I don’t necessarily read a lot of popular books. I don’t say that to make myself come off as a book elitist or hipster – I just don’t always get around to the books that everyone seems to be reading. I tend to like who I like, and read what they write instead of reading what’s going around. But I’ve heard a ton of people talk about David Platt’s book, “Radical,” and decided I wanted to read it for myself.
I wanted so badly to be critical. I looked for loopholes where I could call out this man’s theological sturdiness, or blow a hole in the premises on which he was operating. I’ve unfortunately become a bit cynical of lots of modern-day pastors, theologians, and authors, and if it’s featured at LifeWay Christian Bookstores, well, it must not be very solid.
While I have a few notes toward the beginning of the book, it’s nothing worth sharing, and nothing that, I believe, derails the drive of the book.
I wanted to believe his call to be “radical” was some sort of legalistic response to earn holiness, favor, righteousness, etc before God. Nope. He’s pretty clear throughout the book that holiness isn’t something we earn, but it’s something Jesus paid for.
I wanted to criticize his citation of all the places he’s been and all the people he’s met. But no, his words drip with grace and every bit of arrogance and presupposition has been filtered out by the grace of God.
I wanted to complain that he was overly critical of the American mindset and church culture. But he’s right.
I wanted to give myself a little grace for not being “radical” as of now, and I continue to, but the message of the book isn’t something easy to ignore.
It’s something that’s easiest to hear because of the fact that it’s not descriptive of me. That is, this book presents ideas I usually don’t even think about. Take this as an example. If I read a book about Christ-centered preaching, it’s not news to me, because ever since I became a preacher, that’s been the focus. But if someone raised in a church where they heard a lot of “good ideas” or “good reminders” or “good principles,” but didn’t hear Christ in every sermon, read that book, it’d be revolutionary, because it shows them something they hadn’t seen before.
That’s what this book was for me. See, I’m a victim – or, probably more accurate, the culprit, the cause, and the casualty (to quote August Burns Red) – of the American mindset that tells me life is about me. My hopes and aspirations should all center around me – what kind of job can I get? How successful will I be? How much money can I make? How much money can I save? What kind of (material) legacy can I leave? Will I have a nice house? A pretty wife? A sweet car?
The American mindset takes every factor and relates it to me – just like a non-gospel, orphan mindset. This book in particular forces us to think about reversing that trend.
Throughout the book, using anecdotes and scripture, Platt aims to turn the focus away from us and to the reality that 2/3 of the world aren’t Christians. So what will we do about it? Stay here with our nice stuff, chasing all of our dreams? Or making changes to see how we can partner with other people both locally and globally to change that? He forces you to look at discipleship not as a calling, but as a command. It’s not optional. While I may not be called to the African desert, I am commissioned to make disciples. So I’m forced as a result to start thinking about how I can use my life and the time, money, and resources that God has given me to serve others and share the gospel.
I’ll finish with my two favorite attributes of the book. First, Platt does not separate the gospel from service. There are great stories of feeding the poor, giving clothing and money to people who need it, going to third-world countries to provide clean water and medical care, but none of it is for its own sake. That is, it’s not service for the sake of service, it’s service for the sake of the gospel. It’s service with an aim not only to meet a physical need, but the ultimate spiritual need.
Second, this quote that really forces me to confront my own ideas of materialism (it comes from a story Platt uses from another man:)
“…I realize there is never going to come a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’ I’m confident that God will take care of me.”
It’s a lovely and convicting book worth reading with a keen eye and open heart. Some of what he challenges you to do won’t be necessary, some of it will. But I think the worst option is to take this book and say “that’s a nice idea, but I won’t have any of it.”