In 2004 I picked up John Piper’s two small devotional books, Life is a Vapor and Pierced by the Word. I devoured both, using them back-to-back that summer for devotional springboards. Up until that time, the devotionals I had been exposed to were incredibly short, and usually related to some promise that had nothing to do with me contextually. Piper’s devotionals were different because of the time he took to pull out rich theology from the text of Scripture… theology that was so grand that the practicality of it could hardly be missed.
In Christ Alone has a similiar flavor to it. The chapters are 3-7 pages each, just about perfect for a morning devotional. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson takes Scripture and pulls out rich theology, all of it (as the title would suggest) amazingly Christocentric. Most of his meditations come from the gospel of John and the letter to the Hebrews; this creates a unifying aspect to the chapters beyond the way he structures them.
Basic thesis for the book? Christ Himself is the impetus for daily Christian living.
His way of writing is masterful, to say the very least. He knows how to draw one into each meditation… in fact, one could call his writing periodic in the sense that he doesn’t usually reveal the “punch line” until the end of each chapter. Typically beginning with a personal anecdote (“I almost choked on my doughnut” prompted me to laugh for a few minutes), he moves into a text right away, giving a proposition up front but not fully revealing the weight of that proposition until the end.
Some examples of topics include: a whole section of the Holy Spirit’s relationship to Christ, and exposing Scripture that shows how Christ is the forefront of our sanctification. It is His Spirit in us. Also, Dr. Ferguson uses Hebrews to show the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Christ, as well as to compare the promises given to Israel with their completion in the Church. Just thinking about it as I write, his examination of our forensic benefits in Christ is worth the cost of the book alone. He expositionally probes Scripture to show the weightier elements of what Christ has purchased for us.
However, the most helpful section for me was on faithfulness. I would likely be labeled as a Reformed Baptist, which includes a certain amount of indicative faithfulness built into my theology. God will indeed preserve me. But I struggle sometimes in thinking through all the imperatives to faithfulness (to persevere). The way Dr. Ferguson unpacks Matthew and Hebrews was challenging and eye-opening in this regard. We can be deceived to the point that when we think we’ll be entering heaven’s gates, we’re in fact about to find ourselves in hell. Sobering thoughts. We are able to be deceived, and we should be on watch.
A firm grip on Christ helps this. What does this look like? Solid theology that impacts the way you think and live your life. In Christ Alone is full of such material, and receives my whole-hearted recommendation.