When I wrote a review of Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ I said it was the best theological book from the past 400 years that I had read. That was not hyperbole. I really meant it. Well his latest book is as good if not better – its one of the best and most practical books I have ever read. To some extent it is a follow on from The Whole Christ and discusses what the sub-title calls ‘Blueprints for Sanctification’.
I am currently trying to have a declutter of a lot of things in my study – and for the first time in my life I am actually getting rid of books. There are some books that are duplicates, others that have been on the ‘to read’ list for years, others that have been read and will probably never be opened again, some I would not like to get rid of, but there are only a shelf full of books that I would take to my desert island. Books that have fed my soul, moved my heart and stimulated my mind. This is one such book. It is beautiful because it speak so well of the beautiful one. And it is so practical. Sinclair states that his book contains no novel teaching. “but it sets out With a distinctive goal: to provide a manual of biblical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of foundational passages in the New Testament.” and that really is the essence of the whole book. He takes us through several key passages and shows us how we can become more Christ-like. Rather than do a review of each chapter I thought I would share with you some of the insights that I gleaned. I’m afraid that this book is now one of my ‘rainbow’ books – it is so filled with highlighters! I won’t share them all but here are a few to whet your appetite:
“Holiness is often seen as a rather metallic idea, perhaps tinged with hypocrisy or a ‘holier than thou’ atmosphere. By contrast Scripture teaches that holiness puts back into our lives the attractiveness of personal character for which humans were originally created but which has been so badly marred. Thus the Bible speaks about the beauty of holiness. Since there is an infinite beauty in God, when he makes us his personal possession, reflections of the beauty of his holiness begin to appear in us too.”
“God’s truth (given out to us in Scripture) expresses the power of Christ and the grace of Christ that transforms and renews our way of thinking and then our manner of living. This, incidentally, is why it is so important for Christians to place their lives under the preaching of God’s word. For in receiving it we are actively passive. It is expounded to us, not by us; and yet it appeals to our minds, it shapes our thinking, penetrates our consciences, and at this level engages us in an intense activity. Although set’s at a discount today by comparison with participation in either personal Bible study or more particularly group Bible study, neither of these, valuable as they may be, can substitute for the transforming power of the preached word.”
” Our forefathers used to speak about ‘living below the level of our privileges’. How true that is – and often because the sheer enormity of them has never really dawned on us. And perhaps, sadly, because we have either never known what they are, or never taken time to reflect on their significance for our lives. We have been too busy doing to take time to reflect on being. As a result we suffer from a loss of our Christian identity. We live as spiritual paupers when in fact we are indwelt by the Lord of glory. But grasp the indwelling of Christ and a new dynamic is released, and the new melodies introduced into our devotion.”
“Love provides motivation for obedience, while law provides direction for love”
” This spirit of the age has undoubtedly played into the life of the church. Now to place any emphasis on the law of God is often regarded by professing Christians as legalism. A new narrative has arisen to interpret the old evangelicalism which is now characterised – actually caricatured – as a religion of the dos and don’ts. Now we frequently hear that God loves us the way we are. Any element of divine demand is seen as a return to the bad old ways and days – in a word to legalism. But this viewpoint requires revision. For one thing this narrative of the past is jaundiced. For another, the new Testament is punctuated with exhortation telling us what not to do! Plus, the truth is that since the fall of Adam God has loved only one person the way he is. We have lost sight of the fact that it is the way we are by nature that put Christ on the cross. The biblical perspective is quite different: God loves us despite the way we are.”
“Jesus loved and obeyed Gods law”
” What do you need to do to slow down and go backwards in the Christian life? Hebrews answer is: ‘nothing’. Drifting is the easiest thing in the world. It is swimming against the tide that requires effort. And the Christian life is against the tide all the way. Spiritual weariness, being sluggish, is one of our great enemies – the author is all too familiar with its tell-tale signs.”
” Union with Christ does not protect us from suffering but commits us to suffering. Because of the closeness of our fellowship with our Lord we find ourselves sharing in weakness, suffering, persecution, trials, and shame like that experienced by Jesus himself.”
“Likeness to Christ is the ultimate goal of sanctification. It is holiness. It is therefore also the ultimate fruit of being devoted to God”
I want to encourage every Christian in my congregation to read, study and pray about this book. We are thinking of using it for our home groups.
One last note – the book is dedicated to David and Adele Ellis – David is Church of Scotland minister, a former OMF leader, and a member of St Peters – he and Adelle exemplified the title – they are servants of God, devoted to Christ. Not long after this book was published Adele went to be with the Lord. The Woman of the Book – Adele Ann Ellis
May the Lord grant that all his people would reflect and share the holiness of Christ, as demonstrated in the witnesses who have gone before!