Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Basic Christianity

I just finished reading a wonderful book: Basic Christianity, by John R.W. Stott. Part One of the book, entitled "Christ's Person", reminded me of a scholarly version of Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. Stott writes to the person asking questions about Christianity and methodically works through Jesus' claims, character, and resurrection. Part Two of the book continues with "Man's Need", part three focuses on "Christ's Work", and the book concludes with "Man's Response".

Though probably written with a 'seeker' in mind, I enjoyed the clear affirmation of Christianity presented. There were many parts where Stott illuminated scripture so wonderfully that I wanted to re-read the paragraph several times. Here's one example in which he discusses Revelation Chapter 3.
The context of the verse [vs 20] is illuminating. It comes at the end of a letter addressed by Christ through John to the church of Laodicea, situated in what is now Turkey. Laodicea was a prosperous city, renowned for its manufacture of clothing, its medical school where the famous Phrygian eye powder was made, and its wealthy banks.

Material prosperity had brought in its wake a spirit of complacency which had even contaminated the Christian church. Attached to it were professing Christians who proved to be Christian in name only. They were tolerably respectable, but nothing more. Their religious interest was shallow and casual. Like the water from the hot springs of Hierapolis which was piped to Laodicea by conduits (the remains of which can still be seen, they were (Jesus said) neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, and therefore distasteful to him. Their spiritual tepidity is explained in terms of self-delusion: 'You say , "I am rich , I have prospered, I need nothing"; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.'

What a description of proud and prosperous Laodicea! They were blind and naked beggars--naked despite their clothing factory, blind despite their Phrygian eye-salve, and beggars despite their banks.

We today are no different. Perhaps we say, as they did, 'I need nothing.' It would be hard to find any words more spiritually dangerous. It is our self-contained independence which, more than anything, else, keeps us from committing ourselves to Christ. Of course we need him! Without him we are morally naked...blind to spiritual truth, and beggars, having nothing with which to buy God's favour. ...Apart from [Christ], and until we open the door to admit him, we are blind and naked beggars. (pgs 122-123)

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