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Book Review: Devoted to God, by Sinclair Ferguson

Note: This new book is in the library, and has been highly recommended.  

Here is a sampling of the quotes below: 

“In order to experience final salvation, sanctification is as necessary as justification. Why is this? Simply because there is no justification without sanctification” 

“We are not justified on the basis of our sanctification; yet justification never takes place without sanctification beginning.” 

“The law-maker (Jesus as a member of the God-head)  became the law-keeper (in his obedient life), but then took our place and condemnation as though he were the law-breaker (on the cross).” 

Ron Maness 

From TGC THE GOSPEL COALITION 

Christian Living, Bible & Theology

20 Quotes from Sinclair Ferguson’s New Book on Sanctification

Justin Dillehay / February 11, 2017

The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (Banner of Truth, 2016). Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.

“What then is God’s holiness? What do we mean when we say ‘Holy Father’ and ‘Holy Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘Holy Trinity’? We mean the perfectly pure devotion of each of these three persons to the other two. We mean the attribute in the Trinity that corresponds to the ancient words that describe marriage: ‘forsaking all other, and cleaving only unto thee’—absolute, permanent, exclusive, pure, irreversible, and fully expressed devotion.” (2)

“Ministers of the gospel often have the privilege of occupying ‘the best seat in the house.’ You see the whole congregation when you preach. . . . You stand looking out on the people you love when the church gathers round the Lord’s table. You also get a better view of a couple taking their marriage vows than any of the groomsmen or bridesmaids or even the parents do. You stand only a few feet away. You orchestrate the event close up and personal. And then the moment comes (even in traditions where it never used to!) when you say: ‘You may now kiss your bride.’ People always love that moment. Personally, at this point in the service, I usually experience a deep instinct to look down, to unfocus my gaze. This is a moment for two people who love each other. It is not the time for an outsider to their unique relationship to be watching. Yes, perhaps at a distance. But not from up close and personal; you do not belong there. Perhaps the seraphim that surrounded the throne in Isaiah’s vision of God in his majestic holiness felt the same way. To gaze on the sheer intensity of this flow of triune holy love would be to endanger themselves. They must distance themselves, cover their faces, and be separate.” (3)

 

“The New Testament also stresses that justification and sanctification are both ours through faith in Jesus Christ. It is therefore not possible to be justified without being sanctified and then growing in holiness. This is why Hebrews says sanctification is essential, since without it none of us will ever see the Lord. In order to experience final salvation, sanctification is as necessary as justification. Why is this? Simply because there is no justification without sanctification. Both are given in Christ—our new status is always accompanied by our new condition. Justification never takes place apart from regeneration which is the inauguration of sanctification. Put differently, if Christ is not Lord of our lives, sanctifying us, how can he have become our Savior? Indeed unless we are actually being saved Christ has not become our Saviour. If he is our Saviour, the evidence of that will be—being saved; saved from the old life style into a new life style. Here then is one of the most important basic principles of the gospel. We are not justified on the basis of our sanctification; yet justification never takes place without sanctification beginning.” (9–10)

“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.” (12)

“You may know somebody who becomes impatient and irritated but then apologizes: ‘I am sorry. I am usually a very patient person.’ But the truth is he or she is really an impatient person whose patience has never been fully tested! For patience develops only in contexts that can stimulate impatience and irritation.” (27)

“Most of us begin the Christian life knowing that we need to trust in Jesus so that our sins will be forgiven. That is true. But there is much more. In fact ‘every spiritual blessing’ becomes ours in Christ. When we ‘get’ Christ by faith, we ‘get’ everything that is in him to pardon, liberate, and transform our lives.” (62)

“It would not be claiming too much to say that the church is still trying fully to understand some of the details of his teaching in Romans 6.” (74)

“John Owen once wrote that in a sense there are only two basic issues with which a minister of the gospel has to deal. The first presents an evangelistic challenge: persuading those who are under the dominion of sin that this is the truth about them. The other? It is the pastoral challenge: persuading those who are no longer under sin’s dominion that this is who they really are.” (91)

“Here we are strangers, exiles for the moment. We have no continuing city in the present world order. So long as this is true we will find ourselves under threat from the old order. And like recovering addicts we will need to make daily decisions and commitments to live out the new life. This involves conflict and requires resolute resistance. For the world of the flesh continues to breathe out its own polluted atmosphere into lives that once gladly breathed it in.” (98)

“One would almost need to be blind, or at least ignore the media, not to realize that sex, in one form or another (frequently illicit), has become the idol of our day, the goddess who must be honored. Not to do so has become a form of blasphemy against cultural norms. Nebuchadnezzar-like we have lost our minds. And the problem with losing our minds is that we never know it, because they are the instruments by which we accept our folly and treat it as wisdom.” (117–118)

“The key test of any formula for sanctification is: Does this enable me to overcome the influence of sin, not simply in my outward actions but in my inner motivations? And, in particular: Does it increase my trust in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ?” (119)

“So here is a critical issue in our progress: Do we really want to overcome sin? For there seems to be a principle in sanctification: in some measure we get what we desire. Or, to put it more bluntly, we get what we are prepared to pay for. For the language that both Paul and Jesus use about dealing with sin is tinged with personal cost, indeed with violence and pain.” (146)

“The human heart retains a distorted copy, a smudged image of God’s original will. All of us retain some sense that we were created in God’s likeness, made to live for his glory, and hard-wired for obedience to him as it were—although now major distortions and malfunctions have affected our instincts. Were that hard-wiring totally destroyed we would cease to be distinctly human. But, in fact, relics of it remain in us, fragments of our lost destiny. Like a ruined castle it is still possible to discern the glory for which we were created.” (170)

“The Law, or torah of God in the Old Testament was of course much broader than the Ten Commandments. It included civil laws to govern the people in the land; it also contained ceremonial laws, especially focused on the importance of holiness and the rituals of the sacrificial system, which would later be fulfilled in Christ. From one perspective, those living in Old Testament times saw these three dimensions—moral, civil, and ceremonial—as a seamless robe. Yet, at the same time, they would have been able to grasp the inbuilt distinctions in the way the law functioned.” (170)

“Jesus fulfilled the moral dimensions of the law by living in perfect obedience to it, by revealing its depths, but also by paying the penalty for our breach of it. He was born under the law to redeem us from its curse—which he received so that we might receive the blessing. The law-maker became the law-keeper, but then took our place and condemnation as though he were the law-breaker.” (178)

“The ceremonial system, like the original tabernacle, was a collapsible structure. When the temple curtain was torn in two from the top to the bottom God was de-consecrating the temple and its liturgy. They were no longer needed—full and final propitiation had been made for sin. Jesus Christ has folded up the entire collapsible temporary arrangement and carried it away.” (179–180)

“The Christian is not under the law. Yet the Christian is not an outlaw with respect to the law—a lawbreaker. Rather the Christian becomes an ‘in-law’ of the law. How does someone become your ‘in-law’? Not by your marriage to that person directly, but by your marriage to their relation. In the same way the Christian’s relationship to the law is not direct—we are no longer married to the law but to Christ. But he is the one who both loved the law and embodied it. Marry him and we become connected to all that is his—including the law given by his Father! Thus the new covenant believer’s relationship to the law comes through marriage to Christ. . . . We love the law because we love our husband! Yes, there are times when our in-law may not be best pleased with our husband’s bride, but since the law is an in-law and not itself our husband it has no authority to condemn us; so long as we are loved by our husband it cannot break up our marriage.” (185–186)

“[The Law] does not come to Christian believers in naked condemning power. But in the hands of him who has died under its condemnation, was raised for our justification, and has given us his Holy Spirit, it provides wisdom and direction for our lives. Our husband loves us; he wants us to love him. But he also wants us to love our in-law—and he gives us the Spirit who inspired his own love for the law to empower us to keep it.” (186)

“The Christian lives from the future into the past. He or she sees time in the light of eternity and therefore views affliction through lenses tinted with glory. Nor is the relationship between the two merely chronological—suffering now, glory then; it is causal: ‘This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.’ It is as though struggles, suffering, trials, are, in the Spirit’s hands, the raw materials out of which he creates glory in us.” (219)

“The whole of the Christian life is born out of this womb of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection, sufferings and glory. This is the DNA of the child of God who is being transformed into the likeness of the Elder Brother. I am weak in Christ. I share in his sufferings. I share in his persecution. I share in his trials. But I am also strong in Christ and I overcome sin and I am faithful in trials and I grow in grace through suffering.” (230)