Preaching the Gospel to Myself – A Recovering Pharisee
My evangelism professor in seminary was Jack Miller. He not only believed the gospel, he loved the gospel. He was gospel-centered and from that center he overflowed with joy and love. He was also a risk-taker. He believed the words of Paul in Romans 8 that if God has given us his Son then we can face death all day long. We can take risks for Jesus’ sake and Jack did. I am not sure how anecdotal this account is but I was told that he would often go up to a complete stranger and introduce himself by saying, “Hello, I am Jack and I am a recovering Pharisee.”
I think song writer Buddy Greene must have had some contact with Jack or Jack’s disciples because he wrote the song: Recovering Pharisee
I’m a Pharisee in recovery
With new eyes I can see the big sinner in me
But it’s the way of the human heart
To confess other people’s sins
Reluctant to admit my part or the deeper problem within.
But, thank God, he won’t let me be, or remain in my hypocrisy
Sooner or later I’ll be on my knees
Honest to God a recovering Pharisee
I’m a sinner and saint simultaneously
I’m not what I was or am going to be
Still I’ve got that ol’tendency to be all a wicked man can be
It takes more than knowin’ right from wrong
It takes more than singin’ gospel songs
It takes the life of the great I Am to produce any good in me
He’s the Vine and I’m the branch and I learnin’ to be
Honest to God, a recovering Pharisee.
I need the God of all grace each and every day
If I’m to run his race if I’m to walk in his way
I don’t have to be a slave to sin I don’t have to let the devil win
Cause the Son of God lives in me and He promises to set me free
So, Jesus, help my unbelief so I can follow you faithfully
You’re the Shepherd I’m the sheep and your helpin’ me be
Honest to God a recovering Pharisee.
(Words and music by Buddy Greene, quoted by permission)
I am a recovering self-indulgent Pharisee. What I mean is that I am not only recovering (daily and by God’s grace progressively) from a heart and life of self-righteous sins but from a heart and life of self-indulgent sins too. The Gospel is the power of God to save sinners from pride and passion! It is good news indeed.
The Christian life has to be fueled by the Gospel. There is no other way to come to Christ and there is no other way to live as his follower but consciously through humble faith to rely upon the Gospel. Of course this means that in faith you rely upon the Lamb of God who was sacrificed for sins and because of his virtuous life was raised from the dead and ever lives to save all who call on Him with repentant faith.
I don’t ever want to become numb to the reality of what the Father secured on my behalf through the obedience, death and resurrection of His Son, my savior the Lord Jesus Christ. So at the very center of the Gospel is the glorious truth of justification. This is the wonderful objective reality of Christ willingly, as the God-man, taking upon himself the guilt of my sins (all of them) and paying in full my debt to God in his penal vicarious sacrificial death thus securing complete forgiveness and in exchange the Father by grace granting to me the record of Christ’s obedient life. Oh, may the Gospel continue to overwhelm my mind and affections. May the grace and truth of the Gospel keep my heart humble and my soul slaking its thirst at its gracious fountain rather than the leaking cisterns of the false gods and false gospels of this world!
This means learning how to preach or proclaim the Gospel to myself and that daily. I need to hear the good news of Christ’s finished work and present intercession on my behalf daily so I might renew my faith and obedience. The following points are my feeble attempt as a recovering Pharisee to do this for myself. I hope this will be of help and encouragement to others.
I am a justified and dearly loved son/daughter of the Living God. (Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; Romans 8:15; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:1-2)
The Lord knows my heart and the depth, degree and pervasiveness of my remaining and indwelling sin. The Lord uses circumstances to expose my sin, so I might see it and seek Him more earnestly for grace to repent and believe, so I might have the power to love and serve. (Psalm 139; Romans 7:17,20; 1 Peter 1:22-25)
My circumstances, including the stance other people have toward me (for good, for ill, or indifference) is the Lord’s providence toward me. This is His doing and if I am called of God and love God, the present ordering of my circumstances are for my good. (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20; Philippians 1:12)
My sin (thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, i.e. both the root and the fruit of sin in my life) is my sin and does not belong to, nor is it caused by anyone else. The Lord forgives me for every “eruption of my corruption”. He continues to pardon, forgive and cleanse me. (1 John 1:9; Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Psalm 51:2)
Eruptions of my sin in terms of root (unbelief) and fruit (sour relationships, neglected opportunities, conflict with others, self-pity, playing the victim, lusts of the flesh, etc.) in no way change my justification, acceptance and sonship with my Father. Though, if not dealt with, will disrupt my fellowship with my Father. (Luke 6:43-45; Mark 7:18-23; Romans 5:1; Galatians 4:5; Psalm 51; Ephesians 4:30)
I am not in any real or substantive bondage to my sin. Though it annoys me, harasses me, allures me, hollers at me, etc., using lies and deception to create in me a perception of being in its power; this is not the case. I am not a bondslave to sin, in that sin has no legal power over me. I am free from it. Therefore, I can freely and honestly, with godly sorrow, face my sinful thoughts, attitudes and acts, confess them and repent of them and by the Spirit put them to death (Galatians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Romans 6; 8:13; Colossians 3:5)
I need not and I must not allow myself to be given over to despair because it only makes me more vulnerable to temptation. I can be confident and bold in approaching my heavenly Father's throne of grace, knowing that he will receive me there, being favorably disposed toward me as his dearly loved and justified child. He welcomes me. (Romans 5:9-10; 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19)
Jesus Christ is my elder brother and Great High Priest who as the Father’s appointed Advocate represents me before that throne of grace. I can go to him for help when I am being tempted. He sympathizes with me. He knows my weakness and he will give me help. I am not alone. (Hebrews 2:10-18; 4:14-16; 1 John 1:1)
As I hold to the truth and to the sweet savor and nutrition of the Gospel, I will change by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who as my other Advocate prays for me and also works in my life giving me the gracious capacity to work out my salvation with godly fear, making it my aim to please God. (Romans 8:1-14; Romans 8:26-27; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1)
He is the Spirit of Adoption who testifies with my spirit, that I am a dearly loved child of God. The Spirit of adoption is also the Spirit of holiness and when through the Gospel he testifies to the former he does so always to lead me down the path of the latter. (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:4)
So it is by the hearing of the Gospel of God’s grace and responding to it in faith that I will grow by bearing the fruit of the Spirit produced in my life and walking in the good works that God has prepared for me in advance to do and which I by doing adorn the Gospel. (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:10-14)
Thanks be to the Father for his infinite love, thanks be to the Son for his sustaining grace, and thanks be to the Spirit for his intimate communion. Thanks be to the Triune God for this great Gospel of salvation! (2 Corinthians 13:14)