Those Meddling Preachers…

As I look back on last week’s post entitled “Take Up Your Cross” [June 30, 2022] I realize that John Stott’s comments on a Christian’s commitment to Jesus are generally vague.  I wrote that he thinks Christians should not follow the “ways of the world.”  Generally that means that we should not sin [much easier said than done].  Secondly, we should “deny ourselves” which means that instead of trying to manipulate life for our personal gain we should be loving and generous to our fellow man.  Thirdly, we are to “take up our cross.”  Jesus does not want a half-hearted commitment; He wants us to be as fully committed to living a Christian lifestyle as we can.  He certainly was committed.

Vague words at best.

I find it interesting in his book Basic Christianity that he follows his general comments with very specific recommendations.  I had a friend who once said when pastors go from generalities to specifics that they were going from preaching to meddling.

Well to be honest, “basic” Christians probably need specifics, new directions for living, increased knowledge of new commitments, better goals for a better life.

First of all when you are saved, Stott says that God has a call on your life.  There is a new purpose.  I like the straightforward words “our business is to discover it and do it.”  Is there a possibility that the work we are doing at the time we are saved is not the work that God intends us to do?  That could certainly be the case.  Again Stott “meddles” when he says “we must open our lives to the possibility of a change.”  When Christ enters our lives, we live for Him.  We may not be sure if He wants us involved in church work or some other type of ministry but in many forms of work [Stott uses the examples of medicine, research, the law, education, social service, government, industry and business and trade] we can put God first in serving our fellow man.   If God is our Master, our work will begin to reflect Him more and the values of man less. 

Secondly, if a Christian is married, God should be first in the marriage.  That means that both married individuals should be dedicated to a life in Christ.  Basic Christianity was first published in 1958 and life has certainly changed a lot since then.  Stott refers to marriage as a “divine institution,” one that people should not enter into in a frivolous manner.  He goes further by saying that a Christian should not marry a non-believer; “do not be mismated with an unbeliever” [114].    His language is strong: “For a Christian to marry someone with whom he or she cannot be spiritually one is not only to disobey God but to miss the fullness of the union He intended” [114].  As I report his thoughts on this, I try not to judge.  I just ask the reader to consider the wisdom of Stott’s advice.

Thirdly, the act of sex in a marriage should be what God intended for marriage.  God intended sex in marriage to be “something good and right, the expression of love, a fulfilment of the divine purpose and of the human personality.”  Too often sexuality is portrayed as a selfish act, an irresponsible act between two people.  Nothing could be further from the truth in a Christian marriage. 

Let’s really meddle.  When a person is saved, their private affairs become dedicated to God.  What this means is our money and our time belong to God.  Jesus often spoke about money, about how riches can be dangerous.  At times, it seems like He is calling His disciples to give away all of their earthly belongings.  Is that relevant today?  Stott writes, “No doubt He still calls some of His followers to do this today” but for most of us, it is a command to not worship material wealth over God.  It is the old idea that man cannot worship God and “mammon” at the same time.  It may sound peculiar but Christians should consider who really owns their money and all their material possessions.  In a Christian worldview, we hold our possessions as “stewards”, which is very different from the selfish attitude that many have about wealth.  What I own today is given to me by God.  He owns it all anyway.  What I do with what I have is the key.  When there is so much poverty in this world, we are not called to horde our money and possessions; we are called to share.

Our time is a matter of priorities.  We should work hard but not at the expense of worshipping God.  We should work hard but not at the expense of our God-given families.  Time should be set aside for church, for daily prayer and Bible reading.  Time should be set aside for service to the church and community.

Ok, some will read this and think this man is expressing 1958 values but this a 2022 world.  This “bringing every department of our public and private lives under His control” is too extreme.  I encourage the reader to stop and think about the areas of life where sin is common.  Life without a Godly purpose can be a life that is extremely self-centered.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbor as yourself” is a huge leap for most selfish people today.  Marriage today is far from the “divine institution” that Stott describes.  Should it be “divine”?  Sexuality is much more open today than it was but does that make it more special or less special?  People devote their lives to accumulating money and possessions and don’t put God first.  What is the effect of that?  I think you can imagine the answer. 

I summarize this post with the pastor’s meddling words.  “All this [life purpose, marriage, sexuality in marriage, money and time] is involved [in the Christian life] if we are to forsake sin and self, and follow Christ” [Stott, 115]. *

*What is inserted in italics are my words.

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