Quotes by Sinclair Ferguson
So what is the place of the Law in the life of the Christian? Simply this: We are no longer under the Law to be condemned by it, we are now “in-lawed” to it because of our betrothal to Christ! He has written the Law, and love for it, into our hearts!
It is far more important, and will do you far more good, to read a smaller number of Christian books which have been well-tried and have proved their value than to develop the Athenian spirit which is attracted to anything so long as it is new (cf. Acts 17:21).
How to overcome the flesh:
1. Be honest about the presence and nature of sin continuing in your life. Paul was. In Colossians 3:5-9 he recognizes that the seeds of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying, may remain in true Christians and plague their lives.
2. See the sin which continues to indwell you not in the light of your perspective but in the light of God’s judgment. Any and all sin merits His wrath.
3. Remember who you are as a Christian. You have been crucified, buried and raised with Christ (Col. 3:1-3). Consequently you are no longer under the reign and rule of sin (Rom. 6:14,18). Now you must set your mind on Christ and on His reign in your life, and express your new identity in Christ by a life of holiness.
4. Refuse sin. Do not compromise with it; rather, put it to death (Col. 3:5).
5. Fill your life with Christ-like characteristics. (“Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”, Col. 3:12). In this way you will leave less and less room for sinful ones (v. 12-17).
There can be few more alarming sights than the sight of what we would be were we left to ourselves, of what we are by nature in and of ourselves. It is a sight which few of us are able to bear for any length of time. That is why such experiences are usually brief, pointed but not prolonged. God shows us enough to make us see our need, to break down any illusions we may have had about ourselves. Like a skilled surgeon His knife work is fast, accurate and clean.
If the world is not rooted out from our hearts, it will devour them. There must be weeding, if the good seed of grace is to grow. But what weed-killer can we use against the spirit of the world? Here is a potent, three-fold formula from the Bible:
1. Recognize that love of the world is the enemy of the love of the Father (1 John 2:15). You cannot have both. You must choose one only. Make the right choice.
2. Remember that it was the world that crucified Christ and that it took the sacrifice of the Cross to deliver you from it (Gal. 6:14). How can you negotiate with the spirit which plotted the assassination of your Savior?
3. Reflect on the fact that the world, in this sense, is transient and ephemeral (1 John 2:17); it is not a solid investment. Devote yourself instead to having “treasure in heaven” (Matt. 6:19-21).
We are baptized into (not merely in) the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When faith grasps the significance of baptism it dawns on us that we have been given the privilege of all privileges – fellowship with God. We are His, and He is ours – forever! His grace does not cleanse us from sin simply for its own sake, but to fit us for His company throughout the whole of our lives. So baptism announces to us the overwhelmingly great privilege of fellowship with the triune covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. And because baptism symbolizes this, it calls us to a new life-style marked by ongoing repentance and faith.
We discover the will of God by a sensitive application of Scripture to our own lives.
For worship is, essentially, the reverse of sin. Sin began (and begins) when we succumb to the temptation, “You shall be as gods.” We make ourselves the center of the universe and dethrone God. By contrast, worship is giving God his true worth; it is acknowledging Him to be the Lord of all things, and the Lord of everything in our lives. He is, indeed, the Most High God!
No one enjoys being cross-examined, or accused of having something wrong in their lives. But as we grow as Christians we come to the painful recognition that we have an almost unlimited capacity for self-deception. We slowly learn that we need to be stopped in our tracks by God. He uses Scripture to do this… We cannot reach our destination if we are travelling in the wrong direction.
If it is important that we learn to know the condition of the hearts of our hearers, the best place to begin is, of course, with our own hearts. Apply the Word there, and we will soon learn to be like surgical attendants: our exposition of the text will become like sterilized knives, perfectly tooled, which we hand to the Spirit for the precise spiritual surgery that our people actually need.
As in all warfare, the two essential elements in victory are knowing your enemy and knowing your resources.
Paul’s principles (in 1 Corinthians) are of great practical usefulness to us in discerning what the will of the Lord is in our lives: Is it lawful (6:9-11)? Is it beneficial (6:12a)? Is it enslaving (6:12b)? Is it consistent with the Lordship of Christ (6:19-20; 7:23)? Is it beneficial to others (10:33)? Is it consistent with the example of Christ and the apostles (11:1)? Is it for the glory of God (10:31)?
There is no mere doctrine of “the security” of the believer, as though God’s keeping of us took place irrespective of the lives we live. Indeed there is no such thing in the New Testament as a believer whose perseverance is so guaranteed that he can afford to ignore the warning notes which are sounded so frequently.
Who knows the extent to which we would give in to sin, were we to be given a guarantee of immunity from discovery and exposure?
The figure of John Owen (1616-1683) towers above – almost head and shoulders above – the galaxy of writers we know collectively as the English Puritans. His theological learning and acumen was unrivalled; his sense of the importance of doctrine for living was profound.
In the climate of our modern church, it is essential for us to realize that God’s Word is the central gift Christ gives to the church. The major gifts of the New Testament era were given either to write that word (apostles), apply it (prophets) or teach it (pastors and teachers).
We learn about guidance primarily by learning about the Guide. It is the knowledge of God and His ways with men which ultimately gives us stability in doing His will.
God’s holiness means He is separate from sin. But holiness in God also means wholeness. God’s holiness is His “God-ness.” It is His being God in all that it means for Him to be God. To meet God in His holiness, therefore, is to be altogether overwhelmed by the discovery that He is God, and not man.
Where God is at the center of things, worship inevitably follows. Where there is no spirit of worship, there God has been dethroned and displaced.
If light reading is our passion, then Owen’s prose style is not for us. His paragraphs are tightly packed; his thoughts demanding. His analysis of the heart cannot be skimmed quickly. But in our age of constant and instant upgrade to faster models, this is exactly what many of us need: a slow read, a careful application- allowing ourselves to feel the wounds made by Owen’s sensitive eye surgery, and, as a result, discovering that we see our God more clearly, that we love His Son more fully and serve Him in the power of the Spirit more thoroughly. If this is what we need – as it surely is – Owen, though dead, still speaks, and in providence of God is still there to help and guide us.
Twentieth-century man needs to be reminded at times that work is not the result of the Fall. Man was made to work, because the God who made him was a “working God.” Man was made to be creative, with his mind and his hands. Work is part of the dignity of his existence.
When we have differences of opinion about a course of action, the decisive factor is to be “what tends most to the glory of God?” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
[A proper fear of God] is that indefinable mixture of reverence and pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us. It is a love for God which is so great that we would be ashamed to do anything which would displease or grieve Him, and makes us happiest when we are doing what pleases Him.
The single most important activity of your life is to worship God. You were made for this – to offer your whole life, in all its parts, as a hymn of praise to the Lord. When the psalmist says: “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name” (Ps. 103:1), he is speaking as a spiritual athlete in peak condition; his entire life is unreservedly directed to the Lord in praise; whole-heartedness of devotion to God is his most obvious characteristic.
[Faith] is trust in God’s character and obedience to His living voice expressed in His Word. Consequently the object of faith in the Old Testament is the promise of God which awaits its fulfillment in the coming of Christ. Faith looked forward then, just as now it looks backward to its object in Christ. It is interesting to notice how this is expressed in the teaching of Hebrews that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1).” In fact this perspective runs through the whole of Hebrews 11-Noah…Abel…Enoch…and Abraham “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (vs. 13).” Even the martyrs who were commended for their faith did not receive what had been promised (vs. 39). Faith for them was hearing the testimony of God, trusting His promise, and living in the light of God’s faithfulness to it.
Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing “outside of” God Himself; when the Father, Son and Spirit found eternal, absolute and unimaginable blessing, pleasure and joy in their Holy Trinity – it was their agreed purpose to create a world which would fall, and in unison – but at infinitely great cost – to bring (some to) grace and salvation.
The way in which God leads us is the way of following Christ in bearing the cross. Any “guidance” which contradicts this principle will lack the familiar autograph of Christ. Any “voice” which beckons us to forsake this pathway we will silence. For we will have come to recognize the accents of our Master. There is no voice like the voice of the One who has been crucified.
[The fear of God] is the result of discovering that the God whom we thought of with slavish, servile fear, the holy righteous, terrifying God of judgment and majesty, is also the God who forgives us through Jesus Christ… One reason why we know so little of such filial fear is that we do not appreciate the gospel! If we would grow in grace so that we fear God like this, we must first return to the gospel, and to the meaning of the cross.
Adam was made as the image and likeness of God and was given dominion over the earth. He was called to live by faith and obey God’s commands. He was created to be the divinely appointed gardener who would turn the whole earth into a garden, and thus, as it were, extend the glory of God. But Adam failed. Instead of exercising the privilege of reflecting God as his image and experiencing in his miniature what it meant for God to be Lord of all – Adam forfeited it.
Genesis 2 does not tell us much more about the significance of this seventh day. But as we learn more about it from Scripture we realize that the “rest” involved was not a lazy rest. Rather, it was intended to be a day when the working man could enjoy the Creator as well as the creation. He could devote himself more directly to fellowship with God and the worship of His Name. This “sabbath,” or “rest-day,” was a further special blessing which God gave to man so he would be refreshed and strengthened, encouraged and heartened by contemplating all that God had done and stimulated to worship God in response.
Theologians have an interesting question. Does Scripture teach that man is no longer in the image of God? Or does it suggest that the image remains but has been grossly defaced? In many ways (the latter) is an even more tragic prospect. We might well be justified in thinking that there could be no greater disaster than that the likeness of God should be exterminated. But in fact there is. What if the image of God, in which His greatness and glory are reflected, becomes a distortion of His character? What if, instead of reflecting His glory, man begins to reflect the very antithesis of God? What if God’s image becomes an anti-god? This, essentially, is the affront which fallen man is to God. He takes all that God has lavished upon him to enable him to live in free and joyful obedience, and he transforms it into a weapon by which he can oppose His Maker. The very breath, which God gives him thousands of times each day, he abuses by his sin. The magnitude of his sin is also the measure of his need of salvation.
The hypocrite (Greek- hupokrites) was originally an actor. Theatrical make-up in those days took the form of a mask which the actor wore. On it would be painted the character and the mood which the actor portrayed. It might be a smiling face which hid the sad heart of the actor behind it. It might be a face of virtue which hid behind it a life of vice. In acting there can be a great discrepancy between the part which is played and the reality of the life which lies behind it… The same can be true of faith. We can profess much and possess little. Indeed there is always the temptation in Christian fellowships to pretend to be something other than what we are.
We recognize that God has spoken in various ways. Now He has spoken finally in His Son Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). The implication, which the book of Hebrews works out at considerable length, is that we no longer live in the age in which God reveals His will to us in these diverse ways. Now He has perfectly revealed His will to us in Jesus, and we will find His guidance enshrined in the pages of our only witness to Christ – the Holy Scriptures.
How you view God determines the quality and style of your Christian experience. Many Christians spend much of their lives paralyzed because, although they have trusted Christ as Saviour, they have never really seen what His sacrifice teaches us about the character of God. He gave His Son; He sent His Son; He “handed over” His Son because He loves us.
The explanation of Scripture forms the dominant feature and the organizing principle of the message. All preaching should be based on the apostolic kerygma and didache. Exegetical preaching is governed by the goal of expounding the meaning and significance of this “faith once-delivered” in terms of the actual way in which it has been delivered, namely the structure and content of the biblical revelation, in which truth is revealed not in the form of a series of theological or topical loci (God, sin, justification, sanctification; war, money, social ethics, etc.), but through history, parable, narrative, argumentation, poem, and so on. Exegetical preaching therefore sees as its fundamental task the explanation of the text in its context, the unfolding of its principles, and only then their application to the world of hearers.
In the Bible the verb “justify” means “to count righteous” not “to make righteous.”
God made everything else but man “after its kind”’ – that is, according to the purpose and destiny he envisaged for it. But he made man in His own image. Man is patterned on God! He was made to represent God – in created, human form.
When we impose man-made regulations upon ourselves (or others) and lose sight of our liberty to do or not do those things which Scripture neither commands nor forbids, we destroy the fruit of the Spirit and we cease to grow (or to allow others to grow).
God’s guidance will require patience on our part. His leading is not usually a direct assurance, a revelation, but His sovereign controlling of the circumstances of our lives, with the Word of God as our rule. It is therefore, inevitable that the unfolding of His purposes will take time – sometimes a very long time.
If we have deep-seated fears that God does not really love us (as many Christians have), we can only go so far in growing nearer to God. There will come a point at which we will fear to trust Him any further because we cannot be sure of His love. When we look at ourselves, or our own faith, or our circumstances we will never be free from those lurking fears. Satan will see to that. But when we lift up our eyes and look on the cross we find the final persuasion that God is gracious towards us. How can he be against us when all His wrath against us fell upon Christ? How can He fail to care for us when He gave the only Son He had for our sake? How can we doubt Him when He has given us evidence of His love sufficient to banish all doubts?
It is only when we want to take our lives out of the Father’s hands and have them under our own control that we find ourselves gripped with anxiety. The secret of freedom from anxiety is freedom from ourselves and abandonment of our own plans. But that spirit emerges in our lives only when our minds are filled with the knowledge that our Father can be trusted implicitly to supply everything we need.
Precisely because we are justified in Him – that is, in His justification – our justification is also final and irreversible. Indeed we can be so bold as to say that we are as fully justified before God as our Lord Jesus is. We are as finally justified as our Lord Jesus is. We are as irreversibly justified as our Lord Jesus is. The only justification we have – our only righteousness – is that of the Lord Jesus. We are justified with His justification.
What then is the killing of sin? It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily-the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affections to run after anything which will draw us away from Christ. It is the deliberate rejection of any sinful thought, suggestion, desire, aspiration, deed, circumstance or provocation at the moment we become conscience of its existence.
Waiting in Scripture does not mean idly standing by. It is not a matter of resignation, but of commitment to the will of God. But what are we to do when we do not know what God wants us to do? What are we to do while we wait for the divine timetable to run its course? The answer of biblical precept and illustration is one. Do your duty; live in the light God has already given you. By walking in it you will find that God will make the future path clear.
Knowing God’s will is a matter of judgment. That is why it is not an unspiritual practice, when faced with alternative ways of proceeding, to set down the pros and cons of the situation; the reasons, possibilities, problems of one decision in contrast with another. When we begin to evaluate these against a background of a general knowledge of the Lord’s will in Scripture, we often find our minds drawn in a particular direction. As time passes we begin to feel the weight of one course of action rather than another.
God’s love is the most awesome thing about Him. It is not His justice, nor His majesty, nor even His blazing holiness, but the fact that He has made and keeps a covenant of personal commitment and love to His people.
How do we bring glory to God? The Bible’s short answer is: by growing more and more like Jesus Christ.
Christ became a curse for sinners. We become blessed in Christ (Galatians 3:13). He “sealed my pardon with His blood” by bearing our guilt and punishment. He grounds our final righteousness before God by His own perfect obedience. Consequently, justification not only deals with past guilt, but also secures for us a complete and final (or eschatological, to use the technical term) righteousness before God. This is what it means to be justified by faith.
God is a covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. If you have never thought of Him in these terms, then you have not yet begun to think about Him in the way he wants you to. God’s Word describes those covenants, proclaiming Him to be a covenanting God. In a sense, the Bible is the book of His covenant. We even call it that – the Old and the New Covenants [Testaments]!
Appearances can be deceptive. The fact that we cannot see what God is doing does not mean that He is doing nothing. The Lord has His own timetable. It is we who must learn to adjust to it, not vice versa. When God’s time comes nothing will stand in His way. We can therefore wait for Him with this happy confidence: “As for God, His way is perfect” (2 Samuel 22:31).
Sometimes we say that the principle by which any action may be judged is: Can I take Christ there? There is truth in that. But it is not the whole truth. For, Paul emphasizes (1 Corinthians 6:15), we have no choice in the matter. We do take Christ there. As those who are united to Him we cannot leave Him behind. So the real question is: Can I take Christ there and look Him in the face without shame? Is this course of action, this decision I am taking, totally consistent with my personal confession that “Jesus Christ is my Lord”?
There is no such thing as genuine knowledge of God that does not show itself in obedience to His Word and will. The person who wants to know God but who has no heart to obey Him will never enter the sacred courts where God reveals Himself to the soul of man. God does not give divine knowledge to those who have no desire to glorify Him.
Preaching to the heart addresses the understanding first, in order to instruct it; but in doing so it also reaches through the mind to inform, rebuke, and cleanse the conscience. It then touches the will in order to reform and transform life and equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
The foundation of our love for the Lord lies in the recognition of His holiness, our sinfulness, and His grace…those who are forgiven much, love much.
God is a covenant-making, covenant-remembering, covenant-keeping God!
The way to open our hearts to others is by receiving afresh the grace of God and appreciating what it means: seeing our own need of Christ; coming to receive His mercy; sensing how undeserved His love for us is; remembering how He has also opened His heart to those whose hearts are closed against us. Then we will see that the heart which is too narrow to receive a fellow Christian is too narrow to enthrone the Lord Jesus Christ. But the heart that is opened to receive the grace of Christ will learn to welcome all those whom Christ Himself has welcomed.
Scripture speaks about God working everything together “for the good” of those who love him (Rom. 8:28). But what is this “good?” It consists of believers being conformed (changed and remade) to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Thus, all the experiences of life are intended, under the sovereign hand of God, to help us to grow towards the great goal of the Christian life – Christ-likeness.
Christ’s death was substitutionary… Jesus was taking our place. That is why the charges brought against Him were blasphemy and treason, for these are the very charges we face before the judgment seat of God. We have made ourselves into gods, and thus blasphemed His holy Name; we have rebelled against His rightful rule over our lives, and we are guilty of high treason against his gracious majesty.
In the last analysis, this is what preaching to the heart is intended to produce: inner prostration of the hearts of our listeners through a consciousness of the presence and the glory of God. This distinguishes authentic biblical, expository preaching from any cheap substitute for it; it marks the difference between preaching about the Word of God and preaching the Word of God.
The providence of God is the way in which He governs everything wisely, first for the glory of His own Name, and second for the ultimate blessing of His children.
There is a center to the Bible and its message of grace. It is found in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Grace must therefore be preached in a way that is centered and focused on Jesus Christ Himself, never offering the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself.
We may think that…severity (as God leads His children) is inconsistent with what we know of God’s gentleness and compassion. But that is because we do not appreciate how seriously God loves us, and how determined He is that we should have His best, even if it means pain.
Marriage has all kinds of purposes: it provides the environment in which children may be born and properly reared. It provides the context in which the sexual instincts can be exercised in a God-intended way. But first and foremost, Genesis teaches us, it provides a very special friendship. In marriage a man and a woman can become the best of friends, knowing each other to such a depth that only God knows them better! This, too, is a gift from the Creator.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). …When these words were first written, they presented a challenge to all religions of the world. They made a claim for the God of Israel, the God of the Bible: He alone is God; He alone is the Creator. Ever since, they have challenged the philosophies and world views of mankind, and continue to do so today. They affirm, without reservation, that the universe in which we live is not an accident, not the chance result of ‘nature’ or ‘evolution.’ It is the handiwork of the living God.
When we exercise the gifts which Christ has given us we are really saying to our fellow Christians and others: See how much the Lord Jesus Christ loves you and cares for you; He has sent me to serve you in this way; He is using my hands and feet, my lips and ears, to show His love. It is a tragic mistake if we think that the message is: See what a superb Christian I am; see the wonderful gifts I have… Gifts are for service, not self-advancement.
God is God; you are but one of His creatures. Your only joy is to be found in obeying Him, your true fulfillment is to be found in worshipping Him, your only wisdom is to be found in trusting and knowing Him.
The evidence that I preach Jesus Christ as Lord is found not so much in my declarations as it is in the manifestation of that Lordship in my life and preaching – when I, who am His bondslave, am willing to be and actually become in my preaching, the bondslave of others for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
When you look at the Cross, what do you see? You see God’s awesome faithfulness. Nothing – not even the instinct to spare His own Son – will turn him back from keeping His word.
We [should not] make the mistake of thinking that marriage will provide the ultimate satisfaction for which we all hunger. To assume so would be to be guilty of blasphemy. Only God satisfies the hungry heart. Marriage is but one of the channels He uses to enable us to taste how deeply satisfying His thirst-quenching grace can be.
Imagine, for a moment, the reaction of Hell to the death of Christ. Jesus was bound with the bands of death. What celebration and joy! God was defeated! Vengeance was the Devil’s. But they reckoned without the wisdom of God. For Christ could not be held down by the bands of death. In fact through death He was paralyzing the one who had the power of death, and He was setting His people free (Heb. 2:14-15). What seemed to be defeat was actually victory. The Resurrection morning was Hell’s gloomiest day. Satan saw the wisdom of God and tasted defeat.
In the climate of our modern church, it is essential for us to realize that God’s Word is the central gift Christ gives to the church. The major gifts of the New Testament era were given either to write that word (apostles), apply it (prophets) or teach it (pastors and teachers). Whenever we dislocate our own spiritual gift from this anchor we begin to flounder in a sea of instability. We must see to it that our gifts are fed on the teaching of Holy Scripture, so that they grow strong and are channeled in the right direction, and so bring glory to Christ.
Since man was made for the glory of God, he can never be what he was intended to be until his life is properly focused on the glory of God… So God’s glory does not detract from man’s life. Instead, His glory is the sun around which the whole of life must revolve if there is to be the light and life of God in our experience. Since we were made for His glory, we will always malfunction whenever we fail to live for that purpose according to the Maker’s instructions.
We are called to be cruciformed (shaped by the cross), Christophers (bearing the Christ of the cross), and Christplacarders (setting Christ and Him crucified on display, cf. Galatians 3:1) in our preaching of Christ.
How does Christ’s death on the Cross demonstrate God’s wisdom? In this way: Through the Cross, our sin is judged, yet sinful men and women are forgiven precisely because God has judged that sin in Jesus Christ instead of in us. God has done what seemed morally impossible in a way that demonstrates rather than denies His holiness and justice. That is why the Cross is the “trysting place, where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet.” The Cross is the expression of God’s loving genius.
Christians are persecuted for the sake of righteousness because of their loyalty to Christ. Real loyalty to Him creates friction in the hearts of those who pay Him only lip service. Loyalty arouses their consciences, and leaves them with only two alternatives: follow Christ, or silence Him. Often their only way of silencing Christ is by silencing His servants. Persecution, in subtle or less subtle forms, is the result.
Too often we fail to appreciate that [the] apprehension of God is not only the test of our worship, but also the test of our spiritual growth. A Christian’s real development in spiritual life will always be revealed by how he or she thinks about God – how much he thinks about Him, and how highly he thinks about Him.
We must not think that obedience leads to an easier life, nor should we assume that when things fall apart it is always a sign of our specific disobedience – God’s ways with us in the Christian life are usually much more intricate and complex than that!
We miss the radical nature of Paul’s teaching here to our great loss. So startling is it that we need to find a startling manner of expressing it. For what Paul is saying is that sanctification means this: in relationship both to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ’s past.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing of all is this: God lifts us not only from what we are by nature to what Adam was in the Garden of Eden, but to what Adam was to become in the presence of God, and would have been had he persevered in obedience. The gospel does not make us like Adam in his innocence – it makes us like Christ, in all the perfection of His reflection of God.
How…could God remain equally faithful to His love for us and His just judgment of our sins? The glory of the cross, its unimaginable wisdom lies in the way God has devised to provide salvation for His people.
“Should I or shouldn’t I?” is often, ultimately, a question of obedience as well as knowledge and understanding. Very often when young people say they are having problems about guidance, what they are really faced with is a problem about obedience. The issue at stake is whether we will walk along the paths of righteousness in which God will lead us. Are we willing to go through valleys of deep darkness, so long as He is with us?
Spiritual growth depends on two things: first a willingness to live according to the Word of God; second, a willingness to take whatever consequences emerge as a result.
There is a strange ambiguity here. On the one hand, God’s call seems to have its own creative power. On the other hand, God opens His arms and His heart to the rebellious as He calls them, but His summons seems to fall empty on the ground and met with no positive response. It is irrestible, and yet it seems to be rejectable!
Yes, apostasy happens. Sometimes the catalyst is flagrant sin. The pain of conviction and repentance is refused, and the only alternative to it is wholesale rejection of Christ. But sometimes the catalyst is a thorn growing quietly in the heart, an indifference to the way of the Cross, a drifting that is not reversed by the knowledge of biblical warnings.