For this month, I wanted to introduce an incredible thinker that I’ve recently discovered- John Stott. If you don’t know the British theologian John Stott, then I really hope you get to know him through his work. Quite frankly, Stott is incredible and this month will be centered on his book The Radical Disciple. With that introduction out of the way, let’s get on with the show!
In his book, Stott would write that two marks (among many) of a Radical Disciple are nonconformity and Christlikeness. For followers of Jesus, the first mark is cultivating nonconformity. We are called to live, serve, and witness to the world while also avoiding contamination from it.
The Church has tried to escape from the world many times in the past to preserve holiness, creating little subcultural ghettos. The church also has given up a bit of holiness in order to conform and go along with the world. Stott saw that the church needed to reject both escapism and conformism.
Holiness is a big theme in Scripture. We are called to be holy because God is holy (I Peter 1:15-16), to be transformed instead of conforming to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2), and to follow Jesus by not acting like hypocrites (Matthew 6:8). Overall, Radical Discipleship in this characteristic is centered on a call to engagement without compromise.
While we engage the world by being present in it, we must also affirm the uniqueness of Christ. Jesus has no rivals nor successors and we should bear witness to this belief with a spirit of humility. Radical Discipleship calls for nonconformity, not “shaking in the wind like reeds or grass, bowing down before gusts of public opinion.” Instead we are to be as “immovable rocks in a mountain stream.” We are called not to be like a dead fish floating with the current, but to swim against the stream, to stand out visibly in a spirit of humility instead of changing our color like chameleons. We are called to be different, to be like Christ.
A lot of people hear what a Christian should not do, but they do not often hear what a Christian should be. They should become more like Jesus.
Stott unpacked this positive message through three passages calling for Christlikeness.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. II Cor 3:18
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. I John 3:2
Still not entirely convinced? I John 2:6 puts it even more bluntly: “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” If we claim to be Christian, then we need to become like Christ, there simply are no other options. Practically, Stott sees Christlikeness in these ways:
In his incarnation– Christians are called to follow his humility Phil 2:5-8
In his service– Christians are called to help others and serve them, even if the task is menial of degrading John 13:14-15
In his love– Christians are called to love others in our lives, even if the love is costly like on Calvary Ephesians 5:2
In his patient endurance– Christians are called to endure, even when suffering comes unjustly.
In his mission– Christians are called to enter other people’s worlds, and to get skin into the game. We go to lost and lonely, for that is Christian love
Though suffering might come and sharing this message of Jesus might be difficult, but the reality is that we are not alone in this. God has graciously given us his Holy Spirit to help us fulfill this purpose in life.
“God’s purpose is to make us like Christ, and God’s way is to fill us with his Holy Spirit.”