Archive for July, 2009

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Why we are Christians

July 3, 2009

Why I am a Christian

Life is full of questions.  Some questions are incidental, some are meaningless and some are nothing less than profoundly essential.  One such essential question is tackled by John Stott in his book Why I am a Christian.  In addition to serving as the rector of All Souls Church in London; Stott is a best selling author, a preacher, an evangelist and a renowned communicator of scripture.  To that impressive list he would likely add, as paramount, the title of Christian.  As one who has publicly served Christ for many years, Stott has often been posed the question, “Why Are You a Christian?”  Through this book, he responds to that question with a wealth of wisdom and insight.

                        Why I am a Christian, by John Stott, is intended to guide the reader through a brief explanation of one man’s belief on the nature of Christ as Savior; and the natures of those in need of salvation.  Two paramount questions emerge and are answered by Stott.  First, who is Christ?  Second, who are we?  Stott’s answers to both are thorough and easy for almost any reader to grasp.

                        The author begins his testimony not with a recollection but with an acknowledgement.  His testimony begins at the beginning with Christ, the “Hound of Heaven”(15).  The first half of the book deals with Christ; His nature, His Claims, and His mission.  Stott acknowledges that it is Christ who pursues that which is lost, indeed we as believers are the object of a pursuit that is “‘patient but purposeful, affectionate but relentless’” (16). 

                        Stott leads the reader through four examples of divine pursuit displayed against the backdrop of Christian history.  He weaves the personal accounts of Saul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, Malcolm Muggeridge, and C.S. Lewis into a full testimony of man’s reluctance and Christ’s persistence.  Stott acknowledges that these stories are famous but not unique; “Multitudes of ordinary people have testified down through the years to the same sense of Christ knocking at their door or pricking them with his goads or pursuing them” (29).  Yet whether well known or obscure the author makes every effort to communicate to the reader that “whether or not we are consciously seeking God, he is assuredly seeking us” (30).

                        Once an individual acknowledges the knocking and, by grace opens the door, one will be posed the inevitable question; Why?  Stott professes that one should answer first because we were pursued and second because, “… Christianity is true, or better, the claims of Jesus are true” (33).  Stott provides the readers with a wide range of scriptures testifying to who Christ is and who He claimed to be.  The reader, whether Christian or not, is faced with a decision when presented with these claims.  “The Claims of Jesus are either true or false.  If they are false, they could be deliberately false (in which case he was a liar), or they could be involuntarily false (in which case he was deluded).  Yet neither possibility appeared to be likely” (44).  Christ was a “paradox” in His statements and His behavior.

                        Stott puts the paradox on display for his readers in the form of Christ’s death on the cross.  Here is a man who claimed to be God and yet suffered and died for the sins of all mankind.  The author states, “For on the cross, when Jesus died, God himself in Christ bore the judgment we deserved in order bring us the forgiveness we do not” (55).  For Stott this is the ultimate example of who God is and why the reader should follow Him, “The Crucified one is the God for me! He set aside his immunity to pain…. He suffered for us, dying in our place in order that we might be forgiven” (63).

                        Stott’s progression leads the reader naturally from the provision and forgiveness of God to mankind’s fallen nature and need for forgiveness and provision.

                        “What does it mean to be human?” Stott points out that the Bible itself twice poses this question once in Psalm 8:4 and then in Job 7:17. (65)  The answer to this question is fundamental to understanding what it means to be a Christian.  Stott emphasizes that each individual human is a fallen creature, subject to the judgment and wrath of God.  What mankind possesses is the ability to access freedom from God through His Grace and His Son.  “Salvation frees us from many things—especially guilt, God’s judgment, self-centeredness and fear” (84).  Stott maintains that it is the aspiration for this freedom which consumes lives and energies of every person.  Furthermore, he argues that Christ is the only satisfaction for that aspiration, “There is a thirst that none but Christ can quench” (95).  So to be human is to long for that which only Christ can give, having found that gift by God’s grace, Stott has given the reader yet another reason for being a Christian.

                        Passion and a love for God permeate this book.  One can see the evidences of decades of faithful consideration of this most important of topics.  He ably gives a power and brief explanation of Salvation in light of God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, and man’s longing.  Stott’s writing is clear and unambiguous which makes his book an effective tool for believers to wield in defending the faith. 

                        Why I am a Christian is also, fundamentally, a success in its stated aims to provde material to “…a genuine inquirer who wants to think through the implications of becoming a Christian” (10).  Non-Christians who pick up this text will be exposed to a theologically sound treatment of scripture and a vivid testimony of God’s grace and love that is impossible to refute and difficult to ignore.