Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream. The title of the book alone steps on so many toes, and the pages ahead only get more painful and uncomfortable. David Platt is the author of the book and is the current senior pastor of McLean Bible Church located in the Washington, DC metro area. He has also previously served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. Furthermore, he has and still is one of the great heroes of the faith; I am convicted, encouraged, and challenged by his messages. I heard so much about this particular book that I had to get my hands on it to see what all the buzz was about. I was not at all prepared for what I was about to read.
Radical does not waste its time introducing the subject of Christianity or the American dream. Instead, it dives straight to scrutinizing and inspecting Western Christianity. The author does this mainly by using Scripture but also by laying out his experience as a missionary in several countries around the world. The contrast is evident and hard to swallow at times when it comes to how oversees believers practice their faith, how they go about completing the Great Commission, and how they see Christ himself.
One of the stories he shares in the book that left a lasting impression on my life as a Christian was about what occurred during his time in China. After spending some time fellowshipping with the believers there, he went on to get some rest. As he tried to slip into slumber, he heard wailing, crying, and murmuring. In the pitch dark, the Chinese believers were gathered in prayer. David leaned in and asked one of them what on earth was happening and the response was that they loved and cared for American/Western believers so much that they were praying for God to strengthen them in their faith and help them persevere. The idea that a group of Chinese believers who have to meet in secret, despite possible danger, intercede on our behalf both warmed and stung my heart. They truly see us as their brothers and sisters, but I also fear that they know, in our comfort, in our cushioned chairs and our colorful stage lights, we’ve started to become too comfortable with the way that we live and have neglected the task at hand.
Platt stresses that the Gospel the Bible preaches is different from the one preached by the American dream. The life we settle for and the earthly things that we desire do not align with the word of God. Furthermore, Radical illustrates that there is a great need in the mission field, because so many are without Christ. If we truly are crazy enough to believe the claims of Christ, then we ought to live like it. We have to realize that denying ourselves daily and radically following Christ means to risk it all to go into all the nations and preach the Gospel.
The central message of the entire book can be summarized by the following quote:
The modern-day gospel says, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.’ Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, ‘You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do. (David Platt, Radical)
The church has been plagued by the prosperity Gospel for too long. It has ignored the true Gospel and sought the wealth, health, and comfort this world offers. God has been reduced to a genie who will attend to our wishes and commands as we see fit. We live life thinking that fulfillment is found in the degrees we accumulate, the jobs we secure, the estates we oversee, and the cars we own, yet nothing drains us more. We have made the Gospel about ourselves and our needs when the Gospel was never about us but the grace of God. Platt pleads the same truth to his audience and warns that we will not be able to stand or give an answer to the Lord when the day comes.
The book not only talks about the true calling of the Christian life, but it also points the reader to the plight of so many people around the world, while we indulge in materialism, consumerism, and the self-centered Gospel that seeks to get a hold of the next best thing for fulfillment. The Bible teaches us compassion and selfless giving; if we were to make small changes in our lives, maybe miss out on the newest iPhone and buy a lunch for the homeless around our community, it would open up the door to a greater change in our lives and the people around us. Taking small radical steps for the sake of God and others will eventually lead to a completely radical life altogether.
Reading this book was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. Not that the truth found in it was somehow hidden or that it could answer all my questions, instead, it simply pointed out the flaws in my philosophy, everything I thought my faith in Christ looked like and turned it up-side-down. It has radically changed the way that I thought I was going to live out my life, and I am forever thankful to the author for that change. Getting the chance to hear Platt speak at Hillcrest Baptist Church only amplified the message of his book for me.
At the end of the event, I spoke with him and told him about how I’ve decided to change all my plans in full surrender to the Lord and the great impact that he has on the younger generation. The excitement and joy he got from hearing about how he has helped change our lives was barely masked by the utter exhaustion the speech and conversations with countless other people had caused.
Risking everything for the sake of the Gospel and denying ourselves the pleasure that this world offers is not an easy thing to do. When we know that his grace is sufficient, however, the yoke does become easy and the burden light, and my absolute favorite quote from the book echoes the same message:
Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us. (David Platt, 98)
Written by Kenean