Pastor Joe Thorn wrote a great little book titled Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. We asked Joe to talk about the critical need to tell ourselves the truth.

What led you to write the book?
Preaching to myself is a habit I’ve worked on for almost 20 years through journaling. A few years ago I put up a couple of posts on my blog titled, “Note to Self.” A publisher saw those posts and asked if I could write a book in the same vein. I was excited to do it, and the process has been amazing. The need for the book was to help clarify for the church what it means to preach to ourselves and to provide a basic model for it.

What does it mean to “preach to ourselves”?
Preaching to ourselves is essentially the biblical call to “meditate” on Scripture – hearing and reflecting on both the Word and how God is speaking through it. It is personally applying the Word of God to our hearts and lives with the aim of glorifying and enjoying God. The consequences of this should be conviction of sin, encouragement in the gospel, and ongoing transformation.

It is critically important to sit under the preaching of the Word in your local church. Additionally, we can listen to podcasts and read books as God continues to work through His Word to impact our lives. But even in the midst of all of this listening, it is not enough to hear; we must take the Word preached and continue to preach it to ourselves.

Good preaching always shows how truth is relevant, applicable, or experiential, but preachers can only take the Word so far. They do not know what lies in our hearts or the specific ways in which we may be struggling with doubt, fear, or failure. When hearing the Word preached, we still must apply it to our own hearts and lives. Therefore, my explanation of preaching to ourselves is applicable to those times when we hear another preach the Word to us, as well as when we take in God’s Word privately.

What makes preaching to yourself difficult?
Joe: What makes the discipline hard is the same thing that makes the discipline necessary. We tend to drift toward doubt and unbelief, and we need the Word of God to assure, confront, comfort, and change us.

Why do you believe meditating on Scripture is the most important spiritual discipline?
By meditation I’m thinking of intensive, prayerful interaction with the Word of God, and I believe this is the most important spiritual discipline because it brings prayer and the Word together at a focused point of application. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to sanctify believers, so that puts a premium on this discipline.

How do we avoid unhealthy introspection or self-centered spirituality when practicing this discipline?
What I am arguing for is not some kind of spiritual navel-gazing, but lifting our eyes upward to Christ. Yes, we see ourselves, our current condition, our frailty and failures. The law of God always exposes us for who we are. But then we turn our attention to our hope in Christ. The real aim in preaching to ourselves is knowing and following Jesus.

In a practical sense what does preaching to yourself look like in a given day?
In general, it’s an ongoing interaction with a particular passage of Scripture. Throughout the day I should be rereading it, restating it, summarizing it, and asking myself a lot of questions about it. What does this tell me about God or myself? What should I do? What should I believe, and how will this impact my life? There’s great power in God’s Word, and the goal is to keep hold of it in your heart and mind as much as possible.

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