The Radical Christian

The book I am reviewing is a book that I highly recommend for you to read. It is an amazing book by David Platt called Radical.  This book is one that may just change your life and the destiny of scores of others for eternity.  It asks the questions that most believers never even think about.  For example, we are told that a First Baptist Church celebrated their new “$23 million dollar” building (16) while in a small side column announced that the Baptists had “raised $5,000 to send to refugees in western Sudan” where 350,000 refugees were dying of malnutrition (16).  They spend twenty-three million dollars for a new building and five thousand for 350,000 starving people.  I am not criticizing Baptists of course because mega churches are doing this throughout the nation.

Almost 700,000 people die every day, nearly 30,000 die every hour, and approximately 500 die every minute.  That number is increasing every day.  Now understand the fact that only 33% of them are Christians (and in reality is likely less than 33%).  So today, 462 thousand people will die and be separated from God forever.  How many hear the gospel is up to those of us that make up the 33%.  

There is a huge disconnect between the “Christ of Scripture” and Christianity.  Today there are still more than one billion people who have never heard of Jesus.  Mega-churches are doing miniscule giving and even less in proclaiming the gospel. 

One group of church leaders gathered for almost two weeks to study God’s Word from 8 to 12 hours a day…yet the average Christians read their Bible twice a week and that is usually in church (if they even bring a Bible).  These men were farmers and they said “we will leave our fields unattended for the next couple of weeks so we can learn the Old Testament” (24).  When the group finished Malachi, they said, “We would like to learn the New Testament today” (25).  These villagers were hungry for the Word and were willing to lose their crops, their livelihood, to hear the Word of God. 

What if we took away from our churches the cushy chairs, the amazing sound system and music, the air conditioning, and all the creature comforts from our churches:  would we still be hungry for the Word of God? God is a loving Father but He is also a wrathful Judge for those who are not Christ’s.  In a cemetery you will see hundreds of dead corpses…but today millions of “dead men walking” (without Christ) and actually many churches have spiritually dead corpses that only the Word of God can bring to life (30).  

Today we say “Let Jesus come into your heart” or “read this sinners prayer”, “sign this card” or just come forward and “walk the aisle and accept Jesus“.  The problem is that there is not one Scripture in the Bible where this is done.  No where are we told to “bow your heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me.”  We ask “just accept Jesus”.  “Do you really think Jesus needs our acceptance” (37)?  A serious warning is given by Jesus where He says right after the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many (get that!…MANY!) will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord’ did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plain, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matt 7:21-23)!   How shocking is that!?  MANY will be “eternally shocked to find that they were not in the kingdom of God after all” (38).

Being a pastor this makes me want to run down the aisle of the church I am under shepherd of and yell to them to “wake up!”  How many people are sitting in the church that are truly not converted and sold out to Christ enough to die for Him?  Many, again Jesus says that it is MANY, who might think that they are saved when they truly are not (38)!  We have all swallowed the easy ticket ride to heaven and that God will tolerate our sin all along the way (38).  

The gospel beckons us to “die to ourselves and to believe in God and trust His power” (46).  To see the futility of our inability to “accomplish anything of value apart from Him” (46).  Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)!  This is where God actually delights in us when we realize we are totally helpless without Him. God frequently puts His people in “positions where they are desperate for His power, and then He shows His provision in ways that display His greatness” (48). 

We have the false idea that a church is successful if the parking lot is full, we have huge mega complexes, we have charismatic preachers, we have an awesome church band, start of the art sound systems, and expansive worship centers with plush seating (49).  What is the glaring need? It is an utter and completely, desperate need for God’s power.  The small band of 12 disciples knew they needed God’s power and could not rely upon themselves.  They understood that of themselves they could do nothing. 

 In Acts 2 is says that “three thousand were added to their number that day” (v 41) and the “Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v 47).  There were also “a great number of people who were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24) and a host of Gentiles “who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).  The point is that God draws people to Christ but we still have to share it with them.  “A scene where the church radically trusts in God’s great power to provide unlikely people with unlimited, unforeseen, uninhibited resources to make His name know as great” is not of our doing but of Gods (53).

One tiny little church could do more in one month in the power of God’s Spirit than a 50,000 member church could do in a year apart from God’s provision. God holds all the resources of the universe in the palm of His sovereign hand and He is “ready and waiting for the people of God who desire to” reveal and display His glory for all to see (59).  Why do we not ask God to accomplish only what He can accomplish?   The greatest need we have right now is to fall on our face, hands, and knees and lay prostrate before Him and plead with Him to reveal Himself in a mighty way.  To display His radical power in and through us which enables us to accomplish for His glory “what we could never” even dream of doing “in our own strength” (60). 

God has created us to go to all ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20/Acts 1:8) but we settle for sitting in the pews and maybe going to our own town but God is calling all people groups to Himself to be worshipped and not just those in the U.S.  God’s will is to spread His glory to all ends of the earth and to all nations and people groups.  The sad thing is that most have made the gospel “me-centered”:  He sought me, He caught me, He bought me, He taught me, what I ought be.  He choose me.  He saved me.  He forgave me.  It is as if we are the objects of His faith instead of Him being the object of our faith.  We are not the end of the gospel but for His holy name’s sake, the beginning; to bring it to others.  God is at the center of the universe and we are not (71). 

Why did Jesus create us?  To simply save us?  No, He created us to use us to bring the message of salvation to others.  We like the benefits of salvation…the beneficiaries but not the ambassadors.  We like to sit back and enjoy salvation instead of getting out to bring the gospel to others; the purpose for which we were created.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations and not just to disciple our own selves.  We like to send money for missionary work, to fund overseas missions, to pray for missionaries, to pray for other nations to know Christ…and while we sit comfortably in our cushioned church pews.  The Great Commission is the great omission for 95% of Christians even though Jesus command is for all to go to all.  I have heard others tell me why they won’t go door-to-door with me. They say “I’m not called to that.” 

If you had a cure for cancer, would you just swallow the cure and say nothing to anyone!?  I would hope not but this is exactly what most Christians are satisfied with doing; or not doing.  How can you say you have a heart for God and want to be obedient will being willfully disobedient to the Great Commission?  It is like we pick and choose what we want to obey.  We like the idea of having the benefits (be saved, blessed, sins forgiven) and claim the promises but we obey selectively what we want.  So we might say “we have a heart for God” but it is less than 5% of His heart for most (76). Shouldn’t our hearts burn within us to make the glory of God known to others since from Genesis to Exodus God has stated His specific and clear purpose to glorify His name?  I am glad that God has not given us only 5% of His promises or that I will forgive 5% of your sins or bless you by about 5%.  

The consequences of activities within the church ignore the consequences outside of the church; people go to hell that die without Christ.  Paul was continually going and preaching the gospel.  He didn’t stay to set up church boards, make comfortable buildings, or fill the church with self-occupying activities.  We are told to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us…and that is to tell others about Christ and then have them tell others about Christ and those saved to tell others about Christ.  They intentionally took the gospel outside of their own cities and towns.

One pastor once said that rich people (remember that 94% of Americans are rich according to the world’s standards) who neglect the poor are simply not God’s people.  We is the most frightening is that many who sit in churches today are playing church and have a religion called “churchianity“.  We falsely judge churches by the size of their parking lot, their sanctuary, and their list of activities. 

Believers give only 2.5% of their income to support the church.  Every single year churches spend over $10 billion dollars on church buildings and they own $230 billion in church property.  David Platt believes that building fancy churches is indicative of vanity and pride.  God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  We spend billions on buildings yet leave fractions for evangelism.  John Calvin once said that “Half of the church’s funds should be allotted specifically for the poor” (129).  Today, it is less than one half of one percent that churches spend to help the poor!  Chip Ingram, teacher and pastor, once said that you can tell where a person’s heart is; just look at their checkbook ledger. 

What David Platt said is so true about what people think: “I can’t do everything, so I won’t do anything” (130).  That is a lie straight out of the pit of hell.  The poor widow who gave all she had in Luke 21 will be blessed above and beyond all that most believers do.  You could tell her treasure was in the same place that her heart was; in giving.  You express your love for Christ and exalt His glory by radical abandonment of giving and of witnessing.  In God’s plan to spread the gospel there is no plan B (156).  We are His one and only plan.  Try to find anyplace in the New Testament where a person comes to faith without the aid of a witness. 

Today 1.5 billion people are as yet not reached by the gospel and this is more than five thousand people groups (158).  In one remote village that no one has ever even heard of Christ the tribal leader brought out to the missionary there a Coke. Funny, but Coca Cola does a better job of reaching lost tribes than does a God-command church (159).   If you want to know what God’s will is…this is it!   To save those who are lost and we know that God does not take pleasure in the eternal death of the wicked.  Jesus said that he who seeks to save his life will lose it but he who wants to lose his life will gain it (eternally).  

Two missionaries once went to a cannibalistic island and they were killed.  A few years later another small group of missionaries went and they could certainly have said that it is risky, unsafe, and they could lose their life.  But that tribe finally did heard the gospel and many in that tribe came to saving faith.   If the missionaries had played it safe, that tribe would not know about Jesus Christ.  Once again, David Platt makes a potent statement: “The danger in our lives will always increase in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ” (167).  But do we not want to have a deep, personal, and meaningful relationship with Christ?  Nearly all believers would say yes…but might not want to take risks like these missionaries took.  And if not, then they would miss out not only on eternal rewards but on a deeply satisfying relationship with Christ that in the future and in the present will be abundantly joyful. 

My own journey into a risky, dangerous, and unsafe place was once when I preached at a church in Pueblo, Colorado.  It was in the middle of what the one local Hispanic man called “a Hispanic ghetto.  I was warned by him to be careful, to not go alone, and to be cautious.  And after preaching on the evangelistic message of “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” (see chapter five) nearly one in four came forward that day to believe in Christ.  There was such a mass that came forward that the church leadership had to double up on speaking to the many who came forward.  Former and present drug dealers, former prisoners, murderers, gang leaders, and the like came forward.  Now what if I had talked myself out of going to preach inside the center of this “Hispanic ghetto?”  There would have been dozens who might have missed the gospel message and not have been saved.  The church membership said that “Wow, you really started something….”  I corrected them and said that it was the Holy Spirit that was convicting them.  The power was in the message and not in the messenger.  But they still needed the messenger.

God can and does deliver us from harm but if He sovereignly chooses, oh no, the worst thing that could happen would be that we would be ushered into the presence of God.  How terrible (being factitious)!   I love what Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 

We are asked to pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He might send forth more laborers because the harvest is great and few laborers are willing to go into the fields.  There are no shortages of believers but a severe shortage of those believers who would enter into the harvest.  Jesus could have told us to pray for the lost.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t but He told His disciples to pray for more laborers.  I think the point is that we are not praying as we ought.  I confess this too.  I have tried to discipline myself to do this more than once or twice a day.  So pray I do and pray for more laborers since only about 1 in 20 will go out into the fields to help in the harvest.  Less than 1 in 30 has ever lead more than one person to Christ in their lives. How tragic!  Jesus commands us and Paul does too to pray always, without ceasing, and to pray for laborers to come to the great harvest.  Time is running out.  Christ will come back soon perhaps.  Will He come back as Judge for those who haven’t heard the gospel or as King for those who have and been born-again?  You can help decide for some whether Christ is their King or their Judge. 

Connect your giving with your going.  I have a friend, Jerry Woods, a retired pastor who spends his own money and connects it with going.  His primary harvest field is wherever he happens to be.  In the store, waiting in line at a gas station, or just walking down the street.  He has and still yet will impact the kingdom of Christ for His glory forever and ever.  He will be shaking a lot of hands in eternity while people tell him, “thank you for telling me about Christ”.  Over and over again I am sure.  I thank God for this man.  He came to me at a time when I was about to give up.  I was the only one in my town going door-to-door, into the stores, at the mall, sharing the gospel.  He has the passion for the Great Commission and great compassion for the lost.  He has re-ignited a fire in me.  We have held each other up in prayer and in proclaiming Christ and to increase the glory of Christ by bringing many sons and daughters into the kingdom of heaven.  I thank God for Jerry. 

Someday in eternity, we will not look back on our time on earth and say, “Boy, I wish I had not embarrassed myself by sharing the gospel with that man”, “Oh, how I wish I had not been laughed at telling that lady about Jesus”, “It’s too bad that I was humiliated for trying to teach people how they can go to heaven.”  No, we will more likely say, “Oh how I wished I had share the gospel with more people”, “It is too bad that I was more of a bold witness for Christ with (so and so) while I had the chance.”  Today is the day of salvation.  Tomorrow may be too late.  I feel we are living in the end times.  I am not saying that He is coming back right away, but for anyone that dies today, their end is then.  Their chance is over.  They don’t get a second chance to get saved. 

I too was one who was not going for many years but I repented of this.  If you or I don’t go, it is a sin of omission and just the same as saying, “I don’t care about you even though I know you are heading to hell…it is taking me out of my comfort zone to talk about Christ.”  I know this sounds harsh.  I may face some criticism for this but it is worth it if I can convince only one other person to share their faith with others.  It is a risk I am willing to take.  Are you willing to take it too?  I am praying to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth more laborers for the harvest is indeed great.  I pray to God you will join me in the work.

For more on Evangelizing the Lost, read “How to Evangelize Door-to-Door

David Platt, Radical. Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO.: 1984, 2010.

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