We Will Never Outgrow the Gospel
(excerpt from message by John Piper)
You never outgrow your need for the gospel. You never graduate to a course where the gospel should not be the center of the curriculum. There’s no post-gospel graduate school in the Christian life. The center of every ongoing growth in knowledge has Christ crucified, risen, received by faith alone like a little child at the center of the curriculum.
So, I think that’s what’s implanted, rooted there, saving us. And we are to receive that every day. When you get up in the morning, you preach the gospel to yourself. “My sins are forgiven today. They’re forgiven, not because I’m somebody, but because Jesus was somebody. He died for me. He rose again. He reigns for me. He’s interceding for me. He pleads his blood for me. He’s sovereign over me. He sent the Spirit to me by faith alone.” You preach the gospel to yourself every morning. You receive it over and over again.
However, Paul says pretty plainly that this Book is inspired and profitable.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)
That’s the whole Bible with the gospel at the center. So, when it says, “receive with meekness the implanted word” (James 1:21), I think it means: read your Bible with the gospel at the center every day.
I think receiving includes reading, meditating, memorizing. Here’s what a Psalm 1:2–3 says about the way we receive:
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water . . .
So, when the wind blows and it’s dry, and all the other trees are drying up and complaining and bellyaching, saying, “Where’s God?” his roots are down in the stream, which is the word that runs through every desert of your life, if you’re willing to open it.
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:3–4)
So, receiving the word would be going to it; slowly reading it with prayerful, meek, attentive receptivity; and meditating on it — mulling over it, asking questions humbly that the Lord would illumine you to answer. And then, so that you can take it with you and feed your soul, memorizing a portion of it.
Let me close with a couple of stories. This first one came in an email this week and demonstrates the power of the word today and then I’ll read you an old one.
My friend . . . made a profession of faith! He and I got together several weeks ago . . . I told him that he needs to be reading the Bible and seeking God. I invited him to join us . . . . He couldn’t come. But a couple of weeks later he called me and asked if we would be meeting that night. We weren’t (unfortunately). But then he said, “I believe that Jesus is God. I know it 100%.” I asked him more about this and he told me that since I last saw him he had been reading his Bible every day. I was with him yesterday and was able to encourage him to continue to read his Bible.
Is there a theme in that email? Somebody moved from hell to heaven, from death to life, and the instrument was the Bible. That is — not to overstate it — infinitely important.
In 1495, Thomas Bilney was born. You may know him as Little Bilney — an English evangelical reformer about the time of Luther, but in Britain. What was the source of this little man’s power? By the way, there are a lot of little men, by the way, in the Christian church. I mean a lot of short powerhouses. John Wesley was 5’2” and could be heard by 10,000 without a microphone and rode 200,000 miles on his horse. Don’t judge a book by looking at the cover. So here’s what Little Bilney said:
I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (oh most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Timothy 1: “It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief and principal.” This one sentence, through God’s instruction and inward working, which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that . . . immediately I . . . felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, in so much that “my bruised bones leaped for joy.” After this, the Scriptures began to be more pleasant to me than the honey or the honeycomb.
So, that’s my prayer for us: that this year, the word of God — with the gospel of Christ crucified and risen at its center — would be sweeter to you than honey, more valuable to you than gold, the highest worldly standard of value — higher. That’s my prayer. And the effect of it would be that we go to it and receive it. It’s there. It’s in us and doing it’s saving work. But if it’s there, it’s alive, and it has control of our diaphragms, and it will make us breathe.
So, I’m inviting you to breathe every day. Don’t hold your breath from Sunday to Sunday.