ct: quotes from Stott’s ‘The Cross of Christ’ (1)

“It seems certain that, at least from the second century onwards, Christians not only drew, painted and engraved the cross as a pictorial symbol of their faith, but also made the sign of the cross on themselves or others.” (pp.20-21)

“The Christian’s choice of a cross as the symbol of their faith is the more surprising when we remember the horror with which crucifixion was regarded in the ancient world.” (p.23)

“… [Jesus knew] he would meet a violent, premature, yet purposive death. More than that, he gives three intertwining reasons for its inevitability. First, he knew he would die because of the hostility of the Jewish national leaders. … Secondly, he knew he would die because that is what stood written of the Messiah in the Scriptures. … [and] third … he knew he would die was because of his own deliberate choice.” (pp.29,30,31)

“When we turn from the apostles’ early sermons recorded in the Acts to the maturer utterances of their letters, the prominent place they give to the cross is even more marked. … the three major letter-writers of the New Testament – Paul, Peter and John – are unanimous in witnessing to its centrality …” (p.35)

“There is no greater cleavage between faith and unbelief than their respective attitudes to the cross.” (p.40)

“One of the saddest features of Islam is that it rejects the cross declaring it inappropriate that a major prophet of God should come to such an ignominious end. The Koran sees no need for the sin-bearing death of a Savior. … Denying the need for the cross, the Koran goes on to deny the fact.” (pp.40-41)

“Christ is to us just what his cross is. All that Christ was in heaven or on earth was put into what he did there. … You do not understand Christ till you understand his cross.” (p.43, quoting P.T. Forsyth)

25 days: the one who is coming

“I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” (Matthew 3.11-12 CEB)

The one who is coming is …

Strong; stronger than any others. Worthy; unlike any others. Generous; in ways beyond comprehension. Active; as in hard-working. Gathering; bringing together what is his. Separating; putting an end to whatever is worthless.

And we are to be …

Changed; on the inside and out. Aware; understanding his power and place. Receptive; to whatever he would give us.

His arrival, like our existence, has purpose and meaning. As our responsibilities to him are great, so are the consequences of our response to his coming.

God, am I ready for you?

Lord, make me ready for you, inside and out. Make me useful and count me yours. Amen.

the light

“A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light. The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world.” (John 1.6-9 CEB)

When I read this passage the first thing that pops into my mind is a question, namely why would the coming of the world’s “true light” – a light “that shines on all people” – require someone to “testify” of the light’s arrival? Or to put it another way, isn’t the light of the world obviously witness enough to itself?

Clearly, God doesn’t think like we do and His ways are not our ways. As He thinks, the coming of the world’s true light calls for one in the world to light a lamp.

The thought of which spawns a host of other questions in my mind. Since I claim to testify of the Light, what exactly do those who see me think of the Light? Do they see my life as a clear and powerful testimony to the Light? Do they see the Light when they see me, or do they just see me? To what and to whom is my life truly a witness?

All of which causes me to deeply pray …

True Light that shines on all, shine on me!

ct: schedule & topics of study

During our Cross Training (ct) Bible class series at MoSt Church we’ll closely follow the outline of twelve of the thirteen chapters of John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ and its accompanying study guide. Neither of these books are required for your participation in class, of course, but either of these resources would make fine “go to” items to supplement your study.

  • Dec. 5 – The Centrality of the Cross (ch.1)
  • Dec. 12 – Why Did Christ Die? (ch.2)
  • Dec. 19 – all adult classes combine in our auditorium (Gladwyn Kiddoe, guest speaker)
  • Dec. 26 – Looking Below the Surface (ch.3)
  • Jan. 2 – The Problem of Forgiveness (ch.4)
  • Jan. 9 – Satisfaction for Sin (ch.5)
  • Jan. 16 – The Self Substitution of God (ch.6)
  • Jan. 23 – The Salvation of Sinners (ch.7)
  • Jan. 30 – The Revelation of God (ch.8)
  • Feb. 6 – The Conquest of Evil (ch.9)
  • Feb 13 – The Community of Celebration (ch.10)
  • Feb. 20 – Loving Our Enemies (ch.12)
  • Feb. 27 – Suffering and Glory (ch.13)

A reminder: watch for a post here on my blog on Thursday or Friday each week for prep questions that will help ready you for class discussion. The questions for this Sunday’s class appeared here on my blog yesterday.

God’s Son

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah: Look, I am sending my messenger before you.He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:1-3 CEB)

“… Jesus Christ, God’s Son …”

There it is. We deal with it right from the start. And that’s rather refreshing in a wordy world of fog, is it not? We’ve hardly begun the first sentence and we understand precisely what’s on the table. The claim is not covert, but candid and the evidence is laid out for all to see. Jesus is not merely a good man or a remarkable person, rather Jesus either lives up to this claim or does not. He is either the Son of God or Jesus is just someone’s son.

If he is God’s Son, well, this is “good news” indeed and what He brings is “the beginning” of all that is good! But if Jesus is not “God’s Son” we’re left, at best, with some interesting fiction; a fascinating story, but one founded on a lie.

So which is it and how shall we know?

“In the ultimate sense ‘Son of God’ is a mysterious term which Jesus alone can clarify. What Son means is determined by what Jesus is, by what he does, by what he says, and it is this revelation which dominates Mark’s Gospel.” (William Lane)

Father God, give me a mind ever open to truly see and hear, to weigh and consider, the words and ways of this One, Your Son. So be it.

ct: prep questions for Sunday’s class

This coming Sunday morning’s opening session of Cross Training at MoSt Church is entitled “The Centrality of the Cross.” To help you prepare for class Sunday morning, work through the following thirteen questions adapted from John Stott’s study guide entitled The Cross.

1. Thoughtfully read Isaiah 53:1-12. You might also want to read it in two or three very different types of translations. What would you say is the central experience of the Servant in this passage?

2. How does the Servant presented here in Isa. 53 compare with the person you envision when you think of Jesus Christ?

3. The author of Isa. 53 seems to assume that the message of his words will not be believed (Isa. 53:1). What would make this image of Christ unexpected and difficult to believe?

4. How is the Servant at odds with prevailing ideas of personal power (Isa. 53:2-3)?

5. What purposes are fulfilled by the Servant’s suffering (Isa. 53:4-6)?

6. What various words does Isaiah use to describe those who benefit from the Servant’s suffering (Isa. 53:4-6)? Isaiah repeatedly uses the pronouns “we,” “our,” and “us” (Isa. 53:2-6). How do you see yourself in this Scripture text?

7. How does Isaiah change the sheep metaphor between vs.6 and vs.7?

8. What is unjust about the Servant’s fate?

9. The mood of Isaiah’s writing changes in vs.10-12. How do the ideas of vs.10-12 expand on the Servant’s purposes as described in vs.4-6?

10. How will the Servant at last be vindicated?

11. We cling to the work of the cross as the center of our faith. What do you think most people consider the heart of Christianity?

12. How does the cross of Christ give you comfort in times of difficulty?

13. How has this study confirmed or challenged your understanding of the heart of Christianity?

25 days: the Word

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. (John 1:1-5 CEB)

It’s all about this Word.

This Word being perfect, permeates everything. More than sufficient to bring everything into being and to sustain it, everything and everyone is in total need of this Word. Anything less than life or light that would encroach upon creation is repelled by this Word for this Word is conquering as well as creative, ever the first and final Word.

Given that both my life and this day owe their existence to this Word, shall I presume to live a single moment of this day without this Word? Knowing the power and place of this Word, what place and power will I allow this Word to have in my life today?

God, hear this word in light of your Word. All my life hangs on this Word of yours. All that I am that is good I owe to you through the work of your Word. All that is darkness within me comes from elsewhere and needs your light. So shine your Word on me today that I, your Word’s creation, may reflect your glory. For I want to be all about your Word. Amen.