What We Can Learn from the Puritan Discipline of Rehearsing the Gospel
Knowing the dishonesty and deceitfulness of fallen human hearts, the Puritans cultivated humility and self-suspicion as abiding attitudes, and examined themselves regularly for lurking spiritual blind spots. They found the discipline of self-examination by Scripture (not the same thing as introspection), followed by the discipline of confessing and forsaking sin and renewing one’s gratitude to Christ for his pardoning mercy, to be a source of great inner peace and joy. We today, who know to our cost that we have unclear minds, uncontrolled affections, and unstable wills when it comes to serving God, and who again and again find ourselves being imposed on by irrational, emotional romanticism disguised as super-spirituality, could profit much from the Puritans’ example at this point.
Rehearsing the Gospel
We have unfortunately too often come to view the gospel as something that has fully served out its purpose the moment it is believed for salvation. Not knowing what to do with the gospel once saved, we lay it aside soon after conversion so as to move on to “bigger and better” things (even Scriptural things). This is of course not a conscious act, but in retrospect is often the reality for many believers.
God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, he offers it so us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The only way to allow the truth of this gift to penetrate our lives, though, is by being absorbed in the gospel—speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to recon it true in all we do.
Colossians 1:23 instructs us to be continuously established and steadfast in the gospel, refusing to be moved from there. To adequately do that requires daily renewed focus and exploration of the gospel and it’s implications on my life. When I am absorbed in the gospel, everything else I am supposed to be toward God and others seems to flow out of me more naturally and passionately.
The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom, 1 Cor. 1:21,23), so scandalous (according to my conscience, 1 Cor. 23), and so incredible (according to my timid heart, 1 Jn. 3:19,20), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil that to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.
The realities of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit continue, whether we are aware of it or not. However, by preaching the gospel to myself daily I create space in my heart, mind and life for the Spirit to minister to me in a concentrated fashion.
All Christians should become expert in their knowledge and use of the gospel, not simply so they can share it faithfully with non-Christians, but also so they can speak it to themselves every day and experience its benefits. In fact, if Christians would do more preaching of the gospel to themselves, non-Christians might have less trouble comprehending its message, for they would see its truth and power exuding from believers in indisputable ways.