When I was in college I was pretty awesome at gaming the system.
I had test taking down to a science. A few days before a test I would begin cramming all the necessary information into my head by rereading my notes and highlighting portions of the text book. My short term memory is pretty decent, so I was able to hoard a massive amount of information into my head for a very short period of time, then purge it all when the test was over, like some sort of educational bulimia.
This strategy worked like a charm. I was able to put most of my tests into a headlock and force them into submission. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember much from any of those classes. I have a few vague memories of countries in Northern Africa, paleolithic stones, and the Spanish Inquisition, but that’s about it.
Now, this is the part of the blog post where I make a connection between my wonderful introduction and something faith related. After all, that’s what we bloggers do: tell stories and then tie them into faith. We bloggers can find lessons in just about everything (7 Things I Learned From A Trip To The Dentist).
So here goes: I think all of us need to adopt my style of learning when it comes to the gospel. We need to cram our heads full of the gospel until it leaks from our ears. We need to gulp down the gospel constantly, like a runner sucking down water during a race.
But we can’t just do it every once in a while. We need to do it every single day. We need to pound the gospel into our heads repeatedly. Why?
Because we always drift toward trying to earn God’s favor.
Listen to the words of Martin Luther:
I myself have been preaching and cultivating it [the message of grace] . . . for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet [I know that] this is what I should and must do. (As quoted in Holiness by Grace by Bryan Chapell)
Martin Luther preached the message of free grace again and again. He made a name for himself by standing on the pure, undiluted gospel. Martin Luther and “gospel” go hand-in-hand with each other, like Cleveland Browns and losing.
And yet in spite of all Luther’s years of gospel preaching, he still felt the pull of trying to earn God’s favor in exchange for his holiness. Grace runs counter to everything in us. Grace is unnatural for merit-lovers like us. We feel like we can earn God’s favor, must earn God’s favor, should earn God’s favor. If we are holy enough God will give us grace. Self-righteousness is hardwired into our DNA.
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And so we must pound the gospel into our heads again and again, every single day, no days off. If we don’t do this we will inevitably drift back toward trying to earn God’s favor. We will slide back into the slavery of works righteousness.
So how can we pound the gospel into our heads? Let me give you a few practical suggestions:
- Before doing anything “spiritual”, like reading your Bible or praying or serving, thank God that he accepts you and delights in you because of Christ and nothing else.
- Throughout the day, thank God for his completely free grace that stays the same when you’re praying and when you’re watching television.
- Read The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent over and over.
If we don’t regularly pound the gospel into our heads, we’ll drift away from it. So pound away.