Monday, November 05, 2012

BookPastor >> "Radical" (David Platt)

TITLE: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
AUTHOR: David Platt
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010, (232 pages).

This book is a clarion call for all to take discipleship not just seriously but radically. Like Francis Chan's Crazy Love, or John Stott's The Radical Disciple, and to some extent, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship, David Platt issues this one big challenge: Radical abandonment for Jesus is worth it.

Taking a fresh look at the call for discipleship in Luke 9, Platt sees the call of Jesus for us to "abandon everything - your needs, your desires, even your family." Isn't that radical enough? For those of us who finds it hard to abandon our dependence on current lifestyles, Platt issues the following rationale:

"The price of our nondiscipleship is high for those without Christ. It is high also for the poor of this world." (15)

The commitment to believe Jesus must match our commitment to obey Him. For us to really discover the truth and beauty of the gospel, we need to practice radical discipleship. In Platt's words, "radical revelation" is "to be radically received." In radical living, "unconditional surrender" is a given. Total abandonment is normal. Spirit dependence is an imperative. Prayer is the lifeblood of spirituality. God's radical initiative in Christ warrants a radical obedience. Before such things can happen, Platt has to unearth some deeply rooted impediments to radical faith. Let me mention seven of them. First of all, he attacks the age-old problem of sin.  It is the separation from God that pulls us away from any life that is "God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-denying gospel." Second, he warns us of the subtle dangers of the American Dream, which makes us dependent on our own selves, to exalt our own "inability," in order to attain the worldly goals that ultimately do not satisfy. Third, he aims at the self-centered religion that many possess that believes and behaves in a way as to merely suggest Christ only died for them, and not others. Four, he attempts to help us unlearn any idea of discipleship as merely a program or an event. It is a relationship, and because it is a relationship, we are to live as Christ lived. In other words, we need to practice discipleship for Christ by disinfecting ourselves from the world. Five, we need to take seriously our mandate to care for the world's people, and to reflect and take action about American wealth in the light of much poverty going on in the world. Learn to ask, "What does it take?" instead of "How much can we spare?" The former is active, while the latter is passive. Six, get away from any kinds of suggestion that mission is merely an "option." No! Mission is a command. It needs to be urgently addressed. It is not optional, or just one choice out of many. Finally, learn to measure the risks and rewards by counting the cost of discipleship, and having done so, to make a conscious commitment to obey God rather than man.

Platt then goes on to make some positive steps we can take if we are serious about discipleship. First, while there are risks inherent in our obedience to Christ, learn to see the needs beyond the dangers. In other words, let the love of people overcome any fears of the dangers and risks. Second, when Christians reach out, dangers are to be expected. There is no such thing as a safe harbour kind of an outreach. After all, no ship ever sails to the high seas without expecting storms. Third, be prepared for persecution, for betrayal, and for being hated. Jesus, Paul, Peter, all remind us that persecution comes with discipleship and obedience.  Four, discipleship is spiritual warfare, and not a luxury liner cruise holiday. Thankfully, Platt also puts in view the reward of discipleship: courage, trusting in God's Sovereignty and ultimate Safety, Love, Security, Love, Satisfaction, and above all, His Presence.

Platt closes with a powerful call for a year of radical living. This for me is worth the price of the book. Five challenges are issued to be done in 1 year.
  1. Pray for the whole world
  2. Read through the whole Word.
  3. Sacrifice our money for a specific cause.
  4. Spend our time in another context, rather than sticking to familiar territories.
  5. Committing ourselves to a multiplying community.

My Thoughts

The call for radical living has great implications for mission and outreach to the rest of the world. Platt addresses the common excuse of "I'm not called" by highlighting the hypocrisy of such people, who want the "privileges" of Christianity but are unwilling to pay the price or follow through on the "obligations of Christianity." Radical living may seem to be a tall order or a hard call for anyone to follow at first. Yet, I urge readers to be patient. As you read the book, be aware of how the Spirit is moving in your heart. Recognize that fear is not a good excuse. Lack of love is the root of all unwillingness. When we come to God with an obedient heart, an open mind, and with willing hands, trust the Lord to turn our radical living into life giving work. If you are bored with your Christian life today, take this book as a challenge. When you take back erroneous ideas about the American Dream, and wake up from our slumber in the comfort zone, we will be living the kind of disciples that Christ has called us to be.

Perhaps, the word radical may not be that "radical" after all. For the cold or the luke-warm, it looks radical. For the convicted and for those burning with fire for the kingdom, these radical acts of devotion and Christian living are but most ordinary. They will delight in the living and be light to the world, freely, passionately, and joyfully.


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