There’s something about the first few books we read after conversion that often sets a tone or a direction to the rest of our Christian lives. That’s why I’m so thankful that God put Holiness by J. C. Ryle into my hands within weeks of my conversion to Christ. The first was John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied (you can read the story of that here). Murray’s book gave me a sound doctrinal understanding of what had just happened to me. Ryle’s book showed me how to live going forward.
Since then, I’ve read a number of books on holiness, but I’ve never felt as satisfied by them as I was with Ryle. Indeed, I’d almost given up on finding a modern successor to him when Sinclair Ferguson’s new book, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, arrived on my desk. Within the first few pages, I was hooked by what I believe will go on to become a classic book on holiness and a worthy modern successor to Ryle’s earlier work.
I’ve been reading Sinclair Ferguson with much profit for years, but his recent books such as From the Mouth of God, Child in the Manger, The Whole Christ, and now Devoted to God, all the fruit of his retirement years, have taken his thought and writing into a new dimension of both reading pleasure and spiritual usefulness.
The goal of Devoted to God is “to provide a manual of biblical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of foundational passages in the New Testament.” It works its way through “some of the most important biblical blueprints for building an entire life of holiness.” Sinclair does not try to cover every possible passage on holiness but rather selects the most important passages with the aim of gaining some “mastery” of them. This foundational framework of these passages will act like mental Velcro strips to “help us to organize all of our future learning and enable it to stick in the proper places.”
Sinclair focuses on passages that describe sanctification (the indicative) rather than command it (the imperative). “This is not so much a ‘how to’ book as it is a ‘how God does it’ one.” His argument is that the New Testament is far more concerned with “shaping our understanding, so that a new life style emerges organically, than it is with techniques.” He is convinced that “a clear understanding of what the gospel is and how it works leads in turn to the development of new affections and a new lifestyle.”
So if you had to choose the most important passages on sanctification, which ones would you choose? Sinclair selected 1 Peter 1:1-25, Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:1-14, Colossians 3:1-17, Romans 8:13, Matthew 5:17-20, Hebrews 12:1-14, and Romans 8:29. Over the coming days, I’m going to dip into this book’s exposition and application of these passages to entice you to “pick up and read” for yourselves.