November 8, 2007

OUTSIDE SOURCE Book Review: "The Christian Life," by Sinclair Ferguson

Thanks, Chris (at Chris' Considerations blog) for sharing another gem from Banner! I actually first read this book by Sinclair Ferguson years ago; it is one that I think I have read around three times, it is THAT good and that valuable of a read. Without a doubt, a personal favorite!
Grace & peace to you today. Steve.
-------Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life, A Doctrinal Introduction, (Banner of Truth, 1989)-------------------
TITLE: "The Christian Life"
AUTHOR: Sinclair Ferguson
REVIEWER: Chris, at "Chris' Considerations" blog
"Just finished Ferguson’s, The Christian Life - another little gem. At only 218 pages long this smallish book contains a lot of big truths. The author, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, a Scotsman, is now Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia (SC, USA), and amongst other things is a Council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. On to the book and as J.I. Packer says in the preface:

‘Christian beginners will get the benefit and the Lord’s older sheep, grown tough and stringy maybe, will find themselves edified and perhaps tenderised too.’ (p. x).

In 18 chapters Ferguson Biblically expounds key doctrines of the Christian life. He takes the Reformed position and lavishly draws from theologians of the past, for instance Calvin, Owen, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Ryle and C.S. Lewis, to help explain the teaching of the Bible. This book contains old truths, practical truths, relevant truths. Firstly in chapter one, Knowing is for Living, the author explains how practical and life shaping doctrine is - an important lesson for the Church needs to keep hearing.

What follows is, broadly speaking, an outline of the doctrines of the Christian’s experience of life. Beginning with mankind in a state of rebellion towards God, His image marred and broken Ferguson moves on to God’s great plan of grace (Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:12-13), His plan and order of of salvation. God’s calling, our conviction of sin and being born again are then clearly explained. Ferguson notes that once we have been born again, or regenerated, we’ve been given new desires by God to worship Him and:

… however far short we confess ourselves to have fallen from what we ought to be, we are not what we once were. (p. 59)

The subsequent chapters discuss faith (which proceeds regeneration) - knowledge, assent and trust in Christ - and repentance, which the author explains:

… remain inseparable throughout the whole of life. Just as we continue to trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, we continue in the life of repentance. (p. 70)

The grand doctrines of justification, adoption and union with Christ are unpacked and applied. How often do we remember as Christians that:

The power by which [Christ] was raised from the dead is the power by which [God] works in us (Eph. 1:18-21). (p. 112)

Indeed, being united with Christ should motivate us to live the Christian life:

‘I am united to the Lord Jesus Christ, how can I, of all people, commit this sin?’ (c.f. Genesis 39:9-10), (p. 113)

Ferguson then teaches us about election:

For Paul election was the best word of the gospel, because it was the first word of the gospel! (p. 124) (c.f. 1 Cor 1:26-31, Eph 2:10, Col 1:27, 3:12, 2 Thess 2:13, 2 Tim 1:9)

Next, he identifies that for Christians, the dominion of sin is ended, yet the struggle against the World, the Devil and our sin remains. The book concludes with chapters on the Christian’s perseverance, dying and glorification. In a thought provoking sentence Ferguson explained:

We know that time is not, however, the measure of eternity. (p. 192)

This book, although not perfect, provides a refreshing and nourishing look at the Christian Life, from an important angle that is not often studied. We’re provided with an:

… exposition of Scripture … some solid ground on which to plant [our] own feet and to build [our] own experience. (p.136)

I’ll conclude with a verse from a hymn, this one by Charles Wesley, which are generously quoted throughout the book:

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
(p. 200)
For more information, or to purchase this book, CLICK HERE.


Tim Ashcraft said...

I read The Christian Life about 15 years ago, not long after the Lord opened my eyes to His sovereignty in salvation. Ferguson's book was a delight to my doctrine-starved soul.

Steve Burlew said...

Wow. Thanks for telling me this, Tim. I'll pass that along to Sinclair. Such things can be very encouraging for all of us to hear.
I hope you're doing well, brother, wherever in the world you happen to be writing to me from.
Grace & peace.
Steve B.

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