Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
The blood-bought children of God need to draw near to the gospel fire by which they may warm their souls. The gospel saved us; the gospel also sustains us. Have you noticed how Paul unfolded the gospel in his letters to the churches? He even told the Roman church that he was anxious “to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome.” (Rom 1:15) Paul preached the gospel to Christians because they needed to regularly gather up in their souls the grand certainties of their salvation, look upon them, and find rest therein once again. As do we.
The precious truths of the gospel fortify our souls against our enemies. As our hearts are kept warm by the gospel fire, we are enabled to root out the dread of our consciences, the condemnings of our hearts, and the deceptions of the world and of the Devil. Moreover, if we are to be faithful laborers in God’s field (churches, families, communities, the nations), we don’t have the luxury to grow cold toward Christ. Our calloused, self-reliance does great harm to those for whom we are responsible.
A practical way to regularly and purposefully draw near to the gospel fire is to make a habit of preaching the gospel to your own soul. Here’s how to do it:
First, cause your heart to be still before the Lord.
Then, rehearse some expression of the gospel message.
Finally, allow the reality of the gospel message to affect you.
When you practice this discipline, you will stay warm and tender before the Lord as He works in you and through you. Your sharing of God’s Word will have more joy and power, your praying will be more humble and faithful, and your counsel will be more full of wisdom, grace, and truth.
The most critical part of that three-step process is the second. You and I need an arsenal of gospel portions at the ready to which we can turn our hearts. We need a well from which we can drink deeply of grace and mercy of God in Christ. We need a help for our souls to keep placing our faith in the groaning Savior upon the cross, and our hope in the living Intercessor at the right hand of God.
As you practice the three parts of preaching the gospel to yourself, you will need a cache of gospel expressions to which to return. Begin to compile a repository of gospel portions, keep them close at hand, and wield them in favor of your soul. I have found three excellent sources from which to mine veins gospel truth. The first is Scripture. Every time you come across a verse or passage that summarizes or illustrates the gospel stash it away somewhere you can easily find it. Hymns are also rich with gospel statements. If a stanza is particularly helpful in your efforts to meditate on the work of Christ on your behalf, mark it and cling to it. Finally, as you read good books, you may come across certain framings of the gospel that especially bless you, copy and paste these to a place where you can retrieve them. I’ve found the puritans to be imminently helpful here. Soon you will have a compilation of gospel portions to return to again and again and again. It will also be useful to you as you help other souls on their pilgrim way.
Think of your collection of gospel portions as the leather pouch from which David drew his slinging stones. When you are confronted with an accusation of the Devil, meet it with a smooth stone of the gospel.
Think of it as the banks that contained the River Jordan to which Namaan fled for healing of leprosy. When your heart is infected with self-righteousness, submerge it in the living waters of the grace of God in Christ.
Think of it as the window where Rahab’s scarlet thread was bound. When chaos rages around you, cast your gaze upon the promised redemption at hand.
Think of it as the bowl from which the Israelites ate the gathered manna that fell from heaven. When your soul is famished, partake of this free bread of life.
Think of it as the tin that contained the balm from Gilead. When your conscience reminds you of your many offenses, apply the soothing ointment of mercy.
Think of it as the ground where the lily grows among the thorns. When the world traps you and threatens to lure you away, let the fragrance of the glorious gospel woo your heart toward heaven.
Include your collection of gospel portions in your regular times of personal and family devotion. It can be an excellent companion to Bible reading, praying, and hymn-singing. It will be a handy and useful collection to keep close by throughout your day and when you travel. Deploy those great truths in the regular stuff of life:
- Parents, read, sing, and pray a few portions over your little lambs as you tuck them into bed.
- Mothers, tell this great gospel to the child in your womb; after they’re born, nourish their souls with the gospel as you nourish their bodies with milk.
- Husbands, recite the gospel over your wife as she drifts off to sleep.
- Grandparents, copy lines from those gospel portions into letters you send to your loved ones; read them to your grandchildren when they visit.
- Medical workers, offer to read (and sing!) these portions with those who are lonely, afraid, and anxious.
- Foreman, gather your workers at breaktime and read to them the gospel of grace and pray for their souls.
- Teachers, include a few lines of gospel truth in your comments on homework and test papers.
- Pastors, begin and end counseling sessions with gospel portions.
- Read to those who are home-bound and in need of encouragement.
- Voice these truths around hospital beds, at birthday parties, during bridal showers, around campfires, at dinner tables, and next to gravesites.
Dear friend, read expressions of the gospel with expectation and engagement. These words matter. They are of eternal consequence and are relevant to the state of your soul this very hour. We should read of the gospel as we would read to discover our inheritance in a last will and testament. Who among you would listen to your betrothed recite their vows with distracted impatience?
You may find my podcast Gospel Portions helpful. Each episode features a gospel portion or two that I have collected over the years. May the Lord bless you and keep you.