A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin Montoya
About the Author
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and he has written more than two dozen books, including The Whole Christ, The Holy Spirit, In Christ Alone, and, with Dr. Derek Thomas, Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Saviour.
There are already so many books on the subject of devotion to God; why publish yet another? The purpose of this book is “to provide a manual of typical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of foundational passages in the New Testament.” The hope is that we take the biblical blueprints as our plan for being devoted to God with a life of holiness. But, we have a problem when it comes to holiness.
We live in a very privileged day. Christians even 100-200 years ago would be tremendously jealous of all the access that we have to biblical teaching. We have more access from our smart-phones than people had even just a couple hundred years ago within 100 miles. Yet, we find meditating on the Word of God so difficult, we know very little of God’s Word, and we are very poorly nourished by it. The problem is not with God’s Word; the problem is us. We still need to grow in holiness and make use of the means of growth God has provided. We still need to learn what it means to be devoted to God.
The Bible regularly reminds Christians of the importance of growing in holiness. In fact, we will not see the Lord without holiness (Heb 13:14). How, then, does this happen? God is the one who grows people in holiness; nevertheless, the Bible explains that we have a part to play as well. Continue reading to learn more.
In This Book, You Will Learn:
- What it means to be “devoted to God”
- Why holiness matters
- God’s role in making us holy
- Our role in becoming holy
- Key Scriptures related to devotion to God
The Larger Contribution of This Book:
This book reminds us of God’s role in our sanctification to make us devoted to God. The larger contribution of this book is that Ferguson ties his discussion to God’s primary role and focuses on drawing conclusions from key texts on sanctification. God is at work in us to make us more like Christ. This topic is a rich one and Ferguson handles it well.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Ground-Plan
Chapter 2 All of Me
Chapter 3 Prepositions of Grace
Chapter 4 A Different Kind of Death
Chapter 5 Conflict Zone
Chapter 6 The New Rhythm
Chapter 7 In for the Kill
Chapter 8 The Law Goes Deep
Chapter 9 Keep Going
Chapter 10 The Ultimate Goal
Appendix 1 The Trinity in the New Testament
Appendix 2 “We Died to Sin … He Died to Sin”
Appendix 3 The Fourth Commandment
Appendix 4 The “Blueprint” Passages
Chapter 1: The Ground-Plan
The ground-plan for this book consists of considering what it means to be “devoted to God” from looking at the blueprints of Scripture, as the introduction explained. To further consider the ground-plan for this book, though, we need to take care of some house-keeping matters.
First, defining our terms is important to having a clear ground-plan for being devoted to God. There are several key terms used throughout the book that we need to explain upfront.
- First, what does “holy” mean? Holiness refers to being set apart, or devoted to God.
- Second, what is “sanctification?” Sanctification is the process of God devoting us or separating us apart for Himself. We need to be set apart for several reasons. First, God does this to separate his people from what they were by nature in sin. Second, God sanctifies people to transform them so that their lives reflect His own being and character.
Second, we need to consider the significance of this discussion. Why should we care about sanctification? First, the OT and NT authors write about it regularly. They describe the Lord as holy and His requirement of holiness from His people. Second, sanctification is also an important aspect of Christian living because the NT emphasizes that salvation is impossible without sanctification. God saves us to transform us into the likeness of Christ.
Peter addresses sanctification in 1 Peter 1:1–7. Peters logic goes as follows. In life, we will face trials; nevertheless, we should remember who we are and what we exist for. We are not our own if we are in Christ. He has bought us with a price. We exist to bring glory to God by growing in her life that is devoted entirely to God. In Christ, we are sons of God. We have been transformed. God is the one who transforms us to be devoted to Him. Building from this text and others, we see that Peter gives us six building-blocks that explain these truths further:
- First, God the holy Trinity is devoted to our sanctification.
- Second, God the holy Father has commanded us to pursue sanctification.
- Third, Christ the holy Son has died to effect our sanctification.
- Fourth, the Holy Spirit works in us to bring forth the fruit of sanctification.
- Fifth, God sends trials into our lives in order to produce sanctification.
- Sixth, heaven is a place that is full of sanctified people because God is holy and has made them holy.
We can only be devoted to God because of Christ. And Christ can only accomplish this for us because of at least three important truths. First, Jesus was a lamb without blemish or defect who was slain for us. Second, Jesus was chosen for this before the creation of the world. Third, Jesus redeems us not with silver or gold but with his own blood.
Chapter 2: All of Me
There are several important texts to consider when discussing sanctification. One of the key biblical texts on sanctification is Romans 12:1–2. Paul writes:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul provides us with four gospel-centered principles. First, sanctification flows from the gospel. God does not expect us to depend on our own resources for our growth in holiness. Instead, He changes us with the gospel. In Scripture, the authors use indicative statements that explain what God is doing, has done, or will be doing. Scripture, then, makes imperatives, or commands, based on the indicatives. It is all too easy to get them reversed in our understanding and practice. Nevertheless, Scripture gives them to us in the reverse order. We do what Scripture calls us to because of what God is doing in us.
Second, sanctification is expressed physically. Where does Christian holiness express itself? The body. Our bodies need to be used for holiness, and for nothing else. Consider that the Bible has a lot to say about how are use our eyes, hands, ears, lips, feet, and every other part of our body. We either use them as instruments for sin or holiness. If we recall the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5—7), Jesus speaks about the various parts of our body and their relationship to holiness. Paul even poses the following question, “Don’t you understand that the body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body?” (1 Cor 6:12–20). The Corinthians struggled with the proper use of their bodies; Paul, however, reminds them that they are supposed to use their bodies for holiness, just as we are.
The third principle that Paul provides us with in Romans 12 is mind-renewal. It is very easy for our minds to be shaped by this fallen-world. “In sharp contrast Christians become non-conformist, counter-culturally shaped and transformed by the renewing of the mind.“ We are supposed to be non-conformist to this present age in light of the age to come. We do not live for here and now. “So, we need to learn this new way of thinking about both. . .[...]
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Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification