In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson for Less Than a Buck

For a limited time Reformation Trust (he publishing house for Ligonier Ministries) is making certain titles very accessible by offering them in eBook format for just 99¢. This month, their special offer is for In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson.

According to the publisher:

Dr. Ferguson explores aspects of the person and work of Jesus in In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life. This collection of articles is designed to help believers gain a better understanding of their Savior and the Christian faith, and to live out that faith in their day-to-day lives. In Christ Alone is packed full of nuggets of Scriptural truth that will spark and fan the flames of the believer’s love for the Savior who is so beautiful in His person and so faithful in His work on behalf of His beloved sheep.

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“Heavenly Love” – A True Pilgrim’s Perspective

George Moses Horton was a slave in North Carolina who lived from 1797-1893.   And though he was a slave, he became one of NC’s first published poets, which is remarkable for several reasons.

First, though he was a slave, Horton taught himself how to read using an old speller and a Methodist hymnal.  Second, he also taught himself how to write, however, he taught himself how to write much later than when he learned to read.  But third, and this is what is truly remarkable – his first poems were published before he knew how to write!

His master would send him to Chapel Hill to sell produce.  His unusually sophisticated vocabulary and rhythmic speech caught the attention of students at the University of North Carolina.  They encouraged him to recite his thoughts poetically, and eventually starting paying him to compose poems for them to send to their girlfriends.  He would recite and the student would write it down.  For extra money, he could even recite a poem off the top of his head that would be in the form of an acrostic based on the girl’s name!

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Should Our Weakness and Inconsistency Lead Us to Despair?

As a pastor, I have the privilege of helping others who are wrestling with this question.  Lately, I have been encouraged by the words of Calvin  as I have been reading Book III, Chapters 6-10 of Calvin’s Institutes again.  This is the section where Calvin sets forth the pilgrimage of the Christian life.  This material is quite devotional and has even been published separately as the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life.  In Chapter 6, Calvin begins with a discussion on the motives for living the Christian life, which have to do with union with and imitation of Christ and the need to reflect those saving realities in personal holiness. Continue reading

Faith and New Obedience

“It is also false that faith and new obedience are one and the same thing. I own that faith is a virtue or grace, commanded by the law of God and that a believer, by his very believing obeys God. I likewise confess that we are to look upon nothing as a true and living faith, which is not fruitful in good works. But yet faith is one thing, and the obedience flowing from it quite another, especially in the matter of justification, of which we now speak, where Paul always contradistinguishes the obedience of all manner of works to faith.” — Herman Witsius

Are God’s Precepts The Measure of Our Strength?

Does the fact that God gives us commands mean that we have the ability within ourselves to fulfill them?  John Calvin writes:

Of course, if Scripture taught nothing else than that the law is a rule of life to which we ought to direct our efforts, I, too, would yield to their opinion without delay. But since it faithfully and clearly explains to us the manifold use of the law, it behooves us rather to consider from that interpretation what the law can do in man. With reference to the present question, as soon as the law prescribes what we are to do, it teaches that the power to obey comes from God’s goodness. It thus summons us to prayers by which we may implore that this power be given us. If there were only a command and no promise, our strength would have to be tested whether it is sufficient to respond to the command. But since with the command are at once connected promises that proclaim not only that our support, but our whole virtue as well, rests in the help of divine grace, they more than sufficiently demonstrate how utterly inept, not to say unequal, we are to observe the law. For this reason, let us no longer press this proportion between our strength and the precepts of the law, as if the Lord had applied the rule of righteousness, which he was to give in the law, according to the measure of our feebleness. We who in every respect so greatly need his grace must all the more reckon from the promises how ill-prepared we are.

Sometimes New Is Better

There is no doubt that the scripture clearly teaches that salvation has always been received by faith, and by faith alone.  This is true for Abraham, Moses, and David, as well as, for Peter, Paul, John, and you and me.  But, does the complete continuity in the way salvation is received mean that there is complete continuity in how that salvation is experienced prior  to heaven?  In other words, does this mean that the experience of salvation in this life is the same for old covenant believers and new covenant believers?  John Calvin says, “no.”  Specifically with regards to adoption, Calvin states in his commentary on Galatians that:

The fathers, under the Old Testament, were certain of their adoption, but did not so fully as yet enjoy their privilege. . . . so now, we receive the fruit of adoption, of which the holy fathers did not partake before the coming of Christ; and therefore those who now burden the church with an excess of ceremonies, defraud her of the just right of adoption, (119),


In the Christian Church slavery no longer exists, but the condition of the children is free.  In what respect the father under that law were slaves, we have already inquired; for their freedom was not yet revealed, but was hidden under the coverings and yoke of the law. Our attention is again directed to the distinction between the Old and New Testaments.  The ancients were also sons of God, and heirs through Christ, but we hold the same character in a different manner; for we have Christ present with us, and in that manner enjoy his blessings, (122).

What Calvin saw was that the mode of salvation is the same, while the experience of it is different.  And the experience of it in this life for new covenant believers is better.

Free Audiobook: The Holiness of God by RC Sproul

Each month christianaudio gives away one premium audiobook download for free.  To promote the upcoming Ligonier 2011 National Conference on the holiness of God, this month’s free download is R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God.

In addition to the free download, there is also a $20 discount to the conference in Orlando offered to customers.  Check out the video to learn more.


Ligonier Ministries 2011 National Conference (March 24-26 in Orlando) from Ligonier on Vimeo.

What Books (And Especially the Bible) Can Do For Us

From Life in Christ:

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us…. We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Franz Kafka, Letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27, 1904.

A reader of the whole – which is to say the only – Bible concludes, then, that Kafka evidently agreed with God.

Are You Cultivating a Culture of Grace or a Culture of Law?

This past Lord’s Day, my church began a Sunday school class that is on the topic of developing a culture of grace in the church.  For this class, we are utilizing Paul David Tripp’s lectures Your Christian School: A Culture of Grace?.  In the first lesson, this question was asked, “Are we asking the law to do something that only grace can accomplish?”  Behind this question is the truth that the law cannot accomplish what it demands.  That is not its purpose.  But so often, this is exactly how we approach the law.  We think, “If I can just do [ a certain outward behavior] enough, even when I don’t want to do it, then eventually there will be an inward positive effect.”  Or, we think something like this, “If I can just do it for thirty days, then it will become a natural habit that I will do all the time.  If I can thank God enough for my difficult trials, then I will truly become thankful.”  This approach to the Christian walk is a legalistic approach and it just simply won’t work. Continue reading