Feelings are like rollercoasters. We feel up, down, upside down, or all twisted up. Within the span of a few moments, depending on our circumstances, our feelings can span nearly the entire range of human emotion. And for some, feelings can be very strong. Indeed so strong that we have the tendency, at times, to embrace a self-constructed view of reality based on what we feel at a given moment. This can be especially true within the Christian life. As Christians, we often fall into the deceitful trap of our own feelings; coming to the false conclusion that our standing before God, or God’s perception of us, is based on how we feel at a particular point in time.
Thankfully, every so often a voice is raised calling us away from the instability of our feelings and emotions to the solid and stable ground of God’s written Word. Deitrich Bonheoffer was one such voice. In his classic, Life Together, published in 1954, Bonhoeffer wrote:
the Christian is the man who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone. He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel that he is righteous at all. The Christian no longer lives of himself, by his own claims and his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification. He lives wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him, whether that Word declares him guilty or innocent. (p. 22)
In the next decade, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones followed with his classic, Spiritual Depression, writing:
Feelings must be engaged. They are meant to be involved. [Yet] our danger is to submit ourselves to our feelings and to allow them to dictate to us, to govern and to master us and to control the whole of our lives…[However] I must never ask myself in the first instance: What do I feel about this? The first question is, Do I believe it? Do I accept it, has it gripped me?…We must not concentrate overmuch upon our feelings. Do not spend too much time feeling your own pulse taking your own spiritual temperature, do not spend too much time analyzing your feelings. That is the high road to morbidity. (pp. 110, 112, 115)
Truthfully, the Christian is first and foremost the person God has declared him to be based on the finished, substitutionary atoning work of Jesus Christ. Because we have a bad habit of either thinking the glorious truth of the gospel is only for unbelievers or, as believers, forgetting what God has done for us in Christ, we must grow in our discipline of preaching God’s Word to ourselves on a daily basis.
Joe Thorn, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL, in his recent book, Note To Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Crossway, 2011), has taken what Bonhoeffer and Lloyd-Jones have articulated, and practically addresses how the truth of God’s Word in the gospel applies to the believer’s relationship with God, others, and himself.
Introducing the reader to the importance of preaching both the God’s law (convicting us of our sin) and God’s gospel (convicting us of our righteousness in Christ alone) daily, Thorn creatively accomplishes the development of the discipline of preaching daily to one’s self through a series of short, journal-like entries addressed “Dear Self…” Defining the discipline of preaching to yourself as, “the personal act of applying the law and gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness” (p. 24), Thorn helps the reader see how the gospel truly and deeply applies to every area of life from personal theology to relationships to one’s work ethic and more.
Note To Self is theologically rich, gospel saturated, Christ exalting and thoroughly practical. Thorn does an exemplary job of articulating the riches and realities of the gospel in powerfully gracious and pastorally sensitive punches. As well, the brevity of each devotional-like entry allows the book to be read quickly, while inviting the reader back to work through it repeatedly. Moreover, the format and flow of the book would make it an excellent resource for family or community group discussion/study.
I can say, without hesitation, that Note To Self will be a book that I both read and recommend regularly! It is a book that is well written and readily applicable for both the new believer and those who have been following Christ for years. Furthermore, Note To Self is a book that can even help those skeptical of the gospel effectively encounter the message of God’s saving power in a clear and compelling way.
I highly recommend Note To Self, by Joe Thorn!
*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.