I know I write a lot about the value of reading and its benefits to my life. I really cannot imagine who I would be without the words of others sifting through my mind, challenging or reframing my worldview, thoughts, paradigms, or how I view the people around me.
Francis Bacon, the philosopher, orator, scientist, statesman, and author, made this observation about reading:
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
And indeed, working through those bound pages over the years has caused me to do much weighing and considering in my own life.
In a couple of past posts I have referenced A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent. Today I would like for you to feel a sense of urgency to go out and get a copy of the book for yourself. And so, here is a brief review of this thought-provoking text.
So why this book?
Like any good argument, I do not want you receiving the “what” without also receiving the “why.” There are many good books out there. Why am I so excited about this one?
Over my years of my spiritual walk, I have had an enlightenment to my soul about the word “gospel.” We commonly know it as a word that means to announce or bring good news. And to be certain, it is good news indeed. My broken state, my sinful self, now has hope. I need a savior and the gospel proclaims that there is a perfect and empathetic savior, Jesus Christ.
And in my dialogue with others about the gospel, it seems to be a word out of vogue. Even in mainstream Christianity, I do not hear the word as often as I think it should be mentioned for all of its power and blessings in my life…every day. I have seen two extremes that seem out of balance: 1) there are those who use it as a “junk drawer” term and use it because it is cool to talk about the gospel. Everything is about the gospel in their talk but everything is not about the gospel in their walk. Those who desire to stay faithful to what the gospel actually means then stay away from the use of the term.
Or 2) the word “gospel” is used in only referring to what Jesus did – He died, was buried, and rose again the third day. My salvation. What ends up getting lost is what Jesus is. And I end up confused about my new identity in Jesus right now.
If we are not careful, we can drift to either of these mindsets. And both are dangerous because they move us away from the truth of the gospel, and it is this: all of my life, in all contexts, in all situations, and in all relationships, is about the gospel. I did not always understand that in my life, and so my life easily drifted into compartmentalizing where Jesus is lived out “here” but not “there.”
A fresh view of Jesus and His gospel
About two and a half years ago God drew us to a new church, and I am understanding the framework of the gospel and what Jesus means for my life in an entirely new and fresh manner that I had never comprehended before.
C.J. Mahaney says it well.
The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you ‘within the walls’ of the glorious gospel.
The gospel did not just save me. Its overflowing in my life now forms a lens through which I can view every interaction with people and every situation that I experience. The gospel, because it is the power of God, now transforms how I view the trinity, people, relationships, trials, blessings, situations around me, situations outside of me, my agenda, my things. It changes it all, and if it does not change all, then we are going to really struggle.
A friend of mine gave me a copy of A Gospel Primer around 8-10 years ago. He told me how much it changed him and he wanted me to receive the same transformative thinking that he did. And I have read it, reread it several more times, and have given copies to others.
A now…a review
This book has three sections to it. The first contains Reasons to Rehearse the Gospel Daily. It is divided into 30 topics encompassing 31 pages about the gospel – nicely set up for reading one topic each day of the month.
- how the gospel is the power of God
- how the gospel is my daily protection
- how the gospel gives me a cure for distrust
- how the gospel frees me to love my brothers and sisters
- how the gospel gives me a heart for the lost
- how the gospel cultivates humility
I have read through this section many times and have come away with four benefits:
- It has taught be how to preach the gospel to myself. Instead of listening to myself, I preach truth to myself.
- It has taught me how to use scripture more effectively in living out the gospel more successfully.
- It has taught me how to rehearse the benefits of the gospel to myself and to others around me.
- It has helped me understand that my life is all about the gospel.
Take, for example, this excerpt from the topic A Cure for Distrust:
Every time I deliberately disobey a command of God, it is because I am in that moment doubtful as to God’s true intentions in giving me that command. Does He really have my best interests at heart? Or is He withholding something from me that I would be better off having?
However, the gospel changes my view of God’s commandments, in that it helps me to see the heart of the Person from whom those commandments come. When I begin my train of thought with the gospel, I realize that if God loved me enough to sacrifice His Son’s life for me, then He must be guided by that same love when He speaks His commandments to me. Viewing God’s commandments and prohibitions in this light, I can see them for what they really are: friendly signposts from a heavenly Father who is seeking to love me through each directive, so that I might experience His very fullness forever.
When controlling my thoughts as described above, the gospel cures me of my suspicion of God, thereby disposing me to walk more trustingly on the path of obedience to His commands.
Wow! What a gem of truth!
Each topic of this first section accomplishes the same mission: it incorporates language that powerfully reminds me what the gospel changes for me in my life and how it accomplishes it. The focus is not on me changing me; the focus is on the gospel changing me. Each is a reminder of what I have in Jesus, because of Jesus, and through Jesus.
I especially like that throughout each topic, there are footnotes that reference what the scripture says, with quotations and references. In other words, the thoughts of Vincent are supported by the authority of scripture. There can be the tendency to read books, and because the author is Christian, we readily receive the words without doing any of the work ourselves, “examining the scriptures daily to see if these things are so.” (Acts 17:11)
The author does most competent work in making this a narrative of what scripture says about the gospel.
This text makes for an excellent supplement to your daily time of your own personal growth. I need these reminders because my tendency is to drift – drifting to self-sufficiency, idolatry, and a lack of gospel-centered thinking. In preaching each topic of A Gospel Primer to myself, I begin to appreciate and value the authentic work of the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification. The gospel is true, but the Holy Spirit makes it alive to my soul.
The final two sections of this most helpful writing are a summary of the topics in section one. Section two is a gospel narrative in prose form. Section three is a gospel narrative in poetic form.
Both are beautiful to read and both are stirring to the soul. As you read them, you find yourself rejoicing as each moves from my despairing state to what I now have in Jesus. Depths of hopelessness to heights of gratitude. Impossibilities to possibilities.
The $10 you will spend on this book is well worth it. I have never read anything quite like this before and perhaps that is why it holds such value for me. It is like a an old friend. Simply put, it is a paradigm shifter.
I need to be about what Jesus is about. And Jesus is about His gospel being active in all, and I mean all, aspects of my life.
Have you read this text before? How has it impacted you?
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