Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/22/2012 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Clear, concise, biblical teaching on the ways and means of growing in spiritual maturity.
Bibline. Clear. Concise. Orthodox. All these adjectives and more describe Grow in Grace, one of pastor and professor Sinclair Ferguson's worthy contributions to the ranks of Christian literature. Nothing in it can rightly be called new, but I found Ferguson to be refreshing in his obvious love for the enscripturated Word of God. In Grow in Grace he provides his answer to the question, "how can I grow in the Christian life?"
In four brief sections, Grow in Grace sets out the precedent for Christian growth (Jesus), lays down the theoretical foundation for Christian growth (theology), points to the context for Christian growth (Church), and provides examples of Christian growth (Bible). Ferguson's pleasant style and earnest tone makes for a memorable reading experience.
Ferguson surprised me a little by starting the book off with Jesus as an example of someone who needed to grow in grace. Jesus is assuredly our example in all things, but isn't it true that we default to thinking of him as our example in speech, actions, attitudes, etc.? That he needed to grow in wisdom and knowledge is a fact we tend to gloss over in Luke 2, touched on primarily during the Advent season. After Christmas, faced with the choice of preaching on the Wise Men or Jesus' boyhood, we almost always go for the Wise Men - we three kings of Orient are, far more accessible than that special little Nazarene we would rather keep at arms-length.
Yet, in his clear and uncomplicated fashion, Ferguson is able to remove that spooky pall over Jesus' childhood, showing that "The obedience he gave to God the Father as a seven year old boy was as perfect as the obedience he showed when he willlingly died on the cross and suffered in order to fulfill his Father's will" and that "Jesus had to hack his way through the jungle which our sin had created in order to grow in his obedience to his Father in heaven." Believe it or not, the mental image of Jesus as a sweaty little seven year old mancub with machete in hand, fighting his way through an overgrown jungle, was helpful for me as I considered how Jesus must have had to contend with the same pressures and temptations as we do. He didn't have it any easier than we do after all!
The second section of the book contains the theological principles that you would perhaps expect to open a book such as this one. Here Ferguson tackles topics such as sin, wisdom, fear, adoption, desire, and grace with devotional and doxological fervor. This is not an academic exercise for him, which should be apparent even to the skimmer who fails to read deeply but at least takes note of all the hymn lyrics reproduced herein.
Because the Christian who desires spiritual growth cannot exist in a vaccuum, the third section of the book concerns Church life. Others-centeredness, spiritual giftedness, and some of the instrinsic issues of life together are explored in this section, with the first-century Church in Corinth as a case in negative point.
Finally, Ferguson draws on three biblical examples of believers who grew in grace: Daniel, Peter, and Timothy. These chapters read much like sermons - which is a good thing when the preacher is Sinclair Ferguson! These chapters contain some of the most valuable nuggets in the entire book. Consider these stupendous insights that commend themselves to a variety of pastoral counseling situations:
Spiritual growth is not the same in every Christian. It is not possible neatly to package the ways in which God brings us on to maturity and then suggest that everyone must fit into this pattern. That would be foolish, and it would also be very unbiblical...The 'Daniel Treatment' (if we can call it that) would have been inappropriate in Peter's case. Just so, the 'Peter Treatment' may not be God's pattern of operating in your life. We ought to submit to whatever pattern God uses; to learn from the variety of illustrations in the Bible that he has many patterns. Peter himself liked to speak about 'the multi-coloured grace of God' (1 Pet. 4:10)
Growth in grace sometimes depends on the relatively mundane expedient of knowing ourselves well enough to recognise what are the points of lowest resistance in our lives.
Some Christians appear to go on in their spiritual pilgrimage by leaps and bounds, others by fits and starts, and yet others almost imperceptibly. But spiritual growth is like an iceberg - only part of it can ever be seen above the surface. Someone whose life manifests only small degrees of love, joy, peace, longsuffering and the other fruits of the Spirit may have grown tremendously in grace even to reach that apparently small measure of maturity.
Not all people need the same sight of their own sinfulness to bring them to Christ.
I trust the excerpts above are sufficient to convince of the wealth contained in this little volume. Ferguson ends by turning the focus on the reader in an epilogue entitled "Over to You," which concludes with the simple question, "Are you willing to ask God to help you to grow in grace?" If so, it may be time to turn back to page 1 for a re-read after a word of prayer.