I was tossed about with every wave of life. Until one day, the Spirit opened my eyes to the significance of Christ’s life, death, & resurrection for me. He shifted my doubts and fears to Christ. So, you can listen to lies, like me, or you can preach the good news of Jesus to yourself.
You may ask: How do I know I’m listening to lies?
- You may find yourself loathing your current state in life.
- You may find yourself rehearsing the lies instead of the gospel.
- You may find yourself speaking against the promises that are yours in Christ.
- Or, like me, many times you may find yourself desiring the return of the darkness.
These are the times you must fully rest in Christ. Fully trust in his promises. You must believe the words of God’s promises above the lies. You must learn to interrupt yourself with the truth of the gospel. Upbraid yourself with the blood of Christ.
That’s why I chuckle when people deride doctrine. There’s nothing more practical than doctrine. Doctrine, grounded in Christ, saved me. It was the foundational truth of the gospel that transformed my life. Without tangible gospel truth; there is no life transformation. The truth of the gospel breaks through the darks cloud of our suffering and sin speaking when our eyes are blinded. For instance, when I doubted God’s promise of love for me in Christ, the Scripture told me “Nothing can separate you from his love” (Romans 8). That’s doctrine. Doctrine isn’t dead. Doctrine is alive and sharp like a sword. We must fight lies with truth; truth applied to life.
The Heidleberg Catechism is a wonderful example for those who wonder what rich doctrine looks like when mixed with practical living impetus. Tim Keller has condensed The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1 for his New City Catechsim Q/A #1:
Question: What is our only hope in life and death?
Answer: That we are not our own but belong to God.
Life and death represent the entirety of life. Is anything more comforting and more practical than knowing without a shadow of doubt, “We are not our own but belong to God”? Not for me. It is truths like these we must preach to ourselves.
To be continued...