Wednesday, 15 August 2007

John Stott Last address PartC

Firstly, Christlikeness and the mystery of suffering. Suffering is a huge subject in itself and there are many ways in which Christians try to understand it. One way stands out: that suffering is part of God’s process of making us like Christ. Whether we suffer from a disappointment, a frustration or some other painful tragedy, we need to try to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. According to Romans 8:28, God is always working for the good of his people, and according to Romans 8:29, this good purpose is to make us like Christ.
Secondly, Christlikeness and the challenge of evangelism. Why is it, you must have asked, as I have, that in many situations our evangelistic efforts are often fraught with failure? Several reasons may be given and I do not want to over-simplify but one main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming. John Poulton, who has written about this in a perceptive little book entitled A today sort of evangelism, wrote this:
‘The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. It is people who communicate primarily, not words or ideas. Authenticity gets across. deep down in side people, what communicates now is basically personal authenticity.’
That is Christlikeness. Let me give you another example. There was a Hindu professor in India who once identified one of his students as a Christian and said to him: ‘If you Christians lived like Jesus Christ, India would be at your feet tomorrow.’ I think India would be at their feet today if we Christians lived like Christ. From the Islamic world, the Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said ‘If all Christians were Christians – that is, Christlike – there would be no more Islam today.’
That brings me to my third point – Christlikeness and the indwelling of the Spirit. I have spoken much tonight about Christlikeness but is it attainable? In our own strength it is clearly not attainable but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within. William Temple, Archbishop in the 1940s, used to illustrate this point from Shakespeare:
‘It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it – I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it – I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like this. And if the Spirit could come into me, then I could live a life like His.’
So I conclude, as a brief summary of what we have tried to say to one another: God’s purpose is to make us like Christ. God’s way to make us like Christ is to fill us with his Spirit. In other words, it is a Trinitarian conclusion, concerning the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2 comments:

Andrew Kenny said...

‘It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it – I can’t. And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it – I can’t. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like this. And if the Spirit could come into me, then I could live a life like His.’


How true this is. As Christians we often try too hard to live the life. WE can't do it.

Paul tried it only to fail at every turn;Only to cry out in despair 'Wrethed man that I am:who will deliver me from this body of death.

But then he heard the answer:'Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death'.

Its getting to know him; to walk with him;to learn of him; to pour our hearts out to Him that can change us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

William Hunter said...

I realise that this comment is long after the original post, but I only found out about this blog after meeting my old friend Andrew again after a long time. I have some personal reflections of John Stott's last address.

My wife and I were on holiday in Keswick in July 2007, and decided to attend a few of the sessions at the Convention. The tent was easy to find, just follow the person with the biggest and blackest bible :). One of the sessions was the address by John Stott. We were unaware that it was his last public address, although we had the impression that he was there to say goodbye to Keswick.

The tent was packed - I think it holds about 3000 people. There were two introductions as the present Keswick leaders spoke of their personal debt to Stott's ministry. When the man himself started to speak, he commented that he thought he was listening to his own obituary!

It took two men to support him up the steps and one to help him across the platform. It was made clear that he would not be available to people after the session. During the half hour address, his eyes never left the prepared script.

I must confess I remember little of what he said. What struck me most was the affection of the audience to this frail, elderly man at the end of his active public ministry. A Keswick conventioner is generally middle-aged, so these were people who had benefitted from Mr Stott's ministry at his peak.

At the time, I was an enquirer in the Orthodox Church (I was chrismated in December 2007). My perspective is as an Orthodox Christian who used to be an evangelical. However, I count it a privilege to be present at the celebration of a great man and a fruitful ministry. And it (and indeed the Convention) was a refreshingingly robust form of evangelicalism which contrasts with much of what we see today.

The Orthodox have a blessing I would wish for Mr Stott:

God grant you many years,
peace and prosperity,
health and joyfulness.
God grant you many years.