My Review of Joe Thorn’s “Field Guide” to Sanctification: Note to Self

Few contributors to the Twitterverse cause me to pause my scrolling like Scotty Ward Smith. His pithy observations are Spurgeonesque:  consistently insightful, Christ-centered and aimed at the heart. The latest Scottyism to lift my finger from the mouse came last week. “Do not be surprised”, tweeted he, “if you discover a dozen or more reasons you need the Gospel before lunch today.” His words reinforced a point that has shaped my thinking in recent years: we never outgrow our need for the gospel.

I needed the gospel.
I need the gospel.
I will need the gospel.

That being the case, one’s spiritual vitality must rise or fall on how effectively they are at keeping gospel- truth before them all the time. To that end, Joe Thorn has served the larger Body of Christ with his helpful new book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself.

Like so many, my introduction to the idea of “preaching the gospel to yourself every day” came from Jerry Bridges. Prior to that, I was hazy on the role that meditating on the gospel played post-grace, pre-glory. I have since concluded that holding the work of Christ before us all the time is central to any ongoing, practical sanctification. What then is “preaching the gospel to yourself”?  Is it little more than the recitation of facts — the passionless muttering of the key components to orthodox soteriology?   Clearly, it’s far more than that, but some coaching on this subject could be helpful.  Thorn’s book will, I believe, best serve those convinced of the “how come” but unsure of the “how to” by filling in the corners of this vital discipline.

It is imminently useful!

Devotional without being thin.
Theological without being academic.
Accessible without being trite.
Profound without being verbose.

I envision people using this as a field guide to battling sin in a way that is theologically-informed and practical. In the same way that people have used Valley of Vision for years, this book could be used effectively alongside your Bible and journal.

It’s usefulness is it’s directness. Every chapter begins the same — “Dear Self”. This format allows the author to be “preachy” in the very best sense of the word.

Scanning the chapter titles will give you an idea of what the book is about.

“You are proud.”
“Know your idols.”
“Stop complaining.”
“Suffer well.”
“Stop pretending.”
“Be Humble in your Theology.”
“Kill your sin.”

Needless to say, this book isn’t suited for those just looking for a little “devotional thought” for the day. It will, however, provide hope and Scripture-besotted direction for anyone who is soberly and tenaciously battling remaining corruption, and for those seeking to mortify their inner legalist, it is flesh-repellant. (Or as Scotty Smith might say, “It’s gospelicious!”)

I’ve read it through. Now I intend to re-read it. Slowly. Like the author intended.