John Wilkes Booth Meets Sinclair Ferguson

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

Earlier this week I wrote a post entitled Lessons From John Wilkes Booth, which sought to draw insights for the Christian from the life of presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. This is the part two of that post.

Meditation Leads to Action

Booth’s killing of Lincoln wasn’t a random act of wickedness. It was the result of much thinking, meditation, and fantasizing. Hatred for Lincoln festered in Booth’s heart for months before Booth finally pulled the trigger in Ford’s Theater. Six months before the assassination, Booth and his rebel comrades concocted a plan to kidnap Lincoln and hold him for ransom, only to be thwarted by faulty information regarding Lincoln’s whereabouts. On the day of the killing, Booth penned the following letter:

For a long time I have devoted my energies, my time and money, to the accomplishment of a certain end [kidnapping Lincoln]. I have been disappointed. The moment has arrived when I must change my plans. Many will blame me for what I am about to do, but posterity, I am sure, will justify me.

Clearly John Wilkes Booth spent many hours mulling over his intense hatred for Abraham Lincoln.

As I ponder the words of Booth, I’m reminded of the words of Sinclair Ferguson, who said the following (read this quote slowly):

The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are looking outward. We need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.

John Wilkes Booth spent his energies thinking about the glorious cause of the Confederacy, and it led to drastic action on behalf of the Confederacy. I want to follow the wise advice of Sinclair Ferguson and spend my energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.

Our tendency as Christians is to always be looking inward, interpreting all of life through the foggy lens of our feelings. Sinclair Ferguson is aware of this temptation and exhorts us to spend the majority of our time pondering the glories of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection.

What will be the result of regular meditation on Jesus Christ? Love for Christ. Service to Christ. Passion for the gospel. All these are the result of “expositing, exploring, and extolling Jesus Christ”. Meditation leads to action.

Question for discussion: How do we move from being people that are continually looking inward to people that spend their energies pondering Jesus?

Never Miss Any Goodness

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  • Boaly says:

    Challenging post!
    I guess a starting point would be prayer over this and spending time, focussed specifically on looking at what the Bible says about Jesus and carefully reading the text with the veiw of seeing Christ instead of looking for what’s relevant to me or fits my situation…

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Boaly – Good point. It’s so easy to read the Bible and primarily see us instead of God, when in reality, all of scripture is about God.

  • Aaron says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Great post, thanks for sharing it. I think one of the most helpful things regarding this was a message from last year’s SGM leadership conference by David Powlison on the dangers of introspection. In it he admonished us that for every look we give to our sin, to give ten looks to Christ our savior. He challenged us that figuring out the root of our sin is rarely difficult and should not be time consuming, that we should spend something like 2 minutes a day pondering our sin, and the rest of the day pondering Christ (he exaggerated a bit, but I think he made the point well).

    BTW, where did that quote from Ferguson come from?

    Thanks for the thoughtful posts!

  • Aaron – That was a very helpful message that Powlison gave. I should listen to it again.

    I’ve heard C.J. give that quote many times but I’m not sure exactly where it came from. I pulled it from his blog at: CLICK HERE

  • Violet says:

    This reminded me of one of Jerry Bridges favorite admonitions to preach the gospel to yourself everyday. As I do this first thing in the morning, my focus is set vertically and my whole perspective changes.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Violet – How do you preach the gospel to yourself every morning?

  • Violet says:

    I preach the gospel to myself by recognizing that I am a sinner, repenting of any known sin, and meditating on the fact that Christ shed His blood for my sin and is my only hope for a right standing before Him.

    If I zero in only on my sin, then I am depressed for the rest of the day. But when I focus rather on what He has done for me, in giving me His righteousness in exchange for my sin, then I am energized to go forward into the day depending on His promises and power.

    I guess the greatest discovery for me has been realizing that the Gospel message (the wonderful news of God’s grace) isn’t just something needed at conversion, but moment by moment throughout my Christian life.

  • Marshall says:

    @Violet: I’d be interested in how to preach the gospel to yourself also.

  • Marshall says:

    Sorry for asking again. You answered already, Violet.

    I like your last point about salvation being something that is continuous. I’ve written on it before, and it’s often overlooked when we speak of salvation.

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