Things That Are Above

Gospel Thinking for Gospel Living

Radical by David Platt

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In his book Radical, Dr. David Platt, pastor at The Church at Brook Hills asks us Christians a sobering question: “Is your faith radical?” Radical faith, in Dr. Platt’s words, is “radical abandonment to Jesus” (3). Drawing from the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:45-46, Dr. Platt explains further,

This is the picture of Jesus in the gospel. He is something–someone–worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. The cost of nondiscipleship is profoundly greater than the cost of discipleship. 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. (18)

And over the next eight chapters, Dr. Platt explores what this radical abandonment looks like in our daily lives. In chapter two, Dr. Platt develops the idea that radical faith hungers for God’s Word and the gospel it contains. It is as Peter commands in 1 Peter 2:2-3, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [which is God’s word; cf. 1:23-25], that by it you may grow up into salvation–if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” As Peter explains in these verses, true Christians–those who are abandoned to Jesus as Dr. Platt said in chapter one–are those who long for God’s word with a hunger that is “too hungry for words” (23). Consequently, one of the aspects of Dr. Platt’s “radical experiment” in chapter nine is a challenge to read through the entire Bible in a year. Dr. Platt writes, “Contemplate what you might know about the glory of God after a year of listening closely to his voice” (213). The Casting Crowns song, “To Know You” speaks true when it says, “To know You is to want to know You more.” Seeing God’s glory in the Bible only makes us want to see more of his glory.

Chapters three through eight focus on the other aspects of Dr. Platt’s “radical experiment.” In those chapters he explains the Scriptural basis for the other aspects of his challenge: to pray for the entire world, to give sacrificially and specifically, and to commit to (and then serve actively in) a local church. In chapter three, Dr. Platt emphasizes the importance on relying on God’s grace: we must not be “dependent on ourselves”; rather, we must be “dependent on His Spirit” (48). Why? Because God’s power is infinitely superior than ours:

The church I lead could have the least gifted people, the least talented people, the fewest leaders, and the least money, and this church under the power of the Holy Spirit could still shake the nations for his glory. The reality is that the church I lead can accomplish more during the next month in the power of God’s Spirit than we can in the next hundred years apart from his provision. His power is so superior to ours. (54)

If chapter three explains the how of the radical experiment, chapter four explains the why: “God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth” (69). Taken together, chapters three and four provide the background to Dr. Platt’s challenge in chapter nine to “pray for the entire world” over the next year (185). (One free resource Dr. Platt mentioned in discussing this challenge is Operation World.)

Chapter five presents Dr. Platt’s discussion of why church involvement is so important and what true church involvement looks like. In his words,

Being a part of a community of faith involves being exposed to the life of Christ in others. Just as we identified with Christ and his church in baptism, we now share life in Christ with one another. So to whom can you deliberately, intentionally, and sacrificially show the love of Christ in this way? This is foundational in making disciples, and we will multiply the gospel only when we allow others to get close enough to us to see the life of Christ in action. (98-99)

Church life isn’t just attending worship services and Bible studies; it is “encouraging one another,” as we read in Hebrews 10:25. It is being involved in one another’s lives. As Dr. Platt elaborates in chapter nine while challenging us to be a committed member in a local community of believers,

If we are going to live in radical obedience to Christ, we will need the church to do it. …The global purpose of Christ was never intended to be accomplished by individuals. We are a global people whose family spans the nations. So first and foremost, I encourage you to be done with church hopping and shopping in a me-centered cultural milieu and to commit your life to a people who need you and whom you need. (206)

Chapters six and seven present the enormity of global poverty (both monetary and spiritual) and the urgency with which Christians must go to the poor of this world and share the gospel, the good news, of Jesus with them. Consider God’s word in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This verse seems to be in the back of Dr. Platt’s mind in these two chapters. As we read in Psalm 68:5, God is the “Father of the fatherless and [the] protector of widows.” This fatherly love of God for the Father is our motivation as Christians “to visit orphans and widows” and other suffering people “in their affliction,” and by “visit” James means “reaching out in loving caring service” to afflicted orphans, widows, and all underprivileged, suffering people.

This global poverty is one reason why Dr. Platt urges Christians in his “radical experiment” to “pray for the entire world” and “sacrifice your money for a specific purpose” (185). And as he writes in chapter seven, “We have the gospel of Christ in us, and we do not have time to waste” (159). Apart from faith in Christ, no one is saved (Jn. 14:6). And Jesus has commanded all Christians to share the gospel, making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Therefore it is both the responsibility and the privilege of us Christians to share the gospel with others, or, as Dr. Platt expresses it, “spend time in another context” (185).

Chapter eight serves as a fitting conclusion to the whole book. In that chapter, Dr. Platt keys in on Jesus’ instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10 and applies Jesus’ words to Christians today. Dr. Platt highlights the examples of John Paton, Jim Elliott, and C. T. Studd from church history to “illustrate one fundamental truth: your life is free to be radical when you see death as a reward” (179).

All in all, Radical was a great book. I agree with many of Kevin DeYoung’s cautions to those who read Radical (and also his hearty commendation of both the book and its author, David Platt!), but I do feel that DeYoung’s comment, “we are made to feel bad for the money we spend on french fries (108)” is unwarranted. The quote DeYoung is alluding to actually reads,

Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.

Dr. Platt doesn’t seem to be intending for this quote to make Christians “feel bad”; in fact, in his response to DeYoung, he clarifies that his french fry comment (and others like it) was “not intended to promote guilt-driven obedience. Instead, my goal is simply to help open our eyes to realities in the world that we would rather ignore and to call us to look at those realities through the eyes of the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; p. 113 in Radical).”

Admittedly, I wish that we could change the “radical” terminologyand I agree also with DeYoung that Dr. Platt could have included more exegesis to ground his many exhortations in the book. But on the whole, I believe that Radical was an edifying challenge for me. 

My advice to future readers of Radical? Read it prayerfully while being open to the Holy Spirit applying the Scripture therein to your life. Be ready to have your appetite whetted for more of God’s Word. But read with discernment. You may not agree with EVERYTHING Dr. Platt writes (I didn’t), but you’ll probably agree with the vast majority of it (I did!).

Written by Jordan Atkinson

July 16, 2013 at 4:52 PM

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