If there is anything in life that we should be passionate about, it's the gospel. And I don't mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel out to be.
(C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, 20-21)The purpose of the book is summed up in that quote. This book is mainly meant as a tool to help Christians think about and preach the gospel to themselves daily. As Vincent states in the introduction:
This booklet is offered as a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves each day. It is also offered as a correction to a costly mistake made by Christians who view the gospel as something that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believe in Jesus for salvation.
This booklet is broken into three parts:
Part I- Reasons to Rehearse the Gospel Daily
Part II- A Gospel Narrative- Prose Version
Part III- A Gospel Narrative- Poetic Version
Part I goes through 20 reasons to rehearse the gospel to ourselves each day. Here are some great quotes under a few of these reasons that Vincent covers:
Freedom from Sin's Power
"As long as I am stricken with the guilt of my sins, I will be captive to them, and will keep re-committing the very sins about which I feel most guilty...The gospel, however, always slays sin at this root point and thereby nullifies sin's power over me. The forgiveness of God, made known to me through the gospel, liberates me from sin's power because it liberates me from sin's guilt; and preaching such forgiveness to myself is a practical way of putting the gospel into operation as a nullifier of sin's power in my life."
Resting in Christ's Righteousness
"On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God's unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus' righteousness and not mine."
Perspective in Trials
"The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ."
"Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God's own Son in my place."
and I could go on and on....
Part II and III are practical ways to rehearse the gospel daily. Part II is a prose version of the gospel. It is a 10 [small] page summary of the gospel that you can read to yourself each day. Part III is a poetic version of the gospel for the same purpose. These are both very helpful and very quick reads because the pages are filled with scripture references on the bottom, and not just the references, but the whole verse written out, so it is all there in front of you. The author even suggests writing one of these versions out on notecards to have with you to read daily wherever you are.
I highly recommend that every Christian pick up a copy of this booklet and use it as a tool to remind ourselves of the gospel and the reasons why we need it each day.
Ordering information and PDF download---HERE
Here are the chapter titles and some of my favorite/most-needed quotes from Part 1. These don't summarize the chapters by any means; rather, these are just some of the many ones I needed to hear in high school and indeed, to this very day.
1. Characteristics of a People Pleaser
Not only does the people-pleaser love the wrong thing (the approval of man rather than the approval of God), he fears the wrong thing as well - he fears the disapproval of man more than the disapproval of God.
A people-pleaser is not a peacemaker, but rather a peace-lover... A peace-lover is so afraid of conflict that he will avoid it at almost all costs. He is so concerned about "keeping the peace" with his fellow man that he is often willing to forfeit the peace of God that comes from standing up and suffering for the truth.
2. Is It Ever Right to Please People?
In this chapter, Priolo explains that there are biblical commands to please others - parents, spouses, earthly masters, the lost, etc. He makes the distinction that it can become sin when you have an INORDINATE desire for their approval or if you compromise the Bible or the Gospel in order to win it.
3&4. The Dangers of Being a People-Pleaser/More Dangers of Being a People-Pleaser
Rather than looking into the Bible to see what things God wants one to put off and put on, the proud person makes a top priority of correcting things that may displease others, even though such changes matter little to God.
He has allowed saying "yes" to good things to keep him from doing other things that should have been considered more biblically necessary.
5. You Can't Please All of the People Even Some of the Time
Even with all His (Jesus) virtues - His blamelessness, His ability to heal, His love, His goodness... He did not prevent everyone from speaking evil against Him and rejecting Him. Neither did He try to do so. Why, then, should you?
The only hope you and I have of pleasing people is by introducing them to the One who can truly please and satisfy them - the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even that has one difficulty - especially if you are a people-pleaser: by introducing them to the Savior, you face a greater likelihood of being rejected by them yourself. Are you ashamed of the gospel of Christ?
6. But You Can Please God
In principle, learning to please God instead of man is the single greatest remedy to the problem of pleasing man.
7. Some Points About Pride
If you have anything to be proud of, remember what it is, and that it is not your own, but has been given or lent to you by God, who especially hates pride.- Richard Baxter
Pride is an insidious thing. Just when you are convinced that you have one of its tentacles under control, another one snakes out to grab you. Oh, it has probably been there all along, but you never saw it before. So off you go to try to bring it under the Spirit's control and in time, by God's grace, you do. Then, just as you're thinking you've got it under control, out wriggles another one. Pride is like a garment with a million secret pockets that you're constantly discovering.
My thoughts so far? It's worse than I thought. It's more dangerous. More deadly. More idolatrous and hypocritical. Deadly to my friendships, marriage, evangelism and even my church.
The final half of this book will be God's gracious remedy. I'd honestly appreciate prayers for me as I read the rest of this book. And... I highly recommend it.
"In answering the fool a Christian apologist must aim to demonstrate that unbelief is, in the final analysis, destructive of all knowledge" 57
"Effective apologetics necessarily leads us to challenge and debate the unbeliever at the level of his most basic commitments or assumptions about reality, knowledge, and ethics. Our approach to defending the faith is shallow and ineffective if we think that the unbeliever simply lacks information or needs to be given observational evidence." 120
"The proof that Christianity is true is that if it were not, we would not be able to prove anything." 122
George Muller was born in 1805. God graciously saved him in his 20's. He describes his conversion in detail in chapters 1 and 2. The remaining chapters of this book include excerpts from his diary where Muller joyfully records God's work in and through his life. The main thrust of his ministry was organizing orphanages in Bristol, England. However, his heart's desire was that God would use his ministry, not only in the lives of the orphans, but as a testimony to the Church of God all over the world. He was deeply and constantly burdened for Christians to have a deeper faith and dependence on God. He humbly sought to be living proof of a life that is dependent on God in prayer for all things.
The chief end for which the institution was established is that the Church would see the hand of God stretched out on our behalf in answer to prayer. Our desire, therefore, is not that we may be without trials of faith, but that the Lord would graciously support us in the trial and that we may not dishonor Him by distrust. (129)
Running an orphanage, and later 3 and 4 orphanages, was no small task for a poor man like Muller. He had NOTHING. Day by day, he prayed about the needs, rarely telling any person about the needs, but relying solely on God. The money would always come in, in small amounts or incredibly large. Sometimes he would wait days, weeks, months or years, but the Lord provided.
There are many things that could be said about this book. Where to start?
Honestly, I found the book uncomfortable at first, because there are echos, if not carefully read in context and taken as a whole, of almost a name it-claim it verbage that sounded strikingly similar to what is taught at many of today's churches. You know Muller is different, but he sounds... the same. Well... KEEP READING! Things become more clear as you see Muller's Gospel-centeredness, his personal disciplines, his awareness of the sovereign grace of God, his love for Christ and the Church, and his evident and sincere humility. I also squirmed at times wondering how on earth he didn't become prideful in his incredible disciplines (hours upon hours of prayer and Scripture reading) or in the circumstantial provisions lavished on his ministry time and time again. He addresses this, too, and his journal reveals glimpses of his humanity and struggles. In both of my hesitations, it was my pride that made me squirm. Faith like Muller's is convicting indeed.
Before you think his life was a cakewalk with money falling from the sky each time he bowed his head in prayer, think again. He faced trial upon trial, but his faith was strenthened afresh with each new trial. He would ascribe glory to God and you would again read of his deep longing for other Christians to walk in the joy of dependence and faith. He talks very practically about care for children, stewardship, Christians in the workplace, giving, missions, Bible distribution, morning meditation, prayer, etc. MUCH is to be gleaned from the reading of this book. Muller also uses many lists, making this an easy read. He prayed with focus and praised the Lord for answers and when answers were supsended. He knew the Bible well and cherished his time with the Lord and with His people.
If we seek, like the people of the world, to increase our possessions, those who are not believers may question whether we believe what we say about our inheritance and our heavenly calling. (141)
Much of what Muller wrote sounded very pastoral, because he wrote with the purpose of people reading his accounts for the strengthening of their faith. In that sense, it was a journal written somewhat like a devotional.
With every fresh trial... a habit of self-dependence is either defeated or encouraged. If we trust in God, we do not trust in ourselves, our fellowmen, circumstances, or in anything else. If we do trust in one or more of these, we do not trust in God.
Are the things of God, the honor of His name, the welfare of His Church, the conversion of sinners, and the profit of your own soul, your chief aim? Or does your business, your family, or your own temporal concerns primarily occupy your attention? Remember that the world will pass away, but the things of God will endure forever. (191)
Finally, I was extremely encouraged by his accounts of spiritual fruit God bestowed upon his ministry. Like the widow persistent in prayer, he faithfully prayed for those children's souls. God heard and answered.
On May 26, 1857, Caroline Bailey, one of the orphans, died. The death of this beloved girl, who had known the Lord for several months, was used by the Lord to answer our daily prayers for the conversion of the orphans. All at once, more than fifty of the girls began to ask questions about heaven, hell, and eternity.
The story opens with a picture of a dark city (Hell/Purgatory) where people wait in line to board a bus to take them to a world full of light (Heaven). Once they arrive, each of the people finds themselves to be less than a person. They are ghostly figures who cannot even bend the grass of Heaven when they walk. While there, each is approached by a heavenly being (Deceased Christian) who seeks to take them on a journey to the heavenly mountain. Along the journey the ghostly person will be transformed and be able to remain in Heaven. The man wanders around the heavenly place and overhears a number of conversations between the ghostly figures and the heavenly beings. Almost every conversation ends the same way: The ghostly figure, in plain sight of heaven, chooses to return to Hell.
I would highly recommend The Great Divorce to anyone, though with two cautions. First, one should carefully read the preface before starting. There, Lewis makes it clear that the book is not fact, nor is it theology, it is fantasy and should be read as such. Second, don't miss the moral. Sadly, while reading the book, I think that I did exactly the opposite of what Lewis intended for his readers and missed the moral completely. In the ghostly people who were choosing Hell over heaven, I kept seeing people I knew, instead of seeing myself.
Here are a couple of quotes:
If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he has abandoned (even the plucking out of his right eye) has not been lost. . . (Preface, IX)
'[Hell] is closer to such as you than ye think. There have been men before who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself. . . as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ. Man! Ye see it in smaller matters. Did you even know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? Or an organiser of charities that had lost all love for the poor? It is the subtlest of all the snares.' (p. 73-74)