When I attended a large, Christian university, I was surrounded by thousands of believers trying to pursue the Lord. While this was a good problem to have, it also brought out some frustration and anxiousness in my soul. As I examined my spiritual disciplines and growth, it never seemed to compare or measure up to what other people were doing around me. Many of my friends and hallmates were so consistent in meeting with the Lord, and at the time, I was really struggling to maintain my personal devotional life, even though I was participating in lots of activities and programs that related to spiritual growth. I was regularly teaching others about the Bible, but I hadn't even mastered spending time in it each day myself. Discouragement overwhelmed me, and I felt like a phony. Worst of all, I believed the Lord was disappointed in me, which made me avoid my devotional time even more. Why even bother trying when I could never get it right?
The problem with all of these thoughts was that they were self-centered instead of Christ-centered. I was trying to accomplish spiritual growth myself, and I was doing it mostly to keep up an appearance of godliness. The truth is that none of us are perfectly consistent and faithful to the Lord, but the gospel shines through our inability and uses our weakness to help us realize our need for Jesus. He is the perfect, righteous one who has come to offer His righteousness to us–broken, messy human beings. When we follow Christ, we are united with Him. This means that when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus, because we have been joined to Him. To live, believing that God is always disappointed with you when you sin or fall short of His standards, is contrary to the gospel. Your standing before God does not change when you are covered in Christ's righteousness. To say it does change would mean for you to imply that Christ's righteousness is not enough to keep you in favor before God. The gospel frees us from a life of constantly trying to stay in God's good graces. We forever have His grace and love because of the salvation He accomplished for us. The gospel fills us with joy, and its truth leads us to deep and lasting love for the Lord.
As we live out our lives in union with Christ through the power of the gospel, we will have the right perspective on spiritual growth and holiness. We will seek to grow spiritually and honor the Lord because we love Him and not from a fear or worry that He is disappointed in us. The gospel changes everything about us and every moment that we live. We need to remember it!
A Gospel Primer
A wonderful tool to remember the gospel and rehearse it to yourself is A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent. Milton Vincent has served as a pastor-teacher at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship Church since 1992. When he was in his mid-thirties, he began to realize the beautiful and rich implications of being justified before God, and this freed him from feelings of guilt and shame over his sin. He realized that when the Lord declares us righteous, He sees us as righteous forever. Nothing can change our position before Him, even on our very worst days. Vincent began to write down truths about the gospel on 3x5 notecards and carry them around with him to read throughout the day. As he dwelt on these truths, his love for the Lord grew deeper and deeper. He decided to turn these written thoughts into a booklet, which then became a published book.
A Gospel Primer begins with thirty-one reasons to rehearse the gospel daily. Each reason is accompanied by a page or two of thought regarding a particular truth of the gospel. Vincent also lists several verses of Scripture on the bottom of each page to show where he looked to draw these thoughts. Reading one of these thirty-one reasons each day is a wonderful way to begin your time in the Word or even start your morning when you first wake up. They are simple, quick, and full of biblically-based truth. Vincent then has a section called "The Gospel Narrative," where he lays out the gospel in both prose and poetry so that you can read and recite God's redemptive story to yourself and make it a part of your day-to-day language.
As we learn the gospel's truth and drink it in deeply, it changes everything. A Gospel Primer is one practical resource that can help remind you to turn to Jesus and relinquish your self-sufficiency and rest forever in what He alone has accomplished.
If you would like to dig into this topic further, The Daily Grace Co.'s study, Preaching the Gospel to Yourself, observes how the gospel affects every aspect of our life–from doing dishes to enjoying time with family! You can also listen to this Daily Grace Co. podcast episode, also titled, "Preaching the Gospel to Yourself" (episode 7).