In John Stott’s final work, Radical Disciple, he sought to address the issue of people claiming Christ as Lord while failing to obey Him. He purposed to “consider eight characteristics of Christian discipleship which are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.”
We cannot think of Christmas without looking to the cross. And we cannot look to the cross without considering the cost Christ paid for us. And when we think of the cost Christ paid, we cannot neglect the cost of discipleship. Therefore, December seems an appropriate month to consider our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you committed to Christ? In what ways? Is your commitment only words?
Over the next few weeks, we will be providing excerpts from Stott’s Radical Disciple. We hope they will convict and encourage you appropriately and spur you on to a deep love for Christ.
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“The first characteristic of a radical disciple that I bring before you I will call ‘nonconformity.’ Let me explain why.
The church has a double responsibility in relation to the world around us. On the one hand we are to live, serve and witness in the world. On the other hand we are to avoid becoming contaminated by the world. So we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by escaping from the world nor to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world.
Escapism and conformism are thus both forbidden to us. This is one of the major themes of the whole Bible, namely that God is calling out a people for himself and is summoning us to be different from everybody else. ‘Be Holy,’ he says repeatedly to his people, ‘because I am holy (e.g., Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-16). This foundational theme recurs in all four of the main sections of Scripture: the Law, the Prophets, the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles.
…Here then is God’s call to a radical discipleship, to a radical nonconformity to the surrounding culture. It is a call to develop a Christian counterculture, a call to engagement without compromise.” (19).
Stott goes onto discuss four contemporary trends which will seek to swallow up the Christian. Here is the first one he discusses, but we encourage you to read the book to glean from the rest of his insight.
1. The Challenge of Pluralism
“Pluralism affirms that every ‘ism’ has its own independent validity and an equal right to our respect. It therefore rejects Christian claims to finality and uniqueness, and condemns as sheer arrogance the attempt to convert anybody (let alone everybody) to what it sees as merely our opinions.
How should we respond to the spirit of pluralism? With great humility, I hope, and with no hint of personal superiority. But we must continue to affirm the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. For he is unique in his incarnation (the one and only God-man), unique in his atonement (only he has died for the sins of the world), and unique in his resurrection (only he has conquered death). And since in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in his birth) and then bear our sins (in his death) and then triumph over death (in his resurrection), he is uniquely competent to save sinners. Nobody else possesses his qualifications.
So we may talk about Alexander the Great, Charles the Great and Napoleon the Great, but not Jesus the Great. He is not the Great—he is the Only. There is nobody like him. He has no rival and no successor” (20).
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