Joe Thorn, founding and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship n Saint Charles, IL (an Acts 29 church), has written an excellent little book titled Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. The premise of the book is simple: because we must apply the Scriptures to our own hearts, it is not enough to hear the Word or read the Word; we must meditate on the Word, rehearse the Word, and consider the impact of the Word on our lives. This requires a bit of “self-talk”–i.e., “preaching to ourselves”–to ignore the voices of the world or of our fallen natures, and rather let God speak to our situation.
This is not a novel concept. The Puritan Richard Baxter called this “discursive meditation.” And 20th-century preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out that most of our unhappiness is due to the fact that we are listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves.
Recently I was thumbing through this book when I came across an excellent meditation on the topic of giving thanks. I thought it was especially relevant at this time of year, when many of our minds are directed toward the topic of thankfulness. Thorn writes,
When was the last time you used the word “thanksgiving” without referencing the holiday? Yes, it is appropriate that you ‘give thanks’ at the dinner table, but this easily becomes a formality void of real affection. Thankfulness is the joyful and humble response of a heart that has been transformed by grace.
The psalmist calls us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and praise,” which is a call to approach God in gratitude. Why is that? He points us to three realities: because God is good, because God is loving, and because God is faithful. A good theologian is thankful, and until you know these truths you are likely to feel entitled and deserving.
How do you know God to be good, loving, and faithful? These attributes were put on display most beautifully in the gospel. God is good, loving, and faithful by not giving you what you deserve (judgment) and by lavishing on you grace unmeasured. He is good and loving in saving us from sin and judgment, giving us hope and life, and adopting us as his own. He is faithful to his Word and his promise to us, that he will not count our sins against us and will continue the work he began in us to completion. On top of this, every good thing you have in this life is a gift from your heavenly Father, and as one who has been justified by the grace of Christ you should see everything in your life as grace that accompanies your salvation. For such things do not come from a judge, but your Dad.
Does gratitude characterize your thoughts of God? Thankfulness is a good test of your faith. Its absence demonstrates that your faith is more lip service than experiential knowledge. Your days, whether easy or difficult, should be filled with thanksgiving because while life changes drastically, your God remains the same forever. He is constant–constantly good, loving, and faithful.