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Gospel Primer

During the weeks leading up to Easter we are together as a church reading through a book that encourages us in the gospel.

Below each heading is the daily reminder email that Mark Ventham is sending out. Please add your own comments and reflections in the box below.

Day 1 Monday, 25th February: The New Testament Model
The New Testament Pattern is the gospel to be preached to Christians for their encouragement and to be the ground on which they build their lives.

Today we begin reading the Gospel Primer together and I hope that you will begin to find it helpful as you start to preach the gospel to your heart!
As our reading today reminds us, as believers, we “ought to hear the gospel as much as non-Christians do”. This is the New Testament model.
So let’s pray for one another that we would be those continually captured by the Gospel and having our hearts warmed by it.

Why not encourage another believer today with the Gospel?

Day 2 Tuesday, 26th February: May Daily Need
I need the gospel every day to deal with the weakness of my heart, the temptation to doubt and the attacks of the world the flesh and the devil

Today we are reading the section entitled “My Daily Need” and I don’t know about you but as I read this little section I was struck by how my heart not only fails to grasp the full scope of the gospel but how little it actually grasps at all!! So let me encourage you to pray not only for your own timid, foolish heart to grasp more of the glory of Christ as revealed in the gospel but also pray that for one another so as Paul writes in Eph 4:13 we all might be built up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.

Day 3 Wednesday, 27th February: The Power of God

Today in our reading we were reminder that the gospel is the power of God. In fact nothing else in all of scripture is ever described in this way, except for the person of Jesus Christ!! I began to wonder, as we were challenged to, what would this look like if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day. How would my day be different? How would it shape the way I engage with people, love people, serve people? How would it change the way I relate to my children, my colleagues, my neighbours?

How would your day be different? How has your day been different?

Day 4 Thursday, 28th February: My Daily Protection

I don’t often think of the spiritual battle that we are engaged in every day, and because of that, I don’t then think of the gospel being my daily protection as our reading today encourages us to. And yet, if I stopped just for a moment and thought about the realities of that battle, how quick I would be to pray on the gospel armour, to preach the gospel to myself and to make it the obsession of my heart throughout each day.

Why not spend some time today reading Ephesians 6 and pondering that battle but at the same time praising God for the protection he provides in the Gospel?

Day 5 Friday, 1st March: Transformed by Glory!
The gospel is where the glory of God outside of heaven is most clearly seen and experienced

How are you doing with the reading? It has been nearly been a week. Are you beginning to see how preaching the gospel to your heart everyday changes who you are and the way you think? We will be thinking more about this on Sunday as we think upon the sufficiency of the gospel.

But as I reflect on the week and today’s reading “transformed by Glory”, I am grateful that the Lord is changing me, transforming me from one level of glory to another. I wish it was faster, I wish at times it was not as painful to experience, but I know it is for my good and as such I am thankful that it is deep and abiding. Why not encourage someone by telling them how you are seeing God transform them, how you see the gospel is changing them?

Day 6 Saturday 2nd March: A cure for distrust
In the gospel I see the goodness of God in sending Christ to die for my sins. This helps me trust the goodness of God in all the commands he gives and all the circumstances of my life

Today’s reading really gets at the heart of an issue many of us struggle with even if we were not aware of it. The gospel changes the way I view God and thus it changes the way I view what He says and requests. Tim Keller writes, ” The gospel – the message that we are more wicked that we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love.” How is the gospel shaping your life, obedience, love for God?

With it being the weekend why not spend some time reviewing this weeks readings and praying them into your life?

Day 7 Sunday 3rd March: Sufficiency in the gospel
The gospel works for me right now in my everyday life, as Jesus lives in me, as well as giving me objective forgiveness and certain hope.

Day 8 Monday 4th March: Freedom from Sin’s Power
The gospel works not only giving me forgiveness of sins and certain hope of eternal life, but is for me right now in my everyday life, as Jesus lives in me.

The start of a new week and day 8 of the gospel primer!! If you are like me and have a sensitive conscience then being stricken with the guilt of my sins can at times be a debilitating thing. “The gospel, however, slays sins at this root point and thereby nullifies sin’s power over me… as it liberates me first from its guilt.” I need to keep preaching such forgiveness to my heart and keep being thankful to my Saviour, for only in Him am I saved. Why not spend some time praising God for such a Saviour?

Day 9 Tuesday 5th March: Resting in Christ’s righteousness

Today’s reading ties in with what we have been seeing in our times together on Sunday. When we see our identity is in Christ and not in our circumstances, achievements, performance we are utterly secure and utterly stable. “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.” In other words, I am secure and stable, because I am not crushed when I mess up and I am kept from pride (and false elation) on the days when I do well!! So let us keep resting in Christ and His righteousness for the Gospel shapes my Identity!

Day 10 Wednesday 6th March: Enslaved by Christ’s Righteousness

Today’s reading in many ways is the very heart of our faith. We are made righteous (right with God) through faith in Christ. Christ imputes his righteousness to me (clothes me in His righteousness) so I now stand before God as one who is righteous. This righteousness then governs my life (Romans 6:18). I am called to daily surrender the members of my being (members is the literal word in Greek, translated in the NIV as parts of my body) as slaves to do whatever this righteousness (of God) dictates. I am to live as one who is righteous. I am to live as Christ would.

Day 11 Thursday 7th March: Loving my brothers and sisters

Growing more like Christ will mean that I will love my fellow brothers and sisters. The more I experience the gospel (live as one who is righteous), the more there develops within me a yearning affection for my fellow Christians who are also participating in the glories of the gospel. So by preaching the gospel to myself each day, I nurture the bond that unites me with my brothers and sister for whom Christ died. Christ is at work in them too!

How is the gospel helping you to live as one who is righteous and in turn helping you to love your brothers and sisters? What might that look like for you today and over the coming days?

Day 12 Friday 8th March: My inheritance in the Saints

Today’s reading truly challenges how we love one another. I’m not sure if I am honest that I have ever thought before reading this, that my church family is a portion of my gospel inheritance from God. And yet it makes sense!! As my inheritance therefore, the more I value the church for which Christ died, the more I value the role that I play in the lives of my fellow Christians, and the more I appreciate the role that they must be allowed to play in mine. With this perspective, Community Groups become essential for our spiritual health – don’t they? For Community Groups are a chief means by which we can invest in a meaningful way in one another’s lives and so demonstrate our love for one another. How are you valuing your Community Group?

Day 13 Saturday 9th March: Loving my brothers and sisters

Ouch! How often I withhold grace and love to others, especially to those who have harmed and offended me. And yet if I were to spend, just a nanosecond thinking of the gospel, it would immediately change my perspective. With it being the weekend, why not take a little longer than a nanosecond pondering the gospel. Take the opportunity to read section 2 of the Gospel Primer, PAge 55. It is the same gospel truth but written in narrative. Then, having read it, spend time praising God for the gospel and thinking of ways that you can demonstrate his love and grace to those around you!

Day 14 Sunday 10th March: A Heart for the Lost

“The more I rehearse and exult in gospel truths, the more there develops within me a corresponding burden for non-Christians to enter into such blessings. Such that over time, my joy in the gospel will become increasingly tinged with grief and this grief-stained joy will lend a God-inspired passion to my ministry of evangelising the lost.” What more can I say, apart from encourage you and me, to pray on for hearts like Paul’s. Hearts that are shaped by the gospel, joyful in the gospel and tinged with grief for the lost. Let’s pray for courage and boldness to proclaim that gospel.

Pride always precedes every sinful stumbling in my life. For when I sin I am saying I know better than God. Therefore, if I am to experience deliverance from sin, I must be delivered from the pride that produces it. The way that I am delivered from pride is through the gospel. I stand as it were next to the cross, realise my sin and what it cost to save me. I see the love God has for me in the sending of His Sin. Next to the cross I see myself as I truly am, but also see how deeply loved I am.

Day 15 Monday 11th March: Cultivating humility

If we are serious about becoming more like Jesus, more godly, more holy, then we will do all we can to battle our sin and in turn our pride. As such, we will want to regular seek to apply the wonder of the cross to our hearts. Sadly, in the midst of busy lives, it becomes a struggle to take the time to preach the gospel to our hearts. But if we are serious about tackling our sin, we have to become serious and adept at preaching the gospel to our hearts. We have to be creative at thinking about how we do that. A few suggestions… Keep a card in your pocket with a key verse on it – James 4:6 God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Redeem time as we travel to work, by listening to good podcasts, sermons that help us focus on the gospel. Meet up with one another in our communities to encourage and pray for one another. What are you going to do to tackle your pride issue?

Day 16 Tuesday 12th March: Obedience Borne of Love

The gospel teaches me that the best person to love me is not myself, but God, and the best person for me to love is not myself but God! Once smitten by his love my heart burns to do his will and feasts itself on doing so.

I am often ashamed at how little I love God and yet how much I love myself. I guess many of us if we are honest see this within our own hearts. We wish that we would love God more. In fact we believe that if we loved God more, then we would be more obedient, better evangelists etc. So why don’t we love God more? For many of us it is not because we don’t want to. Rather, I wonder whether we are prepared to put in the effort to nurture our relationship with Jesus? Might the truth be that we are lazy in this regard? Now we don’t like the idea that we might be lazy so we cover it by saying we are too busy, we can’t possibly find the time, if only you knew… But we all know that we all find the time to do that which we love! So in the end it becomes a vicious circle, my love does not grow because I am not nurturing my relationship, and I am not nurturing my relationship because I am too lazy and so I don’t grow love! The only way to break the cycle is to install discipline, to find the time to preach the gospel to my heart, so my love grows, so I desire more time with Jesus, and so I drive out my laziness because I will always find time to do that which I love!

Day 17 Wednesday 13th March: Liberation from Self Love

We love ourselves and the reason we do is because we fear that no-on else will quite love us right. But by spending time loving myself, I end up not being freed to love others and more importantly Christ. The gospel frees me from such thinking, because it assures me of God’s love for me, which is far greater than my love for me. It also reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead.

Imagine a day, a morning when you were not concerned with self for a minute and so freeing you to love others and Christ wholeheartedly. How would that change your relationships with your family, your friends, your neighbours? What would it say to those who do not know Christ? I imagine that if we did this, people would begin to see Christ in us, and in seeing him in us, desire him for themselves. Keep preaching the gospel to your heart, that your heart might keep growing in its love not for self but for Jesus!

Day 18 Thursday 14th March: Perspective in Trials

The gospel brings God’s perspective in my trials. God allows these trials because it serves His gospel purposes in me. He seeks to work on my character and make me more conformed to the image of Christ. As a church we know a number at the moment who are facing trials. We too, face trials of some kind most days. Let’s pray for one another that we would have gospel perspectives in these trials, and pray for one another that God might use them for his glory and for our good.
Keep going – we’re over half way!

Day 19 Friday Friday 15th March: Exposed by the Cross Part 1

One of the realities of growing in the Christian faith, is growing in our knowledge of the gospel. A part of this is that I become increasingly aware of my sinfulness and the depth of it. “A gruesome death like the one that Christ endured for me would only be required for someone who is exceedingly sinful and unable to appease a holy God.” The more I reflect on this, the more I am laid bare and exposed as a sinner! And yet the more I see myself as a sinner, the more I see how greatly loved and forgiven I am. This should lead me to love Jesus more and express it in heart-felt worship and service.

Have you been struck to the depths about your sin? How are you showing your heart-felt worship and service?

Day 20 Saturday 16th March: Exposed by the Cross Part 2
It was my sin that sent Jesus to the Cross. That humbles me and exposes me, but at the same time gives me the greatest joy and security to be open. There’s nothing hidden about me at the Cross and nothing left unpaid of my debt of sin.

The cross enables me to be open about my sin and my struggles. For if Christ has died for me, enduring the most horrific death ever for me to be saved, then people already know what a wretched sinner I am!! “Indeed the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations.” Thankfully the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life. Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles when the cross already reveals how sinful I am. The cross allows us to be open with one another. So let us seek to be open with our struggles and pray for one another. Please pray for me as I struggle with pride and self-justification every time someone seeks to correct me.

Day 21 Sunday 17th March: Chosen for Prayer
Prayer is part of the life of worship that the gospel calls me into.

This is something if I am honest that I have not thought about before, that prayer is actually one of the great purposes for which God chose to save me. It is a startling thought that He would choose me in the first place. But to choose me that I may come before him, to behold Him, worship Him or make a request of Him and that in doing so I am arriving at the pinnacle of God’s saving purposes for me – is truly striking. Knowing that wonderful truth spurs me on to pray and transforms how I view prayer from that of duty to that of privilege. When we are chosen for a special task we feel special, elated and as such we want to do it wholeheartedly. We are chosen to come before the God of the universe, to be able to meet with him, speak with Him. He went to great lengths to enable me to do that – He sent His Son to die for me! How can we ignore His requests to draw near to Him as those who are saved? The more I reflect on the gospel the more I will desire to draw near, the more I will see prayer as a privilege and not a duty.

Day 22 Monday 18th March: Saved for Good Works
We are saved says Paul for good works. But as The Primer helpfully says, ” I am naturally lazy and so the prospect of work does not naturally thrill me; but the more I embrace the saving work of God on my behalf, the more I find myself embracing the works for which God saved me! And these works are good for my soul, they bring refreshment, enjoyment, fellowship, blessing and strengthening to the doer of the deeds, even more so than to the receiver. Preaching the gospel to myself enables me to see the premium that God places on the works that He has prepared for me. How valuable all of these works must be if Christ would die so that I might now perform them! And how precious are those for whom these works are done if Christ would die that they might be served! We are saved for good works. Are you delighting in good works, or have you come up with an excuse that means you are missing out on spiritual blessings?

Day 23 Tuesday 19th March: A heart for the Poor
I help the poor because compared to God I am poor. I help the poor even though they don’t deserve or appreciate it always because I am often like that to God.

Having a heart that is totally shaped by the gospel begins to affect how I view all things. So for example, “when I see those who are materially poor, I instantly have a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ.” As I preach the gospel to myself each day I am reminded again and again of my spiritual poverty. But I am also reminded of Christ’s staggering generosity towards me. If Christ has been so generous to me spiritually (and also more often than not, materially) how can I be anything but generous to those who are materially poor and spiritually poor. And when I seek to be generous to others I am not only re-enacting the gospel to them but more importantly also to my own heart. When was the last time you re-enacted the gospel in this way?

Day 24 Wednesday 20th March: All things Crucified part 1
The gospel is not simply the story of Christ and Him Crucified, it is also the story of my crucifixion. The cross is also the place where I crucify my flesh and all its sinful desires. The cross is the place where I battle and put to death my sinful nature. Crucifying my sinful nature is not pleasant, in fact it hurts. Yet Jesus says, His disciples are to take up their cross daily and follow Me. So what areas of your sinful nature need crucifying? How are you doing with that? Are you making progress or have you become content with your sinful nature? Such that your sinful nature has become like an old pair of slippers – comfortable, meaning you can’t bring yourself to throw them out. Sometimes my sin, areas of my sinful nature become like that. I am so comfortable with that sin, I dare throw it out because what will I be without it. Yet Jesus commands we die to self, we die to our old natures? Who are you obeying your sinful nature or Christ? We will be thinking a lot more about this on Sunday!

Day 25 Thursday 21st March: All things Crucified part 2
In God’s economy, death is the way to life. Dying to self goes against all our natural instincts. But the gospel shows me that I must die to self to gain life. “For the death that Christ died is the death to which I am also called, and the death to which I am called is my entry point to union with Christ and life at its fullest.” Are you prepared to trust the gospel promises? That death brings life. Let’s pray for one another that we might have the confidence to die to self and so gain life. Real life, true life, life to the full.

Day 26 Friday 22nd March: Hope of Heaven
The more I experience the riches of Christ in the gospel the more I desire to be with Christ in heaven. The keeps me holy in times of temptation and happy in times of trial.

The more I rehearse the gospel to my heart. The more my heart yearns to be with Christ, to be in heaven. Such a gospel-generated heavenward focus yields enormous benefits to me while on earth. The mere hope of seeing Christ in glory causes me to want to be more Christ-like, to be Holy like He is holy. In other words it has a purifying influence on me. Also knowing of the future love that God will show me and I will experience, enables me to love my fellow-saints with a heaven-inspired love even now. The hope of eternity with Christ also enables my heart to thrive during the most difficult and lengthy of trials here on earth. For as I view my trials in light of eternity, my trials seem fleeting by comparison. But the problem though I have and many of us have, is that we love the now so much, that there is little room to be excited by what is to come. However, the way I overcome that is by speaking the gospel to my heart regularly, in order that the eyes of my heart are fixed on my eternal hope with Christ and not the immediate around me.

Day 27 Saturday 23rd March: Mortifying the Flesh with Fullness
As I feast on Christ and his blessings my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust lose their appeal

In many ways this connects directly with what we were speaking about on Sunday Morning. Death to self. For at the heart of dying to self is the mortification of the flesh. To mortify is to put to death. And the gospel calls me to put to death my sinful flesh, nature. The problem though is my flesh desires fullness and fleshy lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. The sinful nature seeks to promise me fulfilment if only I do that which it wants. However, the way in which I put that to death, is by speaking the gospel to my heart. For what my heart needs to see is that the only way I will be fulfilled, will be made full, is by the hope held out in the gospel. So how you doing this week with putting to death your sinful nature. One way you can help yourself is by getting a bigger view of the gospel and seeing the fulfilment that it offers!

Day 28 Sunday 24th March: Thankfulness Enriched by Belief
The more absorbed I am in the gospel the more grateful I become, whatever my circumstances.

When I see what I should deserve, a cup of wrath. Then see what I receive, a cup full of every spiritual blessing. I can’t help but be moved to thankfulness. In truth if I was to receive only one drop of blessing my heart should be eternally thankful in light of what I deserve. How thankful are you? Is your heart disposed to give thanks in all things? “Such a gospel-generated gratitude glorifies God, contributes to peace of mind and keeps my foot from the path of foolishness and ruin.

Day 29 Monday 25th March: The Ultimate Prize
God is the beginning end and middle of our journey. Salvation comes from God and leads me to God and it is in him right now I find joy and rest

We often can slip into the mindset that says the ultimate prize is that of eternal life, of having my sins forgiven. These things are good things, great things but they are not the ultimate prize. Rather the essence of eternal life is intimately knowing God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Everything else that God gives to me in the gospel serves merely to bring me to Himself so that this great end might be achieved. Knowing God Himself. As we meditate on the gospel each day, “I find my thoughts inevitably traveling from the gifts I’ve received to the Giver of those gifts; and the more my thoughts are directed to Him, the more I experience the essence of eternal life. It is in Him my heart should find its truest joy and rest.” What is it that you are focusing on the gift or the giver? What brings you the greatest joy, eternal life or knowing God?

Day 30, Tuesday 26th March: My Manifesto
I am bold against the fear of God and the fear of man, bold to pray and bold to ask for forgiveness.

The gospel gives me boldness, for it banishes from me my greatest fear. The fear of God’s wrath. Living in the daily relief of this fear frees me up to continue being perfected in confidence by the love of God, and it also serves to put all other fears, especially the fear of man, into perspective. It therefore releases me to speak the gospel to others, even amid the opposition. It enables me to pray large bold prayers. It enables me to believe what God says enjoy what He offers and do what He commands. What a great manifesto to live by, the manifesto of the gospel. If we were to follow this, it would be a great way to not waste one’s life!

Day 31, Wednesday 27th March: To Him be the Glory
The truth is as I rehearse the Gospel to myself, to my heart it gives me an enormous passion for God’s glory. Understanding that I am not the ultimate end of the gospel, but rather that God’s glory is, actually enables me to embrace my salvation more boldly than I would otherwise dare to do. Indeed the more I embrace and experience the gospel, the more I delight in the worship of God, the more expressive my joy in Him becomes, and the more I yearn to glorify HIm in all I say and do. So why not commit to preaching, rehearsing, speaking the gospel to your heart every day. In fact why not spend some time thinking about ways to do that. Maybe re-read this book again. Or use the other sections of the book, the prose or poetic versions. Or read through a gospel, or Romans and revel in what Christ has done for you. BUT let us commit to being those who seek to stand firm in the gospel and to being shaped by it.

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