Book Review: Note to Self by Joe Thorn

These days a lot of folks are talking about the need to preach the gospel to yourself. This is a good and important thing indeed. We do need to be preaching the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis. But something that I’ve noticed is there aren’t a lot of folks talking about what that actually looks like. Joe Thorn’s noticed this, too. So he decided to do something about it by writing Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Over the course of 48 chapters (don’t worry, they’re all 2-3 pages long), Thorn offers readers practical insights that challenge them to grow in grace, confront sin and serve others.

Why do we need to preach to ourselves—why is it beneficial? Because, Thorn writes:

Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. You will have to ask and be honest about your motives, struggles, and needs. You will need to clarify to yourself what God’s law means in principle, but also what it requires specifically of you. You will need to ask how the gospel meets your needs and heals your brokenness. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (p. 32)

There is a great deal of wisdom here. Too often it’s easy to see the wonders of the gospel and of what God has done in history and it become kind of… ordinary. We can begin to take things for granted that we might otherwise not. But I found that as I read through each chapter, I was being called out on a few of the things I’ve been overlooking of late.

A notable example is found in chapter 13, “Wait for Jesus.” Thorn opens with the question, “What is your greatest hope? Your deepest longing? Is it for Christ to return? Be honest” (p. 60).

I didn’t like the answer to this question. While there are many days where I can confidently answer, “Yes!” there are others where I don’t really give it much thought.

My greatest hope for the day is more along the lines of getting out of a meeting early or finding a solution to a nagging problem (or even going for a walk with my family). These are not bad things, but they’re not the ultimate thing, nor are they the point of why we’re here. Then I read:

In this life, as you work for the glory of Jesus and the good of others, you should do so with an eye to his return. It will lead to earnestness and create an urgency in your life to make the most of all your days. (p. 61)

Reading this, I was reminded of Phil. 3:20 where Paul writes that, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” as well as Col. 3:1-2, “Since then you have been raised with Christ, seekthe things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This eye to the return of Christ saturated Paul’s ministry and his epistles evidence that he truly made the most of the days he was given.

I’m not sure I can always say the same, but I’d like it to be the case.

Perhaps what is most unique (and effective) about Note to Self is its format. Because each chapter is written quite literally as a “note to self,” it allows the reader to engage with the text on a more meaningful level than one might otherwise. I found that there were more than a few times when it was reading my proverbial mail simply because it felt like I was reading my own journal. Along with the example above, chapter 34, “You are Proud,” really hit home in an uncomfortable way, particularly as the comparison game is called out. When it comes to pride, it doesn’t matter if I’m not as bad as anyone else, it’s still a dreadfully serious sin.

Although small, Note to Self is a slow burn. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. If you enjoy using devotional readings to accompany your regular Bible study, take 48 days to go through the book. Although my initial read through for this review was over the course of a few days, I’m now going through it day-by-day to really let it all sink in. I’d highly encourage any reader to get a copy of Note to Self today and do likewise.


Title: Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself
Author: Joe Thorn
Publisher: Crossway/Re:Lit (2011)

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  • Anonymous

    Hey, Aaron.  I want a copy because I love good books, and Joe Thorn is a careful thinker and good writer.  I guess I get points for all three!

  • Anonymous

    Hey, Aaron.  I want a copy because I love good books, and Joe Thorn is a careful thinker and good writer.  I guess I get points for all three!

  • Jacob Sweeney

    I would like to win the book because I know that I need to preach to myself but I don’t always know how to do it well.

  • Sean F

     Thanks!  This looks excellent.

  • Corey

    I would love this book, because I am in great need to learn to preach to myself. 

  • Kendall

    Thanks for the post Aaron. I desire the book so that I might become a better follower of Jesus in all areas of my life and lead my wife and family as well as others in my local church to be the same.

  • Kendall

    Thanks for the post Aaron. I desire the book so that I might become a better follower of Jesus in all areas of my life and lead my wife and family as well as others in my local church to be the same.

  • Kendall

    Thanks for the post Aaron. I desire the book so that I might become a better follower of Jesus in all areas of my life and lead my wife and family as well as others in my local church to be the same.

  • http://mrben.jedimoose.org/ mrben

     I feel guilty entering a competition having just won a book from you a few weeks ago (really enjoying it, thanks ;) ) – is that a reason? As someone who loves to preach, it’s easy to focus on preaching to others to the neglect of preaching to ourselves – I guess that’s my reason.

  • Aaron Matthews

     I know I’d enjoy this book. Every time I sit to study the Bible or stand to preach, I am doing those things not only for others, but a lot of the focus is toward myself as well. I’d enjoy getting a copy of this book to digest and go a bit further, really looking at someone else’s insight into the matter. Thanks for the opportunity.

  • KB Cook

    I follow Joe Thorne’s blog and love the way he treats the scriptures 

  • Tiffany

     Hi Aaron — I’d love a copy of this book. Why? Because I’m a sinner and I need to learn how to better confront myself with sin and live out the gospel every day.

  • Ryan Higginbottom

    I’d like to win a copy of this book because I’ve been intrigued by the idea of preaching the gospel to myself since encountering it in Jerry Bridges’ writing. I’m hoping for some guidance about what this looks like in this book.

  • http://twitter.com/marcmullins Marc Mullins

     Great Review!

  • Weems

    Hi, I am entering the contest because I recognize the importance of daily reminding yourself of what the gospel truly means.

  • Weems

    Hi, I am entering the contest because I recognize the importance of daily reminding yourself of what the gospel truly means.

  • Ted

     I’d love this book because it reminds me of Richard Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor” which encourages pastors to “take heed of themselves” lest they forget to eat the bread of life they are offering to others in Jesus’ name.

  • Ted

     I’d love this book because it reminds me of Richard Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor” which encourages pastors to “take heed of themselves” lest they forget to eat the bread of life they are offering to others in Jesus’ name.

  • Jody Sneed

     Been reading Joe’s blog for several years and appreciate his insight and honesty

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1642260006 Allen Ray Mickle Jr.

    This book has been on my wishlist ever since Joe said on his blog he was writing a book. I know as a pastor I am always preaching the gospel to others, but fail miserably so often at preaching it to myself just as much. I’m hoping it will help instill in me the need to always be preaching the gospel to myself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1642260006 Allen Ray Mickle Jr.

    This book has been on my wishlist ever since Joe said on his blog he was writing a book. I know as a pastor I am always preaching the gospel to others, but fail miserably so often at preaching it to myself just as much. I’m hoping it will help instill in me the need to always be preaching the gospel to myself!

  • Rplantz

    I’d lo a copy of this book to help me comprehend practical ways of preaching the Gospel to areas of unbelief in my life.

  • Rgpriest

    Currently unemployed. Looking for possible career change. Already good at talking to myself, Working on changing my mindset so I can take every thought captive. Besides, I love books and my wife calls me a book vulture.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark

    I’d like a copy of this book because I’m always thinking along these lines and I’d love to read how Joe has fleshed this out for himself (and others).

  • http://twitter.com/ChristopherLash Chris Lash

     I would like to win the book because I am a college student pursuing ministry and I have heard rave reviews about Thorn’s book. Preaching to myself is a discipline I would like to cultivate and it seems that Thorn adresses just that. 
    Thank you for the opportunity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1387230072 Alissa Graham

     I need to preach the gospel to myself WAY more often. This book looks great. I’d love to read and review it as well.

  • Tricia

    Hi Aaron, I’d love a copy of thus book because I’m currently reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer and it has really opened my eyes to the fact that I know a great deal ABOUT God, but I need to know more OF God. He talks about the need to wrestle with ourselves about the truths of the Gospel and God’s nature in order to not just be hearers of the Word, but “doers.” When I first heard about the book Note To Self, I thought it would be a perfect application of this and a great way to start training myself to wrestle with the truths of the Gospel. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Becky-Pliego/100000416096103 Becky Pliego

    Aaron, I would like to win a copy because if you recommend it I am sure it would be good, and mostly because I need to grow in grace.

    Thanks for the review, and greetings to your wife.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.grayson Rob Grayson

    The vital and ongoing importance of the gospel for Christians is something I’ve only woken up to in the past year or so. I need to embrace any and all ways to keep “beating it into my head” on a daily basis (to borrow from Martin Luther). This book would surely hep!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1038750376 Michael Lee

    I would love for this book to accompany my devotional time!

  • A.W. Hall

    Great book review.  I want to get this book into the hands of my leaders and church family.

  • http://www.herenowkingdom.com Andy Catsimanes

    Thanks, for reviewing this book. I came to your blog via Tim Challies’. This looks interesting. I’m often conflicted about the need for quiet inner reflection and work, vs. engaging in community and often feel that too many books encourage the former at the expense of the latter, but this sounds very worthwhile.

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    I watch my kids preach to themselves a lot… I watch my son (2 years old) walk past something he’s not supposed to touch, and tell himself, “No, no, no.”  I’d love to read “Note To Self” to do that in my own life.  I think it’s something that I need to learn to do more. 

  • http://elehack.net/jennifer Jennifer Ekstrand

    It looks like a helpful and practical book.

  • Phil

    Hey Aaron

    I love your blog AND Joe’s!  Looking forward to reading the book…hopefully a FREE one if I win.  I am a former pastor who has “written notes to myself” but never thought of actually writing them!  Can’t wait to read what Joe’s notes to self say. 

  • Beauandkari

    Note to self:  Get a copy of, “Note to Self!” 

  • Amber

     I would love to have this book.  I first learned about preaching to myself from M. Lloyd-Jones.  I still need all the help I can get.

  • Joseph D Bridges

    This looks helpful.

  • http://huiothesian.wordpress.com/ Matt Tully

     Hey Aaron,
    I would like to read the book because I recognize my need to preach the Gospel to myself more often.  Simple as that.

    – Matt
    huiothesian.wordpress.com

  • http://huiothesian.wordpress.com/ Matt Tully

     Hey Aaron,
    I would like to read the book because I recognize my need to preach the Gospel to myself more often.  Simple as that.

    – Matt
    huiothesian.wordpress.com

  • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

    Thanks for entering everyone – unfortunately there can be only one winner this time around and that person has been emailed! I’ve got another couple of giveaways coming up real soon, so be on the lookout!

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