Saturday, November 02, 2013

Preach the Gospel to Ourselves?

Preach the Gospel to ourselves.  That is what we are told to do.  It is heralded today in many Reformed and evangelical circles as one of the main spiritual disciplines we must learn and practice every day.  I used to be all for it.  But then I realized something... that controlling, I-can-do-it, flesh side of me loves this idea  It wants to believe it can do it all -or maybe not all but at least something to help itself.  But "it" is me.  It is I.  I want to believe that I can contribute and that I can be, and should be, able to control my own spiritual progress.  And more than anything else, I love to turn anything, including the gospel, into a means to "fix" myself and make me be how I want myself to be.

Read this from a TGC article...

"The call to preach to ourselves law and gospel is really a call to the discipline of meditation where we saturate our minds and hearts with Scripture, strategically applying the Word of God to our own lives with an aim at growing in faith and godliness."

A few years ago, I would have said, "Awesome, yes, I agree!"  Today, do you know what I see?  I see, "I can control it."  I see this, ironically, man-centered, flesh-driven idea that I can control my sanctification, and I can control how I change by the right application of law and the gospel.

Do you know what I think is a better spiritual discipline?  The discipline of shutting up.  We need to learn how to shut the @#$% up and give up on this idea that we can "apply" things in the right way and train our own flesh to behave itself.  This I believe is what Luther would call a "theology of glory."

If by "preaching the Gospel to ourselves" we do mean disavowing the spiritual pietist within and shutting up and listening, then I agree.  However, even if one agrees with that it usually isn't what happens in practice.  It much too easily turns into, "How can I say these things to myself and 'apply' them in such a way as to produce these results?"  That is what makes me think the idea is largely fool-headed to begin with.  Why on earth would me listening to me preach to myself be a good thing?  I'm not exactly a neutral party in the matter, even if I convince myself otherwise.  My problem is that I listen and trust myself too much!

Aside from potentially catering to our flesh -our old Adam who lives within a perpetual theology of glory, the side of us that wants to believe it can and ought to contribute and be in charge of something, the part of ourselves that foolishly refuses to believe its own powerlessness- this practice I believe minimizes the essential nature of the gospel being something outside of us.

The Gospel comes from outside of us.  It comes from a foreign voice, an objective voice -not our own voice in our own heads.  It comes from outside of us and says, "tetelestai... te absolvo".  It comes to us from outside in the objective Word, spoken from within God's community, the Church, and it comes to us in the things given to the Church to convey the gospel to us in tangible terms, such as the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper.  I believe we need that.  I believe there is no substitute for it.  And if we live in a cave on a desert island where there is nobody to preach the Gospel to ourselves, then we had at least better assume a posture of listening and allowing God to effect our souls as we read God's Word.

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to even try to preach anything to myself.  Or actually, I take that back.  I know I'm going to try to.  I know I'm going to try to take control and think I can do something.  I know I will, and it will always lead me down the same screwed up road.  I am incorrigible.  But what I hope I will learn to do, instead, is shut up and become a child again, willing to listen and be taught, willing to hear the objective voice that comes from outside of me, and placing myself within the context of being able to hear that objective, external Word and receive it, feeding on it, in its tangible forms.

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