Nearly 50 years ago, the evangelical church was on the brink of shirking the call to global missions.
As framer of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974, John R. W. Stott (1921–2011), an Anglican priest, was at the forefront of the movement to preserve modern missions endeavors. He founded the Langham Partnership to equip churches with biblical resources and training for global missions.
Stott on the Christian life
While the Lausanne Covenant may have been Stott’s most significant contribution to modern Christianity, it was far from his only contribution. He wrote over 50 books, including the best-selling primer Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ, which J. I. Packer called Stott’s “masterpiece.” He also edited The Bible Speaks Today: New Testament commentary series, writing eight volumes himself.
Even in his scholarly works, Stott writes with a warm, inviting style. Yet New York Times contributor David Brooks notes, “Stott is so embracing it’s always a bit of a shock—especially if you’re a Jew like me—when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It’s like being in ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ except he has a backbone of steel.”1
Read these 10 bold, embracing quotes on the Christian life by John Stott.
The point is that we can never take God by surprise. We can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there ‘in the beginning.’ Before we existed, God took action. Before we decided to look for God, God had already been looking for us. The Bible isn’t about people trying to discover God, but about God reaching out to find us.2
“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance).”3
“. . . the rulers sneered at him, shouting: “He saved others, but he can’t save himself!” Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously.”4
“The Christian good news is not simply a declaration that God has said something. It also affirms that God has done something. God has taken the initiative in both these ways because this is what we need. It isn’t just that we are ignorant but also that we are sinful. This is why it isn’t enough for God simply to reveal himself to us and dispel our ignorance. He must also take action to save us from our sins.”5
“Not until the law has bruised and smitten us will we admit our need of the gospel to bind up our wounds. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned us will we pine for Christ to set us free. Not until the law has condemned and killed us will we call upon Christ for justification and life. Not until the law has driven us to despair of ourselves will we ever believe in Jesus. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.”6
On Matthew 5:4: “The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”7
On Matthew 5:6: “There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty spiritual appetite. Again and again, Scripture addresses its promises to the hungry. God ‘satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.’ If we are conscious of slow growth, is the reason that we have a jaded appetite?”8
On Ephesians 3:18: “Paul prays that we may have power to comprehend the love of Christ in its full dimensions—its breadth and length and height and depth. Modern commentators warn us not to be too literal in our interpretation of these, since the apostle may only have been indulging in a little rhetoric or poetic hyperbole. Yet it seems to me legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind (especially Jews and Gentiles, the theme of these chapters), ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven.”9
“Why I am a Christian is due ultimately neither to the influence of my parents and teachers, nor to my own personal decision for Christ, but to ‘the Hound of Heaven.’ That is, it is due to Jesus Christ himself, who pursued me relentlessly even when I was running away from him in order to go my own way. And if it were not for the gracious pursuit of the Hound of Heaven I would today be on the scrap-heap of wasted and discarded lives.”10
“There is an urgent need for more Christian thinkers who will dedicate their minds to Christ, not only as lectures, but also as authors, journalists, dramatists and broadcasters, as television script-writers, producers and personalities, and as artists and actors who use a variety of art forms in which to communicate the gospel. All these can do battle with contemporary non-Christian philosophies and ideologies in a way which resonates with thoughtful, modern men and women, and so at least gain a hearing for the gospel by the reasonableness of its presentation. Christ calls human beings to humble, but not to stifle, their intellect.”11
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- John Stott, Basic Christianity, New edition (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 17.
- John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006), 63.
- John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006), 80.
- John Stott, Basic Christianity, New edition (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 22.
- John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians: Only One Way, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 93.
- John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 41.
- John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 45–46.
John R. W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 137.
- John R.W. Stott, Why I Am a Christian, (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 12.
- John R.W. Stott, The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church & the World, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 281.