Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Radical: Taking back your faith from the American dream by David Platt

You need to read this book. And then you really need to lend it to your pastor’s wife, so that she can encourage her husband to read it. But I have to warn you. You will be made to feel uncomfortable. You will be pushed to examine your faith and your relationship to the culture you live in. You will be confronted by the dire need in the world today where 4.5 billion people do not know Christ. But if you read it and you take it to heart, you will not be satisfied with a Christianity that is comfortable, secure and has nothing at stake. You will want to examine your attitudes to church, evangelism and money. And you will want to take steps to ensure that your life and the lives of those around you are marked by real devotion to Christ and obedience to His call to take the gospel to the nations.
David Platt was the “youngest megachurch pastor in history”. But he began to feel great unease when he compared ‘the church growth model’ to the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was influenced by the radical faith that he saw in underground churches in Asia. When he compared it to the church back home, “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable”.

In the first chapter Platt looks at Jesus and what He said about how those who follow him should live, and how different that is to how we actually live. He is speaking from an American context but I believe the majority of what Platt says is relevant to the Australian context. He does not claim to have all the answers. His words are grounded in the Bible and come from a genuine desire to see the church stand up and take obeying Jesus seriously. Comfortable me-centred faith is less than what God wants for his beloved church. Yes, discipleship is costly, but what is the consequence of turning our backs on Jesus’ call to proclaim the kingdom of God? “While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark.”

In chapter two Platt takes a look at the example of an Asian house church, where followers of Jesus aren’t worried about the morning tea or the songs or how to serve communion. They want to know the Bible. They want to share Christ crucified with others, even at the cost of their own lives. What a stark contrast to the gospel of self-improvement. The gospel is more than just accepting Jesus and following certain steps so that God’s plan for my blessed life can unfold. Platt looks at the reality of how dire our sinful state is and he looks at what we are called to, “We realize that we are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven, but we are saved to know God . . . This is why you and I cannot settle for anything less than a God-centred, Christ-exalting, self-denying gospel.”

I found chapter three particularly uplifting. We are not alone in the world to struggle and battle against the tide of a culture that says look after yourself first. God is powerful and the Father gives us the Holy Spirit. Do you ever look around your church and feel despondent that more people in your community are not hearing and responding to the gospel? Platt assures us that even if we do have the good preacher, the strong band, and the programs run by professionals, (or even if we do not), it is the power of God that can achieve more that we could ever imagine. We need to stop relying on human strength and worldly wisdom. “For the people of God who long to see his power at work and who live to see his purposes accomplished, he will give us everything we need according to his very presence alive in us.”

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