Basic Christianity

by John R. W. Stott, 1958, 2008

Tim Keller recommended this book in one of his books. It was very good. I flagged just about every single page. It all comes down to the Gospel, again and again. Without Jesus, we are doomed. Each and every day of our lives, we can live joyfully and triumphantly because of Jesus. Rick Warren says everyone should read this book. It’s divided into 5 parts: The Right Approach, Who Christ is, What we need, What Christ has done, and How to respond.

In The Right Approach, he talks about the first four words of the Bible, “In the beginning, God…” which demonstrates that God takes the initiative in ALL things. God created us and came after us. He is not sitting aloof on a distant throne. He got down off His throne, left His glory, and came to us. “Christianity is a religion of Salvation, and the fact is that there is nothing in any of 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.” The rest of the book is about our response to that God who loves us. Our first response is to seek Him seriously, humbly, honestly, obediently.

In Who Christ Is, he covers that Jesus is God; fully human and yet fully divine, and no one else is like Him. The Gospels show us Jesus. He claims to be God through His words and actions, recorded for us by eye witnesses. His character backs up His claims. In this paragraph, he talks about Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Sabbath:

“He healed sick people on the Sabbath day, the one day in the week when people weren’t supposed to do any work. And his disciples even walked through the cornfields on the Sabbath, picking and eating corn, something that the teachers of the law and Pharisees forbade as practically the same as the farmer’s labor of reaping and threshing. Yet no one can doubt that Jesus submitted to God’s law. He obeyed it himself, and in debate would refer his opponents to it as the ultimate source of authority. He also affirmed that God had made the Sabbath, and that he had done so for the benefit of humanity. But being himself “Lord of the Sabbath,” he claimed the right to set aside erroneous human traditions and to give God’s law its true interpretation.”

Jesus was consistent, never moody. He was completely unselfish. He knew Himself to be Lord of all yet He never put on airs or was pompous. He was humble. He was born dirt poor. He was a refugee baby in Egypt. He became a traveling preacher. He associated with the ordinary and despised people; touched the lepers and allowed prostitutes to touch him. In the end, his friends deserted him while he was flogged, spat on, and nailed to a cross. Even then, he forgave them.

“Such a man is altogether beyond our reach. He succeeded where we always fail. He had complete self-mastery. He never retaliated. He never grew resentful or irritable. He had such control of himself that, whatever others might think or say or do, he would deny himself and abandon himself to the will of God and the welfare of his fellow human beings. “I seek not to please myself,” he said, and “I am not seeking glory for myself.” …”

“Jesus was sinless because he was selfless. Such selflessness is love. And God is love.”

He devotes a chapter to the resurrection of Christ, presenting the proofs: The Body Had Gone, The Graveclothes Were Undisturbed, Jesus Was Seen, and The Disciples Were Changed. That the disciples were changed is the most convincing argument to me. They went from being fearful and abandoning Jesus to boldly preaching the Gospel and risking their lives for Him. It is the resurrection that changed them.

In What We Need, he presents The Fact and Nature of Sin. We all sin. Not one of us has ever kept a single commandment. The only one who has kept them is Jesus. He talks about each commandment in turn:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me. “For us to keep this first commandment would be, as Jesus said, to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind; to make his will our guide and his glory our goal; to put him first in thought, word and deed; in work and leisure; in friendships and career; in the use of our money, time and talents; at work and at home. No one has ever kept this commandment except Jesus of Nazareth.”
  2. You shall not make for yourself an image. “If the first commandment is about what we worship, the second is about how we worship. In the first God demands our exclusive worship, and in the second our sincere and spiritual worship….”…We may have attended church–but have we ever really worshiped God? We may have said prayers–but have we ever really prayed? We may have read the Bible–but have we ever let God speak to us through it and done what he said? It is no good approaching God with our lips if our hearts are far from him. To do so is sheer hypocrisy.”
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. “…His holy name can be dragged in the mud by our careless use of language, and most of us would do well to revise our vocabulary from time to time. But to take God’s name in vain is not just a matter of words–it’s also about thoughts and deeds. Whenever our behavior is inconsistent with our belief, when what we do contradicts what we say, we take God’s name in vain. To call God “Lord” and disobey him is to take his name in vain. To call God “Father” and be filled with anxiety and doubts is to deny his name. To take God’s name in vain is to talk one way and act another. This too is hypocrisy.”
  4. Remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy. “…Our bodies and minds need rest, and our spirits need the opportunity for worship. This is why the sabbath is set aside as a day of rest and a day of worship.”

The consequence of sin is death. Those who reject Jesus will live eternally without God in darkness because the are separated “infinitely” from God, who IS light. “The Bible also calls it “the second death” and “the lake of fire,” terms that describe symbolically the loss of eternal life and the dreadful thirst of the soul that are the inevitable result of being banished from God’s presence.”

Until we confess our sins, “we are indeed exiles, far from our true home. We have no relationship with God…It is this that accounts for the restlessness of men and women today. There is a hunger in our hearts that only God can satisfy, a vacuum that only he can fill. The demand for sensational news, extravagant love or crime stories in the media; the current epidemic of drugs, sex and violence-all these things are symptoms of our search for satisfaction. They betray our thirst for God and our separation from him.”

Augustine says: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Their is no cure except Jesus. We need a Savior. We simply cannot love God above all else, love our neighbor as ourselves. We are completely self-centered. Our nature is to put self first, our neighbors next, and God somewhere in the distance. This will never work, never satisfy. We need a Savior to save us from ourselves.

The Cross is how we conquer sin. There is a price to pay and Jesus paid it once for all. God tore the temple veil from top to bottom. Now we can have a relationship with God. Our sins are gone. Jesus dying for us “means that no religious observance or good behavior on our part could ever earn our forgiveness.”

Believing in Jesus gives us His Spirit living inside of us. It doesn’t mean we no longer sin, in fact, we become more aware of our sinful nature. But the Spirit produces His fruit in us more and more: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Daily we choose to live by the Spirit rather than indulging in the sinful nature.

Church is made up of sinful humans but it is where “we find opportunities to worship God, to enjoy fellowship with one another and to serve the wider community.”

“All Christians have shared the remarkable experience of being drawn to other Christians whom they hardly know and whose background may be very different from their own.”

“Of course the pages of the church’s history have often been spoiled by foolishness and selfishness, even by outright disobedience to the teaching of Christ. Still today some churches appear to be dead or dying, rather than vibrant with life; and others are torn by divisions and plagued with lovelessness. We have to admit that not all those who call themselves Christians show either the love or the life of Jesus Christ.
“Even so the Christian should be part of the local Christian community and be committed to sharing in its worship and witness, however imperfect it may be. For the church is the place where we find the new quality of relationship that Christ himself gives to those who belong to him.”

Wayne was with him until that last sentence. We are not primarily called to show our Christian love inside the church.

Jesus calls us to make Him our Lord – completely and fully, every day. We must acknowledge Him by baptism, by letting our family and friends know we are Christian, by being members of a church. “We must not be afraid to own up to our Christian commitment when challenged about it. And we need to make it our aim to win our friends for Christ by praying for them, living in a way that honors God and taking opportunities to share our faith in conversation.”

Banish the fear that belonging to Christ means losing out in this life. Only in Christ do we have life to the full here on earth. Without Him, we will constantly seek to fill that hole in our soul with things that ultimately do not satisfy and, in fact, harm and destroy us.

Everyone on Earth must decide about Jesus. Wayne says, “And how that is accomplished we don’t know, because the idea of justice is total bullshit if EVERYONE doesn’t have the chance to decide.”



You will gain an intimate, secure relationship with Christ, the Almighty, the All-loving God, who made us, loves us, died for us, saved us – and joined with Him in all eternity in a perfect, sinless world, which we cannot imagine. On this earth, continue to grow in Him through prayer, the Bible, and community, and draw others to Him through your love and service to others.

“Although not every Christian is called to be a minister or a missionary, God does intend each of us as Christians to be a witness to Jesus Christ. In our own homes, among our friends and with our colleagues, we carry the solemn responsibility to live a consistent, loving, humble, honest, Christ-like life, and to seek to win other people for him. We need to be discreet and courteous, but determined.”