Evangelical Essentials

Have we lost sight of Christ-likeness?

In July 2007 John Stott spoke at the Keswick Convention in England for what was billed as the veteran preacher's "final sermon." Now 88 years old, he chose to speak on God's ultimate purpose for His people.

Stott began by taking note of the famous first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism ("What is the chief end of man?" Answer: "to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever") and of the statement, "Love God, love your neighbor." Neither of these, Stott said, totally satisfied him in describing God's ultimate purpose for His people. Stott then proceeded to share "where my mind has come to rest" on this issue.

His answer: Christ-likeness. He referred to three texts: Romans 8:29, which he called God's eternal purpose; 2 Corinthians 3:18, God's historic purpose for us here below; and 1 John 3:2, God's final or eschatological purpose for us.

I have always assumed that you cannot improve on the Shorter Catechism's opening question and answer. But I do not see how anybody could contradict Stott's thesis. For Christ-likeness is surely the best way one can glorify God—both here on earth and in heaven, since we are commanded to be like Jesus now and certainly will be like Him then.

Toward the end of his address Stott applied the relevance of this theme to evangelism. He reckons that one of the reasons for our failure in evangelism is that our lives do not embody Him who we claim to represent.

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His statement brought to mind another by a Hindu professor who once found out that a man in his class was a Christian. "If you Christians were like Jesus Christ," the professor said to him, "India would be at your feet tomorrow."

A friend of mine once rushed to catch a train, which, if missed, meant waiting in India for another 12 hours. As he ran through the market, he accidentally knocked over a blind merchant's vegetables—but kept on going. Once my friend made it to the train, he sat and reflected on what he'd done. He got off the train, returned to the blind man and apologized. "I'm so sorry" he said as he knelt on the ground and helped the man pick up his vegetables. Startled to find a stranger saying this, the blind man sincerely asked, "Sir, is you Jesus?"

A learned Muslim who recently became a Christian said, "If Christians were truly Christians—like Christ—there would be no Islam."

Years ago Arthur Blessitt, the man known for carrying a 12-foot cross around the world, entered a hotel in Amman, Jordan, to get a cold drink. After finising his soda, he handed the waiter money. "Your drink has been paid for," the waiter said and pointed to a man at the end of the counter. Blessitt walked over to thank the man, an Arab Sheik, who said to him: "I want what you've got." "What do you mean?" Blessitt asked. "I've been looking at your face—I want what you've got." Blessitt replied: "I am a follower of Jesus Christ."

Within an hour or so he led the man to Christ. The man then took Blessitt to the highest-ranking Arab sheiks in the Middle East, who were present for an OPEC Conference. Blessitt witnessed to them all, leading several to the Lord.

I once stayed in the home of a Muslim who had become a Christian. He said he was converted by British soldiers in Madagascar. I asked, "What argument did they use that made you want to become a Christian?" He answered simply: "It was not what they said, it was them."

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest, God Gives Second Chances. Visit his Web site at rtkendallministries.com.

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