Monday, April 02, 2007

The Joy of the Gospel

If you haven't yet read this post of Chris's at Come to the Table, head on over! I'll be here when you get back...
Wasn't that good? Hopefully you clicked on the wonderful resource she has linked from Cornerstone Bible Fellowship. In case you didn't, here it is again. It is an excellent booklet written by their pastor, Milton Vincent, about "preaching the gospel to yourself" each day. I read through it yesterday and it ministered to me so much. I know I'll be using this resource again and again, and reading it to my children. It's an incredible blessing that this is available free of charge. What an appropriate time, Holy Week, to direct our focus right back to the cross and to resolve not to look away!

I know in my own life, I have regarded the "gospel message" as something separate from other concepts I am studying in the Bible. Certainly I needed to hear the gospel message before salvation, and I have needed the gospel when sharing with others or on mission trips, but daily thinking about the gospel wasn't something I did very often. Last summer I read Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C.J. Mahaney. It really changed my perspective on the role the gospel message plays in my daily life as a Christian. The gospel is everything! The cross is where it all began for me! Why did I ever leave that place?

Preaching the gospel to yourself every day, which Mahaney recommends as well, is an idea from Jerry Bridges' book The Discipline of Grace. The booklet from Cornerstone not only explains why to do it (in the same vein as Mahaney's book) but he writes out a prose version as well as a poetry version of the gospel message to read to yourself. Oh, how I loved lingering over it and praying through it yesterday on Palm Sunday. It was a wonderful way to focus my heart and worship this Holy Week. I highly encourage you to take a look at it and pray through it yourself, and see if you are blessed as well.

On this subject, I would like to share one thing I gleaned from Mahaney's book, something that was missing for me that is a byproduct of preaching the gospel to yourself everyday: Joy.

"And the inevitable result of preaching the gospel to yourself will be a pronounced joy, an infectious joy, a consistent joy. Like nothing else, the gospel creates joy; it's both the source and the object of our joy. The gospel alone allows us to obey the biblical directive to "serve the LORD with gladness." [Ps. 100:2] Joy is a command. You may be working hard and serving the Lord faithfully, but if you aren't serving with gladness, you aren't serving Him appropriately or representing Him accurately. Are you someone who's consistently joyful and continually aware that 'the joy of the LORD is your strength?' Or do you normally appear to others to be someone who's burdened, busy, and easily bothered?"

"... not representing Him accurately."

"Burdened, busy, and easily bothered."

Ouch! I'm afraid many days those words would describe me. And even if others aren't observing that in me, certainly my children are. Where is the joy that should be there? My joy is in the message of the gospel! There are many, many other aspects to infusing the gospel message into your heart each day (like developing a Romans 9 heart for the lost, as Chris mentioned) but this is one aspect that my heart has needed so much. True joy is in appropriating the gospel and its truth into my daily life and thoughts. That joy will undoubtedly well up and overflow onto those around me, drawing others to Him as well.

We have a wonderful opportunity to center our thoughts on the cross this week. My prayer is that we would, like a compass, realign ourselves with it and let that be our focal point each day. May we have cross-centered hearts this week and gospel-centered lives as we go forward. And may we find joy!

"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:12


Chris said...

I love what you have shared.
The words "not representing Him accurately" just pierce my heart and convict me. Do my children observe my joy in the Lord and my salvation?
Great post Cyndi, I need to read this again.

Terri @ In His Hands said...

Another great post! I love what you said about centering our thoughts on the cross. I'm going to have to read Mahaney's book.

Thanks for sharing your thought!

Laurel Wreath said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts, I am re-reading the C.J. Mahaney book, it has now become my Easter yearly book. It helps me stay grounded and gives me a great perspective on everything.

Linda said...

Thanks so much Cyndi - for the link and for sharing your thoughts too. I'm going to read this as soon as I can.
I love what you said about joy. Surely it is by viewing eveything through the prism of the gospel that we can find joy in the midst of overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. It is a wonderful thought.
Thanks Cyndi.