Category Archives: Sinclair Ferguson

“Read, study, reflect, and write” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Many—probably most—of these chapters were written in the context of busy pastoral ministry, either in Scotland or in the United States—preaching, teaching, pastoral visiting, personal meetings, crises in the lives of individuals and sometimes the whole church, administrative responsibilities, and the wide and wonderful variety of activities that make up the average ministers life.

And since virtually all the essays were written by request, their writing has been squeezed into, or out of, an occasional hiatus in the sheer busy-ness of ministry life and the constant preparation involved in preaching anywhere between three and six times in the week.

So, at some point in the writing of almost all these chapters I have heard an inner voice ask, ‘Whatever possessed you to agree to do this?’ Yet, however far short these various pieces fall, in each case the preparation of them did me good, enlarged my understanding a little, and fed into the day-to-day work of pastoral ministry.

I hope, therefore, that these pages will encourage other ministers to allow themselves to be stretched a little beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation. There is no doubt that the wider reflection, reading, study and stretching involved can only strengthen and enrich long-term ministry.

Such stretching produces growth. Sometimes ministers can ‘waste’ the privileged time they have by studying only in relation to their next sermon. This does produce some growth, of course; but perhaps not growth that is constantly putting down deeper roots and producing richer fruit.

Preachers need to be reading and studying more widely, and reflecting theologically if that is to be the case. For only then will our ongoing ministry be deepened and enriched.

Thus, in one sense at least, the undergirding message of these diverse chapters is: if you are a preacher, accept invitations or create opportunities to study, speak, or write on subjects outside of your usual diet of preparation.

Yes, you may find yourself under a little pressure; but pressure can produce diamonds! You will grow personally as a result, and, God-willing, Paul’s exhortation will be fulfilled in your ministry:

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have… Practise these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:13-16).

It can be an unnerving question to ask oneself, ‘Has anyone in the congregation ever thought, far less said, about me, ‘He is making progress’?”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Some Pastors and Teachers (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2017), xii-xiii.

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“For eternity” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Like many others I owe an incalculable debt to William Still for the way in which he invested himself in me from my earliest encounter with him in my teenage years until his death in 1997. Particular conversations with him return to the front of my memory as I think of him now—and with respect to the work of the pastor none more clearly than the occasion on which he said to me, quietly:

‘I never preach now without believing that something will be done that will last for eternity.’

With some sense of the extent to which his ministry had that kind of effect on my own life, I recall thinking ‘That is the measure of faith I too need to have.’ The words have lingered with me now for four decades and been a constant reminder to me of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s wise comment that it is not ‘many words’ but ‘words spoken in faith’ that God blesses.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, “Foreword,” in William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, IV20 1TW, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1984/2010), 9.

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“The heart of the gospel” by Sinclair Ferguson

“Here Mark unveils what lies at the heart of the gospel: men need forgiveness; Jesus gives it. To the degree to which you see your own need of forgiveness is the measure of how clearly you understand the gospel.”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), 27. Ferguson is commenting on Mark 2:1-12.

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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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“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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