Getting the Gospel In
A couple weeks back, in the application of his sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 on the priorities of a Gospel-centered church, Nathan Finn charged us with three things: Get the Gospel Right, Get the Gospel In, and Get the Gospel Out.
It’s imperative that we get the gospel right. If we call ourselves the church but fail to get the gospel right, then, to quote the apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 15:19, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” In that same chapter, Paul proclaims to us the message of the gospel. The gospel is the message “that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). This is the message “of first importance,” Paul says.
So how do we get this gospel “in”, and how do we get this gospel “out”? That’s what we’ll consider in this post and in a post to follow.
Getting the Gospel In
Paul gave this summary of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 to the church in Corinth. Similarly, he told the church in Rome that he was eager to preach the gospel not only to the non-believers in Rome, but also to the church in Rome (Romans 1:15). As the church, we still need the gospel.
“Getting the gospel in” means that we make sure that this message soaks down deep into who we are individually and as a church. Perhaps you have seen soaker hoses in gardens. They don’t flood the ground with a powerful spray of water; soaker hoses are filled with tiny holes from end to end, allowing the water to come out steadily and consistently, soaking the ground down deep to the roots.
Sometimes we need to turn on the water full blast and send it out purposefully in one direction—that’s one way of “getting the gospel out”—but each of us also needs to let the gospel be like that soaker hose in our own lives; we need to let it soak us down deep, to continually and consistently drip into our lives, filling us with this life-giving water for our souls.
We work to be sure that we’re doing this in all our corporate worship gatherings at Mountain Creek, but how can each of us also do this individually? What can we be doing to get the gospel in?
Ask Gospel-centered questions.
In your Bible reading, whether you are reading in the Old Testament or the New Testament, the prophets or the apostles, the poetry of the psalms or the apocalyptic writing of Revelation, ask Gospel-centered questions every day. All of Scripture, we read in Luke 24, points to Jesus. This means that every chapter in some way shows us why we need Jesus, what Jesus has done for his people, how we should live in light of Jesus, and what promises we have now and forever because of Jesus.
When I study Scripture, a question I consistently ask is this: How does this passage point me to the gospel? What I’m asking there is this: How does this show me my need for Jesus Christ? How does this passage show me what Christ has done for me? How does this passage reveal to me how my life should be different because of the gospel that “Christ died for my sins”? What promises of God made possible by the gospel does this passage reveal to me?
In your daily Bible reading, take the next step by asking these kinds of questions of the text, and then ask God to help you live in light of gospel in response to what you’ve read.
Read Gospel-centered books.
While I love a good, thick book explaining the doctrine of the atonement, I’m not talking primarily here about books like that. I’m talking about rich, devotional reading that centers on the cross. Here are some that have been encouraging to me over the years:
A Gospel Primer for Christians. This little book by Milton Vincent has three sections, but the first section alone is worth the cost of admission: 31 readings, one for each day of the month, coaching us in preaching the gospel to ourselves daily. If I could encourage you to buy just one of these books mentioned here, buy this book, and pick up another copy to give away. [Note: this book is currently on sale for $8 in our church library. Pick up a copy on Sunday!]
New Morning Mercies. Appropriately subtitled “A Daily Gospel Devotional,” Paul Tripp’s book contains 365 daily readings that are centered on the gospel. Characteristic of Tripp, he challenges the idols that we often place in front of Christ and shows us the mercy of God in Christ for sinners like us.
The Gospel for Real Life. This book is a prime example of why I love its author, Jerry Bridges. While similar to A Gospel Primer in its encouragement to preach the gospel to ourselves daily, Bridges’ book isn’t a daily devotional. However, don’t let the fact that it’s not a “devotional” keep you away from it. This book is a wonderful, clear explanation of why the cross was necessary and what it accomplished for us.
Pray Gospel-centered prayers.
I saved this for last because I wanted to say this: We can ask the right questions and we can read the right books, but truly getting the gospel “in” is not something we can do on our own. We can and should dwell on the gospel, but more than mere facts to be learned, we’re seeking heart change. We’re talking soul-level work being done here, and for that we need the Holy Spirit to be at work in us.
The truth that we need to not only immerse ourselves in the gospel but also pray that the gospel would sink down deep in our lives explains why Paul so often prayed the gospel for churches. For the church in Ephesus––those who already knew Christ (1:9), have believed in him (1:13), have been raised with him (2:7), and were members of the household of God (2:19)––Paul prayed that they would “know the love of Christ” (3:19); he prayed that they would know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (1:19–20). In his prayers for the church, Paul asked God to help them know the gospel. And we need to ask the same thing for ourselves.
In our next post we’ll consider getting the gospel out, but Mountain Creek, let’s be sure to get the gospel in. Immerse yourself in the message of the gospel, ask God to sink it down deep in your life, and watch with thankful heart as he builds you up in Christ.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.