Over 400 delegates of all ages engaged with this key question at the Scottish Reformed Conference in May. The speakers were Dr Sinclair Ferguson (Reformed Theological Seminary) and Dr Robert Murdock (Faith Mission Bible College).
Speaking from Genesis, Dr Ferguson emphasised that humans are made in the image of God. Concerning the Fall, he said, ‘We must grasp what we have fallen from and understand how tragic the fall is’.
Only confusion follows modern approaches to construct human identity. In contrast, the Bible affirms our distinctive identity as image-bearers of God. Ferguson observed that, ‘The wrath of God is seen in the whirlwind of confusion that society has sown’. We see the tragedy of what we have become when we understand the dignity from which we have fallen.
Humanity shares in the ‘pattern’ of God: we have dignity, and the ability to share fellowship with one another. Our vocation is to share in and steward God’s creation; we are to extend the Garden of Eden and, in so doing, reflect God’s glory. Emulating him, we too should live in fellowship and in family. For this reason, Satan assaults traditional family paradigms and human identity itself.
Though sin distorts who we are, God still proffers recreation and rest. Christ is the solution to the Fall because he alone manifested what it is to be perfectly in the image of God.
Dr Murdock spoke from Galatians 5, explaining how believers should automatically produce the fruit of the Spirit when living by faith. Love heads the list of fruits of the Spirit and should distinguish God’s people. More than a feeling, it is concern and action, flowing from the love of God.
Joy characterises true Christianity. It should be rooted in our knowledge and experience of God’s grace. Peace with God, others and ourselves is another fruit. Alongside peace comes patience, reflecting the Lord’s patience with sinners.
Kindness follows, again grounded in God’s own kindness to us. Faithfulness: are we reliable and dependable? What is gentleness? Far from being weakness, gentleness is strength under control. The final segment of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. This concerns self-discipline – avoiding rash decisions and actions.
Murdock challenged the congregation to imagine how different, how Spirit-filled our churches would be if we truly cultivated the fruit of the Spirit in each of our lives.