Sinclair B. Ferguson’s The Christian Life is likely the clearest, most concise overview of the fundamentals of the Christian faith you will ever read. It’s short, but filled to the brim with rich, scriptural doctrine that you can really sink your teeth into. And though it is considered an “introduction”, this book isn’t just for newbies; it’s something any and every Christian, regardless of age, will benefit from.
In the course of 200 pages, Dr. Ferguson manages to cover quite a bit of ground. Among other things, he touches upon the fallen nature of man, conviction of sin, election, justification, and perseverance of the saints. His approach is not only doctrinal, but practical as well. After all, theological head-knowledge is quite useless unless it is applied to our everyday lives. Likewise, you cannot live for Christ effectively if you are not first firmly rooted in the Gospel.
In Chapter 1 (“Knowing is for Living”), Ferguson writes,
Most of us, by nature, are not students but more ‘practical’ types, ‘doers’ rather than ‘thinkers’. Yet both Scripture and the history of the church indicate to us that it is, generally speaking, ‘thinkers’ who make the best ‘doers’! Cast your mind over the life-stories of the men and women who have had the most practical influences on the church, or perhaps on your own life. You will discover that very few among them who were not students of Christian truth, however unsophisticatedly they went about their studies. From the greatest theologians, martyrs and intellectually gifted preachers, to those of lowliest gifts but spiritual power, all, perhaps without exception, have been students of the doctrines of the Bible, and therein lies one of the secrets of their usefulness. However paradoxical it seems to our natural minds, it is one of the facts of spiritual reality that practical christian living is based on understanding and knowledge.
One of the things I most appreciated about Ferguson’s writing is his infectious enthusiasm; his zeal for Christ is evident on literally every page. The reader cannot help but get excited at the Gospel truths presented in the book, even if he’s heard them a hundred times before. His tone throughout is wise, gentle, and warmly pastoral, more like that of a grandfather than of an academic. And the book is all the more readable for it.
I give The Christian Life my full-hearted recommendation. It’s not a “How To” manual nor a systematic theology, but rather crystal-clear exposition of the essentials of Christian doctrine. To quote J.I. Packer, “Christian beginners will get the benefit and the Lord’s older sheep, grown tough and stringy maybe, will find themselves edified and perhaps tenderized, too.”