Category Archives: John Stott

Anamnesis: A Fresh Experience of the Cross of Christ

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Luke 22:19

Remembrance is the Greek word, anamnesis. Anamnesis does not only mean memory by mental recall, but the fresh experience of a past event by reenactment. This mysterious work of the Holy Spirit brings the evening of the Last Supper forward in order that the people of God may experience the crucified and resurrected Christ afresh.

At the Last Supper, the apostles enjoyed all the benefits of the Cross before Christ actually died. Similarly, when we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, we encounter afresh all benefits of Christ work on the cross after he died: liberty, forgiveness, renewal, healing, etc.  These benefits and more are imparted to us at the moment we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. All that Christ was, all that Christ did, and that Christ is today is communicated afresh to us when we partake of Holy Eucharist.

It is highly significant that the only regular ritual act instituted and commanded by Jesus sets forth supremely his death. It is his *death*, his body given and blood shed, which the bread and wine were intended to signify. In issuing the command to ‘do this in remembrance’ of him, he intended that his atoning death should be kept before every generation, indeed ‘placarded’ before their very eyes. This according to Paul is the function of preaching. It is one of the functions of communion also.

The ministry of both Word and sacrament makes Christ’s death contemporary, presenting it anew not to God (for the sacrifice itself was offered on the cross once for all) but to men (for its benefits are always freshly available).

John Stott, Christ the Controversialist (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1970), 119.

I Know That I Know

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

Eph. 1:13

When I wake up in the morning and all the demands of the day flood upon my soul; I look to the Cross. There I know that I am forgiven, there I am healed, there I am made free from my selfishness and pride, and there I know-I know that I know-I am accepted by God.

The first and fundamental ground of our assurance, because it is the sole ground of our salvation, is ‘the finished work of Christ’.  Whenever our conscience accuses us, and we feel burdened with guilt, we need to look away from ourselves to Christ crucified.  Then again we will have peace.  For our acceptance with God depends not on ourselves and what we could ever do, but entirely on Christ and what he has done for all on the cross.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 211.

Torn Between God and the World

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4 NLT

Worldliness is being in love with the things of this life instead of maintaining a child-like trust and tender affection for our blessed Savior. The spirit of the world is embodied in the love of money, a hunger for unbridled sex, and a thirst for power. A worldly attitude is an arrogance that takes pride in our accomplishments, status, or rank over and above the majesty and glory of God (1 John 2:15-17).

Worldliness is any passion, craving, or hunger for the pleasures of sin while simultaneously desiring to receive the approval of others for our poor choices. Worldliness uses and misuses people for personal satisfaction, political influence, and fleshly pleasure. Worldliness is an organized scheme of humankind that uses our flesh (i.e., sin nature) to draw us away from an intimate relationship with God. Worldliness is a heart attitude intrinsic to being born in Adam and living in a fallen world.

The solution to breaking the world’s all-pervasive grip on our lives is the Cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). Satisfaction in Christ’s love and mercy fulfills our hearts keeping us from being attracted to the world. We realize the utter emptiness of the world’s promises as we experience the depths of God’s grace. The Cross breaks the world’s hold on us: we live for Christ committed to the kingdom of God hungering to be like him.

We and the world have parted company. Each has been ‘crucified’ to the other. ‘The world’ is the society of unbelievers. Previously we were desperately anxious to be in favour with the world. But now that we have seen ourselves as sinners and Christ crucified as our sin-bearer, we do not care what the world thinks or says of us or does to us. ‘The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”

John Stott, The Message of Galatians

Woe to those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by desire and remorse at the same time . . . They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. O’ how wretched they are.

François Fénelon

Christian Freedom

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Gal. 5:1 NLT

Christian freedom is the ability to do what we want to do. What a Christ-follower wants to do is please their Lord and Savior. Christian freedom is not the freedom to do whatever I want, but the freedom to do what is right by God. Freedom for the Christian is the heart-felt, passionate desire to please their Lord.

By contrast, legalism, that is the Law, can only motivate through fear of rejection, punishment, and slavish duty. Legalists are fear-based, proud, and guilt-ridden which leads to touchiness, insecurity, pride, discouragement, and weariness. The legalist believes that they are not valuable to the kingdom of God unless they perform well. They cannot receive Christ’s righteousness for they feel that they are unworthy creatures who have not done enough. Rule keeping is a perversion of freedom: we think by doing we can achieve acceptance by God. Legalism stifles joy and freedom in the Christian life.

On the contrary, the saint is free for he or she is liberated by their righteous standing in Christ: nothing they do or fail to do will change their status as saints in Christ. God’s grace magnifies God’s unconditional love and motivates us by filling our hearts with overwhelming gratitude and appreciative love.

True freedom is not freedom from all responsibility to God and man in order to live for myself, but the exact opposite.  True freedom is freedom from myself and from the cramping tyranny of my own self-centeredness, in order to live in love for God and others.  Only in such self-giving love is an authentically free and human existence to be found.

John Stott, ‘Obeying Christ in a Changing World’, in Obeying Christ in a Changing World, Vol. 1: “The Lord Christ” (London: Collins, 1977), 28.

Christian freedom is not freedom to do what you like, but freedom from all the things that stop you being the person God wants you to be.

N.T. Wright

He Never Stayed Aloof

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.


“How do I know that God loves me and that he even cares about about my pain, suffering, and trials?’ This question has been asked of me many times over the years by many a hurting soul. My pastoral work takes me in and among the grieving, discouraged, and stricken on a constant basis. They often struggle with doubts over God’s love and care in the midst of their unexpected loss and sudden tragedies.

I remind the hurting that we know that God loves us for he did not remain aloof in heaven. God does not look at our pain from a distance and send us “well wishes.” No, God the Father sent his Son to take on our human flesh, saturate himself in our struggles, and bear our pain. God the Son entered our fallen, tragic world and experienced all our suffering while bearing our sin and shame.

Jesus came among us “miserable failures” to display, reveal, and release the love of God in our lives. God never stayed aloof.

The Son of God did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven, remote from human sin and tragedy. He actually entered our world. He emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. He took our nature, lived our life, endured our temptations, experienced our sorrows, felt our hurts, bore our sins and died our death. He penetrated deeply into our humanness. He never stayed aloof from the people he might have been expected to avoid.

He made friends with the dropouts of society. He even touched untouchables. He could not have become more one with us than he did. It was the total identification of love . . . Yet when Christ identified with us, he did not surrender or in any way alter his own identity. For in becoming one of us, he yet remained himself. He became human, but without ceasing to be God.

Now he sends us into the world, as the Father sent him into the world. In other words, our mission is to be modeled on his. Indeed, all authentic mission is incarnational mission. It demands identification without loss of identity. It means entering other people’s worlds, as he entered ours, though without compromising our Christian convictions, values or standards.

John Stott, The Contemporary Christian (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 357.

The Cross as Victory Won

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2:23-24

The Cross was not a defeat for Jesus, a terrible mistake when circumstances with the Romans and the Jews got out of control. Good Friday is not a memorial service for an erstwhile savior, who failed to complete his mission. Our reflections on the Cross are not just musings on a historical event that have no impact for us today. The Cross was not a tragedy, or an accident, or just a two-thousand year old story.

The Cross was Christ’s goal from the very beginning. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Cross defeated Satan and all his works. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). The Cross was God’s intention, the desire of Savior who intended to die in our place for our sin.” He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

The Cross is triumph over all the enemies of our soul and the resurrection declares to the world that Jesus is Lord. “He [Jesus Christ] is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us” (Rev. 1:5). The Cross is our victory and the resurrection is God’s bullhorn to the world that our Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed.

We are not to regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. Rather, the cross was the victory won, and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 235.

HT: Langham Partnership

More Shepherds Needed


Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

1 Peter 5:2

The office of pastoral ministry is a supernatural gifting enabling the man of God to have compassion on the unlovely, patience with the perplexed, and healing for the wounded and tenderness to the broken. A gifted pastor is an icon of the tenderness, kindness, and care of Jesus to the flock of believers and to the wider world of lost and forsaken sheep. A pastor’s responsibility includes preaching, teaching, counseling, comforting, and sacramental provision. The more there are wolves in the forest, the greater the need for compassionate and caring shepherds.

One must not follow the unbiblical tendency to despise the office and work of a pastor or to declare clergy to be redundant . . . pastoral oversight is a permanent feature of the church. Though the New Testament gives no detailed blueprint for the pastorate, yet the ascended Christ still gives pastors and teachers to his church. And they are greatly needed today.

As the sheep multiply in many parts of the world, there is an urgent need for more pastors to feed or teach them. And as the wolves multiply, there is an equally urgent need for more pastors to rout them by giving their minds to the refutation of error. So the more sheep there are, and the more wolves there are, the more shepherds are needed to feed and protect the flock.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity, ed. Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 292.

Eye and Ear

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42

Growing up in a free church tradition, the emphasis was always on preaching. Indeed, preaching is essential for it has been ordained by God to be the means by which are lives are transformed by the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21). But, preaching is not the only thing that God has appointed for the edifying of his church and the strengthening of the saints. Christ gifted the people of God with the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist are physical, visible signs ordained by Christ for the encouragement, uplifting  and spiritual comfort of the people of God into the presence of God. Scripture proclaims that the Holy Spirit takes material objects: water, bread, and wine, infuses them with grace, so that by the partaking of them, we are made holy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, these outward physical signs lead us into the experience of inward spiritual truths of the Christian life.

In the preaching, we receive God’s grace through the ear and in the sacraments, we are empowered by God’s grace through the eye.

Both Word and sacrament bear witness to Christ. Both promise salvation in Christ. Both quicken our faith in Christ. Both enable us to feed on Christ in our hearts. The major difference between them is that the message of the one is directed to the eye, and of the other to the ear. So the sacraments need the Word to interpret them.

The ministry of the Word and sacrament is a single ministry, the Word proclaiming, and the sacrament dramatizing, God’s promises. Yet the Word is primary, since without it the sign becomes dark in meaning, if not actually dumb.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity, ed., Timothy Dudley-Smith (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1995), 277.


The School of Christ (Redux)

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . . .

Matt. 11:29-30

The day you gave your life to Christ is the day that you enrolled in the school of Christ (John 15:1-4). The school of Christ is like no other: its instruction deals with the heart. The curriculum deals with character development, heart purity, and Spirit obedience. The goal of instruction: Christlikeness. The classroom is life and the teaching is not complicated, but requires an open heart and a ready spirit. The education is simple, but not easy: walk in the Spirit by responding and not reacting to our circumstances (Gal. 5:16). The book we study is the Bible, our mentor is the Holy Spirit, and our instructor is Jesus Christ himself (1 John 2:27).

The effectiveness of the School’s instruction is dependent on the receptivity of our hearts. Christ’s teaching exposes our stubbornness, pride, and self-will. Will we repent? Will we respond? Will we trust? The goal: create an open heaven (John 1:51) between us and God. The fruit: a lifelong experience of abiding in Christ (John 15:4). Training in the the school of Christ brings a child of God into unparalleled intimacy with God (Eph. 3:16-19).

Every Christian is a pupil in the school of Jesus Christ. We sit at the feet of our Master. We want to bring our minds and our wills, our beliefs and our standards, under his yoke. In the Upper Room he said to the apostles: ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am’ (Jn. 13:13). That is, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ were no mere courtesy titles; they bore witness to a reality. Jesus Christ is our Teacher to instruct us and our Lord to command us.

All Christian people are under the instruction and the discipline of Jesus Christ. It should be inconceivable for a Christian ever to disagree with, or to disobey, him. Whenever we do, the credibility of our claim to be converted Christians is in doubt. For we are not truly converted if we are not intellectually and morally converted, and we are not intellectually and morally converted if we have not subjected our minds and our wills to the yoke of Jesus Christ.

John Stott, Life in Christ (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1991), 57.


“For Us and For Our Salvation”


“For Us and For Our Salvation”

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-5 ESV

Q. Why did the Son of God come down from heaven?

A. For us and our salvation, as it explained in the Nicene Creed.

Q. What does it mean when the Creed says the Son of God came down from heaven, “For us”?

A. This phrase teaches us that He came to earth neither for one nation or for some people only, but for all.

Q. What does it means when the Nicene Creed says, “for our salvation”?

A.  Salvation is God’s deliverance of men and women from the effects of the Fall through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by bringing full and complete restoration to creation, transformation of our hearts and lives, and renewal of God’s intentions and purposes.

Q.  Is this salvation effective for our past sins, present ills, and future judgment?

A.  In fact, salvation has three tenses, past, present and future. We have been saved (in the past) from the penalty of sin by a crucified Savior.  We are being saved (in the present) from the power of sin by a living Savior.  We shall be saved (in the future) from the very presence of sin by a coming Savior.

Q.  What did Christ come to save us from?

A.  Christ came to save us from the world and its influence, sin and its bondage, the flesh and its passions, the devil and his temptations, and death and its finality.

Salvation is a big and comprehensive word.  It embraces the totality of God’s saving work, from beginning to end.  In fact salvation has three tenses, past, present and future.  I am myself always grateful to the good man who led me to Christ over forty years ago that he taught me, raw and brash young convert that I was, to keep saying: ‘I have been saved (in the past) from the penalty of sin by a crucified Saviour.  I am being saved (in the present) from the power of sin by a living Saviour.  And I shall be saved (in the future) from the very presence of sin by a coming Saviour’. . .

If therefore you were to ask me, ‘Are you saved?’ there is only one correct biblical answer which I could give you: ‘yes and no.’ Yes, in the sense that by the sheer grace and mercy of God through the death of Jesus Christ my Saviour he has forgiven my sins, justified me and reconciled me to himself.  But no, in the sense that I still have a fallen nature and live in a fallen world and have a corruptible body, and I am longing for my salvation to be brought to its triumphant completion.

John Stott, “The Messenger and God: Studies in Romans 1-5”, in Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ, ed. J. W. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1980), 10 (paragraphing mine).