The Radical Disciple

by John Stott, 2010

This was John Stott’s last book. He is writing about what our lives should look like as Christians. Sanctification (being made holy) is purely the work of the Holy Spirit, but in this book he covers 8 aspects of our lives that we have neglected. Wayne’s comment on Dependence (#7 below): “Dependence can be an issue of humility vs. pride; the prideful one wants to be depended upon, and being dependent is a humble station. But mostly, dependence is about acknowledging one’s continual and utter dependence upon God in all things.”

  1. Nonconformity: “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.” … “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).
  2. Christlikeness: “What is God’s purpose for his people?…”…Westminster Shorter Catechism, that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” “…also toyed with a yet briefer statement of only five words such as “love God, love your neighbor.” “But neither seems wholly satisfactory. So I want to share with you where my mind has come to rest as I approach the end of my pilgrimage on earth. It is this: God wants his people to become like Christ, for Christlikeness is the will of God for the people of God.”
    “Why is it that our evangelistic efforts are often fraught with failure? Several reasons may be given, and I must not oversimplify, but one main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we proclaim.” “God has given us his Holy Spirit to enable us to fulfill his purpose [to make us like Christ].”
  3. Maturity: He is stating the Christian scene in the world can be summed up as “growth without depth.” “We could equally say that we are pygmy Christians because we have a pygmy Christ. The truth is that there are many Jesuses on offer in the world’s religious supermarkets, and many of them are false Christs, distorted Christs, caricatures of the authentic Jesus.” “So if we want to develop truly Christian maturity, we need above all a fresh and true vision of Jesus Christ–not least in his absolute supremacy, which Paul sets out in Colossians 1:15-20, one of the most sublime christological passages in the whole New Testament.” “Where then shall we find the authentic Jesus? The answer is that he is to be found in the Bible–the book that could be described as the Father’s portrait of the Son painted by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of Christ. As he himself said, the Scriptures “testify about me” (John 5:39).”
  4. Creation Care: “I want to echo Chris Wright’s eloquent conclusion: ‘It seems quite inexplicable to me that there are some Christians who claim to love and worship God, to be disciples of Jesus and yet have no concern for the earth that bears his stamp of ownership. They do not care about the abuse of the earth, and indeed by their wasteful and overconsumptive lifestyles they contribute to it.'”
  5. Simplicity: The Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974) included this: “All of us are shocked by the poverty of millions and disturbed by the injustices which cause it. Those of us who live in affluent circumstances accept our duty to develop a simple life-style in order to contribute more generously to both relief and evangelism.”…”God’s creation is marked by rich abundance and diversity, and he intends its resources to be husbanded and shared for the benefit of all. We therefore denounce environmental destruction, wastefulness and hoarding.” “God’s call to rulers is to use their power to defend the poor, not to exploit them.” “Yet we resolve to renounce waste and oppose extravagance in personal living, clothing and housing, travel and church buildings.” Under “Justice and Politics:” “First, we will pray for peace and justice, as God commands. Secondly, we will seek to educate Christian people in the moral and political issues involved, and so clarify their vision and raise their expectations. Thirdly, we will take action. Some Christians are called to special tasks in government, economics or development. All Christians must participate in the active struggle to create a just and responsible society. In some situations, obedience to God demands resistance to an unjust established order. Fourthly, we must be ready to suffer. As followers of Jesus, the Suffering Servant, we know that service always involves suffering.” Under “Evangelism:” “It is impossible with integrity to proclaim Christ’s salvation if he has evidently not saved us from greed, or his lordship if we are not good stewards of our possessions, or his love if we close our hearts against the needy. When Christians care for each other and for the deprived, Jesus Christ becomes more visibly attractive.” Under “The Lord’s Return:” “The Lord Jesus is coming back soon to judge, to save and to reign. His judgment will fall upon the greedy (who are idolaters) and upon all oppressors. For on that day, the King will sit upon his throne and separate the saved from the lost. Those who have ministered to him by ministering to one of the least of his needy brothers and sisters will be saved, for the reality of saving faith is exhibited in serving love. But those who are persistently indifferent to the plight of the needy, and so to Christ in them, will be irretrievably lost (Matthew 25:31-46).”
  6. Balance: He talks about the ‘living stones’ of Peter and that Christians are the living stones of God’s church and “…the church has an eternal destiny. It is indestructible. Stone by stone the building grows until one day the capstone will be put in place and the construction is complete.” “We need to recapture a vision of the church as fellowship, as living stones in the building of God. Moreover there is a great need for better quality mortar.” Under “Priests:” So far Peter has likened us to newborn babies with the duty to grow up, and to living stones with the duty to love and support one another. Now he comes to his third picture as he likens us to holy priests with the duty to worship God.” He talks about Old Testament priests who enjoyed access to God and offered sacrifices to God. “In Old Testament times then, access and sacrifice were the two privileges that were strictly reserved to the priesthood. But now in and through Jesus Christ this distinction between priest and people has been abolished. The privileges which were previously limited to the priests are now shared by all, for all are priests. The whole church is a priesthood.”
  7. Dependence: This was a new idea for me. See Wayne’s comments about Dependence in the first paragraph above. I’m quoting the last four paragraphs of this section: “So, although independence is appropriate in some circumstances, I come back to dependence as the most characteristic attitude for the radical disciple. I turn to John Wyatt (already mentioned) for an eloquent expression of the priority of dependence: “God’s design for our life is that we should be dependent.” {new paragraph} “We come into this world totally dependent on the love, care and protection of others. We go through a phase of life when other people depend on us. And most of us will go out of this world totally dependent on the love and care of others. And this is not an evil, destructive reality. It is part of the design, part of the physical nature that God has given us. [new paragraph] I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. I’m happy to carry on living so long as I can look after myself, but as soon as I become a burden I would rather die.” But this is wrong. We are all designed to be a burden to others. You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you. And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of “mutual burdensomeness.” “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galations 6:2). [new paragraph] Christ himself takes on the dignity of dependence. He is born a baby, totally dependent on the care of his mother. He needs to be fed, he needs his bottom to be wiped, he needs to be propped up when he rolls over. And yet he never loses his divine dignity. And at the end, on the cross, he again becomes totally dependent, limbs pierced and stretched, unable to move. So in the person of Christ we learn that dependence does not, cannot, deprive a person of their dignity, of their supreme worth. And if dependence was appropriate for the God of the universe, it is certainly appropriate for us.”
  8. Death: “In short, the Bible promises life through death, and it promises life on no other terms.” We see this in salvation in that we die and are raised with Christ when we believe and receive our salvation; in discipleship as Jesus says we must take up our cross and follow him, for whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34-35); in mission where Paul was willing to die for others to hear the gospel; in persecution where Paul was again the example; in martyrdom; and mortality. He writes: “Death inspires terror in many people. … But death holds no horrors for Christians. True, the process of dying can be messy and undignified, and the decay that follows it is not pleasant….In one word, life meant Christ to Paul. He could not imagine life without him. So it was truly logical that he should want to die because death would bring gain, namely more of Christ.”…”On the other hand, we must not understate the cost of the death which alone leads to life: a death to sin through identification with Christ, a death to self as we follow Christ, a death to ambition in crosscultural mission, a death to security in the experience of persecution and one of martyrdom, and a death to this world as we prepare for our final destiny..” [new paragraph] “Death is unnatural and unpleasant. In one sense it presents us with a terrible finality. Death is the end. Yet in every situation death is the way to life. So if we want to live we must die. And we will be willing to die only when we see the glories of the life to which death leads.”

Wayne and I talked about the ending of Perelandra, where C.S. Lewis talks about death being the beginning, not the end:

And that,” said Random, “will be the end?

Tor the King stared at him.

The end?” he said. “Who spoke of an end?

The end of your world, I mean,” said Ransom.

Splendour of Heaven!” said Tor. “Your thoughts are unlike ours. About that time we shall be not far from the beginning of all things. …