The third book in our 2014 reading list is Children of the Living God by Sinclair B. Ferguson. If you have read the first two books on the list, you have been thinking about what mission looks like for God’s people, the church. Ferguson, in this short book, helps us understand why we should consider ourselves to be God’s people as well as the sense in which we should see our membership in that category.
Ferguson wrote this book as a result of a question he was asked during an interview for a new position. The question is one that all of us as Christians should think about, “How would you describe your relationship with God?” While we might all say that the answer to such a question is easy, the truth is that most of us would likely find ourselves in the same situation as Ferguson, though he is a biblical scholar and pastor — struggling for words. Even if we, as he did on that occasion, manage to say biblically correct things like servant and son, this topic is too often in the category of the unexamined question for many of us.
The bulk of the New Testament is made up of Paul’s letters, and one of the main ways Paul speaks of the way we ought to live, what scholars refer to as the imperatives, is to relate them to who we as Christians are, what scholars refer to as the indicatives. For Paul, if we were to summarize his view of the indicative, we would say that it is the fact that we are in Christ that informs all we are and do. In this book, Ferguson focuses our attention on one of the most important aspects of our being in Christ — our adoption as children of God. This is the reason this book is important to our theme of calling, vocation, and the work we do daily — it points us to the major indicative enabling the imperatives that embody what we do each day as Christians.
Ferguson, referring to 1 John 3:1-2, says, “[The fact that we are children of God] is the way — not the only way but the fundamental way — for the Christian to think about himself or herself. Our self-image, if it is to be biblical, will begin just here. God is my Father (the Christian’s self-image always begins with the knowledge of God and who he is!); I am one of his children (I know my real identity); his people are my brothers and sisters (I recognize the family to which I belong, and have discovered my deepest ‘roots’).” (2)
If we are children of God (indicative), we must conduct ourselves in particular ways consistent with that family membership (imperative). This touches our relationships with each other. For example, we cannot be God’s children apart from his family, the church. No “Lone Ranger” Christianity is an option here. Ferguson says, “As children of God we cannot be solitary, isolationist, or individualistic. Just as we are to live in the light of our Father’s presence in our lives, and the new dispositions he has given to us, so we are also to live in the context of our family membership. Belonging to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10, Eph. 2:19) involves many new privileges and requires that we recognize certain new responsibilities.” (53)
I hope you enjoy reading this book. Ferguson’s style is very accessible, and though it is brief, this small volume is packed with spiritual food on which to chew. It can be read quickly, but resist the temptation. Savor it and marinate in it. It will change your thinking about who you, and we, are.