February Book Review

Looking to become a better reader or for a few resources that can be formative in your walk with Christ? Join Restoration Church, as each month in 2017, we read a different book. These books range from topics on spiritual formation, to theology, to history, to biographies. February's reading was The Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson. In this blog post, Zack Houghton gives us a look into and a review of Ferguson's work. If you want to participate with us in reading March's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, click here... https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Disciplines-Christian-Donald-Whitney/dp/1615216170/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488395197&sr=1-1&keywords=spiritual+disciplines+for+the+christian+life

The Christian Life: The Grand Design

When I was young, I loved when my dad would build things. At one point, I remember him building me a fortress castle for some A-Team toy I had, complete with a drawbridge (No, I don’t know why I thought the A-Team lived in a castle). There seemed to be nothing he could not sturdily fashion out of some scraps of wood—shelves, toolboxes, benches—whatever was needed or desired. Sadly, I inherited none of his skill, and soon understood that for all I had admired those things in passing, there was another level of detail, of planning, of time and investment, that had gone into even the most seemingly straightforward of designs. There was so much for the would-be worker to take in and consider!

We certainly could say there was also much to take in when it came to February’s book, Sinclair Ferguson’s The Christian Life. Ferguson very deliberately worked his way through the life of a Christian, from the old broken, sinful nature, to God’s calling of sinners, to the beautiful themes of repentance, faith, justification, sanctification, and all the way to the great future state of glorification. Here, too, we find a deeper level of care and design—but infinitely grander and more profound than anything of this earth!

Many of us grew up in churches where God’s great plan of salvation was never really studied. We knew we were supposed to “ask Jesus into our heart”, knew He did a good thing on the Cross, but honestly, much of the details (including the why and how of it all, or what really happened on the Cross) stayed fuzzy. For many, even those who have attended church for years, they still are. 

I believe what I enjoyed most about Ferguson’s book is how he continually goes back to Scripture to bring light to the “order of salvation”, sometimes called the ordo salutis. This isn’t just some hastily thrown-together plan God assembled after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden; the Christian may rest in the fact that God ordained the circumstances of their election, calling, and belief from before the foundations of the world! God is present in all this—none of it is our doing (Ephesians 2:8-10), but that every step, we may not look to ourselves, but to the infinite mercies of God the Father, who calls sinners; Christ the Son who entered into the Covenant of Grace with the Father to save His lost sheep by his own atoning sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit, who regenerates and changes hearts so that they may turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance.

When we study how God works in every step of the Christian life, the miraculous love with which our Triune God calls and saves a people who were far from him becomes even bigger and more overwhelming than we could have ever imagined. Now, when you understand, as a Christian, that you were absolutely dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), and could do nothing to save yourself, how does that change things? How do we live in the light of the gratitude that should inspire?

We pursue what we love, what intrigues us. No man or woman will ever fully understand the depths of God’s love, but when we study these things, we are studying matters into which the Bible says “angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12)! These are matters worth studying. We have been called “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). Now that is worth a full-hearted pursuit!

Towards the end of The Christian Life, Ferguson writes the following: “No man can believe he has such a glorious destiny when he will be changed into the perfect likeness of Christ, without living a life that is already changed by that prospect”.  Perhaps the biggest question I have to ask myself after reading this book is, “How do I live? What do I treat as the most important thing in existence? What do I pursue in this life? What is core to my identity, and what is, by my priorities and behavior, just an add-on?”

As Christians, let us understand what we have been called from, and what we have been called to. Let us pray, study, and learn well, that by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, we may joyously live rightly and well to the glory our Savior and our King. 

-Zachary Houghton