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Entries in John Stott (6)



I'm really enjoying John Stott's book The Cross of Christ. One of the things I like about it is that because he comes from a different generation than the current popular Christian writers, he refers to other commentators and writers which I may be unfamiliar with. In his chapter called "The Self-Substitution of God," he quotes C.E.B. Cranfield, who made a succinct statement about the substution of God:

God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his very own self in the person of Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.

That's a reality to rejoice in.


He's always himself

From John Stott, The Cross of Christ:

Stott discusses the fact that God always acts according to his name:

He is always himself and never inconsistent. If he were ever to behave "uncharacteristically," in a way that is out of character with himself, he would cease to be God and the world would be thrown into moral confusion. No, God is God; he never deviates one iota, even one tiny hair's breadth, from being entirely himself.

That phrase that the world would be in "moral confusion" if God ceased to act according to himself really jumped out at me. It's tempting to look around the world and see the horror, sin, and suffering, and wonder "God, where are you?" Yet if God stopped acting in according to his name, what would the world look like? What would it look like if God suddenly stopped being merciful? Stopped restraining evil? Stopped loving? Thankfully, he cannot do that. He is not a capricious God. He is a perfect God who will not change.


Stott and mysticism

In John Stott's The Incomparable Christ, the second section focuses on how Christ has been presented in the Church throughout history. Stott discusses Bernard of Clairvaux, and touches on the topic of Christian mysticism. Bernard apparently preached often from The Song of Solomon. Stott comments:

... the Song of Songs has been individualized too often and made to set forth the private and personal love that unites God and the individual. By contrast, the two prophets of divine love, Hosea and Jeremiah, paint a picture of God's love for his covenant people. Promises like "I will betroth you to me forever" are not spoken to individuals but to the unfaithful nations (Hosea 2:19). Similarly in the New Testament Paul writes that "Christ love the church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25). True, Paul could also write "the Son of God ... loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20), but such flashes of individualism are, perhaps because of the risk of spiritual eroticism, a risk that -- at least in language -- the Christian mystics have not always managed to avoid.

I can think of a few places where I have seen authors resort to "spiritual eroticism." 


The sign of humility

In John Stott's book The Incomparable Christ, his first chapter focuses on what the gospels teach about Christ. Matthew reveals what Christ came to fulfill; Mark focuses on who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what he expects from his disciples. Luke looks at the salvation Jesus came to bring. John's reveals the signs of Jesus, the ones that were left so that we might believe (20:30).

Stott points out that the book of John is divided into two portions when it comes to the signs of Jesus:

The seven signs are signs of power and authority and are all recorded in the first half of the Gospel. In the second half John records signs of humility and weakness. He begins in the upper room when Jesus took off his outer clothing, wrapped a towel around him and, kneeling, washed the feet of the Twelve. Above all, there was the cross. According to John, although Jesus revealed his glory in signs of ower (Jn 2:11), the chief means of his glorification was the cross. "The hour has come," he said, "for the Son of Man to be glorified" (Jn. 12:23).

I was preparing to teach James 4:1-11 this past week when I read this section. It dovetailed quite beautifully. James reminds his readers that God exalts those who humble themselves. That is exactly how Jesus was ultimately lifted up and glorified, through his weakness and shame.

I nod my head in vigorous assent when I read those things. But how easily do I accept this? We live in a world where everyone wants his moment of recognition. We want a seat at the table; we want our views heard; we want to be part of the dialogue. Do I let that influence me? How much of what I do is more about wanting honour for myself? It's so easy to say something is "my ministry," but when I'm not noticed, do I squirm and feel injustice?

Christ was followed by throngs of people who waited for him to do great things. Where were his crowds when he was arrested, beaten and hung to die? Who was standing there from among his friends and family? He still went to Calvary, regardless of the fact that he could have refused at any time. The willingness to be brought low is what humility is all about. It's not just the grudging acceptance; it's the willingness.

May I be willing to identify with Christ in his weakness.


What are we sowing to?

Studying and teaching the latter part of Galatians is one of those "ouch" experiences. This is more than just material I am presenting to other women. This is exhortation directed to me, too. Pondering over what sowing to the Spirit means has provided a lot of fodder for looking objectively at myself. These are times of holding up the mirror of Scripture to my own heart.

This passage, from John Stott's commentary on Galatians was pretty hard-hitting:

Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow.

I'm pretty sure that a passage like that will generate the old cry of "legalist!" Yes, the Holy Spirit is responsible for bringing about that harvest. But we won't see a harvest of holiness if we aren't actually sowing it.

The first portion of Stott's commentary really pierced me. How often do we hold grudges and soothe our wounded egos by hanging on to our anger just a little bit longer? I'm guilty of that. 

The blessing of teaching others is the learning for myself.