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Faith And Repentance (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Sinclair Ferguson considers faith and repentance.
Because they can be experienced differently and distinctly we might think they are separate.
But that is unhelpful.
From Ferguson:

In grammatical terms, then, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche — the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other.
But which comes first, logically? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Or does neither have an absolute priority?
We cannot separate turning from sin in repentance and coming to Christ in faith. They describe the same person in the same action, but from different perspectives. In one instance (repentance), the person is viewed in relation to sin; in the other (faith), the person is viewed in relation to the Lord Jesus. But the individual who trusts in Christ simultaneously turns away from sin. In believing he repents and in repenting believes.

Read the whole post at Ligonier.

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What Is The Greatest Of All Protestant “Heresies”? (via Sinclair Ferguson)

If you worshipped as a Christian yesterday assured of your salvation, that’s a fruit of the Reformation.
Sinclair Ferguson writes about a lesser acknowledged fruit of the Church’s great awakening, by interacting with one of its contemporary critics:

Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement.
How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords?
Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.”
A moment’s reflection explains why…

Read the rest of the post at Ligonier.

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The Measure Of How Clearly You Understand The Gospel (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Sinclair Ferguson, commenting on Mark 2:1-12 (Jesus’ healing of a paralytic who was lowered through a hole in the ceiling by four men):

“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.

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What Do You Need To Do To Go Backwards In The Christian Life? Nothing. (via Sinclair Ferguson

Words from Sinclair Ferguson posted on the blog Tolle Lege.

“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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Still A Great Salvation? (via Sinclair Ferguson)

A salvation that is eternal in scope, personal in application, and expresses the character of God.
It is not wonder the Scriptures describe it as great.
Sinclair Ferguson wonders how a salvation that embraces the past, present, and future could ever be taken for granted:

So it is in the Gospel. God has a plan. It has been called the covenant of redemption, or the covenant of peace (pactum salutis). Theologians as great as Thomas Boston and Jonathan Edwards have disagreed as to whether the plan should properly be described as a covenant at all. But the debates over nomenclature are incidental to the thing itself.
The triune God had a plan, involving the mutual commitment of Father, Son and Spirit to save a people. About this the reformed theologians speak with one voice.
Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God himself; when the Father, Son and Spirit found eternal, absolute and unimaginable blessing, pleasure and joy in their holy triunity — it was their agreed purpose to create a world which would fall, and in unison — but at infinitely great cost — to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation. This deeper grace from before the dawn of time — pictured in the rituals, the leaders and the experiences of the Old Testament saints (cf. Heb. 11:39–12:3) — is now ours. These are the dimensions of what the author of Hebrews calls “such a great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). Our salvation depends on God’s covenant, rooted in eternity in the plan of the Trinity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic covenant, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it “great.”
You considered your salvation to be “great” early in your Christian life didn’t you? Do you still think about it that way today?

From Ligonier blog.

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The Prayer Of Faith (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Sinclair Ferguson on praying the prayer of faith:

This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word. That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking. Such confidence is not “worked up” from within our emotional life; rather, it is given and supported by what God has said in Scripture.
This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word
Truly “righteous” men and women of faith know the value of their heavenly Father’s promises. They go to Him, as children do to a loving human father. They know that if they can say to an earthly father, “But, father, you promised . . . ,” they can both persist in asking and be confident that he will keep his word. How much more our heavenly Father, who has given His Son for our salvation! We have no other grounds of confidence that He hears our prayers. We need none.
Such appeal to God’s promises constitutes what John Calvin, following Tertullian, calls “legitimate prayer.”
Some Christians find this disappointing. It seems to remove the mystique from the prayer of faith. Are we not tying down our faith to ask only for what God already has promised? But such disappointment reveals a spiritual malaise: would we rather devise our own spirituality (preferably spectacular) than God’s (frequently modest)?
The struggles we sometimes experience in prayer, then, are often part of the process by which God gradually brings us to ask for only what He has promised to give. The struggle is not our wrestling to bring Him to give us what we desire, but our wrestling with His Word until we are illuminated and subdued by it, saying, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Then, as Calvin again says, we learn “not to ask for more than God allows.”

Read the whole post here.

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Led By One Songleader (via Sinclair Ferguson)

Tomorrow’s song leader, wherever God’s people gather to worship:

“We come for worship to be led by one Songleader, our Lord Jesus Christ. Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons you ought to be singing. Shame on me if I am silent when I am standing at the shoulder of my Lord Jesus Christ singing His heart out in praises to His heavenly Father.
Shame on me if I am in His choir and I am silent when He is urging me to sing the praises of this magnificent God. It is a marvelous incentive to sing that you know that it is Jesus who is leading your singing.”
– Sinclair B. Ferguson. “True Spirituality, True Worship.” Lookout Mountain, GA: Covenant College, 2004.
Audio CD. As quoted in Ron Man, Proclamation and Praise: Hebrews 2:12 and the Christology of Worship (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007), 80-81.