The greatest of enemies

But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.  Galatians 4:29 “The persecution of the true church, of Christian believers who trace their spiritual descent from Abraham, is not always by the world, who are strangers unrelated to us, but by our half-brothers, religious people, the nominal church.  It has always been so.  The Lord Jesus was bitterly opposed, rejected, mocked and condemned by his own nation.  The fiercest opponents of the apostle Paul, who dogged his footsteps and stirred up strife against him, were the official church, the Jews.  The monolithic structure of the medieval papacy persecuted all Protestant minorities with ruthless, unremitting ferocity.  And the greatest enemies of the evangelical faith today are not unbelievers, who when they hear the gospel often embrace it, but the church, the establishment, the hierarchy.  Isaac is always mocked and persecuted by Ishmael.”

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Why We Need Both Clarity and Courage in Preaching

  John Stott: Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation. Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear. Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it. What is needed in the pulpits of the world today is a combination of clarity and courage, or of ‘utterance’ and ‘boldness’. (HT: Trevin Wax)

Election and the Gospel

  Let no one say that the doctrine of election by the sovereign will and mercy of God, mysterious as it is, makes either evangelism or faith unnecessary. The opposite is the case. It is only because of God’s gracious will to save that evangelism has any hope of success and faith becomes possible. The preaching of the gospel is the very means that God has appointed by which he delivers from blindness and bondage those whom he chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, sets them free to believe in Jesus, and so causes his will to be done. — John Stott The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1979), 48 (HT: Of First Importance)

The Fuel For Missions

  Without the Bible, world evangelization would not only impossible but actually inconceivable. It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it and promises us that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer. It is, moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the Church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism. Conversely, whenever they are convinced about the Bible, then they are determined about evangelism. – John Stott in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, p.21 (HT: Zach Nielsen)  

The Uniqueness and Universality of Jesus

John Stott: Only one way, only one name, only one God, only one Lord, only one Mediator. The claim is exclusive, and the implication inescapable. What is genuinely unique has universal significance and must be universally made known… Thus uniqueness and universality belong together. It is because God has super-exalted Jesus, and given him the unique name of ‘Lord’, towering above every other name, that every knee must bow to him. It is because Jesus Christ is the only Savior, that we are under obligation to proclaim him everywhere. The ‘inclusivism’ of the mission is precisely due to the ‘exclusivism’ of the Mediator. In addition, universal authority over the nations has been given to him; that is why he commissions us to go and disciple the nations. – John Stott, The Contemporary Christian (HT: Trevin Wax)

The Prophetic John Stott

John Stott, writing over 30 years ago (in 1982): It is difficult to imagine the world in the year A.D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today. We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power. Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary. In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on screen. In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less. —John R.W. Stott, I Believe in Preaching (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982), p. 69. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Personhood, Grace, and the Sanctity of Human Life

Brian G. Hedges: This week marks the 41st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the United States Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on January 22, 1973.  Since that time over 55 million babies have been aborted in the United States. That’s about 8 times the number of people who live in Indiana (my state) and over a sixth of the total current population in the United States. Abortion is a polarizing issue in our culture: a moral, political, and religious dividing line that separates ethicists, citizens, and even professing Christians. And while many of my readers value the sanctity of human life and believe (as I do) that abortion is the unjust murder of a human being, it’s all too easy for us to caricature people of the opposing position as monsters who lack any moral conscience whatsoever. Even calling abortion murder will sound (to many) like inflammatory rhetoric that generates more heat than light. The problem, of course, is that while

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Strong in the grace of Another

Ray Ortlund: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 2:1 “First, then, there is a call to be strong.  Timothy was weak; Timothy was timid.  Yet he was called to a position of leadership in the church – and in an area in which Paul’s authority was rejected.   It is as if Paul said to him, ‘Listen Timothy, never mind what other people say, never mind what other people think, never mind what other people do; you are to be strong.  Never mind how shy you feel, never mind how weak you feel; you are to be strong.’  That is the first thing. Second, you are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  If the exhortation had simply been ‘be strong,’ it would have been absurd indeed.  You might as well tell a snail to be quick or a horse to fly as to tell a weak man

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The Wrath of God and the Heart of the Atonement

Denny Burk: “But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.” –Isaiah 53:10 “God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.” –Romans 3:25 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” –Galatians 3:13 “It is those who cannot come to terms with any concept of the wrath of God who repudiate any concept of propitiation… It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God

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You Can’t Avoid the Missionary Implications of Our Faith

John Stott: “If we have resisted the missionary dimension of the church’s life, or dismissed it as if it were dispensable, or patronized it reluctantly with a few perfunctory prayers and grudging coins, or become preoccupied with our own narrow-minded, parochial concerns, we need to repent, that is, change our mind and attitude. Do we profess to believe in God? He’s a missionary God. Do we say we are committed to Christ? He’s a missionary Christ. Do we claim to be filled with the Spirit? He’s a missionary Spirit. Do we delight in belonging to the church? It’s a missionary society. Do we hope to go heaven when we die? It’s a heaven filled with the fruits of the missionary enterprise. It is not possible to avoid these things.” – from The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World, 335. (HT: Trevin Wax)

The highest of all missionary motives

“If God desires every knee to bow to Jesus and every tongue to confess Him, so should we. We should be ‘jealous’ for the honour of His name—troubled when it remains unknown, hurt when it is ignored, indignant when it is blasphemed, and all the time anxious and determined that it shall be given the honour and glory which are due to it. The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God), but rather zeal—burning and passionate zeal—for the glory of Jesus Christ. Only one imperialism is Christian, and that is concern for His Imperial Majesty Jesus Christ, and for the glory of his empire or kingdom. Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die.” — John Stott The Message of Romans (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1994), 53

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The greatest enemies

But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.  Galatians 4:29 “The persecution of the true church, of Christian believers who trace their spiritual descent from Abraham, is not always by the world, who are strangers unrelated to us, but by our half-brothers, religious people, the nominal church.  It has always been so.  The Lord Jesus was bitterly opposed, rejected, mocked and condemned by his own nation.  The fiercest opponents of the apostle Paul, who dogged his footsteps and stirred up strife against him, were the official church, the Jews.  The monolithic structure of the medieval papacy persecuted all Protestant minorities with ruthless, unremitting ferocity.  And the greatest enemies of the evangelical faith today are not unbelievers, who when they hear the gospel often embrace it, but the church, the establishment, the hierarchy.  Isaac is always mocked and persecuted by Ishmael.” John.

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God, Sin, and the Cross

John Stott: All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and humanity. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely “hell-deserving sinners,” then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before. The essential background to the cross, therefore, is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God. If we diminish either, we thereby diminish the cross. If we reinterpret sin as a lapse instead of a rebellion, and God as indulgent instead of

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Gospel Definitions: John Stott

Trevin Wax: John Stott – from Christian Mission in the Modern World: “What is the one, the changeless New Testament gospel? The first and the best answer would be to say that the whole Bible is God’s good news in all its astonishing relevance. Bible and gospel are almost alternative terms, for the major function of the Bible in all its length and breadth is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God’s revelation recorded in Scripture. What is [the gospel]? God’s good news is Jesus. How did the apostles present Jesus? Their good news contained at least five elements. The gospel events, as saving events. The gospel witnesses, by which I mean the evidence to which they appealed for its authentication. The gospel affirmations. (They concern not simply what he did more than nineteen centuries ago, however, but what he is today in consequence. “Jesus is Lord.”) The gospel promises (what Christ now offers and indeed promises to those who come to him – a new life in the present

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The cross is still the throne from which he rules the world

John Stott: “Any contemporary observer, who saw Christ die, would have listened with astonished incredulity to the claim that the Crucified was a Conqueror. Had he not been rejected by his own nation, betrayed, denied and deserted by his own disciples, and executed by authority from the Roman procurator? Look at him there, spread-eagled and skewered on his cross, robbed of all freedom of movement, strung up with nails, pinned there and powerless. It appears to be total defeat. If there is victory, it is the victory of pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, cowardice, and brutality. Yet the Christian claim is that the reality is the opposite of the appearance. What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by goodness. Overcome there, He was Himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was Himself crushing the serpent’s head. The victim was the victor, and the cross

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Don’t Be Scandalized When Christians Debate One Another in Love

  Justin Taylor: John Stott on what Christians should do when they disagree with each other: The proper activity of professing Christians who disagree with one another is neither to ignore, nor to conceal, nor even to minimize their differences, but to debate them. We are “to maintain the truth in love,” being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance. —From John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1970), pp. 22, 19.

Application is Not Legalism

“There are many pastors today who, for fear of being branded ‘legalists’, give their congregation no ethical teaching. How far we have strayed from the apostles! ‘Legalism’ is the misguided attempt to earn our salvation by obedience to the law. ‘Pharisaism’ is a preoccupation with the externals and minutiae of religious duty. To teach the standards of moral conduct which adorn the gospel is neither legalism nor pharisaism but plain apostolic Christianity.” John Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 158 (HT: Douglas Wilson)

Sincerity in preaching

“A strangely fascinating power is exerted by those who are utterly sincere.  Such believers attract unbelievers, as with the case of David Hume, the eighteenth-century British deistic philosopher who rejected historic Christianity.  A friend once met him hurrying along a London street and asked him where he was going.  Hume replied that he was going to hear George Whitefield preach.  ‘But surely,’ his friend asked in astonishment, ‘you don’t believe what Whitefield preaches, do you?’  ‘No, I don’t,’ answered Hume, ‘but he does.’ I am convinced that in our day simple sincerity has not lost any of its power to appeal or to impress.  It was in 1954 that Billy Graham first hit the headlines in Britain, with his Greater London Crusade.  Approximately 12,000 people came to the Haringay Arena every night for three months.  Most nights I was there myself, and as I looked round that vast crowd, I could not help comparing it with our half-empty churches.  ‘Why

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