Friday, June 2, 2017

Book Review: Basic Christianity

Basic Christianity. John Stott. 1958. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: 'In the beginning God,' the first four words of the Bible are more than an introduction to the creation story or to the book of Genesis. They supply the key which opens our understanding to the Bible as a whole. They tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion of the initiative of God.

Premise/plot: Basic Christianity by John Stott is a Christian classic for a reason: it is GOOD. It addresses the basics of the Christian faith: what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. The book is divided into four sections that flow together really well. In the first part, Stott examines "Christ's Person." Who was Jesus? Who did Jesus say he was? who did he claim to be? Why should anyone--living in the first century or this century--believe Jesus to be the son of God? In the second part, Stott ventures forth into unpopular territory: "Man's Need." In other words, SIN is real, and it's your problem and mine. In the third section, Stott returns to the subject of Christ, "Christ's Work." This section deals with the death of Christ and the salvation Christ brings to believers. In the fourth and final section, Stott addresses, "Man's Response." Stott, for better or worse, was NOT reformed. And in this section, he argues that Christ is patiently waiting outside the door of your heart knocking, hoping that you'll take him up on his offer of eternal life. (Stott seems to have forgotten the whole SIN condition from previous chapters.) But it isn't just about positively responding to the altar call. No, Stott touches briefly on how to live the Christian life, what happens after 'you ask Jesus into your heart.'

My thoughts: I thought this was a GREAT book for the most part. I didn't love all of it; I would rewrite the last few chapters perhaps. BUT. Stott gives readers much to think about. And he writes in a way that doesn't compromise the truth of the Bible; he writes for agnostics and skeptics and seekers.

I also appreciate the fact that this one is SHORT.

  • You can never take God by surprise. You can never anticipate him. He always makes the first move. He is always there 'in the beginning.' Before man existed, God acted. Before man stirs himself to seek God, God has sought man. In the Bible we do not see man groping after God; we see God reaching after man. John Stott
  • The Gospel is not primarily an invitation to man to do anything; it is supremely a declaration of what God has done in Christ for human beings like ourselves. John Stott
  • Christianity is a religion of salvation, and there is nothing in the non-Christian religions to compare with this message of a God who loved, and came after, and died for, a world of lost sinners. God has spoken. God has acted. The record and interpretation of these divine words and deeds is to be found in the Bible. And there for many people they remain. As far as they are concerned, what God has said and done belong to past history; it has not yet come out of history into experience, out of the Bible into life. God has spoken; but have we listened to his word? God has acted; but have we benefited from what he has done? John Stott
  • Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference. John Stott
  • The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that he was constantly talking about himself. It is true that he spoke much about the fatherhood of God and the kingdom of God. But then he added that he was the Father's Son and that he had come to inaugurate the kingdom. Entry into the kingdom depended on men's response to him. He even did not hesitate to call the kingdom of God my kingdom. This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. John Stott
  • So close was his identification with God that it was natural for him to equate a man's attitude to himself with his attitude to God. Thus to know him was to know God; to see him was to see God; to believe in him was to believe in God; to receive him was to receive him was to receive God; to hate him was to hate God; to honor him was to honor God. John Stott
  • There is no self-interest in love. The essence of love is self-sacrifice. Jesus was sinless because he was selfless. Such selflessness is love. And God is love. John Stott
  • In order to appreciate the work which Jesus accomplished, we must understand who we are as well as who he was. John Stott
  • Whenever our behavior is inconsistent with our belief, or our practice contradicts our preaching, we take God's name in vain. To take God's name in vain is to talk one way and act another. John Stott
  • Man's highest destiny is to know God. John Stott
  • God's order is that we put him first, others next, self last. Sin is the reversal of the order. It is to put ourselves first, our neighbor next, and God somewhere in the background. John Stott
  • It is more natural to us to talk than to listen, to argue than to submit. John Stott
  • All that was achieved through the death of Jesus on the cross had its origin in the mind and heart of the eternal God. No explanation of Christ's death or man's salvation which fails to do justice to this fact is loyal to the teaching of the Bible. John Stott
  • He died to atone for our sins for the simple reason that we cannot atone for them ourselves. John Stott
  • Every Christian can echo these words. There is healing through his wounds, life through his death, pardon through his pain, salvation through his suffering. John Stott
  • Repentance and faith belong together. We cannot follow Christ without forsaking sin. Repentance is a definite turn from every thought, word, deed and habit which is known to be wrong. It is not sufficient to feel pangs of remorse or to make some kind of apology to God. Fundamentally, repentance is a matter neither of emotion nor of speech. It is an inward change of mind and attitude towards sin which leads to a change of behavior. John Stott
  • Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he renounces the sovereignty of his own will. Every day he renews his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ. John Stott
  • He asks no more than he gave. He asks a cross for a cross. Only a sight of the cross will make us willing to deny ourselves and follow Christ. Our little crosses are eclipsed by his. John Stott

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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