The cross is central to the Christian faith. It’s central to our understanding of God, salvation, and our daily life. The apostle Paul famously wrote to one church under his care, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
With Holy Week and Easter approaching and many of our thoughts turning especially to the cross of Christ, I’d like to recommend a series of sermons to you, preached by John Stott in the early 1980s and helpfully available on the website of the church in which they were preached. The series is called “Cross Purposes,” and relates the cross to five areas of concern: sin, God, the self, violence, and suffering. Each message is clear and well-argued. Each message touches real concerns of real life with care and depth. Of all the messages in the series, the message on “The Cross and Self” might be the one that has the most to say to our world in 2015. The rise of social media has made us into a whole society in a crisis of identity. Stott shows just how the cross teaches us simultaneously to deny ourselves and to affirm ourselves. By distinguishing between our created self (to be affirmed) and our fallen self (to be denied) his message may bring clarity and encouragement to people who are otherwise confused and anxious about their self-identity.
The messages can be found at this link.
A Bit about John Stott
Stott, born in 1921, was for decades the rector of All Souls, Langham Place, an Anglican church in London. He was a major figure in post-war evangelicalism, even once being named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World (with words of tribute written by Billy Graham). You may not know his name, though; Stott quietly exercised his wide influence largely through his writings, including the classics Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ.
Though his books sold in the millions, Stott was an incredibly humble, unassuming man. In the last decades of his life, he lived in a two-bedroom apartment over the garage of the rectory at his church. He knew the gifts he had been given by God, and diligently fanned them into flame (2 Timothy 1:6) without being worried too much about status or prestige. He was a tremendous Bible teacher, and lived what he taught with “transparent integrity” (Roger Steer, Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott). Never married, Stott was by all accounts a generous friend and mentor to many. He was an avid bird-watcher and loved to spend time writing and visiting at his cottage in Wales. Stott died in 2011 at age 90.