April 29, 2008

“Knowing is Living” – By Sinclair Ferguson

Posted in Bible Study, Christian life, Gospel, Reformed Theology, Theology at 10:18 am by Dan Lowe

I must admit that I am more than a little ashamed of myself for not discovering the works of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson sooner.  It isn’t that I had never heard of him, I had simply never read him or listened to any of his sermons.  Since “discovering” him recently, I have been reading and listening to everything I can find by him and it has been an incredible blessing. 

Let me a share a little bit with you from the first page of his book, “The Christian Life”:

 “When I first became involved in teaching God’s word, I tended to assume that one of the great needs of Christians is to be instructed in the ‘deeper truths’ of the gospel.  It was not long before experience (of my own life) and observation (of other’s lives) taught me how mistaken I have been.  I began to see that in fact the ‘deeper truths’ (if there are such things) are really the old basic truths of the gospel.  Far from being luxuries, they are necessities for Christian living.  The rather disturbing thought began to dawn on me that many of us who are professing Christians are distressingly weak in our grasp of the basic framework of biblical doctrine.  We assume that we know the elements of the message of the New Testament, but sometimes our understanding of them is like that of a child” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth Trust, pg 1.)

I have observed this tendency both in myself and others to seek after that which is new and “trendy”, rather than spending time meditating on and mastering basic Christian doctrine.  Dr. Ferguson states that catering to this tendency in ourselves has resulted in the prevalence of stunted growth among modern evangelicals:

“But surely many Christians have lived their lives without much grasp of Christian truth and it has made very little difference?  Often that is the unfortunate truth!  Our lives have been no different from our contemporaries.  We have made little or no impression upon the world, for the very reason that gospel doctrine has made a correspondingly slight impression upon us” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth, pg 6.)

Feel convicted? 

If this describes us… then where should we start?

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (ESV) – 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Paul feels the need here to reiterate the gospel to the Corinthians, even though they are already Christians (Paul calls them “brethren”, cf. I Cor 1:4-9.)  In fact, Paul unashamedly tells them in no uncertain terms that the gospel is to be “of first importance” to them. 

How well do we really understand the gospel?

Is the gospel of first importance to us?

Could it be that the reason most evangelicals are so weak in sharing their faith is that we don’t really know what we believe?

Could it be that our lives reflect the world, rather than Christ, because we are not growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?

How should we study and meditate on the gospel?

1)      Meditate on the doctrine of God.  Study His attributes and works.  As you read Scripture, always ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” A good exercise is to read through the Psalms over the course of a month (5 Psalms per day will get you through in 30 days) and mark every reference to God, His attributes and His works.  At the end of the month, summarize your findings.  Read solid Christian books dealing with theology proper (“The Attributes of God” by A.W. Pink is an excellent primer on the person and work of God.  You can find it for free on the internet.)

2)      Study the nature of man.  Familiarize yourself with passages such as Genesis 1-3, Isaiah 59:1-20, Romans 1-3, 5:12-21, and I John 1:8-10.

3)      Study the person and work of Christ.  Read through the gospels regularly.  Meditate often on passages such as John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20, I Corinthians 15:1-8, and Revelation 5 (this is not a comprehensive list… just a few passages off the top of my head.)  Ponder the cross!!!  (Read C.J. Mahaney’s book “Living the Cross-Centered Life” or the recent release by Milton Vincent, “A Gospel Primer for Christians.”  For a more indepth discussion of the cross, read “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott.)

“It is one of the enigmas of our day that in a world of great opportunities, many Christians have less knowledge of Christian doctrine than children at Sunday School had in previous centuries” (Sinclair Ferguson, “The Christian Life”, Banner of Truth, pg 8.)

May this not be true of us!!!

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