“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” (2 Timothy 2:8).
This week as I was meditating on Paul’s declaration of Jesus as the gospel, I received the following quotation from John Stott. Without a doubt, the gospel is a story of love.
May the gospel shape our lives and our churches.
Enjoy the words from Stott!
“Jesus renounced the joys of heaven for the sorrows of earth, exchanging an eternal immunity to the approach of sin for painful contact with evil in this world. He was born of a lowly Hebrew mother in a dirty stable in the insignificant village of Bethlehem. He became a refugee baby in Egypt. He was brought up in the obscure hamlet of Nazareth, and toiled at a carpenter’s bench to support his mother and the other children in their home. In due time he became an itinerant preacher, with few possessions, small comforts and no home. He made friends with simple fishermen and publicans. He touched lepers and allowed harlots to touch him. He gave himself away in a ministry of healing, helping, teaching and preaching. He was misunderstood and misrepresented, and became the victim of men’s prejudices and vested interests. He was despised and rejected by his own people, and deserted by his own friends. He gave his back to be flogged, his face to be spat upon, his head to be crowned with thorns, his hands and feet to be nailed to a common Roman gallows. And as the cruel spikes were driven home, he kept praying for his tormentors, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ Such a man is altogether beyond our reach. He succeeded just where we invariably fail. He had complete self-mastery. He never retaliated. He never grew resentful or irritable. He had such control of himself that, whatever men might think or say or do, he would deny himself and abandon himself to the will of God and the welfare of mankind. ‘I seek not my own will’, he said, and ‘I do not seek my own glory’. As Paul wrote, ‘For Christ did not please himself.’ This utter disregard of self in the service of God and man is what the Bible calls love.”
–From “Basic Christianity” by John Stott (rev. edn. London: IVP, 1971), p. 44.
As I complete my current study of John’s gospel with themes of light and life, darkness and death, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities with this Psalm. In this world of darkness, the light of Christ shines the hope of life. I pray that as Christians we will not live our lives in a way that would confuse the message of life and life by a lifestyle of darkness and death.
Psalm 36 (NLT)
For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord.
Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts.
They have no fear of God at all. In their blind conceit,
they cannot see how wicked they really are.
Everything they say is crooked and deceitful.
They refuse to act wisely or do good.
They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots.
Their actions are never good.
They make no attempt to turn from evil.
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.
Don’t let the proud trample me
or the wicked push me around.
Look! Those who do evil have fallen!
They are thrown down, never to rise again.
I received this Stott quote by email and wanted to share it. These three words set off a chorus of praise in my heart!
“’I counsel you …’ (Rev. 3:18). Perhaps we could first observe that fact that we have a God who is content to give advice to his creatures. I can never read this verse without being strangely moved. He is the great God of the expanding universe. He has countless galaxies of stars at his fingertips. The heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. He is the Creator and sustainer of all things, the Lord God Almighty. He has the right to issue orders for us to obey. He prefers to give advice which we need not heed. He could command; he chooses to counsel. He respects the freedom with which he had ennobled us.”
–John R. Stott, from “What Christ Thinks of the Church” p. 119.
I have been reading The Living Church
by John Stott. In this book, subtitled Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor
, Stott shares about maintaining spiritual vitality and mission commitment over a long span of time. I especially appreciate his desire to communicate with both traditional and emerging churches.
Here are a few quotes from the opening chapters:
“It is not that the church’s calling is to ape the world, for it is called rather to develop a Christian counterculture. At the same time, we must listen to the voices of the world in order to be able to respond to them sensitively, though without compromise. “
John Stott, The Living Church
, p. 12
“For the church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his glory.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 19.
“We believe that the church has a double identity. On the one hand we are called out of the world to belong to God, and on the other hand, we are sent back into the world to witness and to serve.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 20.
“Moreover, the mission of the church is modeled on the mission of Christ. He himself said so. ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21). His mission meant for him the incarnation. He did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven. Instead, he emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. He actually entered our world. He took our nature, lived our life, and died our death. He could not have identified with us more closely than he did. It was total identification, though without any loss of identity, for he became one of us without ceasing to be himself. He became human without ceasing to be God.
And now he calls us to enter other people’s worlds, as he entered ours. All authentic mission is incarnational mission. We are called to enter other people’s social and cultural reality: into their thought- world, struggling to understand their misunderstandings of the gospel, and into the pain of their alienation, weeping with those who weep. And all this without compromising our Christian beliefs, values, and standards.”
John Stott, The Living Church, pp. 20-21.
“. . .what is God’s vision for his church? What are the distinguishing marks of a living church? To answer these questions we have to go back to the beginning and take a fresh look at the first Spirit-filled church in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Mind you, as we do so, it is essential that we are realistic. For we have a tendency to idealize or romanticize the early church. We look at it through tinted spectacles. We speak of it in whispers, as if it had no blemishes. Then we miss the rivalries, the hypocrisies, the immoralities, and the heresies which troubled the first-century church as they trouble the church today.”
John Stott, The Living Church, p. 21.
“The failure and poor performance of many Christians are evidence not of their need to be baptized with the Spirit (even the proud, loveless, quarrelsome and sin-tolerant Corinthian Christians had been baptized with the Spirit), but of their need to recover the fullness of the Spirit which they have lost through sin or unbelief.”
John R. W. Stott
From Baptism and Fullness, p. 66.
“Reconciliation lies at the very heart of Christianity. For some years now I have followed a simple rule, that whenever anybody asks me a question about divorce, I refuse to answer it until I have first talked about two other subjects, namely, marriage and reconciliation. This is a simple attempt to follow Jesus in his own priorities. When the Pharisees asked him about the grounds for divorce, he referred them instead to the original institution of marriage. If we allow ourselves to become preoccupied with divorce and its grounds, rather than with marriage and its ideals, we lapse into Pharisaism. For God’s purpose is marriage not divorce, and his gospel is good news of reconciliation. We need to see Scripture as a whole, and not isolate the topic of divorce.”
John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, p. 303
I’m passing along another Stott quote, this one form one of my favorite of his works, The Preacher’s Portrait. Hard to believe he wrote these words in 1961.
“Although there are, strictly speaking, no prophets or apostles today, I fear there are false prophets and false apostles. They speak their own words instead of God’s Word. Their message originates in their own mind. These are men who like to ventilate their own opinions on religion, ethics, theology or politics. They may be conventional enough to introduce their sermon with a Scripture text, but the text bears little or no relation to the sermon which follows, nor is any attempt made to interpret the text in its context. It has been truly said that such a text without a context is a pretext.”
–John Stott from “The Preacher’s Portrait” (London: Tyndale Press, 1961), p. 13.