I have written in this setting previously about the impact D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has had on my life. He has written two books in particular that have been life changing for me, Preaching and Preachers and Spiritual Depression. It is the second book I want to draw your attention to in relation to our topic, “Preaching the Gospel to yourself”. This is one of those few books I refer people to as a “must read”, especially those raised in Christian homes and churches.
Lloyd-Jones is going after the issue of Spiritual Depression. He defines this in the first chapter as an “unhappiness of our soul”, a “disquiet”, “lack of ease”, a tense and troubled state”. Have you ever felt this? Can you relate? He then begins to address the causes and cures (i.e. – the subtitle of the book) in the subsequent chapters.
It is primarily in chapters two and four that he focuses on the necessity and role of the gospel in the life of the believer. He does not specifically use the phrase Bridges uses, “preach the gospel to yourself” but he does speak of preaching to yourself in the context of speaking about the gospel and also of the necessity of being gripped by the gospel. Here are some samples:
At the end of chapter 1, addressing in broad terms the cure for spiritual depression he writes,
”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…? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to your self, ‘ Hope thou in God…’ 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.” (p. 21)
In chapter 2 he speaks to why he believes spiritual depression is so common among those who have been brought up in Christian homes. He points out that they observe a countenance in others that they themselves often desire but can’t get:
”well, I can not say that I am like that. That person has got something that I have not got…they take up Christian biographies and…they admit at once that they are not like them. They know that they have never been like them, and that there is something which those people obviously enjoyed which they themselves have never had.” (p. 24 – 25)
“There are large numbers of people in this unhappy situation. The Christian life seems to them to be a constant problem, and they are always asking the same question. ‘Why cannot I get there?…” (p. 25)
He then introduces one of the fundamental issues he is going to develop in the book and is a problem I see so often among those who have been raised in church:
“They (those raised in Christian homes) often concentrate on the question of sanctification, but it does not help them because they have not understood justification. Having assumed that they are on the right road, they assume that all they have to do is continue on it.” (p. 25)
He then illustrates and describes his point leading to what he says are the key principles to experiencing a joyful Christian life. First, a Genuine conviction of sin and second, understanding God’s way of salvation in Christ.
He spends a few pages on this second point, essentially explaining the gospel and then writes,
“ The essence of the Christian salvation is to say that He is good enough and I am in Him”(p. 34)…you must “acknowledge readily and say clearly that you look to Christ and to Christ alone and to nothing and no one else, that you stop looking at particular sins and particular people. Look at nothing and nobody but look entirely to Christ and say
‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…’
Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say, ‘It is finished, it is covered by the blood of Christ’. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! you just begin to say
‘I rest my faith on him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone’” (p. 35)
In chapter 4 he goes more specifically after the issue of the gospel. Here are a couple of my favorite gems:
“Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel… (p. 54) we also fail to realize that the whole man must likewise be involved in it and by it…now one of the greatest glories of the gospel is this, that it takes up the whole man…We are partial in response to this great gospel.”(p. 56)
He then describes the person who has only been intellectually or theologically gripped by the gospel and ends that paragraph with this quote:
“It is a terrible thing when a man reaches that point when he knows he must die, and the gospel which he has argued about and reasoned about and even defended does not seem to help him because it has never gripped him. It was just an intellectual hobby.” (p. 57)
He then speaks of the fact that the gospel must take up our whole being. It is not simply emotions, mysticism, aesthetics, the sinner’s prayer or just the will.
“There are those people who decide to take up Christianity instead of being taken up by Christianity. They have never known the feeling of constraint, this feeling of, I can do no other, so help me, God’(p. 59)
By the way, he blames us preachers…
“Lop-sided Christians are generally produced by preachers or evangelists whose doctrine lacks balance, or rotundity, or wholeness.”
The battle against spiritual depression is one that we all face. Depression in all its forms is on the rise and the world offers no real answers. God does. He gives us the gospel. Jones does a masterful job of challenging us to be gripped by the gospel in the battle against depression. To be “taken up” by the gospel and reminding ourselves daily of the glories of the cross.
To God be the glory!
- Pastor Steve