Category Archives: Holiness

“The supreme mysterious stranger” by R.C. Sproul

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark 4:39–40, NIV)

The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved.

Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.

Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed.

The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.

Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41, niv)

We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm.

It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease.

God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature.

They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place?

We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ The question was, ‘What manner of man is this?’ They were asking a question of kind.

They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people.

We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond typecasting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.

The disciples had never met a man like this. He was unlike anyone they had ever encountered. He was one of a kind, a complete foreigner. They had met all different kinds of men before—tall men, short men, fat men, skinny men, smart men, and stupid men.

They had met Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Samaritans, and fellow Jews. But they had never met a holy man, a man who could speak to winds and waves and have them obey Him.

That Jesus could sleep through the storm at sea was strange enough. But it was not unique. I think again of my fellow passenger on the airplane who dozed while I was gripped with panic.

It may be rare to meet people who can slumber through a crisis but it is not unprecedented. I was impressed with my friend on the plane.

But he did not awaken and yell out the window to the wind and make it stop at his command. If he had done that, I would have looked around for a parachute.

Jesus was different. He possessed an awesome otherness. He was the supreme mysterious stranger. He made people uncomfortable.”

–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), 77–81.

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“Solitude” by Robert Leighton

“Solitude, silence, and the strait keeping of the heart (Proverbs 4:23) are the foundations and grounds of a spiritual life.”

–Robert Leighton, Rules and Instructions For A Holy Life, as quoted in Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of the Man (Harrisonburg, Va: Sprinkle Publications, 1986), 149.

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“Our final destiny” by Sinclair Ferguson

“God the Father has destined us to be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn of many brothers (Romans 8:29). This is our final destiny.

It is both individual and corporate. It is the climactic ingredient in the blueprints Scripture has drawn for our ongoing Christian experience.

It is the epicenter of all God’s work in us. It belongs to the essence of the process of sanctification and the holiness which is its end product.

Likeness to Christ is the ultimate goal of sanctification. It is holiness. It is therefore also the ultimate fruit of being devoted to God.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 234-235.

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“Think and act with greater maturity” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Paul calls the church to think and act with greater maturity. He argues that the key issue is not merely legitimacy but spiritual profitability.

The question we need to be asking is not:

‘Is it alright for me to do this as a Christian?’

But rather these questions:

‘Is this going to build up?’

‘Is this going to strengthen the fellowship of God’s people?’

‘Is this going to advance my goal of running towards Jesus Christ and glory?’

‘Is this something that laying to one side will better enable me to serve Christ?’

So mature Christians develop an instinct to ask:

‘Will this bring most glory to God?’

‘Is this wise?'”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 195-196.

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“Against the tide all the way” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Hebrews is all about persevering in sanctification. Without holiness, writes the author, ‘no one will see the Lord.’ We must therefore ‘strive’ for it (Hebrews 12:14).

He uses vigorous language. His verb (διώκω, strive) appears regularly in the New Testament with the sense of ‘persecute.’

Such strong language was needed here because these Christians were facing hardship and opposition. They therefore needed to pay careful attention to the gospel, to digest what they had heard, so that they would not drift away.

What do you need to do to slow down and go backwards in the Christian life? Hebrews’ answer is: ‘Nothing.” Drifting is the easiest thing in the world.

It is swimming against the tide that requires effort. And the Christian life is against the tide all the way. Spiritual weariness, being ‘sluggish,’ is one of our great enemies. The author is all-too-familiar with its tell-tale signs.

Christians then, as now, were confronted by many pressures. Some of them had suffered deeply for their testimony to Jesus Christ. We might think that anyone who has withstood trials would be in no danger of failing to persevere.

But the battle to be holy is fierce, the opposition is strong, and the obstacles are many. Even those who have won great victories in the past can become weary. Spiritual lethargy can set in, and we begin to drift.

We constantly need to be encouraged to keep going (Hebrews 3:12-13).”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 191.

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“A rich and gracious Savior” by John Newton

“I may express all my complaints in one short sentence: I am a poor creature.

And all my hopes and comforts may be summed up as briefly by saying: I have a rich and gracious Saviour.

Full as I am in myself of inconsistencies and conflicts, I have in Him a measure of peace.

He found me in a waste howling wilderness. He redeemed me from the house of misery and bondage.

And though I have been ungrateful and perverse, He has not yet forsaken me. I trust He never will.

‘Unsustained by Thee I fall.’ But He is able to hold even me up: to pity, to support, and to supply me to the end of life.

How suitable a Saviour! He is made all things to those who have nothing, and He is engaged to help those who can do nothing.”

–John Newton, The Aged Pilgrim’s Thoughts Over Sin and the Grave, Illustrated in a Series of Letters to Walter Taylor, Never Before Published, by the Rev. John Newton (London: Baker and Fletcher, 2nd Ed., 1825), 6.

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“Indicatives are always the foundation for imperatives” by Sinclair Ferguson

“We have noticed several times already the importance of the shape of the New Testament’s teaching on sanctification and our devotion to God. No matter which apostle’s writings we examine, the same pattern is present with an identical undergirding structure.

Exhortations to be holy are always derived from an exposition of what God has done and provided for us in Christ and through the gift of the Spirit. Indicatives are always the foundation for imperatives even if they appear in the reverse order.

God never throws us back to rely upon ourselves and our own resources. He encourages us rather to grow up as Christians by digging down ever more deeply into the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ. Christ Himself is the rich and fertile soil in which Christian holiness puts down strong roots, grows tall and bears the fruit of the Spirit.

Thus the New Testament always links two things together in an important piece of spiritual logic. The new situation creates the new lifestyle:

God has been or done this–therefore you should be or do that.

Or:

Be this, or become that–because this is who God is and what He has done.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 93.

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