How the Reformers Rediscovered the Holy Spirit and True Conversion

Dan has offered Sinclair Ferguson’s insights about how two Reformers, Luther and Calvin, were drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, by the work of the Spirit of God through His Word.

The Battle Cry

by Sinclair Ferguson

Luther’s story is well known; Calvin’s less so. Luther was wrestling with the concept of the righteousness of God, and had come to hate it; Calvin had an immense thirst for a secure knowledge of God, but had not found it. While not the whole truth, there is something in the notion that Luther was looking for a gracious God while Calvin was seeking for a true and assured knowledge of him.

In Luther’s case, the ordinances of late medieval Catholicism could not “give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.” In Calvin’s case, neither the Church nor the immense intellectual discipline he had displayed in his teens and early twenties, and certainly not all his acquisition of the skills of a post-medieval humanist scholar, could bring him to an assured knowledge of God.


For all the differences in their backgrounds, educations, dispositions…

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a story of forgiveness, part 3

Rosa acicularis, AKA Wild Rose, the Prickly Rose, or the Arctic Rose, Attribution I, Ravedave, 15 June 2007, Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, and let us Reason Together, Saith the LORD: though your sins be as Scarlet, they shall be as White as Snow; though they be red like Crimson, they Shall be as Wool.”

Hat-tip: Kristi Ann for bringing this verse to mind.

While my husband and I were separated I became ill and was hospitalized. He was across the country visiting his sister who was having very serious surgery. This was a terribly lonely time. One of the women from the Bible study, the wife of the preacher, visited me when I was discharged. She spoke to me of the Lord very gently and truthfully and prayed with me. Later when I was alone in my rented room I knelt down and admitted to the Lord that I had messed up my life and asked Him to fix it. I didn’t say a special prayer but was truly sorry. I didn’t have sound doctrinal thoughts about repentance and faith but only my simple need for Him to fix my life. (I haven’t shared much about the sin that brought a kind of ruin because it isn’t best.)

The first change in things was in my nightly prayers for my sister-in-law. I had been saying the rosary for her healing. Gently the Lord impressed upon me that this wasn’t needed, to simply pray for her. The second change was in how I saw things: I understood why my Christian friends said ‘the Lord’ all the time, not just ‘God’. (You may have noticed me using ‘God’ a lot in my testimony. I’ve done this to show you the distance between me and our Holy Lord.) Also, I clearly saw that in this world there are people who are saved and people who aren’t. For the first time I saw the Kingdom of God. 

John 3:3

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

My sister-in-law’s surgery went well and my husband came home. To his surprise I met him at the airport. I explained all that had happened, my illness and prayer, and how sorry I was for not being a good wife and hurting him. I never felt so sorry for anything in my life. He was puzzled but happy – he wasn’t a Christian yet – but accepted what I had to say as real because of the change the Lord had made in me. We have lived as husband and wife since that time in the summer of 1979.

As the Lord continued to speak to me in His Word, and through my circumstances seen in the light of His Word, I lived in Psalm 119 and learned how He saw my situation, drinking it in. Jesus, thank you! I didn’t want pain but was comforted by Your Word. The following year my husband trusted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and awoke to a brand new world!

Psalm 119 

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord,
according unto thy word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge:
for I have believed thy commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray:
but now have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good, and doest good;
teach me thy statutes.

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted;
that I might learn thy statutes.

75 I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right,
and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

a story of forgiveness, part 2

Bibbia con rosa by Vortix - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - httpcommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileBibbia_con_rosa.jpg#mediaviewerFileBibbia_con_rosa.jpg

Psalm 119

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple

Soon after my husband and I were married, we moved to the small town where he had grown up. It was a close-knit community and I knew only his family there.

I’d begun to read my Mother’s Catholic New Testament and asked around at the place where I worked for a Bible study. God led me to a home study directed by a young couple who were church planters with the CMA (Christian Missionary Alliance), friendly lovely people. Their group was beginning a study on Ephesians, and there for the first time I encountered Biblical teaching on the Church. I thought it was strange that they were studying “the Church” when I was the one who had a claim to The True Church!

Soon, friction started but not hostility. The young preacher tried to help me understand the true Good News, the Gospel of grace, and to show me that there is only one Gospel as revealed in God’s Word, and that it wasn’t a matter of opinion, it wasn’t something to debate but to submit to. Only Jesus could make me right with God; there was nothing I could do.

Ephesians 2

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.


Historisches Kinderkarusell – the painted merry-go-round of this world (Wikimedia)

At times, feeling resentment and loving the world – Vanity Fair, Bunyan called it – and thinking there must be a better way to fix my life and get what I wanted from God, I considered leaving the group, but each week I hurried there.

Though I was fighting the truth that God alone is Lord of the Church and each one of us, and has the right to deal with us as He wants to, I was being drawn to these dear friendly people, experiencing their kindness to one another and me. By God’s doing, they became a fragrance of life to me. (A Thai friend of mine, a Buddhist, once said that when people spoke to her of the Lord Jesus she smelled a beautiful scent like flowers.)

2 Corinthians 2

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 

But eventually, under conviction and full of turmoil I left the group. A slave to selfishness, I also left my husband. . . 

a story of forgiveness, part 1


My crisis of repentance and faith came about because I sinned in a certain way. In ancient Israel, this transgression was a capital offense – though for all of us sin brings death, death is its “wages”.

James 1

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

But my transgression was probably more selfish, reckless, careless, and cruel than the sins of many other people who are more decent and caring. How I longed to put everything right! But God showed me that nothing could fix things. Life was changed for everyone in any way touched by what I’d done – what we had done.

I didn’t “get” that I’d sinned against God directly, though I did ask for His forgiveness. God didn’t care that my contrition wasn’t perfect – perfect contrition is something that as a Catholic I was taught to strive for. And He wasn’t silent, speaking to me through my circumstances and through people He brought my way, people who believed His Word and told me that I needed to believe it too. They didn’t care that I was a Catholic and had no need like they did because I was a member of The One True Church. This was such a settled fact for me – the True Church – that I didn’t need to even have answers for anyone who questioned it. But the Gospel began to get to me; it was new and different and not focused on me but on God, Someone Whom they spoke of as “the Lord”, a habit which irritated me, that is, that they acted as if He was someone they actually knew personally.

God showed me many things through circumstances, removing my props, so to speak, showing me for instance that my Mom couldn’t step in and fix what I’d done – in fact she had warned me not to sin and ‘prophesied’ disaster over me. My actions had consequences as unyielding as rock. I might be her darling child (though grown), but that meant nothing because I was like any other mother’s darling child – this fact didn’t work with God. Like others before me I’d come up against the pitiless nature of the Law, whether human or Divine. For awhile still, I remained blind and dead in my sins, deluded that I was a special case because of being me. . .