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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review - A Gospel Primer for Christians

For years I viewed the gospel strictly from an evangelistic perspective. The gospel was the “plan of salvation,” or “how to become a Christian.” I may have never said it, but in my mind any personal interaction with the gospel after one’s conversion consisted solely of sharing it with other people.

By God’s grace, I’m understanding more all the time that the gospel is far more than the door to salvation. It is the means by which one can live the Christian life. The gospel goes past the day of salvation and provides the lifelong strength and desire for sanctification.

We’ve seen this clearly in the book of Ephesians. Paul preaches the gospel to the believers in Ephesus, presenting it as the motive and power for the obedience to which he calls the reader in the second half of the book. The book of Romans shows the same structure. Paul, penning a letter to believers, writes in 1:15, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” This shatters the idea of the gospel as merely the door to salvation. Believers need to hear it preached for the rest of their lives.

If the gospel is the motive and power to live the Christian life, we would do well also to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. To assist the believer in doing just that, Milton Vincent has written a wonderful tool, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love. In the introduction, Vincent writes:

God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do… Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced. I find myself sinning less, but just as importantly, I find myself recovering my footing more quickly after sinning, due to the immediate comfort found in the gospel. I have also found that when I am absorbed in the gospel, everything else I am supposed to be toward God and others seems to flow out of me more naturally and passionately. Doing right is not always easy, but it is never more easy than when one is breathing deeply the atmosphere of the gospel. I am confident that you will find the same to be true in your life as well.

The book is written in a devotional format, with short snippets that can be read daily. The first section contains 31 “Reasons to Rehearse the Gospel Daily.” The second and third sections contain “A Gospel Narrative” in prose and poetry, respectively.

This short book is unlike any devotional I’ve ever read. I’ve been using it for a short while and have already found it to be enlightening, encouraging, challenging, inspiring, and full of truth. I can’t recommend it highly enough. But don’t take my word for it. The book is also endorsed by the likes of John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Jerry Bridges, Bob Kauflin, and Stuart Scott, with the Foreword being written by Mike Bullmore. You can pick it up for under $9 at Amazon - not bad for a book you may find yourself using year after year.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Great post.

The ongoing act of preaching God's Truth to ourselves -- and constantly filling ourselves with it -- is monumental, and so essential.

It is also a major distinctive of Christianity. Most all (if not all) false religions of the world make much of the opposite.

My former coworker, a Buddhist, was all about emptying herself in order to find her highest joy. She would linger in a long meditative state in order to get there.

For the Christian, this is a perilous place of recklessness and vulnerability. The sinful heart coupled with the idle mind are a deadly pair, and will always find things to fill in the gaps. Without God's Word, it will inevitably be things like lies, doubts, and temporal pleasures that do not satisfy. That's why the ongoing act of filling ourselves with the Word of God is so essential.

This summer, my lawn developed a 2-foot diameter bare spot when a pile of sticks stayed at the curb too long. In no time, a clump of dandelions had completely filled the bare spot in the middle of my lush lawn, where before there had been a full, lush lawn.

If we neglect letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly, and don't keep the "turf" of Truth thick in our hearts and minds, the world's "dandelions" (deceit, doubt and idols) will rush in and fill in the holes in a heartbeat.

I'm preaching this to myself.