My podcast is aptly called “Things I Preach To Myself About”. Why is it called that? Even though I am often pointing a finger at the world, at the modern devolving churches, and at the rising evil from the devil himself, there are also fingers that point to myself. The issues that I try to bring out in each episode, in light of God’s Word, the Bible, also have their share of footings in my life as well. We all need to have the Word of God preached to us…constantly!
Any conversation or sermon that points out our sins is never a feel-good moment. When we are looking for rainbows but all we are getting is dark clouds, we tend to avoid those things. But sin is a reality that we cannot (and should not) avoid! We just need to remember that there is light at the end of that tunnel we are traveling through! I usually label most of the sin problems discussed under 3 headings: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. All three of those categories can easily be a general heading for the different sins that we commit; past, present, and future. And in light of God’s laws, the ten commandments, we can see our shortcomings in meeting the high and holy standards of God.
Very depressing, indeed!
The great Puritan writers and preachers are often accused of being a gloomy bunch! People say that they were all filled with nothing but fire and brimstone in their theology. They are accused of targeting their listeners with a constant barrage of how sinful we all are! It has even been said that sin was the only topic of every sermon or book. Of course we know that is not true! Though I confess that I have been close to that format many times in my writings and podcasts. But, in full defense, I have to make clear that from every published word from those great Christian men and women, they always ended on the positive note…namely, the Gospel! Something that I prayerfully hope that I have done as well!
You see, if we don’t know where we came from, we can’t accept and appreciate the amazing gift we’ve been offered! When a sinner, broken and separated from the Holy God above, can be cleansed and renewed and restored into a right relationship with the Creator that is the Gospel, the Good News! Yet, we need to understand the length and breadth and width of God’s love, as to stoop down from heaven in the form of man to rescue us from ourselves! Our sins, even ones that we would consider minor, or “no big deal”, are an abomination to His Righteousness. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So for God to love us so much that he gave His only Son, Jesus, to take our punishment that we deserved, should give us a clear and reverential understanding of God in relation to who we are.
So, I find it important to always remember who I was in relationship to God, who I am in this relationship with God, and who He wants me to be in relationship to my future with God! And this is what the Puritan writers and preachers would do. Not only pointing out our failings before God, but also pointing out God’s sovereign love for us, despite our iniquities! And in every way, pointing us to keep our eyes on “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” That through all this, we can have peace in our future by His grace!
When we understand the attributes of God; His Holiness, His Righteousness, and His immeasurable love for us…that should deepen our love and commitment to His Holy commands, so as to serve Him and honor Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do! The root of so many great preachers of yesteryear was to reveal the truth and nature of God and His Son Jesus to grow and strengthen us. As Peter says in 2 Peter 3:17-18 “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
The deeper our understanding of who God is in relation to man, the deeper our resolve should be too stand firm in the faith. The fire and brimstone preachers and teachers were passionate to warn…striving to keep us from falling back into that which we have been rescued from. Pointing us to our past shows us how far we’ve been led by God! Sin should be an abhorrence to us, just as it is with God! We learn from the Saints of yesteryear how to grow in faith. We learn from their mistakes as well as ours. We should be encouraged, even when we stumble, to look at the past so as to see the future more clearly! Thus, our hope!
Hebrews 12 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
So you see, pointing out the sins that filled our past, that permeate this fallen world, is not meant to be gloom and doom. It is meant to point us to the cross. It is meant to point us to the salvation gift from God. It is meant to encourage us to flee from sin. Paul exhorted us in 1 Timothy 6 by saying “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
The great statement we need to always remember is that if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back to where I came from. Remember the line in Proverbs 26? “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” We need constant encouragement to not stray from the narrow path that God has graciously put us on!
When the great Puritan Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”, he was preaching in the church. It obviously had a great affect on the parishioners because he was interrupted many times during the sermon by people crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?” We cannot just assume that all is well in our souls because we attend a church, own a Bible, do good things, and have clean thoughts. We must be reminded daily of who we are in Christ, where we are in Christ, and what path with Christ we are taking.
Christian, the main character in the Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan was set on the path to the Celestial City. But as he journeyed forward, he often times found himself off of the path he was supposed to be on. We, too, have that problem. We are easily bumped off the path by the strong storms of this world. We are swayed away from yesterday’s commitments to the Lord by temptations that constantly bombard us today. We even falter on our own by the inner workings of sin that plagues us still. Thus, the very need to be preaching to ourselves daily! We need to hear the cause and effect sermons that remind us of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we should be going!
Winston Churchill said it best when he exclaimed boldly “we will NEVER surrender”! And we must not! Edwards final appeal in his sermon was “Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come.” But to all that are in Christ, we are to stand firm in the faith and submit to God, resisting the devil! We are to be putting on the full armor of God daily so we can withstand the enemy’s attacks. Even in these tumultuous times, we can rest on the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in John 16 who says to us; “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”