When Jerry Bridges, in his book The Discipline of Grace, quoted his friend, Jack Miller, I don't think he could have imagined how significant that phrase would become in the life of many Christians for years to come. The phrase that Jerry Bridges quoted was this: "preach the gospel to yourself."
This one simple phrase has come to radically shape my life.
For many years, ashamedly, I went about my Christian life assuming that the gospel was simply the beginning point to faith in Jesus. While this is certainly a true statement; it is an incomplete picture of what the gospel is. The essence of the gospel means "good news" and what I've come to understand is that good news is always very applicable every day and in every situation; especially when you're talking about the gospel!
The gospel isn't merely the starting point of our faith;
the gospel is the daily sustenance of our faith.
For example, is there ever a day when I don't need to be reminded of the doctrine of justification? Or the atonement? Or redemption? Or adoption? Of course not! We all need to be reminded of these beautiful doctrines on a daily basis.
As you endeavor to preach the gospel to yourself, here are some things that have proven to be helpful for me along the way.
1. Daily Intake of God's Word
This is step #1: read God's Word. There's no substitute for our time in God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16)
Step #2: Get a plan and make the time. Personally, I think the Read Scripture app is one of the best bible reading plans/apps out there. It can be downloaded on your phone and is broken up by major themes yet keeps you focused on how all of the parts fit into the greater whole of Scripture. In addition, there are theme videos integrated into the app (made by the Bible Project) which illustrate in fun and academic ways how things like covenant, Kingdom, and Messiah fit into the metanarrative of Scripture. I highly recommend using their app or even printing a PDF copy if you're "old school".
Step #3: Learn Hermeneutics. There is more to be learned here, but that link will get you the basics.
Step #4: Here's a list of my recommended bible study tools as well.
2. Commit yourself to doing life with a local body of believers that gather regularly.
This one may surprise you but think about this for a second: all of Paul's letters where written to geographically specific congregations of believers. In most of his letters, the first half is devoted to reminding them of the content of the gospel and the second half is devoted to encouraging specific application of the gospel. Obviously even the Apostle Paul felt it necessary to preach the gospel in his letters and encourage churches to apply the gospel within the context of a local body of believers. We would be wise to see this reality in his letters and seek to apply the gospel to our lives within the context of the local body of believers we are committed to.
In addition, Hebrews 13:7 urges believers to imitate the faith of their leaders and Hebrews 13:17 exhorts believers to obey and submit to their leaders BECAUSE they are "keeping watch over your souls as those who have to give an account". If you're called to imitate the faith of godly leaders in your faith family and if leaders are called to watch over your soul then you'd better doing life in community! The New Testament pattern assumes you're a committed member of a local body of believers (Hebrews 10:25). It is within this context that you will be able to "stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24), pray for one another, care for one another, and regularly apply the gospel to others while preaching it yourself.
3. Good Theological Worship
This one is probably one of the most simple yet overlooked means by which we can preach the gospel to ourselves. As much time as we spend listening to music, we would be wise to filter our musical choices through the lens of good theology and doctrine. When we filter music this way, you'll find that your music is teaching you the gospel and thus you'll be preaching the gospel to yourself through the means of music. This does take time and effort but I promise it will be time well-spent.
Here's a playlist that I'm currently listening to that maybe you'll enjoy as well!
4. Memorize Scripture
Pretty straight-forward: memorize key Scripture passages, specifically as they relate to our human condition, forgiveness, promises of God, Jesus' perfect and finished work on the cross, our righteousness in Christ, etc.
I've recently started using the Topical Memory System put out by the Navigators. There's little verse cards that fit in my wallet and every time I use my debit card I try to take 30 seconds to read the verse and then repeat it out loud. This has helped me get into the habit of committing more Scripture to memory.
5. The Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love
by Milton Vincent
I can't recommend this little book enough. It's short, simple, and very accessible. Every line on every page is saturated with Scripture and full of footnote references to all of the Scriptures that are used to exhort our hearts and minds to reflect deeply on the foundational doctrines of our faith. A resource robust enough for the seasoned believer and accessible enough for the new believer.
6. Good Theological Books
Once again, the Bible should be the primary source of truth in your life. However, we also know that anything a person has ever learned that's worth knowing has been put into a book. This is especially true when we look at the rich history of the Evangelical tradition since the time of Jesus which include the early Reformers, the Great Awakening, the Puritans, and many others.
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” - Charles Spurgeon
Here are a few staples that are full of solid theological foundations that will draw you deeper into the gospel as you read them:
- Knowing God by J.I. Packer
- The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
- The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
- Desiring God by John Piper
- New Morning Mercies: A Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp
- Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
7. Listen to Trustworthy Preachers & Teachers of God's Word
There are many good preachers and teachers in our world today. Be careful who you listen to and always study the Bible for yourself, using a good hermeneutic method to make sure you and the preacher/teacher are staying true to the timeless principles of God's Word.
Here's a freebie to get you started: