Here’s a quote from Jerry Bridges in Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints. Bridges’ chapter in this book is titled Four Essentials for Finishing Well. As he lists them, the second essential for finishing well is a daily appropriation of the gospel. When he was a new believer, he says, he thought of the gospel as a message for the unbeliever and did not see his own need for the gospel except as a message to share with unbelievers.
But believers, too, need the gospel, because we still have a natural tendency to try to build our relationship with God by our performance.
…[I]f you do not daily appropriate the gospel, you will drift toward a performance relationship with God. And when you do that, you lead yourself in one of two directions. If you have a very superficial view of sin in your life—that is, if you think of sin in terms of the big gross sins that society outside of us commits—then you will tend toward religious pride because you’re not doing those things. But if you are conscientious and if you’re seeing some of these “respectable” sins, such as gossip and pride, jealousy and envy and a critical spirit and these kind of things, if you’re seeing those in your life and you do not live by the gospel, that can lead you to despair. And so oftentimes people in this second category just kind of slack off because they can’t handle the tension. They can’t handle the difference between what they know they should be and what they honestly see themselves to be. And what resolves that tension is the gospel, which reminds us that our sins are forgiven and that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. At the same time, that which keeps us from spiritual pride is the gospel, because again the gospel is only for sinners. But we are all sinners, still practicing sinners, even though we’ve been delivered from the guilt and the dominions of sin. …[W]e still sin in thought, word, deed, and most of all in motive because we often do the right thing for a wrong reason or for a mixed reason….And so we come to the Lord and we say, “Lord, I come still a practicing sinner, but I look to Jesus Christ and his shed blood and his perfect obedience, his righteous life that has been credited to me. And I see myself standing before you clothed in his righteousness.”
That will get you out of bed in the morning. That will get you excited about the Christian life, when you see yourself daily clothed in his righteousness. And that will keep you from loving the world. You can’t love the gospel and love the world at the same time. So a daily appropriation of the gospel will keep you from getting off course.
…It is our sinful nature that thinks we must somehow earn God’s favor by our own hard work or our own faithfulness. Now we want to be faithful, we want to work hard, but not in order to earn God’s approval, but because we have God’s approval. And so a daily appropriation of the gospel is essential to enduring to the end.