Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 128 pages. 1982.
This book is about guidance. Ferguson states: “There are three particular areas in which we form patterns of life which largely determine the whole course of life. We form patterns of behaviour—a life-style. We decide which occupation and career we will pursue. We decide to marry or not to marry. To each of these areas of vital concern, I have devoted a chapter. You will find principles which, when conscientiously applied to your own circumstances, will keep you in the pathway along which God’s will may be discovered. To that extent I have tried to deal with practical issues.”
Ferguson writes that he has tried to convey that we learn about guidance primarily by learning about the Guide. It is the knowledge of God and His ways with men which ultimately gives us stability in doing his will. His prayer is that the book will provide the reader some help and clarification about how God will guide us and perhaps be granted illumination on the very areas of our lives which perplex us at the moment.
For a short book, I highlighted a significant number of passages. I would like to share some of them with you below:
- The very idea that God guides us implies that we live according to the path which he has laid down, that our lives have a purpose in the present, as well as a destiny for the future.
- There is, in fact, no more basic question for us to ask than this: Will this course of action tend to further the glory of God? Is the glory of God the driving principle of our actions? If we do not seek his glory, we cannot be walking in the way of his blessing. If we seek his glory, then we can be sure that we shall discover his light shed on our paths.
- What does it mean that our lives should reflect his glory? It means likeness to Jesus. To live for the glory of God means to imitate Jesus. It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). According to Ephesians 4:20-24, it means to live in righteousness and holiness.
- If there is one critical issue we must face about divine guidance it is this one. Is Scripture our guide? Is Scripture ultimately ‘the only rule to direct us how we may glorify’ God?
- How then does God make his will known to us? Primarily by teaching us about himself and our relationship to him. As we come to know the character of God, and his ways with men, we shall increasingly discover this wisdom—that is, the practical knowledge of his will and the ways in which it is to be put into action.
- The chief need we have, therefore, is that of increased familiarity with and sensitivity to the wisdom of his Word.
- Very often when young people say they are having problems about guidance, what they are really faced with is a problem about obedience. The issue at stake is whether we will walk along the paths of righteousness in which God will lead us.
- The experience of discovering the will of God has two aspects to it. We have been considering some of the objective guidelines which Scripture provides. But there is also a subjective element in coming to know God’s will. After all, it is my life, not another’s, and my obedience, not another’s, which are involved in my coming to the conviction that one specific course of action is the Lord’s will for my life.
- The point of contact between God’s revealed will and my personal obedience and walk in his will for my own life lies in the heart.
- Before God, as we seek his guidance, there must be a developing harmony between our motivations to serve him, and a true condition of the heart. There must be fear and humility, and also obedience and trust.
- How are we to walk worthy of God? Paul indicates that it is by living in a way that is consistent with his revealed character. To live in the will of God is to walk in love, to walk in light and to walk in wisdom.
- The first characteristic of walking in the light is separation. The child of God will not become a partner in sin, nor with men in the pursuit of sin. The second characteristic—his life is identified by contrast. He was once darkness, but now he is light in the Lord!
- There is no sincerity in our profession to want the will of God in our lives if we are not in tune with his will for personal holiness.
- Few things are more common among those who complain that guidance has become a very frustrating thing for them than the failure to use the present opportunities God has given to them!
- Guidance is the way in which God leads us as we think through the implications of his truth, and seek to find practical application of it in our lives. It involves using our minds to think through the path which God wants us to take in his service. It requires familiarity with Scripture, and fellowship with the Spirit, who alone knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11-13).
- Wherever we search in Scripture for teaching on the guidance of God, we invariably meet this combination. Guidance is supernatural; the will of God is made known to us spiritually. That is why we need to walk in the Spirit. But it is also made known to us through the Word. That is why we must walk intelligently in the Spirit.
- No action which is contrary to the plain Word of God can ever be legitimate for the Christian. No appeal to spiritual freedom or to providential circumstances can ever make what is ethically wrong anything else but sinful. For the Christian is free only to love and obey the law of God. Therein lies his true freedom.
- The question I must learn to ask is: Will it bring benefits, as far as I am able to judge, so that my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is strengthened? Will it draw me nearer to him? We are no longer speaking about whether a course of action is lawful for the Christian. We are considering only actions which are. But something which has a neutral influence on one person may be detrimental to another.
- So the real question is: Can I take Christ there and look him in the face without shame? Is this course of action, this decision I am taking, totally consistent with my personal confession that ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord’?
- We must not rest content with asking whether a course of action will be personally helpful. Will it have a like beneficial effect on others? Indeed, do I engage in it with a view to serving and helping them?
- ‘What would Paul have done?’ ‘What would Christ himself have done?’. These are the questions we can now ask. Are there incidents, or is there teaching in Scripture, which can be applied to the situation in which I find myself?
- Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it enslaving? Is it consistent with the Lordship of Christ? Is it helpful to others? Is it consistent with the example of Christ and the apostles? Is it for the glory of God? For that matter, am I living for the glory of God?
- For the Christian the choice of a life-calling will be seen as one of the most important decisions he ever makes. It will determine many aspects of his life. It is essential therefore to be assured that we are doing the will of God.
- There is no text in the Bible which tells you: This is what you are to do with your life. There are texts which say: These are things which you must not do. How then are we to arrive at the personal knowledge of God’s will?
- We will never come to know and enjoy the will of the Lord, and find it good, perfect and acceptable until we first gain a true view of God and his fatherly character towards us.
- If we are to marry, only God can bring us to the person we are to marry. There are principles enshrined in Scripture which will give stability, safety and wisdom to you as you contemplate the prospect, or possibility, of marriage.
- For such people, there is a final word of biblical counsel. It has a wide application and is relevant to every Christian who longs to know the will of God. It is the one word: WAIT! Wait for the Lord!
- We are sometimes unwilling to bow to the sovereign providences of God in our lives. We become bitter against him, and consequently refuse to wait for his leading. We become frustrated with God.
- All impatience can be traced back to a disbelief in God’s ultimate goodness. That is why, if we are to appreciate the wisdom of God’s guidance, it is important for us to understand not only the nature of his guidance, but the character of the Guide himself. Trust him for his goodness, and we will trust him for his guidance!
- God has his own place and time to act. He has his purposes to fulfil in us as well as his will to reveal to us.
- The fact that we cannot see what God is doing does not mean that he is doing nothing. The Lord has his own timetable. It is we who must learn to adjust to it, not vice versa.
- Do you not see that only in his will can you ever find the glory of God and the joy for which he created you? Will you not respond, and begin again to walk.
A few months ago Banner of Truth finally announced that they would begin offering some of their excellent books in an e-book format. That was great news for me as I almost exclusively read e-books on Kindle, while also listening to audiobooks. Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite authors/preachers, and I’ve seen him at Ligonier Ministries National Conferences since 1997 and read several of his books. This one is well worth reading in any format.
Ulrich Zwingli (Bitesize Biographies) by William Boekestein. Evangelical Press. 164 pages. 2015.
I didn’t know too much about the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli’s life before reading this book, learning most of what I did know in a church history class with Dr. David Calhoun at Covenant Seminary several years ago. This entry in the Bitesize Biographies series from William Boekestein, an author and pastor in Pennsylvania, is a fast moving account of Zwingli’s important life and accomplishments.
The author writes that Zwingli’s battle was against the abuses of the Catholic Church, never against the church itself. Zwingli’s two sisters would become nuns and they would all eventually renounce the vows they had taken.
The author writes that in a certain sense the Swiss Reformation began in the University of Basel. As higher learning flourished, the abuses of the Catholic Church came under greater scrutiny.
Zwingli was ordained as a priest and read his first mass at Wildhaus in 1506. He added Greek and Hebrew to his knowledge of Latin and the Vulgate, a fourth century Latin translation of the Bible. He would become closely acquainted with Erasmus of Rotterdam.
He became pastor at Einsiedeln in 1516. Here he read the Church Fathers and hand-copied the Scriptures. He also started preaching against the sale of indulgences, the worship of Mary and other papal abuses. Many scholars date the start of the Reformation in Switzerland in 1516, a year ahead of the German Reformation.
Zwingli was not only a religious leader, but a political one as well. He strongly opposed the concept of Swiss men serving as mercenary soldiers abroad.
Personally, Zwingli was suspected of having inappropriate intimate relationships with several women. He would unsuccessfully petition the bishop of Constance for permission to marry. He would eventually live in a secret marriage. Such secret marriages were sanctioned by the Catholic Church until they were outlawed by the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
He would then become pastor to the leading church in Zurich, one of the chief cities of the confederation, where he would begin verse-by-verse preaching. Eventually, the sermon would replace the mass in Zurich. His preaching included denouncements of the monks, of the veneration of saints and of feast days. He raised questions about purgatory, the damnation of unbaptized children and excommunication. He would provide the Zurich City Council with advice about religious images used as objects of worship. He would work to reform the liturgy, removing the organs and Latin choirs. In 1525, a new Lord’s Supper liturgy would replace the mass. Later a new liturgy would replace the Catholic baptismal ceremony. By the middle of 1525 the Zurich church was no longer Catholic. The Zurich Protestants were now considered heretics.
The author details the Anabaptist controversy. The Anabaptists believed that Zwingli was failing to take his principles to their logical conclusion. Zwingli was now considered the conservative, while the Anabaptists were the revolutionaries.
He would be relieved of many of the routine duties of a priest so that he could devote himself to preaching and instructing the city in the evangelical faith.
The author reviews three Disputations in Zurich. Although Zwingli considered himself to be a conservative reformer, to his opponents he was a revolutionary. He would have threats on his life.
Zwingli did much writing (80 books and tracts in German and 59 in Latin), but the author states that he tended to write quickly and thus they are not as well done as Calvin, for instance. As an example, his Commentary on the True and False Religion was not revised over the years as Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion was.
I found the Lord’s Supper debate between Luther and Zwingli to be particularly interesting. I was familiar with the debate, but not that Luther considered Zwingli to be a notorious heretic. Boekestein writes “The conflict between Luther and Zwingli on the subject of the Lord’s Supper is one of the great disappointments of the Protestant Reformation”.
From 1530 until his death, Zwingli participated in more purely political affairs than he had previously. He was a trained fighter and had no misgivings about employing force to defend the gospel. The author states that he occasionally resorted to unbiblical use of force. Zwingli was killed in the second Kappel War. Zwingli’s successor would be Heinrich Bullinger, who would serve in Zurich for more than forty years.
The book includes no footnotes, which would have been helpful considering all of the information that the author presents. Zwingli’s Sixty-Seven Articles from 1523 are included as an appendix.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the leaders of the Reformation.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review.
Why Not Gay Marriage? In this adaption of an appendix from his new book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, Kevin DeYoung challenges Christians to “Look past the talking points. Read up on the issues. Don’t buy every slogan and don’t own every insult. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.”
- Daniel For You. In the latest book in the “For You” series from the Good Book Company, David Helm opens up the Old Testament book of Daniel showing how it is a book for all times, and particularly for times when our King and His kingdom feel so far away.
- Free ESV Global Study Bible. Crossway is offering the new ESV Global Study Bible free of charge, accessible via a variety of digital platforms. In providing free access to the Global Study Bible, Crossway wants to equip the global church with theologically rich, gospel-centered content aimed at helping God’s people better understand the Bible and apply it to their own lives. This goal stands at the heart of Crossway’s mission as a not-for-profit ministry and reflects one of our ongoing global ministry initiatives.
- John Piper on How John Owen Can Help Us Battle Sin and Temptation. Read John Piper’s foreword to John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation—an unabridged modern scholarly edition of Owen’s trilogy with introductions, outlines, glossary, etc.