Self-Rehearsing the Gospel Daily

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The Gospel…
of First Importance…

Isn’t the gospel a message to be preached to non-believers? Yes. But it would be a costly mistake if we believers had the notion that we have outgrown our need for the same gospel. We surely shouldn’t only begin our Christian life with the gospel but then leave it behind on the shelf, and move on to something ‘bigger and better’.

Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that the gospel is ‘of first importance’! Nothing is of equal or greater importance than the gospel. Re-preaching the gospel and showing how it applies to our life should be our pattern of ministering to ourselves and others.

Jerry Bridges, who popularized “Preach the Gospel to Yourself”, rightly claimed that the gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.

Haven’t many of us, after receiving the gospel of salvation, put ourselves on default setting in doing more ‘mature’ things like discipleship and ministries without the continual focus on the gospel? Why do many find discipleship a drudgery and ministries joyless? Some are even frustrated because of repeated flounders in defeat of their Christian life. Is something amiss in our discipling process? For sustenance of faith in our discipleship journey, it is imperative to preach the gospel to ourselves every day.

the Gospel to Yourself

What is the gospel? It is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins and rose again, eternally victorious over his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe. The essence of the gospel is Jesus Christ died on the cross for us.

In his book, The Discipline of Grace, Bridges provides a powerful review of the gospel by thoroughly looking at the seven truths from Romans 3:19-26. In another talk, Bridges also expounded 2 Corinthians 5:21 as the sum of the gospel – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This gospel is just as necessary for believers as it is for non-believers. As Christians, we must preach it daily to ourselves. Let me provide an extended quote on what it means according to Bridges. “To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”

Why Rehearse
the Gospel to Yourself?

Milton Vincent gives twenty specific reasons in his booklet A Gospel Primer for Christians. He shares that rehearsing the gospel truths daily has become a pleasurable discipline by which he enjoys God’s love and maintains fresh contact with His provision and power for daily living. Vincent describes how powerful and life transforming it is after he comes back to a focus on the gospel in his Christian walk.

No doubt there are numerous means of grace or spiritual disciplines that are essential to the full experience of God’s grace in our lives. There are good reasons for us to cultivate each of the various disciplines, such as meditation on God’s Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, etc.

As for the discipline of preaching the gospel to yourself every day, we can list at least three fundamental reasons. The good news that our sins are forgiven because of Christ’s death offers us the provision to live by grace, the motivation to respond to the call to discipleship and the courage to face our daily battles.

Provision to Live by Grace. It is only the gospel that will keep us living by grace. And it is only grace that will keep us from slipping into a performance relationship with God. We relate to God by resting on Christ’s righteousness credited to us on the cross.

Bridges cautions us that without a continued reminder of the gospel we can easily fall into one of two errors. The first is to focus on our external performance as during our best days of usefulness and triumph. In a subtle way we begin to feel self-satisfied or even self-righteous, and perceive ourselves spiritually superior like the Pharisees. The second error is the exact opposite. It is the feeling of guilt as during our worst days of sin and failure. We feel that we don’t deserve God’s favour anymore.

He sums up an important principle: Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

Our deeds or church ministries cannot earn or forfeit God’s favour in our lives. The gospel reminds us that our righteous standing holds firm regardless of our performance. We need to live by grace and rehearse the gospel daily to avoid falling into the deception of either self-righteousness or condemnation.

Motivation to Respond to the Call to Discipleship. It is always the joy of knowing our sins are forgiven that spurs us on in our Christian lives. That is why the gospel is vital in providing the proper and enduring motivation to respond to the call to discipleship.

The demand of discipleship is a life of obedience. Obedience is the expression of our love for God in grateful response to the overwhelming love of Christ for us. Immersing ourselves in the gospel helps us keep pure our motive of obedience from our heart. Certainly, it will help us to check whether the drive for our duties or ministries of discipleship might be tainted with pride, guilt conscience, fear of consequences of disobedience or ‘manipulative’ desire for more blessings from God.

We are saved by grace through faith. Our faith must be constantly nourished by the feeding of the gospel to meet the challenges from the demands and duties of discipleship. We need to stay inside the gospel at all times in our pursuit of holiness, our quest for Christlikeness and our practice of godliness. Though our journey of sanctification also depends on other disciplines, the gospel remains the basic means for God to transform us into what He wants us to be.

By living in the atmosphere of the gospel, our duty of discipleship then becomes a joy and a delight even though it requires our intentional efforts.

Courage to Face Our Daily Battles. The gospel also gives us the courage to face our spiritual enemies. We need to drench ourselves in the gospel lest we give in to temptations or drift into worldliness. We died to sin through our union with Christ. Though sin no longer reigns we still need to weed out the remaining indwelling sins, such as resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, judgmental attitude, irritability and impatience. Furthermore, we need to realize that Satan is the ultimate mastermind behind all the temptations that rage against us.

We are constantly facing challenges. Our view of God and our lives can be easily influenced, and even changed, by the trends of the current worldview and the culture we are living in. We struggle between what we know to be right and what we desire to do. It is the gospel that supplies the major part of the armour of God with which we are to stand against the worldly influence and the Devil’s attacks. Tightening our grip on the gospel will give us the confidence to overcome the flesh, the world and the Devil.

In order to go on the offensive, we also need other disciplines such as meditating on God’s Word and prayer. Besides, it is the Holy Spirit working in us that empowers us to win the battles. We must realize that the Spirit’s dwelling within us to instruct us and enable us is a gift of God’s grace too. To be grounded in grace, we must constantly refer to the gospel.

How Do We
Self-Rehearse the Gospel?

How do we preach the gospel to ourselves? Jerry Bridges set his pattern by firstly acknowledging the sinfulness in himself followed by focusing on the forgiveness of his sins with memorization of Scripture. He would start his day by realizing that he was still a practicing sinner, though a saved sinner. He would approach God like the tax collector praying at the temple in Luke 18:13.

Bridges stated, “To preach the gospel to yourself means that you take at face value the precious words of Romans 4:7-8: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

It means that you believe on the testimony of God that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). It means you believe that “Christ redeemed [you] from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for [you], for it is written ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13) …

Turning to the Old Testament, to preach the gospel to yourself means that you appropriate by faith the words of Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Other verses he frequently shared are Isaiah 1:18, 43:25, Psalm 103:12, Colossians 2:13-14, Romans 3:21-23, Philippians 3:9.

This is the gospel Bridges wants the Christian to preach to himself day-by-day. “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.”

The third chapter of his book, Discipline of Grace is entitled “Preach the Gospel to Yourself.” In order to obtain the greatest benefit, one must read the whole book as it offers a clear and thorough explanation of the gospel and what it means to the believers.

Milton Vincent’s A Gospel Primer for Christians, offers an excellent guide as he shared from his personal experience. It is simple and easily accessible. His method of rehearsing the gospel evolved from a short list of the gospel truths on a card into a gospel narrative in both a prose and poetic format. His writing will motivate us to preach the gospel to ourselves. Over time we may even develop our own pattern.

Make It
Our Daily Habit

Self-rehearsing the gospel ought to be an everyday practice. The following C.J. Mahoney’s statement is challenging. “Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish. If the gospel is the most vital news in the world, and if salvation by grace is the defining truth of our existence, we should create ways to immerse ourselves in these truths every day. No days off allowed.”

It is the gospel by which we are saved. Since it is also the gospel by which we must live every day, it is imperative to rehearse the gospel to ourselves every day. You will be amazed at how big a difference this will make in your life!

Dr Wong Sung Ging
Emmanuel Methodist Church, Bintulu