Saturday, November 28, 2009

Specificity: the key to joy.

I've continued considering practical ways to apply the gospel to my own life. The problem I run into, is that the popular phrase "preach the gospel to yourself daily," is somewhat vague.

First, the word "preach" is probably not the best word, because most people are not preachers. And even though I am a preacher, I very rarely preach to myself. I think to myself. Sometimes I talk to myself. But I almost never preach to myself.

Second, most of us conceive of the gospel as a short message of the good news. So, in trying to obey the above advice, I would sit down and review the basics in my mind... Man was created good, fell into sin, lost fellowship with God, God sent Jesus, perfect life, died on cross, man saved by faith. And while this is, in some sense, a summary of the gospel message (a poor one), I rarely found it helpful. This practice of daily self-preaching wasn't having the impact on my life that people said it was supposed to have.

Then I learned this. I don't need to simply review the outline of the gospel daily, instead I need to actually apply the gospel to my life. And I need to apply it in very specific ways. For example, say one evening I am convicted of sin. Perhaps I realize that I have been arrogant and rude towards my wife (not that that would ever happen). As soon as the Holy Spirit brings this to mind, I have an opportunity to apply the gospel to a particular situation. I need to repent of this sin, both to God and to my wife, and then remind myself Jesus always loved his family members perfectly. And because I am united to Christ by faith, the perfect obedience of Jesus is counted by God as being MY obedience. And the punishment for my sinful treatment of my family members was paid by Jesus on the cross. So the gospel tells me that my sin has been dealt with, and that I am accepted by God on the basis of Jesus' obedience, which by faith is mine.

In this way I can apply the gospel to my life without vagueness. I am convicted of, and repent of my sins, trust Christ for my salvation, and am again assured of my own salvation despite my continued sinfulness. This fends off legalism and works righteousness because I am continually leaning on Christ. It fends off license because the acts of contrition remind me that Jesus suffered because of my sinfulness.

Also, the more I do this, the more my eyes are opened to see how much more I need to do it... in the words of Jim Elliot, "Confession of pride suggested by David Brainerd’s Diary yesterday - must become an hourly thing with me." And not just confession, but gospel application!

1 comment:

Ken said...

Jeff, look up the sermon by Adam Thomason that I referenced two posts down. He opens that up with a talk about specificity. He says our spiritual life will have a glass ceiling if we do not learn to be open with God and others, with specificity.