God is deeply upsetting

An excerpt from John Stott’s classic, Basic Christianity, in which he articulates why a man’s problem in seeking God may not be intellectual but moral.

. . . In seeking God we have to be prepared not only to revise our ideas but to reform our lives. The Christian message has a moral challenge. If the message is true, the moral challenge has to be accepted. So God is not a fit object for man’s detached scrutiny. You cannot fix God at the end of a telescope or a microscope and say “How interesting!” God is not interesting. He is deeply upsetting. The same is true of Jesus Christ.

‘We had thought intellectually to examine him; we find he is spiritually examining us. The roles are reversed between us. . . We study Aristotle and are intellectually edified thereby; we study Jesus and are, in the profoundest way, spiritually disturbed. . . We are constrained to take up some inward moral attitude of heart and will in relation to this Jesus. . . A man may study Jesus with intellectual impartiality, he cannot do it with moral neutrality. . . We must declare our colors. To this has our unevasive contact with Jesus brought us. We began it in the calm of the study; we are called out to the field of moral decision.’ [P. Carnegie Simpson, The Fact of Christ, 1930]

This is what Jesus meant when, addressing some unbelieving Jews, he said, “If any man’s will is to do his (that is, God’s) will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” The promise is clear: we can know whether Jesus Christ was true or false, whether his teaching was human or divine. But the promise rests on a moral condition. We have to be ready not just to believe, but to obey. We must be prepared to do God’s will when he makes it known.

— John Stott, Basic Christianity


Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Lead pastor at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian, theological Luddite, and long-suffering Atlanta Falcons fan. A student of one book.

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