Mike Leake • August 10, 2020
Text: Genesis 18:25, Matthew 5:20
I’ll be honest, there are times in life when I really do not understand what God is doing. There are also difficult theological questions that I do not have the answer to. But rarely have those kept me up late at night (unless studying to write a paper for seminary). What is really bothersome, and what keeps me up at night, is when those difficult questions flow out of actual suffering. It’s one thing to hypothesize about the problem of evil and try to untangle theological knots in the safety of our study. But it’s quite another to wrestle with those God-questions that are asked by a teenager who has just been raped by her father. Christopher Wright is correct:
- The philosophical and theological problem of evil is one thing, however; the wrenching reality of actual suffering is another, and the more we see of it, the harder it gets to understand God in connection with it. (Wright, 17)
What do you say when you really have nothing to say? What do you do in those moments when the pain is so thick that all you really know to do is cry with another human being? How do you pick up the theological pieces when all your safe answers are dashed upon the rocks?
This is important to keep in our mind and heart as we read a narrative like Genesis 18. Sodom and Gomorrah are just the faceless names of destroyed cities to us. When we picture them, we picture a scene of rubble. A place destroyed. But this was most certainly not how Abraham viewed them. He saw faces. And this is, in part, why he was wrestling with God’s judgment upon them. So Abraham pleaded with God:
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” -Genesis 18:25
When the activity of God confounded the faith of Abraham he rested upon God’s righteousness. It’s not simply that God always does the right thing. It’s actually that God always does the right thing because he is righteous in his being. It is part of His character. Wayne Grudem defines God’s righteousness thus:
God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.
God always does the right thing. This is what we lean on whenever God doesn’t make sense. And it’s also something we use whenever we are given to lament. That is what Abraham was doing. “God this action doesn’t seem consistent with your character. Surely….” We must drop anchor here on the righteousness of God.
This unsettles us, though, because what we see in the flesh is a humanity which seldom gets it right. Even the best of judicial systems will blow it. We do not always act in accordance with what is right. If we’re honest a good many of the decisions we make flows out of self-interest and not out of righteous principle. Even our “righteous indignation” is seldom actually righteous. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:20, they are meant to be shocking because the Pharisees were known as the pinnacle of righteousness. Jesus extends the standard of God even further than they had assumed. His declaration that the Pharisees weren’t righteous would have left his hearers asking with the disciples, “who then can be saved?” The answer is clear, if our hope is in our own righteousness, then we will never meet God’s standard.
Thankfully, Jesus was perfectly righteous. All of the actions of Jesus flowed out of his righteous character. Thus, he had a perfectly righteous record before God—he always did the right thing. This is wonderful news for us because his record becomes our record. But it is also wonderful news because it means that Jesus is also in the process of changing our hearts and minds and restoring us to reflect God’s righteousness. In Christ, you truly can do what is right. We are being molded and shaped into the righteousness of God. Jesus not only gives us a new record he is also restoring our ability to accurately view the world.
Will you trust in the judgment of God or will you trust in your own judgment? Will you lean on your own righteousness and your view of what is right, or will you bank wholly on the righteousness of Jesus Christ on your behalf? God always does what is right, and he calls us to join him in this consistency. Do we trust him enough to do that?
Let this summary help you as you appropriate this attribute of God and preach the gospel to yourself.
God: The judge of the earth will always do what is right
Man: The history of humanity shows that we are seldom good judges
Christ: Jesus restores our ability to accurately view the world
Response: Do I trust the judgment of God for the tough questions?
Mike Leake • August 04, 2020
Text: Genesis 11, 12; Matthew 4:19
Those words are pregnant with meaning, aren’t they? If a sopping wet stranger on a bridge took off running towards the edge, I (who sinks better than swims) would not be too prone to follow him. But if he were a swimming instructor to which I was taking lessons I might be a little more inclined to follow. To ask someone to follow you is an invitation into a relationship of trust.
“Follow me” is also different than “let’s follow these animal tracks back to its den”. “Me” is personal. It’s not an invitation to read books about that person, it’s an invitation to actually get to know that person. For a follower of Jesus when we hear those words, we know they are an invitation to discipleship. Our minds immediately go to the words of Jesus to his early disciples. But there are similar words in Genesis 12. “Follow me” is the center of God’s interaction with Abraham.
If you were reading through Genesis for the very first time, without knowing anything about the rest of the story, you’d likely be shocked at what happens in Genesis 12. I think Christopher Wright says it well:
- A new world, ultimately a new creation, begins in this text. But it is a new world that bursts out of the womb of the old—the old world portrayed in Genesis 1-11. And yet that womb is barren. Not only has the story run into the sands of abandoned Babel but even the line of Shem, in whom hope seems fixed for the future, has run almost to a dead end in the barrenness of Sarah and the death of Terah in Haran (Genesis 11:30, 32). History, like creation itself prior to the transforming word of God, seems shut up to futility and shrouded in darkness (Genesis 1:2).
You don’t expect God’s “follow me” me to come booming out of such barrenness. But it does. And just as it wasn’t out of loneliness that God created humanity, so also it is not out of loneliness that God calls Abram to follow Him. It is because God is deeply relational and intimately involved with His creation. He calls Abram because He wants to call Abram. God’s friendship with this old man doesn’t flow out of Abram’s character but out of God’s character.
Don’t read the story of the tower of Babel, skim through that genealogy, and then read Genesis 12:1-3 as if the two are separate incidents and this new story is the beginning of a new chapter. No, Genesis 12:1-3 is actually turning the ugliness of the Babel incident onto its head. This is God’s redemption. This is him making things right. What is the biggest problem with humanity trying to “get to God” by building a tower? Isn’t searching for God a noble thing? Why is God so upset? Why does he “come down” and then scatter their language so that their tower building days are over? I would argue that the key issue here is that their actions reveal a heart without a desire for relationship with God.
Their refusal to be scattered is a slap in the face of the God who said “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with my glory”. Christopher Wright is correct, “The Babel story presents us with people who seem intent on reaching the heavens even while resisting God’s will for them on earth.” But the story of Abraham is the opposite. That is a story of God condescending to speak to Abram and draw him into a relationship. Building a tower to heaven might be an act of trying to find God but it’s not an act of following God. Because God is relational, he doesn’t leave blueprints to tower building but rather he comes to us.
We see this in part with his call to Abraham. But certainly, we see it fully in Christ coming to earth. It’s not by accident that when Jesus was on earth, he called people into a discipleship relationship— “follow me”. If you ever question whether God cares about the everyday affairs of the world look no further than Jesus. He called his disciples into relationship. He ate with them. He hugged them. He went fishing with them. He truly loved and related to them. Yes, the God who created everything genuinely relates to His creation. Your desire for deep relationship is actually a God-given reflection of Him.
Once again, I’ll just give you a couple of lines to help you get started in preaching the gospel to yourself.
God: The Abrahamic covenant shows that it is the nature of God to covenant and relate with sinful humanity
Man: We reflect God in our desire for community, but shipwreck it by our sin
Christ: Jesus restores proper relationships
Response: Am I a friend of God? Do I reflect this in my relationship with others?
Mike Leake • August 03, 2020
Text: Genesis 6 (The Story of Noah); Romans 11:22
HITLER DEAD! In big bold letters marked many newspapers across America and Europe. The death of Hitler was a cause for celebration to those whom he had tyrannized. But the German newspaper Hamburger Zeitung red differently: Der Führer gefallen (The Fuhrer has fallen). Hitler’s death spelled the end of the Nazi regime. A mercy to one can be a severe affliction to another.
You’ve likely heard the story of Noah’s ark. After the fall of the first couple it only takes a few short chapters before fratricide has degenerated to the point of such mass wickedness that God deems it necessary to wipe out the entire creation via flood. Only one man and his family escape. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8) Is the story of Noah a story of grace or judgment? I suppose that depends on who you ask. For Noah it’s a story about his great kindness in preserving humanity through the line of Noah. For those who drowned in the flood, it’s a story about the execution of God’s severe wrath.
In Romans 11:22 we read,
- “note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”
Paul is speaking here of God’s response to the widespread Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah. God has, graciously, left a remnant but by and large “what the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain”. They have spurned God. As a result, he has “cut them off” by withdrawing his goodness from them. But the same action has become good news for the Gentiles: “if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles…”
What then is the principle? I think JI Packer is correct:
- The principle which Paul is applying here is that behind every display of divine goodness stands a threat of severity in judgment if that goodness is scorned. If we do not let it draw us to God in gratitude and responsive love, we have only ourselves to blame when God turns against us. (Packer, 164)
Paul said this much in the early chapters of Romans, particularly chapter 2. There he is likely speaking to a Jewish audience noting that God’s kindness—his patient forbearance—is meant to lead them to repentance. This leads back to our question about the story of Noah and the ark. Was it a story of grace or judgment? There was grace and kindness even to those who drowned in the flood. There was a kindness to God calling upon Noah to proclaim a message for the people of the day. He called them to repentance. In this instance they responded to God’s kindness with mockery instead of repentance.
It’s rather hard hitting, but these words from Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God come from the same thought stream as that of the apostle Paul in Romans 11:
- The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
We deserve God’s severe wrath. In Christ we receive his kindness. This message certainly inspires us to take the gospel to those who are not trusting in Christ (much as Noah did in his day). But this message is also a reminder to us that we do not deserve God’s kindness. Noah’s finding favor with God was a mark of God’s grace—not a testament to Noah’s innate righteousness. The same is true of us. God has been good to you. May that kindness lead us into a daily repentance and gratitude for Christ.
Today, I’ll only give you a short summary of God-Man-Christ-Response, you can then meditate on these truths more deeply. It’s a difficult read but if you want to read the entire Jonathan Edwards sermon from 1741 you can find it here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/edwards_jonathan/Sermons/Sinners.cfm
God: The flood shows that God is both kind (grace to Moses) and severe (wrath upon wicked creation). Salvation comes through his judgment
Man: Our severity does not produce the righteousness of God
Christ: Jesus endured the wrath of God and gives to us the righteousness of God
Response: Will God’s kindness lead us to repentance?
Now you preach the gospel to yourself...
Mike Leake • July 28, 2020
Text: Genesis 1:26-31, Philippians 2:4-11
There are few things in life more enjoyable to me than a succulent summer strawberry. It’s even better in pie form. Strawberries didn’t have to be amazing. God could have created an entirely bland world filled with only broccoli’s and cauliflower’s (which in my opinion is evidence of the fall) and no cheese to drown out the taste. But he chose to make “spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food”. God isn’t merely a functional creator. He is extravagant in the way he decorates His creation. Why does he do this?
John Calvin was certainly correct when he referred to creation as a “dazzling theater of God’s glory”. It certainly is a display of his power, his majesty, and his glory. But it’s also a display of His goodness and His self-giving nature. God didn’t have to create. And He certainly didn’t have to create things as wonderful as He did.
Theologians have discussed for ages what it means for humanity to be made in the image of God. One thing we can say for certain is that God makes us in His image is a testimony of God’s self-giving character. The greatest gift God is giving is the gift of Himself. He created humanity in His image to have the capacity to enjoy creation just as he enjoys creating. Being created in the image of God is first and foremost a gift from a benevolent Creator. And we are called to reflect this self-giving God.
We were placed on this cosmic stage to bring glory to the Author. But we’ve attempted to upstage Him. We foolishly labor to make the story about us instead of Him. The placement of two trees in the garden would be a test of the devotion of our first couple. Would they enjoy all of creation that was gifted or fixate on the one tree which wasn’t to be grasped? This would expose whether they would worship and serve the Creator or the creation. They, just as we, failed in this test. Their hearts became beholden to stuff instead of to God.
We’re just as the first couple. The sad story of humanity is that we worship and serve creation rather than the Creator. It’s a foolish exchange but one we engage in daily. Will I enjoy a strawberry just as a strawberry or will I see it as a kind gift of the self-giving Creator? Apart from grace we’ll make strawberries into gods to serve our own drama.
Thankfully, Jesus came to rescue us from our foolish self-worship. What does it mean that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”? It means that the very that He is deity caused him to be self-giving instead of self-consumed. It’s the very nature of God to give of himself. And Jesus does exactly this, when he takes “the form of a servant” and becomes “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.
By doing this Jesus is restoring in us the ability to enjoy a strawberry, because he is putting things back in their proper order. The Son perfectly reflects the self-giving Father and he calls us into a life of self-giving love. He has given of himself to make us a new creation!
Enjoy God through creation today. See it as a sign of his self-giving love to you. And reflect on ways that you too can be self-giving.
God: Father, you are such a wonderful creator. Thank you for the gifts that you’ve given to us. You did not have to make creation beautiful, but you did. You’ve given me the joys of family. You’ve given beautiful sunsets, delicious foods, wonderful creatures, and so much more. You put such beauty even into the small things. And I know that I too am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that this is all to be a display of your glory and your goodness. I know that it’s a display of your majesty and glory as well. But it also shows that you give of yourself to us creatures.
Man: I’m but part of your creation. This means that I’m not God. I’m not the center of the story, you are. But I confess that so often I see the whole world through my tiny vision. I make idols out of your good gifts. I turn and worship the creation instead of you. My fear of man is a picture of this. I make things too big and you too small. Create in me a heart that sees things as they actually are. I know that when this happens, I’ll be freed up to be more self-giving in my character. As it is, fear so often drives me to cling to things which I think are mine. Help me trust you.
Christ: Thank you Jesus that you aren’t like me. You are in fact God but you didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Your self-giving love is the reason that I have any hope. You have restored to me humanity. You are restoring the image of God within me. All of creation was created by, through, and for you and yet you’ve given of yourself so that I might have life. I’m grateful that your work has made me a new creation. May your Spirit help me to reflect your self-giving love.
Response: Lord, I want to enjoy your creation better. And I want my enjoyment of your creation not to turn me inward into selfishness but to be turned outward into self-giving love for others. May my enjoyment of you be a way to testify of your greatness. Give me eyes to see your fingerprints today. Help me to look to others as more significant than myself. I want to reflect you.
Now you give it a shot:
 Calvin Institutes, 1.5.8
Mike Leake • July 27, 2020
“I don’t need you!”
Those words sting, don’t they? We like to be needed. To not be needed communicates to many of us the same thing as not being loved. It can be a bit disconcerting when we are introduced to the doctrine of God’s independence. The technical term for God’s independence is aseity, which means “from himself”. That is simply a way of saying that God is self-existent and self-sufficient. In other words, it means he does not need us for anything.
This means that any sentence which begins with “God needed” or “God needs” is already off the rails theologically. But this is such great news for us needy creatures. Can you imagine what would happen if God did need something from us? It would mean that God is no different from false gods. It would mean that God is not actually worthy of worship. In Galatians 4:8-9 Paul speaks of those who are “by nature not gods”. They are by nature “weak” and “worthless”. I appreciate John Frame’s reflection on this:
- A god who depends on his worshippers to remedy his weakness and poverty does not deserve worship. So the true God is One who is not weak in any respect, nor is he poor. He is God by nature: self-existent and self-sufficient, a se. (Frame, 411)
We creatures are not self-sufficient or self-existing. We are not worthy of worship. No matter how much we might try to “burst [God’s] bonds apart and cast away [His] cords” we are not independent creatures. It is in God alone that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). We are fully dependent on our fully independent God. This is great news because it reminds us that God’s love for us does not flow out of a need in Him. The gospel also reminds us of the good news that the Spirit is transforming our foolish self-deluded hearts into faithful God-dependent and worshipful hearts.
Thank God today that he does not need you but he still has chosen to set His affections upon you. Remind yourself of your dependence and His fullness.
I gave you examples yesterday of taking this truth and applying it to your heart. Read through Psalm 50 and Acts 17 and then give it a shot.
Tomorrow, we will look at God as the self-giving creator.
Mike Leake • July 23, 2020
On Tuesday we saw that one of the ways to present the gospel is to use God-Man-Christ-Response. We also looked at Isaiah 6 to see what that looks like. Today I want to show you how to do something similar to what happened to Isaiah. How do you preach the gospel to yourself using the attributes of God?
First, start with an attribute of God. An attribute is a quality or feature of who God is. This is where I’ll provide some help each day. Each day we will take an attribute of God, and I’ll give you a quick primer on that particular attribute. We will try to define each attribute and then we’ll think and pray through that attribute. On Monday I’ll write a meditation on God’s independence. For our time today, though, I’ll show you what doing this will look like.
Let’s start with God’s independence. A helpful definition is from Wayne Grudem. Grudem defines this as, “God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation glorify him and bring him joy.” Take that definition and meditate on that truth for a bit. Think through many of the implications of this. We will then be encouraged to journal our thoughts in the form of a prayer. Mine would look something like this:
- You do not need me. I do not fill up some sort of vacuum in your heart. Making much of you gives you delight but you do not have an empty love tank. You are fully satisfied in yourself and independent of me. Your existence, your being, your truth, all of you is not dependent upon my belief in you. You exist and are true regardless of how humanity responds. And yet you take joy in us. I can make you smile.
As you are confronted with this majestic God you will naturally move to knowledge of yourself. You will, much as Isaiah did, be overwhelmed with feelings of being undone. Now you meditate on your relationship to this particular attribute of God. Again, journal your thoughts in the form of a prayer. I’ve been reading through Daniel in my devotional times as well—so you can see that reflected in my journaling:
- In myself I cannot make you smile—I can only bring your wrath. You do not need to save me. And yet you have. I am also the opposite of independent—I am completely dependent upon you. I am not keeping my lungs filled with air at this moment, I am not keeping my heart beating or my brain functioning, just as with King Nebby you could take it all away in a moment. And yet I have—much like Nebby and his son—filled my mind with thoughts of independence. I’ve rebelled from you. And in this rebellion you are not smiling. I have brought a curse upon myself.
Now you are prepared to apply the provision of Christ. Much as the Lord touched Isaiah with coal from the altar so here, we see God provides for us in the form of Christ. So, meditate now on all of the ways the Lord Jesus has in himself this same attribute and also how he bridges the gap between us and God. Journal your thoughts. Mine look like this:
- You swallowed my curse. You did not need to come and redeem me. I am/was a rebel who thought I was totally independent of you. And yet you came and rescued me—a rebel. There was not some need within you which caused you to leave the splendor and glory of heaven, and yet you came. You have, through your precious blood, secured the smile of the Father. And you have united yourself to me—broken though I am, so that I can feel the gaze of His smile.
You aren’t quite finished. How are you going to respond to the provision of Christ? This is where I pray and ask the Lord to help me apply what He is teaching me. At times my response will be a simple thanksgiving. Sometimes it will be repentance. At this step you simply respond to the way God is leading you:
- Let me live as one dependent upon You. Help me to live in such a way that you are pleased and which causes you joy. I know that you do not need my worship but it is my greatest joy. This is the natural outgrowth of the wonderful things you have done in uniting yourself to me. Thank you for rescuing me, though you didn’t need to. May I live a life of continual thankfulness—knowing that you did not have to save me but purposed before the foundation of the world to purchase sinners just like myself.
There you have it. God-Man-Christ-Response using the attributes of God as a kick starter. Of course these need to be saturated in the Word. This is not a substitute for daily Bible reading. It’s just a way to take good systematic theology and apply it to your heart. Each day I’ll try to provide a few Scripture passages to study as well. On Monday we will look more in depth at God’s independence…or to use the nerdier term—his Aseity.
Mike Leake • July 21, 2020
What is the gospel?
The simplest definition is that God saves sinners. Certainly, the apostle Paul gives a good definition in 1 Corinthians 15. “ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the core event of the gospel—not to mention the “for our sins” which Paul mentions. You’ve likely heard several gospel presentations. One that I prefer is God-Man-Christ-Response. And this is what we’ll use in the coming days as we learn to preach the gospel to ourselves.
Consider Isaiah 6.
God. Isaiah is met with a beautiful vision of God. He sees God “high and lifted up” and hears all the angels proclaiming “Holy, holy, holy”. Holiness is the attribute of God which completely overwhelmed Isaiah the prophet. He began with an encounter with the character of God but he realized this meant something for him as well.
Man. Then you see, in verse 5, what happens when Isaiah compares himself to God. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” We, like Isaiah, must be confronted with the truth of our humanity and our depravity. At times when we compare ourselves to God, we see our sinfulness. At other times we see our humanity. This confrontation with the holiness of God leaves Isaiah in desperate need of a rescuer.
Christ. God provides rescue. We see in verses 6-7 that the Lord provides atonement. That means covering; a removal of the guilt which would separate a sinful Isaiah from a holy God. Ultimately we know that this doesn’t come from “burning coal” but from Christ Jesus. He alone allow sinful humanity to stand in the presence of a holy God.
Response. God’s provision requires a response. For Isaiah he responds not only with repentance (cleanse me) but also with faith (here I am). The encounter with the holiness and forgiveness of God propels Isaiah into mission. Any real encounter with God will necessitate a response.
This is the gospel. You start with who God is—creator, father, husband, holy, righteous, etc. and then you compare humanity to God. God created us to enjoy Him and to extend His glory. But we made shipwreck of this. We were to image God. God is holy. He created humanity to be holy. “Be holy as I am holy”. But we know the sad story of humanity. We aren’t holy. We chose instead to worship and serve creation rather than the Creator. Because of this we need provision. Thankfully God sent his Son to not only die in our place to atone for our sins but also to live a perfect life in our place. As such God has resurrected Him from the dead. When we are united to Christ his record becomes our record. How are we united to Christ? Repentance and faith. We turn from our sin and we turn from trusting in our record and we turn towards (faith) Christ and trust in His record and not our own. The only fitting response to what God has done is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
But what does the message have to do with my Monday? We know that being in a relationship with Jesus secures our future and forgives our past, but what does it do about today? This is what we want to look at in the coming days as we learn to preach the gospel to ourselves.
Mike Leake • July 20, 2020
Richard Lovelace set out to study the devotional lives of many of our Christian heroes. This led him to read through many of their diaries and personal correspondence. Upon completion of his study he noted that for most of these men and women: “below the surface of their lives [they] are guilt-ridden and insecure”.
I don’t know that I could put together a good argument against his statement. I believe, if we’re honest, that for most believers underneath the surface we battle being guilt-ridden and insecure. Even those who seem to have it figured out. We’re often astounded to find out that for many heroes of the faith their interpersonal lives were often a mess. How do we explain the massive gap between our knowledge of the good news of Jesus and our practical outworking of this gospel?
Jerry Bridges tells a story in his book, The Gospel for Real Life, about a Southern plantation owner who leaves $50,000 (a great sum of money in the 1800s) to a former slave that served him faithfully his entire life. A lawyer of the estate notified the former slave of his vast inheritance. Weeks went by and the former slave never requested any of his inheritance. Finally, they decided to send a banker out to explain to this man what his inheritance was and that he could draw out money any time. The old man replied, ‘Sir, do you think I can have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal’? He could have asked for much more—but he died having only withdrawn 50 cents from a $50,000 inheritance.
This is in part of our answer. Often, we understand the gospel of Jesus as the good news that helps us to not go to hell and how to go to heaven when we die, but we find ourselves falling short in applying the good news of Jesus to our daily lives. What does Jesus have to say about my marriage, my parenting, my loneliness, my caregiving, my job, my dying, etc.? We often have a gap in our understanding of the gospel. We understand how he cover our sin from the past and we understand how he secures for us a glorious future, but at times we come up blank with his provision in the present. And so we live our lives only leaning on him for a sack of cornmeal.
In How People Change, Paul Tripp and Timothy S. Lane make the point that, “physical and spiritual holes have one thing in common: they don’t stay empty for long.” Tripp illustrates this point by pointing out the state of the walk-in-closet under the main staircase in their house. Though his wife whips it into pristine condition once every six months or so, it doesn’t stay that way. As you can imagine what happens is that, “all the stuff that has no home somehow finds its way there.” Before long the door can barely shut and his wife has to tackle the project all over again. Our lives are like this. He refers to this as a gospel gap.
The gospel gap in many of our lives doesn’t stay empty either. If we do not live with a gospel-shaped, Christ-confident, and change committed Christianity, that hole will get filled with other things. These things may seem plausible and even biblical, but they will be missing the identity-provision-process that is meant to fill every believer. (Tripp, 6)
If our lives aren’t filled with the gospel, our weary hearts will lead us to fill them with some else. We’ll be like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes searching everywhere under the sun to find meaning. And when we clutter our minds and our hearts with that other stuff it stunts our daily growth in Christ. So how do we learn to apply the gospel to our daily lives?
Though it may suffer a bit from oversimplicity, Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ counsel in Spiritual Depression concerning the need to “talk to ourselves” has proven to be incredibly helpful to me.
…we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self….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? (Lloyd-Jones, 20)
What Lloyd-Jones is talking about here is the discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself. He says it this way:
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. (Lloyd-Jones, 21).
Did you hear what he said there? We have to learn to preach the gospel to ourselves! If we don’t then ‘ourselves’ will be in the business of preaching a false gospel to our hearts. Therefore, we must be diligent about daily proclaiming the good news over our hearts. Otherwise, we’ll end up with only a sack of cornmeal and a life that is marked by being guilt-ridden and insecure.
Tomorrow, I’ll try to outline the gospel message (God-Man-Christ-Response) and then, Lord willing, on Thursday I’ll share a helpful way to engage in this daily discipline. Then for the coming days, if the Lord permits, we’ll engage in this discipline together.