Devoted to God: Introduction

Devoted to God: Introduction

One of the required reading assignments for our Men’s Leadership Class is Sinclair Ferguson’s book on sanctification called, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, published by Banner of Truth. I chose this book because of its stated goal: “to provide a manual of biblical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of foundational passages in the  New Testament.”

The key to growing in sanctification is growing in the knowledge of God, by means of His Word and Spirit. Ferguson takes key passages of Scripture that describe sanctification in order to better understand what a life that is making progress in grace actually looks like. The focus is not so much on the passages that command sanctification in the life of the believer, but on the passages that describe it. Ferguson is interested not so much in what we do in sanctification, but in what God does in us. In that sense, it is “not so much a ‘how to’ book as it is a ‘how God does it’ one. The goal is not to give us techniques and methods of sanctification, but to set before us the God who sanctifies us through His Son and by His Spirit.

Along the way, we will be instructed in how to pursue sanctification. But what we will find, ultimately, is that sanctification comes not by taking steps toward sanctification (as in a “12-Step-Program”), but rather, in growing more and more in communion with Christ. The passages Ferguson examines in the book have been carefully selected with the conviction “that transformed lives require renewed minds–a clear understanding of what the gospel is and how it works leads in turn to the development of new affections and a new lifestyle.”

The reader of this book is encouraged not just to read, but to read deeply, reflectively, meditatively. Ideally, this would include hiding God’s Word in your heart by memorizing the passages studied (Ps. 119:11). The passages examined in the book are intended to be like stepping stones in the way of sanctification, enabling you to “retrace the biblical foundations of holiness” for yourself. In that way, your response to Christ will be anchored in Christ and in the Word of God, not in your own feelings or private subjective opinions.

As Ferguson notes:

A visitor to the contemporary church materializing from an earlier century would probably be struck by how enormously privileged we are. Many of us receive education until we are in our early twenties, while most of them left school by the time they were young teenagers. We each own a Bible (some with helpful study notes built in); if they owned a Bible it was in small print Elizabethan English. We carry entire theological libraries on our [phones], have access to vast resources via the worldwide web; they perhaps owned one or two Christian books. And yet, if the truth be told, what might surprise them most is that their familiarity with God’s Word, their knowledge of the key passages in the New Testament, the degree to which they had thought long and hard about what Scripture means and how it applies, would leave us feeling ashamed. They would be surprised how hard we find meditation on the Word of God, how little we actually know of it and how poorly we have nourished ourselves from it. They might marvel at the extent to which evangelical Christianity has been infected by our age of narcissism and how subjective many Christians have become. They might notice that many modern Christians are often too interested in the development of the self but little interested in the development of their understanding of the Triune God–that we are, to use Luther’s expressive Latin phrasing, incurvatus in se, turned in upon ourselves

…If only we would learn as Christians to think more biblically, surely our lives, our churches, our work and our witness would be moved on to a new plane; and a new quality of Christian life and fellowship would become evident. We are keenly aware, surely, that while we share Paul’s conviction that the gospel is God’s saving power (Rom. 1:16-17), as individuals, families, and churches we give all too little evidence to the world that we are being ‘saved,’ that is to say, that we are in the process of being sanctified and made more like Christ.

My hope is that the Lord will use this book to encourage us in living out the life of Christ which dwells in us by grace and through faith.

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