“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
(Psalm 103:2, ESV)
One of the more unusual things in the Psalms to me is when the Psalmist instructs himself to praise the Lord. You know, “Praise the Lord, o my soul” and statements like that. Strange as it may sound, there’s a lot of wisdom in it, a lot of value in preaching the gospel to yourself, which, despite being a missionary, I often forget to do.
Nowhere is this amnesia more evident or more tragic for me, than when I don’t love well. I can point immediately to my own failure to regularly preach the gospel to myself. Real love that isn’t just a misnomer for conditional affection. Kindness is rooted in what Jesus did for me on the cross—choosing to suffer instead of punish. This is too often the choice I am unwilling to make.
Therefore, every occasion of hurt, of being wronged (regardless of whether it’s a legitimate or an imagined wrong), is an opportunity to believe the gospel again. Do I really believe the blood of Christ covers the sin being done by someone else to me or to people I love? Do I really believe the blood of Christ is sufficient not to simply free me from my own sin, but also to free me from the power of other people’s sin? If I believe these things, then I am free to choose to suffer with my Savior, rather than rising up in self-defense or even in defense of someone else. God is the Defender of those I love and have invested in just as He is my Defender—and He’s far better at defending them than I am anyway.
Perhaps this is somewhere near the heart of Elihu’s warning to Job when he says, “Take care, do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen rather than affliction.” The heart that believes the gospel will choose affliction every time over iniquity, just as Jesus did. The faithful heart will choose derision and disrespect, will choose seeing loved ones harmed by the decisions of others and will go outside the camp to Jesus, bearing His reproach, rather than heaping the reproach on the offender or deriding and disrespecting the wrongdoer. Love suffers and suffers long, knowing that the Righteous Judge will make all things right, preferably by redeeming the ones I am so tempted to lash out against.
So I will preach the gospel to myself again. I will remind myself that what Jesus did was not just for me, but also for the people hurting me, and that his invitation to transformation and new life is available to them just the same as it is available to me. I will love and not punish, because their debt is already paid. Who will you release by preaching the gospel to yourself?
Warmly in Christ,
“Take care; do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen rather than affliction.” (Job 36:21, ESV)
What implication or benefit of the gospel are you most likely to forget?
When has the gospel enabled you to choose affliction rather than iniquity?