I eagerly picked up the pre-released copy of David Platt’s Radical, opened it up to Chapter One (Okay, first paused and said a quick “Awwww” to the dedication “To Heather, my beautiful bride and best friend”…I’m a sucker, okay?), and braced myself, ready to accept sharp blows of conviction to my heart.
As I read, I tried to get the fact that I had to write about it out of my head because I kept subconsciously trying to come up with what and how I would phrase or say certain things, or what I would touch on the most and whatnot.
I’ll refer to David Platt as David because Platt makes me feel like I’m writing a research paper. And, instead of writing a summary of each chapter , I’m just going to talk (ramble) about different points and such. Most things in parenthesis are quotes from the book just so I don’t have to “cite” them when mentioned. I’m not plagiarizing. David gets full credit! I’m just adding random commentary. If you’ve read any of my blog, this chapter’s topics probably will sound kind of familiar. And this is super long so, if you actually get through it…pat on the back and a cookie for you.
The first chapter asks, “What does radical abandonment to Jesus really mean?”
What does it actually look like to follow Christ? As the days go by, God has been revealing to me just how much Christians don’t know what this looks like. I don’t claim to know what this looks like. But, we (not inclusive) don’t get it.
David talks about how he’s been deemed (not without his dispute) “The youngest megachurch pastor in history.”
Megachurches seem to be the “American Church dream” for all upcoming and current pastors. Bigger is better. Often churches measure success based on attendance and how large a crowd they draw. Make the seats more comfy, hire professional musicians and make sure the music is “hip”, add fancy lights and videos, preach happy messages about how much Jesus loves you, offer a lot of fun activities and groups to get involved with…anything to draw a huge crowd of people.
David writes his reaction to this:
“But I found myself becoming uneasy. For one thing, my model in ministry is a guy who spent the majority of his ministry time with twelve men. A guy who, when he left this earth, had only about 120 people who were actually sticking around and doing what he told them to do. More like a minichurch, really. Jesus Christ–the youngest minichurch pastor in history.”
American church culture success is defined by “bigger crowds, bigger budgets, and bigger buildings”, when Jesus was actually…not really for all those things.
Jesus didn’t preach “feel good” sermons. He actually preached downright strange, even weird sounding sermons, that were not worried about “offending” or being “unpopular”.
Jesus said things like, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Whoa what?
“Jesus apparently wasn’t interested in marketing himself to the masses. His invitations to potential followers were clearly more costly than the crowds were ready to accept, and he seemed to be okay with that. He focused instead on the few who believed him when he said radical things.”
Okay, so here the two major questions come into play:
Do we believe Jesus?
Do we literally accept the commandments and teachings of Jesus as truth and let them rule our lives?
Do we obey Jesus?
Do we read, hear, study the words of Jesus and ACTUALLY obey them?
“I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe. And I am convinced we have a choice.”
We can live in our safe bubble, culture savvy, culture saturated, culture hungry, fame seeking, self loving, go to church on Sundays, read the Bible occasionally, and tithe 10%, self-seeking universes or we can dare to ask what it would look like if “…we really believed him and really obeyed him.”
David talks about a visit with church leaders in a country in Asia (an underground meeting. Illegal to actually “meet”), where a meeting ended with the leaders broken for their brothers and sisters in Christ, weeping for them as they prayed heartfelt prayers to God for their safety and perseverance in the midst of persecution and terror. He mentions that after an hour of pleading to the Lord, the floor was nothing but puddles of tears. David also mentions young students eager to give their lives away in order to proclaim the Gospel to those who had never heard.
One of the students says, “But our families understand [in response to that he might die on the field]. Our moms and dads have been in prison for their faith, and they have taught us that Jesus is worthy of all our devotion.”
I don’t have to come to church in secret, or undercover, fearing that at any moment I could get caught and thrown into prison or worse. I drive safely in my comfortable air-conditioned car to church. I sit comfortably in a cushioned chair…not that any of that is wrong but…
“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. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually abandoning ourselves.”
Jesus told a man asking to follow him,
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)
Basically, followers of Jesus aren’t promised even a house or a place to stay. Jesus was homeless. His followers have a pretty good chance of being as well.
Jesus also said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Like 14:26)
Hmm…that sounds a little different from, “Admit, believe, confess, and pray a prayer after me.”
Ha. What have we let Christianity become? Jesus told people to sell everything they had and come follow him. Jesus wanted radical people who were willing to do radical things and live radically at all costs for him. We are to count our lives as nothing and count our selves as nothing.
Radical abandonment is completely anti culture. It’s completely opposite of what the world is telling us to do. This is where we’ve gone wrong. We see passages like the above and we use the dangerous words, “Well, Jesus didn’t LITERALLY mean that…what he really meant was…” What?
We’ve altered the radical Jesus of the Bible and molded and shaped him into this comfortable, safe, happy, blonde haired blue-eyed, glowy Jesus who loves us, died for us, wants us to be successful and happy and have lots of money (Gag me with a freakin chainsaw, Joel Olsteen) and wants us to be famous and selfish and take life easy and CANNOT WAIT until we die eventually when we’re old in our beds, safe and sound with no disease, because then he can take us up to a puffy cloud and give us a bow and arrow and a heavenly diaper and we get to sing songs and talk about old times with friends for all eternity.
The fact is…that’s not the Jesus we get in the Bible. We have so contorted Jesus to image ourselves that, in the end, that’s really who we’re worshiping…ourselves. We have made golden calves out of ourselves, and, the sad thing? We’re okay with that. Because Jesus wants us to be safe and happy and wealthy and have whatever we want…right?
“Ultimately Jesus was calling them [his disciples] to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves.”
So…you might be thinking, “Wow, so…why do/should I want to follow Christ again? This…doesn’t sound like fun…”
When God shines light into our hearts and our eyes are suddenly open to the beauty of Christ in the Gospel, when we see our depravity in light of a holy God and realize our desperate need for a Savior who can only be Jesus, the Holy Spirit promises to come live inside of us and change us, begin sanctifying us and making us more and more into the image of Christ.
However, even after rebirth, ..it’s still hard to live this way–live with total abandon. Why do we hold on so tightly to the things of this world? We struggle with one foot in and the other out…when Jesus demands both feet in.
What we must not lose sight of is the beauty and treasure of Jesus Christ. “For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.”
We get GOD!!
The world doesn’t understand you risking everything, giving everything away, counting it all but loss, but, “You know that in the end you are not really giving away anything at all. Instead you are gaining. Yes, you are abandoning everything you have, but you are also gaining more than you could have in any other way. So with you–with joy!–you sell it all, you abandon it all. Why? Because you have found something worth losing everything for.”
So, Christians, the real question that is left to ask is this,
“Do we really believe he is worth abandoning everything for? Do you and I really believe that Jesus is so good, so satisfying, and so rewarding that we will leave all we have and all we own and all we are in order to find our fullness in him? Do you and I believe enough to obey him and to follow him wherever he leads, even when the crowds in our culture–and maybe in our churches–turn the other way?”
The deal is, you can’t have or crave the world and follow Jesus. You can’t. Our culture tells us we can have the world and we can treasure the world and ourselves as our god, and if you’re just “religious or whateva”, you can “believe in God” and be a good person or whatever and go to heaven when you die. This is not Biblical. This is a lie. This is not Christianity. Jesus is not a compartmentalized section of your life…he IS your life, or you’re NOT a Christian.
So, what does this look like?
Well, first of all, we have to “commit to believe whatever Jesus says”–don’t switch it, sugar coat it, toss it up a little bit. It is what it is, and we believe with joy.
And, second, we have to “commit to obey what [we] have heard”. Actually…living it out.
So, again, what does it look like to live in radical abandonment to Jesus in our lives? I can’t answer that for you. I’m seeking and praying and trying to figure out what that looks like for me in my life. The important thing is that you’re seeking this…and not half-heartedly seeking it, in hopes that Jesus will “tell you that you really aren’t called to do anything TOO outrageous”…but, earnestly seeking God and praying for this radical abandonment to be played out in your life, giving God a blank check with your name on it, and saying with gladness and joy, “Not my will, but YOUR will be done.”
Christians, the church must wake up to this reality. We must be willing to lose everything for Christ. He is worth so much more than anything this world has to offer.
Do we really believe that?