Usually, the person asking the question was involved in an abortion-related decision—perhaps a woman who felt she had no other choice or a man who encouraged her to do so. I grieve for these hurting souls. I encounter them often at speaking events and make it a priority to hear their stories whenever possible. (To get some sense of the pain many of them feel, go to www.abortionchangesyou.com and read some of the posts there.) And, in my upcoming book, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, I devote a chapter to the topic of post-abortion healing. (You can read a sample of the ideas I present in that chapter here.)
I’ve yet to write that booklet, but last week in my Sunday-School class, I taught on the subject “Preaching the Gospel to Yourself: Replacing False Beliefs with Truthful Ones.” The outline was designed for believers and contains 22 Scripture passages I encouraged them to commit to memory in the new year. Though not addressed expressly to post-abortion men and women, there’s no doubt that were I to ever write a bible study for Christians struggling with the issue, the skeletal outline I provided the class would be the foundation for that study.
Here’s my concern. In public settings, many (though by no means, all) post-abortion testimonies I hear focus more on the pain of abortion—a pain that never seems resolved—than on the transforming power of the gospel. I don’t think this is biblical. The apostle Paul was a blasphemer and encouraged the torture of early Christians. Yet upon conversion, his focus was fixed upon the new man he became in Christ. His mood was triumphant, not depressed. That’s why I’ve never liked seeing pro-life women holding signs which read, “I regret my abortion.” I can only imagine bystanders saying, “Gee, who wants to live a life of regret and misery? If that’s the pro-life message, count me out.” I much prefer signs which say something like, “I’ve been forgiven of my abortion—ask me how.”
I hope what I’m about to say does not come off insensitive. Please know I do not mean it that way. Nevertheless, I’ve met some perpetually depressed post-abortion men and women who tell their painful stories, but there’s little in the way of resolution. Most troubling, they refuse to be comforted by the very gospel that can save them. They elevate their sin over the transforming work of Christ.
This should not be. Perhaps the outline I presented to my class will help remedy that for Christians convinced God has yet to cover their sins. I apologize in advance for the length of the post.
Preaching the Gospel to Yourself: Replacing False Beliefs with Truthful Ones
Theme Text--Psalm 42:5 –“Why art thou cast down, O my soul. Why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”
“The Devil’s one object is to so depress god’s people that he can to the man of the world and say: ‘There are God’s people—Do you want to be like that?’”
The sin of sloth (one of the 7 Deadly Sins):
Not mere laziness, but consistent “sadness in the face of spiritual good” (Thomas Aquinas). It includes elements of sin, demonic affliction, and illness. The ultimate cause of spiritual depression is unbelief—unbelief in God’s incredible grace extended to us in Christ.
The Remedy: Talk, don’t listen to yourself. Monitor your internal speech. Preach the Gospel to yourself, daily. Lloyd-Jones writes:
The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.
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'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. 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. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.' (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cures, Eerdman’s, 1965, pp. 20-21.)
Preaching the Gospel to Yourself:
1) The gospel of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. We not only do bad things, we are bad—by nature. Outside of Christ, we are spiritually dead and justly deserve God’s wrath. If we never realize our guilt before God, we will never experience joy in Christ.
Romans 3: 10-12:
Ephesians 2: 1-3:
John 3: 19
Isaiah 53: 5-6
John 3: 36
Example: Lisa Beamer, when asked by Newsweek how she felt about God allowing her husband Todd to perish in the terrible events of September 11: “You think you deserve a happy life and get angry when it doesn’t always happen like that. In fact, you are a sinner and deserve only death. The fact that God has offered you hope of eternal life is amazing! You should be overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Lisa is right. Our dilemma should not be why God allows evil. Instead, we should wonder why he would pay such an incredible price to rescue us when we have rebelled so completely against Him. When that reality grips our hearts, we will get down on our knees and ask forgiveness instead of criticizing God for not doing enough to stop bad things.
Clint Eastwood quote (Unforgiven): “We all have it coming.”
2) The gospel of God’s work of salvation. Though we were hopelessly lost (dead) in our sins, God made the first move and reconciled us to Himself through Christ’s atoning death and sacrifice. Thus, we are declared righteous in virtue of Christ’s righteousness, not our own.
Romans 5: 6-8
Romans 5: 1
2 Corinthians 5: 21
Titus 3: 4
Ephesians 2: 1-5
1 John 4: 10
As a result of Christ’s sin bearing work, we have hope. Our past, present, and future sins are covered and will never be charged against us. True, God disciplines us as “sons” so that we might become more like Him (Hebrews 12: 5-7, 10), but no longer are we under his wrath. Thus, we ask God to forgive our sins not so He can justify us again, but so that we can experience restored fellowship with our loving father.
1 Thessalonians 5: 9-10
Romans 5: 9-10
Lamentations 3: 21-26
Micah 7: 8-10
Ephesians 5: 1
3) The gospel of adoption: We are no longer God’s enemies, but dearly loved members of God’s own family.
Galatians 4: 4-7
John 1: 10-12
Romans 8: 14-17
1 John 3: 1-3
William Hendrickson: “In justifying the sinner, God may be viewed as the Judge who presides over a law court. The prisoner is standing in the dock. The Judge acquits the prisoner, pronouncing him ‘not guilty but righteous.’ The former prisoner is now a free man. But the story does not end here. The Judge now turns to that free man and adopts him as His son, and even imparts his own Spirit to him.”
CH Spurgeon: “Once I knew a good woman who was the subject of many doubts and when I got to the bottom of her doubt it was this: she knew she loved Christ but she was afraid He did not love her. Oh, I said that is a doubt that will never trouble me, never by any possibility because I am sure of this: that the heart is so corrupt naturally that love to God never did get there without God putting it there. You may rest quite certain that if you love God it is a fruit and not a root. It is the fruit of God’s love to you and it did not get there by the force of any goodness in you. You may therefore conclude with absolute certainty that God loves you if you love God.”
Five Hymns (as examples of preaching gospel to yourself) to commit to memory:
Crown Him with Many Crowns (“awake my soul and sing of Him who died for thee”)
It is Well with My Soul (“Let this blessed assurance control. That Christ has regarded my helpless estate…”)
When I survey the Wondrous Cross
Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Beneath the Cross of Jesus
1. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cures (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965)
2. William Backus, What Your Counselor Never Told You (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2000)
3. C.J. Mahaney, "God as Father: Understanding the Doctrine of Adoption," Resolved Conference, 2008. Audio available (free, w/ registration) here.
4. John Piper, “Faith Alone,” World Magazine, August 31, 2002.
5. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God’s Way of Reconciliation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003)
6. Greg Koukl, No Man Did This