Today marks 21 years since the Lord brought me to saving faith and repentance. I always find it to be a good practice to meditate on the way in which the Lord draw me out of a pit of sin and misery and to Himself in Christ. Remembering what we once were when we were dead in sins and what God did to mercifully draw us to Himself through the saving work of Christ is vital if we are to make advancement in our spiritual growth in grace. The Christian life is often fueled most of all not by learning new things (although there are always more important truths for us to learn in God’s word) but by remembering those truths that God has already revealed to us.
There are at least three clear places in Scripture that encourage us to remember the truth of the gospel in order to make progress in growth in Christ-likeness. The first passage is Romans 6. There, the Apostle Paul explained that if we are united to Jesus we have died with Him, been buried with Him, and risen with Him. In light of this truth–and the accompanying truths about our having died to the power of sin since He died to it’s power–Paul charges believers with the following words: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). Paul was charging believers to preach a specific aspect of the Gospel–what theologians call definitive sanctification–to ourselves. This charge comes on the heal of the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace might abound?” Through our union with Christ crucified and risen, we have a powerful tool to encourage holiness in the lives of believers. If we are struggling with a particular sin or on the brink of giving into some sin, Paul charges us to preach to ourselves that aspect of the gospel in which there has been a definitive breach with sin’s power.
In his second letter, the apostle Peter does something similar. By appealing to the believer’s justification, he calls his readers to add to their faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (2 Peter 1:5-7). He then charges them to “work hard” at adding these characteristics one to another, and promises them that by doing this they “will never stumble” and “an entrance will be supplied to them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This promise could easily be taken in a legal way–as if Peter is suggesting that it is because of our adding these things to one another in our lives we will be saved. However, in 2 Peter 1:9, Peter explains that these virtues are the fruit of our having been justified through Christ’s death. He explained this when he wrote, “he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Pet. 1:9). It is by remembering what Christ has done for us that we go forward in Christ-likeness. This is also what Paul seems to be intimating in Colossians 1:5-6. Here then we have another powerful example of our need to “preach the Gospel to ourselves.”
Finally, when we reach back into the Old Testament, we find another example of this principle. In the Psalter there is a magnificent couplet written by the Sons of Korah. In the midst of the believer’s experiential trials (e.g. the feeling of barrenness, cast-offness and spiritual desertion), the Psalmist finds a sweet resolve by preaching to himself the truth that God is for him in Christ. Because of the truth of the Gospel, we can be confident that God will again make His redemptive favor known to believers after a time of experiencing the feeling of spiritual desertion. Immediately asfter saying, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me?” the Psalmist turns to preach the truth of God’s redeeming grace to himself. He counsels himself, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5). Note also that the Psalmist is hoping in Gospel restoration. There is an anticipatory aspect to his prayer.
When we are failing to make progress in the Christian life, we need to be reminded of what we were before the Lord drew us to Himself. We need to remind ourselves of those precious truths of the gospel–namely, that through our union with Christ in His death and resurrection, the power of sin has been broken, the guilt of our sin has been forgiven and dealt with, and the assurance of God’s presence secured to us. Remebering is one of the best practices a Christian can engage in throughout the duration of our sojourning through the wilderness of this world.