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011 Interview with Milton Vincent {Transcript}

About This Transcript

This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality.  Milton discusses how his book, The Gospel Primer, developed from God radically transforming the way he understood resting in his justification and his continual need to preach the gospel to himself and to his flock. He also explained how his general session on, Confessing Our Way to Joy, sets forth truths from Romans 7 which are essential for believers in their struggles against sin.

Watch Clip 1 | Clip 2 | Clip 3 | Clip 4

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David Wojnicki:
Welcome to the IBCD Care and Discipleship Podcast. My name is David Wojnicki. I’m on the advisory board here at IBCD, and I’m blessed to serve as one of the pastors at Valley Center Community Church. Today, we have a wonderful guest who is using the gifts God has given them to bless us here at the Summer Institute, Milton Vincent. Milton, thank you for coming and being a part of this weekend.

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

David Wojnicki:
Very, very grateful to have you here. We’ll talk in a little bit about what the Lord has placed in your heart to share with the people this weekend, but for those that maybe don’t know you and the pastoral ministry that God has given you, give us a little background on the journey that God has had for you in bringing you to where you are today in the pastoral ministry at Cornerstone Church. Yeah, how did God draw you to himself and then specifically lead you into pastoral ministry?

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. Well, yeah, great question. I was raised in a Christian home and heard the gospel all my life, but I did struggle for most of my life under, just, maybe an incomplete understanding of the gospel. I was perpetually uncertain about whether I was saved. I would make professions of faith probably 100 times total. My life would seem to change for a couple of weeks or whatever, but then it seem like I would sin and fail God enough times to where I was beginning to feel intuitively that he was fed up with forgiving me. Eventually, just from exhaustion and discouragement, I would end up back the way I was before and pretty much sure that I’m probably not a believer. I operated that way for a number of years, and then I went to Bob Jones University for my undergraduate training and then went to the Master’s Seminary. God did wonderful things in my life while I was at both of those institutions.

Then even in the first 10 years of my ministry, God taught me many things, brought me along into some wonderful ways, but still labored under that, I think, a faulty insufficient view of my justification in Christ. Long story short, it was probably about 14 years ago that I was reading Romans 5 and it’s like the lights finally turned on. I realized that, “Wait a minute. I’m justified all day, every day, good days, bad days, waking or sleeping solely based on the performance of Jesus and not mine, and I’m always under God’s gracious favor.” I don’t know why I didn’t see that before, but seeing that in that moment as I read Romans 5, just seeing a man who was resting in his justification while I was wrestling over mine. I wouldn’t have set it in those terms, but that’s what was happening.

As I began to learn to rest in that, I found my heart just bursting with the love for God. Now that I’m not obsessing over my justification and tending to my standing before God, now that I could let that go because Christ handled that, I had tons of energy leftover for loving God, enjoying his grace and ministering his grace to other people. I don’t know when exactly I was saved. In fact, I’m still being saved every day as God is growing me and teaching me, but that was definitely a critical corner that the Lord had me turn about 14 years ago, and it’s radically changed my ministry, the way I operate inside my relationship with God. I’m just so thankful for that.

David Wojnicki:
That’s powerful, and praise the Lord for that truth, for it to touch you in that way. Would you say that it was out of that work that you’ve written a book that has, I know, blessed many lives, even members of my Church, myself, I’ve read it, The Gospel Primer and so was part of what God did 14 years ago, what lead to that? Tell us a story about how that book came about.

How did your book The Gospel Primer come about?

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. What happens was justification at that time just rocked my world, and it began to radically make a difference in my life, but I found that it was so easy for me to lose sight of the biblical truths about my justification. I wrote out about 4 or 5 truths regarding my justification on a 3 by 5 card, and I had that in my pocket. I took it with me wherever I went. When I found myself falling out of gospel mode and beginning to get back into a works mentality or a performance mentality, I would pull that card out and review those truths regarding my justification. I would do that if I wasn’t doing well, if I had failed, that reminded me of God’s grace. I also would do it on my good days when I was doing so well that I started feeling proud and thinking God must really like me because I’m doing well. Either way, good days and bad days, I had to preach to myself that it is all of grace and it’s all about what Christ did and not whether I’m having a good day or a bad day.

Well, long story short, that 3 by 5 card turned into the front side of a half sheet of paper, and then the front and backside of a half sheet of paper, and then that grew into a little spiral-bound book, and then eventually developed into the Primer, which I never intended for it to be published. It was just the contents of what I was saying to myself when I would preach the gospel to myself, and it kept expanding and growing. It’s been a blessing to see that that’s also been a blessing and a help to other people.

David Wojnicki:
I think having that as well on your shelf, something as a resource not just for your own heart and mind but to give to others, I really can’t recommend that enough because I think it breaks down that idea of justification on a level that is clear. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean that it’s not profound, and I think that work does that. It makes it very simple but it’s clear and it’s concise and so thank you for writing that and doing that. How have you seen those thoughts impact then, 1, let’s start with this, your pastoral ministry, how you pastor a flock, and then how have some of those truths shape in how you counsel? It’s kind of one and the same in some ways, but just from your overall thought on pastoral ministry, has it impacted your pastoral ministry and how you shepherd a flock? Then, well, talk a little bit about how you can take those truths into the counseling.

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. Well, it has made an impact. I don’t think anything has had a bigger impact than that, because I’m realizing if the gospel is … If I keep this in front of my face and I’m preaching this to myself and I find my heart exploding with the love for God and the desire to please him and minister his grace to other people, and if that’s the very thing I want to see in our congregation, then I need to be preaching the gospel to them all the time. I’m still trying to get it right, but I can tell you over the last 14 years that I’ve grown in my commitment to and ability to actually execute just preaching the gospel to God’s people. It’s become my conviction that the church is full of under-evangelized Christians.

When Paul said to Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist,” I don’t think he’s just saying, “Evangelize the lost,” although I think that’s obviously a part of what his ministry was and what my ministry is. I think he’s also talking about in your ministry to God’s people as you function as a pastor, do the work of an evangelizer, gospelize the people of God. I take my cues for that from the Apostle Paul where he’s writing to the Roman Christians and he’s saying, “I can’t wait to be with you guys,” and he says, “As for my part, I am eager to evangelize you who are at Rome.” That’s Christian people that he’s talking to, and he’s like, “I want to be with you and evangelize you.” He couldn’t go and be with them at that moment, so what does he do? He writes the book of Romans. What is Romans, but the fullest explication of the gospel that we find anywhere in Scripture and it was written to Christian people.

People have asked me what is the role of the gospel in counseling. My answer is what is the role of air in breathing.

That’s his mode of ministry, Ephesians 1, 2, and 3, Colossians 1 and 2, Romans 1 through 11. His ministry was “I’m going to preach the gospel and then I will show God’s people the ramifications of the gospel and how to unleash that and how to live that out.” I have found both as a pastor and as a counselor that if I can do that and make that my priority, I often have to put on my running shoes to keep up with what God is doing in the lives of people. Once the gospel reaches critical mass in the hearts and the minds of God’s people, they’re tough to keep up with in their marriage, in terms of dealing with brokenness. It’s an exciting thing to watch that happening not perfectly but happening in my own life, it’s made radical difference in mine and Donna’s marriage. We’ve had a number of ups and downs over the years, but we have, by God’s grace, been able to put the gospel at the center. As we become more focused on the gospel, it’s made a huge difference in our marriage, and it’s making a huge difference in our ministry.

People have asked me what is the role of the gospel in counseling. My answer is what is the role of air in breathing.

David Wojnicki:
Sure. Sure. That’s good.

Milton Vincent:
Our counsel is the gospel, and when someone comes to us with some need, the priority is to listen, try to understand what’s going on in the person’s life, and to try to look for where the gospel dysfunction is, what gospel truth do they not know, or what gospel truth have they forgotten and lost sight of. Then so much of counseling is just evangelizing them in that area of gospel dysfunction, and then teaching them how to think gospel and then reason from the gospel to the area of their life where there is a defect.

David Wojnicki:
I’m glad that you put that question in that way and even going all the way back to the beginning, what you said when Paul is talking and saying, “Do the work of an evangelist. Be that heralder of good news.” When do we stop needing that news? Never. Never. What are some of the struggles, if there have been some, that you’ve come up against as you try to communicate this into people’s lives? Are there some roadblocks that you find? Do you find that people just receive this very … Even the Christians, I’m talking about, that they receive this message, or are there things that sometimes are hindering that message getting through?

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. I have to think about that. I do know that it happens at our church frequently, that when someone starts coming to our church, after a few months, they’re like, “Why do you guys keep talking about the gospel? I already know what the gospel is?” Sometimes the same people, a year later, come up to me and their eyes are dancing and they’re like, “I get it. I get it. I get why you’re focused on the gospel.” I think the gospel is staggeringly good news. It’s such good news that it’s hard to believe.

The gospel is staggeringly good news. It’s such good news that it’s hard to believe.

I remember one couple that I was counseling with, they both were just ridden with guilt, beating each other, beating themselves up and each other, just very discouraged in their walk with the Lord. I remember walking them through the very truths about justification that are taught in Scripture and that we talk about in the Gospel Primer. When I got done just preaching that grace to them, I said to them, “What do you think?” The guy said, “This is too good to be true. We’re going to have to go home and pray about this.” I said, “That’s cool. That’s cool.” I said, “But before you leave, let me just ask you, imagine that what I said is true, what would you do if it were really true?”

David Wojnicki:
Yeah.

Milton Vincent:
The guy, he teared up and he said, “If what you’re saying is true, I would so love God. I’d go crazy for him.”

David Wojnicki:
Wow. Wow.

Milton Vincent:
I think that’s the rub that the Gospel of God’s grace, his forgiveness for us who are unworthy of that, to really let that in and believe it. If we did let that in and believe it, it sets our hearts ablaze, but it’s actually hard to believe, and once believing it, to then wake up the next morning still believing it, after maybe you failed in some way. It’s like Martin Luther said, he had to beat the doctrine of Justification into the heads of his congregation. That’s what I feel like I need for me in my ministry to others, because it’s tough to believe from a human standpoint. Only God gives us the power to believe it, but then someone you’re talking to may believe it today, but then tomorrow afternoon, they’re not believing it for whatever reason and you got to preach it to them again.

David Wojnicki:
Hearing that answer, that illustration of that couple, I mean, that really gets at the heart of it in so many ways of what the gospel can ignite in a heart when it’s truly understood.

Milton Vincent:
Right.

David Wojnicki:
I just love God so much, and that’s exactly where it leads us. That’s exactly where it leads us. I mentioned in the introduction, we’re really blessed to have you here. You’re giving one of the plenary sessions. I’ve been asking this to some of those who are speaking. What’s on your heart when we’re talking about the Gospel Primer, when we’re talking about what justification has done, but in the message that you’re going to be giving? This whole conference is about disordered desires. Can you give us a little insight into just really what’s your burden to share with the people that are here? We got biblical counselors. We have pastors. We have just laypeople who want to be fed and nurtured in the word, and so what are you hoping to share?

Milton Vincent:
I have appreciated the balance at the conference, because it’s not just “Here’s how to think right to avoid failure,” but even “Here’s how to …” I just came out of Jim Newheiser session about how to deal with brokenness in marriage and the other side of sexual sins. We’re dealing with both sides of the equation, how to think according to the truth, specifically the gospel to keep from falling, but then if you fall, here’s how to address. All the messages have been so great about giving hope. What I want to focus on in my session is just the specific topic of confessing sin, and that on the other side of having sinned in any area, and especially in the areas we’re talking about at this conference, there’s a discipline called confession of sin. I just want to do some thinking out loud about that discipline and drawing some lessons from the second half of Romans 7 where Paul is essentially doing that and is confessing his sins and his failures.

The biggest takeaway, I hope, would be that confession is not some necessary evil that we have to do because we blew it. It’s actually something we’re now free to do and we get to do. Repentance is a beautiful thing, and I want to talk about how the location of Romans 7 in the book of Romans, like Paul’s confessions, I don’t think many of us would’ve ever thought to put that there. We’re going to sandwich the confessions of Romans 7:15 through 25. We’re going to put that in between Romans 5 and 6 and Romans 8. If it were there, none of us would’ve noticed it’s not there or though anything is missing, but it’s right there, right nestled at the foothills of the glories of Romans 8. I think Paul is teaching us that if you want to really get Romans 8, you have to come into that chapter by way of really entering into the groanings of confession and understanding your sin.

The biggest takeaway, I hope, would be that confession is not some necessary evil that we have to do because we blew it.

I also want to point out that there’s a reason … Paul demonstrates incredible courage in the way that he speaks about his sin. In the second half of Romans 7, where does he get that courage from? If you want to know where he gets the courage from, read Romans 5 and Romans 6, and you see a guy who obviously felt so secure in the love of God and in the grace of God as a justified one under grace that that’s safety in God’s grace did not cause Paul to forget about his sin or turn a blind eye to a sin, it’s actually the very thing that gave him the courage to be such a bold confessor of his sin in the second half of Romans 7. There are other things that we’ll talk about in the session tomorrow, but that second half of Romans 7 sets a remarkable example for us, and ultimately, I just want to look at, I think, a total of 6 lessons that we can learn from those verses about confession of sin.

David Wojnicki:
I’m looking forward to that, because I think that is so necessary for us as Christians, to have a right understanding of confession and repentance, the freedom that comes or the freedom that we’re ushered into the able to do those things. It often does feel like that necessary evil when it’s far from that. I’ll close with this, because here, we’ve been talking a little bit about justification and you’re going to talk here on confession. Sometimes when we’re looking for our justification, it almost seems like confessing is … Well, I don’t want to say it’s like antithetical because we already … If I confess, I … I’m justified, but if I confess, if I already bad about myself, I’m bringing back up my sin again. We’ll probably need an hour to talk about this, but I just wondered, just for a moment if you could say just a word to that, how those 2 things aren’t antithetical. For the heart that desperately needs the message of the gospel and justification, how confession is actually, these 2 things do go together.

Milton Vincent:
Yeah. No, that’s an excellent question. Probably, the best way to answer that succinctly is that confession of sin for a believer, a justified believer of Christ is the precursor to gospel confession. It’s like when you read Romans 7 and then Romans 8, it’s not like Romans 8 just happens to be next chapter after the confessions of Romans 7, Romans 8 contains what Paul confessed gospel truths that he confessed to whenever he did confess his sins. Even in the Gospel Primer, when I preached the gospel to myself, I start by talking about the glory of God, and then I move to making confessions about my sin. I do that because that actually deepens my ability to appreciate God’s grace. I like talking about the magnitude of my sin and reminding myself of what I deserve for my sin because it just sets me up to appreciate the grace of God.

When you read the Puritans, like in the Valley of Vision, sometimes if you look at particular lines, you think, “Man, those guys are beating themselves up,” but look at how those prayers finish. They’re just setting themselves up to be dazzled by the grace of God. If I confess my sins, and I want to make this point tomorrow that I should not just confess my sins but I also need to make gospel confessions regarding my sins, that Christ has died for my sins. He has provided atonement for my sins, and there is no condemnation. Who is there who condemns? Christ is the one who has died, and as God has justified me, who shall separate me from the love of Christ? My goodness, if my confessions of sin always climaxed with gospel confessions like what we see in Romans 8, then it’s a wonderful discipline when those things come together. Does that make sense?

David Wojnicki:
Absolutely, no, thank you. Thank you for that. I think that’s a message that we need to be clear in our own hearts and minds because it’s a message that we need to give to others as well. Again, thank you for coming and being willing to share these things with us. Thank you for the work that you’ve already done with The Gospel Primer, and just hope and pray that God will continue to bless you in the ministry, the pastoral ministry that you have. Thanks Milton for taking the time to be with us today.

Milton Vincent:
Thank you David.

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