Friday, August 12, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 4 or 4

It’s all about worship

The last and most particularly dangerous expression of naivete that comes to mind is the "it's all about worship" expression.  And by worship, these young Christians have in mind song and corporate music and all the accouterments thereof.  

The problem with this expression is not the focus on worship - for worship is of primacy in the believer’s life.  The problem is the distortion of what it means to worship God.  Scripture teaches us that worship begins with and ends with obedience.  We worship God when we obey him first.  the OT teaches us so often that great emotional worship services are worthless, even vile in the mind and face of God, if there is no obedience.  God despises worship services from those who do not obey His word.  

One way to think about worship is to see it as the ascription of worth to another.  We cannot make God out to be worthy in our lives and minds and hearts if we despise his commands.  The mature begin with the commandment. the young and naive begin with the emotional expression.  Again, it's not that they're evil or bad Christians (if in fact, they are Christians - something we should never take for granted); they're just immature and inexperienced and their emotions are going to be so useful one day, when obedience guides them.  

A good analogy is young love.  We all remember that teenagers fall more deeply "in love" than anyone - e.g. Romeo and Juliet.  But without maturity, that powerful emotion leads to not to true love, but death as Shakespeare demonstrates poetically if not figuratively.  The mature love is one that is guided by principal first and allows the emotion to express it, not define it.  It is universal to see youth get particularly emotional in worship service only to sink into sexual sin and worldliness the next day and I wonder, when and how will they learn to seek Godliness first?  I see young men confuse lust for love and clamor for an ungodly woman they're not suited for simply because their hormones are confused and excited.  I see young women confuse emotional immaturity and neediness for love and desire ungodly men.  These children in the faith have not thought it through, prayed it through or obeyed it through.  They're not seeking Godly advice or parental guidance.  They're being carried away, as Scripture says, with every enticing doctrine and style of expression.  And they feel OK about it because they can have a powerful worship experience on Saturday night or on Sunday at the contemporary service.

But emotional entanglements with the opposite (or indeed, in today’s church - same) sex is only one sin that so easily entangles our young in the Faith.  The principal sin I see ubiquitously tolerated and embraced by Christians everywhere is the sin of worldliness - that sin of taking what the world gives and embracing it into our hearts and minds.  Television, romance novels, morbid fascination with blood sucking vampires and morphing beasts and teens, movies about torture, movies about adultery, movies about deception, immodest dress, uncouth speech, lack of respect for elders, disregard for serious study of Scripture - all of these things more mark the average youth group in today’s churches than do the fruits of the Spirit.  And sadly, these are the marks of so many older Christians who have no excuse for their immaturity.

Sinful disobedience prevents true worship.  If you have sin in your heart that you have not fully repented of - turned away from - hated in your heart - confessed to your sisters and brothers - abhorred in your spirit, devised plans to prevent yourself from falling back into - if this sin still infects your heart - God does not hear your singing praise songs... He does not delight in your waving of flags or spilling of tears; God is not amenable to your ministry work, your evangelism, your short term ministry trips abroad, your digging of wells, or your feeding of the hungry.  God despises and desires obedience.  Get over yourself and stop sinning.

Concluding remarks

The Gospel is simple in that you sin, God hates sin, God provides a sacrifice for sin, God wants you to stop sinning.  The Gospel is divinely complicated and mysterious insofar as it involves God Himself acting of His own accord, accomplishing all that is Salvation - giving us faith - giving us the Spirit and providing a means out of sin.  It is simple from ten thousand miles away, but the closer you get to God, the bigger He is - the more majestic He is, the more mysterious He is, the more Glory He has, the more Godlike He becomes.  If your god is simple - you’re still too far from God - stop sinning and go to God.  Therein are the deep waters.  Therein are the mysteries.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 3 of 4

In this four part series on the deficiencies of being young in the faith and the traps that Satan lays out for us, we have so far examined the first lie which so often besets our youth - the "everything is simple" lie.  The second deception most often follows on the footsteps - the rationalisation that "none of that stuff is important, I don't think about that.. I just try to love Jesus."  It sounds great, but we examined how it's so destructive to the Christian life.  Today we look at a close cousin of the first two lies.

You just need Jesus - that will fix everything

The third of the naive expressions I'll address herein is the "hey, you just need Jesus - that'll fix everything" expression.  For the naive, Jesus only came to save people from hell, feed the hungry, heal the sick and make people happy - their best them now.  For the naive, Jesus came to give everybody a better life by doing away with all the rules and making it simple and all about them.  For the naive, Jesus came to heal everyone - if they just have enough faith; to bless everyone with wealth - if they just claim it; to bless everyone with happy relationships, if they just love each other.  For the naive, it's all about a "personal relationship with Jesus" - a phrase found nowhere in Scripture.  

Persecutions perplex these naive ones, as do afflictions and trials.  The Christians who die every day by being hacked to death for their faith, who die of sickness and disease, who are afflicted with poverty, who are divorced by hateful spouses, who are abandoned by loveless parents, who are unjustly fired by greedy bosses, who are misunderstood, who are condemned, who are ostracized - these Christian are the exception to the rule.  But Jesus himself promises persecutions, afflictions and trials.  Jesus promised that the World will hate us.  Jesus promised that we would be tried as it were by fire.  With the exception of John, every Apostle was martyred.  The one who penned by the Spirit that all things work together for good was shipwrecked  beaten to within an inch of his life, stoned, imprisoned, rejected, ostracized, publicly humiliated and impoverished.  

Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus did not come to make our lives better as we understand it - but to make our lives better in one way - by the killing of sin in our hearts and souls (Matthew 1:21).  However, these naive ones, these little Christians who need patience and instruction and care, these little ones forget that the principal and determinative reason why Jesus came was "sin" - they forget that in the end it’s all about sin because that is what separates us from God.  The simple gospel gives lip service to sin, but does not address sin in the believer’s life.  It’s as though sin were not really important.  The puritan father John Owen famously said "be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  Today the simple mock and deride the puritans and live in bondage to sin because sin isn't even their focus; it's not even on their radar.  If they truly have faith that God will take away their sins, they're not evil (they're redeemed) - they're not bad Christians, they're just young and inexperienced and immature.  We, as older mature Christians, should suffer them and love them and instruct them - disciple them towards Godliness.  However, if their faith does not involve a desperate hope that God will indeed remove the sin from their hearts - if instead their hope and faith is that God will make their lives better, heal their marriage, provide wealth and comfort, heal their bodies, and guarantee them a ticket to heaven - then they do not have saving faith.

That is a remarkable statement, I know, these days.  Principally it is remarkable because the gospel has been so distorted by so-called evangelicals.  I could write tomes arguing why they do not have saving faith, but instead I will only point to one example.

When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, he asked one thing - “how do I obtain eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).  Jesus does not invite the young ruler to ask Him into his heart.  Jesus does not invite the rich young man home to supper with him - the beginning of a life-long personal relationship with Christ.  Jesus does not give the young man a sinner’s prayer.  Jesus does none of these things.  Instead, Jesus requires absolute and complete adherence to the Law in every respect.  The rich young ruler should have been devastated!  He should have seen the iniquity in his heart and his own inability to do anything about it.  He should have known how evil he was when no one was looking, that he never for even one moment truly sought after God.  But he didn’t.  He really thought he was doing well.  Jesus had to give him an extreme example to even get his attention.  Only then did the rich young man come to terms with some grief, but it was grief over money not sin.  The rich young man leaves that day without salvation - even though he desperately needed and wanted it - because he didn’t think sin was a big deal.  Million and hundreds of millions of pretend fake Christians in America today desperately need and want salvation and they think they have it because of 4 Spiritual Flaw booklets - but they lack and they die and they perish forever in hell because they do not really think sin is a big deal.  This is the perennial birthmark of the immature.

Even the immature Christian, who knows that sin is a big deal, will be deceived by sin into forgetting how important sin is in their lives and the primacy of killing sin daily in their lives. (Hebrews 3:13)  It is not compassion to these young in the Faith to ignore their irreverence for God’s Holiness and indifference to their own sinfulness.  It is indeed, the most harsh hatred to fail to admonish these youngsters to stop sinning - to kill sin daily - every day - while it is still called today.  Don’t go to bed tonight if you haven’t yet admonished a brother to stop sinning.

This mark of immaturity - this expression of naivete - is akin to the others in that it relies upon a half-truth.  For indeed, Jesus is the answer and He will fix everything - if by everything you mean the sin and hatred for God in your own heart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 2 of 4

In my last post we examined the first marked deficiency of being inadequately trained up in Christ - the "Everything is simple" mindset.  Today we'll look at the next trap set for our young people.

None of that is important.. I don’t think about that, I just try to love Jesus

The second expression common among the naive and immature Christian is "I don't think about that, I just try to love Jesus" -- or "just be like Jesus and everything else will fall in line.”  It’s the simple "it's just Jesus" line.  This is a particularly deceptive lie because it combines profound truth with simplistic expression.  It really is, after all, all about Jesus.  

From where do we get this idea?  The Revelation of Christ given to John tells us that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega.  Jesus himself tells his disciples “I am the Truth.”  In this regard, because Christ is God - it is all about Christ.  But we cannot commune with Christ as we are.  Something is in the way - sin.  Yes, it’s that old fiend which constantly rears its head while we’re just trying to worship God.  It’s an irritation - a constant source of trouble.  And often, we attempt to circumvent dealing with sin by making it just about God - just about Jesus in particular.  This is the error of the new prophets like Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.  The particular problem that accompanies this error is the failure to know anything about Jesus.

One can study Scripture for 100 years every day and not know enough about Jesus.  However, most often, it’s not the failure of diligent study of Scripture which leads to a lack of understanding of Jesus, it’s the arrogant refusal to submit to the Holy Spirit as a guide to learn about Jesus.  The Breath of God gave us Scripture - all of it.  All of Scripture reveals Jesus.  However, the new prophets stick only to the Gospels.  And indeed, only to the parts of the Gospels they like.

To these new prophets, Scripture is a supporting reference for their Jesus.  They go to Scripture like a fat man goes to a buffet.  The fat man ignores the vegetables and the healthy meats and goes instead straight for the fried chicken, the buttery rolls and the dessert bar.  The new prophet goes to Scripture likewise, ignoring the law, ignoring the Righteousness of God, ignoring the Holiness of God and goes straight to the Grace of God and the Love of God.  To the new prophet, these are the only source of nutrition and just as the fat man becomes fatter and more useless, the one who comes to Scripture without submitting himself to all of Scripture becomes a fat and useless Christian.

The reality is that the Jesus of Scripture is not simple, and he’s not an impotent emotional wreck trying his best to get everyone into heaven but being frustrated by the omnipotent free will of man.  He’s not someone who takes everyone just as they are, requiring no change, requiring nothing of man - only willing to give everything of Himself so that man can commune with God just as he is - in the pig pen, in the filth that is his sin, in the mire of grotesque disobedience and hatred of all that God really is.  Indeed, to the new prophet, we still hate all that God is, so rather than deal with that sin lying prostrate on our faces seeking new hearts, we instead change God to something we don’t hate.

Knowing God is not easy.  Aside of learning new things that stretch our minds, knowing God requires two things that are equally impossible for anyone aside of the indwelling work of the Holy spirit.  First, it requires an understanding of the things of God.  Paul teaches us that we are spiritually dead and incapable of understanding the things of the Spirit.  It is, in fact, impossible to know the things of God without God’s divine work in our hearts.  And lest anyone believe in a god that is excited to do that in every one’s heart - let’s remind ourselves that Jesus confounds the simple and wicked - he hides the truth in parables only revealing the truth to his disciples in private.  Jesus tells us the reason for his parables, and it’s not to make things more clear!  It’s to intentionally hide the truth.  Shane and the new prophets do not know this Jesus.  To them, Jesus uses parables to make things more clear.  To them, the use of parables is an instrumental tool of discipleship - never mind that Jesus did not use parables for his disciples and no one else after Jesus uses parables as a discipleship tool.  To the simple, to the naive, to the new prophet, Jesus is simple and knowing him is simple.  The truth is, that Jesus himself teaches us that He is not simple, that the Father is not simple and that knowing Him is hard and consists of knowledge of Scripture, fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Spirit and other believers and obedience to His will - particularly loving the brethren and hating the world.  

Jesus confounds us on every level and in every dynamic of living.  The naive want to reduce Jesus and simplify Jesus - they make Jesus into the man in the pictures in their childhood bibles sitting on a rock wearing a perfectly spotless white robe with a blue sash smiling and entertaining children on his lap, that's Jesus to them.  To the simple, anything complex about God, anything difficult about God, anything mysterious about God is an iniquity - a defect - a problem to be solved rather than a virtue to be emulated.  They have a deep seated problem with God being anything but like themselves.. simple.  Their sin has so infected their thinking that they rebel against the Holiness of God in their minds and theology and living.  They don't want to think about a Jesus who curses trees, curses cities, leaves rich young rulers without answers, drives money changers out of the temple, refuses to give the gospel to gentiles, hides truth in parables, requires absolute obedience to the law, allows money to be spent on worship of Him rather than feeding the poor, a Jesus who comes in judgment on a white horse with a sword killing all who sin.  They don't want to talk about Jesus who specifically refuses to pray for the lost in the last recorded prayer (John 17:9).  They want only to worship a jesus who loves everybody the same all the time - grandpa jesus... Santa Claus jesus... Ghandi jesus... buddha jesus... any jesus except Jesus!

Someone recently pointed out that this sounds like the Rob Bell "there is no hell" controversy.  To be fair, Rob Bell does not argue that there is no hell, but he does argue that in the end, hell is unnecessary, trivial, of little consequence and eventually unneeded.  The naive forget that Jesus is God! And as God, He is creator of hell.  As God, He is the one on the road to destroy Sodom when He speaks with Abraham.  He is the one to destroy all living creatures, man and beast alike, in the deluge.  He is the one who judges and eventually passes sentence.  He is the one whom the world will run from in terror, hiding in caves and in darkness.  He is infinite! He is Holy! He is majestic! He is mysterious.  He is terrifying to anyone and everyone who still has any small amount of sin in their heart.  If He is not terrifying to you, right now, then you don’t know Jesus.

My eight year old son recently felt this pain of terror when he realized that one of his best friends would be destroyed by Jesus if Jesus were to come back today.  This truly hurt my son - to think that God would kill and destroy forever his friend.  I am reminded that if we love our father, our child, or our friend more than we love God, then we are unworthy - we do not love God, we cannot be said to love God in any way or fashion.  And most of us are stuck at this place my eight year old son finds himself.  He has compassion for his friend!  The question is whether my son will be able to embrace and cherish and love the Holiness of God more than his compassion for his friend.  It is not iniquity to have compassion - indeed, it is a virtue.  The  iniquity is putting that compassion at the forefront and despising God’s Holiness.  The iniquity is in changing God so that His Holiness is not a problem - robbing God of His Holiness and Righteousness.  The iniquity is in loving the World.  If any man loves the World, the love of the Father is not in him.  

But the simple will cry out “God so loved the World!”  They will race as fast as they can to a cross where Jesus dies for everyone but is impotent and might have died for no one because it’s not really up to Jesus in the end, the all powerful and determinative force which ultimately figures in where a person spends eternity is not Jesus, but a person’s own free will.  They cannot see different kinds of love in God.  They require God to love equally in all respects.  They require God to set aside His Holiness and His Righteousness in order to satisfy an inherent right to salvation available to all men.  In the end, they require God to be fair.

It is remarkable that they do so.  The hallmark of immaturity is a focus on fairness.  Every school yard child will evoke the doctrine of fairness, and every adult knows that it is a rues meant to disclaim responsibility for the true doctrine underneath “fairness” - “me too!”  It should not surprise us that the hallmark of Christian immaturity is also an appeal to the doctrine of fairness.  No where in Scripture do we find God saying “I’m fair.”  He’s truth.  He’s justice.  He’s righteousness.  He’s love.  But no where do we find that he’s fair.  The doctrine that God loves all people at all times in all places equally is an appeal to fairness.  It does not survive even the most inexperienced rational observation though.  No one would suggest that those who perished in the holocaust experienced the same grace from God as those living the good life in twenty-first century America.  Fairness is simply not.  It does not exist.  God is not fair in his distribution of wealth, he is not fair in his distribution of grace, he is not fair in his distribution of the Spirit and he even makes it a point to illustrate to his disciples that He is not fair!  The parable of the workers coming at different times during the day illustrates this truth.  Some work for a very small period of time and receive the same reward - God does not have to be fair.  The simple will twist this to mean that God is fair and everyone deserves the same regardless of what they bring...  Well, some people are going to argue that the sky is green no matter what you say.

Jesus is beyond our simple understanding.  He is not fair.  He comes in judgment.  He kills people.  He refuses to pray for the lost.  He whips people.  He creates hell.  He begs not to have to go to the cross.  He rebukes his best friend Peter and lets Peter fail miserably.  He leaves Paul with a debilitating illness.  He lets Lazarus die and his sisters suffer in pain.  He destroys Sodom.  He doesn’t do enough for Tyre - knowing that if He did more, they would be saved (Matthew 11:21).  He removes lamp stands.  He refuses to allow repentance after death.  He gives the Gospel to some countries, leaving others without it for centuries and even millennia.  He is not what the simple expect, nor what they desire.  He is not the God of the simple.  And the simple must be instructed in who God is, and how He is to be worshiped and how we are to commune and fellowship with God.  

Jesus is the answer - He is the Alfa and the Omega.  However, that does not make it any less difficult or simplify the matter at all.  In fact it requires more.  The Christian life becomes more challenging the more we understand that it is all about Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Notes on the Deficiencies of Youth Part 1 of 4

I've recently had occasion to recall the deficiencies of youth in their Christian walk.  By youth, I mean those Christians who are inadequately trained up in their faith.  In fact that often means youth in age - as in pre-teens, teenagers and twenty-somethings.  However, it also means older Christians as well, even those in leadership, pastors and authors and speakers nationally well known for their exposition of Scripture or things of the Faith.  If indeed, these persons are inadequately trained up in their faith, they will be immature Christians and exhibit serious and marked deficiencies in their fruit and usefulness to Christ and his Church.  For that purpose I’ve set forth to quickly and most inadequately enumerate a few of these deficiencies and how they are marked in a young believer’s life.  My hope is that someone more skilled in doctrine and communication will take up the banner and better communicate these truths.

Before I entertain the markings of immaturity, it should be pointed out that maturity in Christ does not mean perfection.  Any mature Christian will still have defects - notable and serious often.  As a mature man or woman still has defects, so too does a mature Christian.  Maturity is the expression of the whole and admits that parts are still lacking.  We continue to mature in Christ all our lives and in some expressions all of eternity; for while our spirits will one day be perfect without sin and our bodies perfect in resurrected glory - we will always, for eternity, be creation incapable of completely knowing creator in His infinitude and complete perfection.  We will know perfectly in truth but not perfectly in scope.  That is the glory and anticipation and hope of eternity - to continue to worship God anew every new day in a New Jerusalem because there is yet more to God, more to His Glory, more to His Perfection, more to His Deity that we have not yet experienced.  And so, we will in that sense, mature for all time.

However, on this earth, and in this time, while we await the redemption and glorification of our flesh, we battle against flesh and its lust to obtain Godliness in our daily walk.  This is our purpose here - Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame and has sat down at the right hand of God.”  Hebrews 3:13 “But exhort one another, day after day - while it is still called Today! lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  Sin is deceitful and it easily entangles us.  We are to lay aside sin and walk in perfection.  We are to spend our days working together corporately to kill sin and avoid the inevitable hardness that unmortified sin occasions in our lives.  This is maturity in Christ.  What follows is simply a distillation of this one truth - that sin is deceitful and hardens the Christian’s heart who is not actively engaged in a daily fight to the death against sin.

It is perhaps best to remember that the young Christian experiences Christianity through naivete.  Naivete is sometimes attractive and even put forth as a virtue.  There are those who misunderstand the command to hinder not the little children from coming unto Jesus. In Matthew 18 Jesus commands his followers to come to him as a child does.  But the analogy Jesus uses is only useful in context.  The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!  They were speaking of ambition, accomplishment, glory in a creation.  Jesus rebukes them to see how a child comes to Christ.  The child comes for different reasons, the child is not coming for personal gain, for glory, for commendation, for reasons of personal ambition.  The child comes from a position of need.  In this way, the mature Christian comes to Jesus from a position of need - our greatest need is the removal of sin in our lives for it is sin and only sin which prevents us from coming to the Father.  It is sin within our hearts, unmortified sin, hidden sin, unknown sin, which makes us enemies of God.  Our Savior dies to cover that sin and the Breath of God comes to live in our heart to mortify - to kill that sin.  We are a Church given to each other to daily commend each other to kill sin.

But naivete leads to something else.  Naivete, as a virtue ignores sin and attempts to suggest that maturity is unnecessary - the greatest Christian is the immature naive Christian because Christ commands us to come to him as children.  This is indeed a most unfortunate distortion of Matthew 18.  And it always leads to mortal danger.

I've rarely met a mature Christian younger than 30.  I've met knowledgeable Christians younger than 30 and I've met experienced Christians younger than 30.  And I have met two or three in my life who were mature.  But even Christ himself waited till he was 30 before he started teaching and ministering.  There's just so much a young Christian needs to learn that transcends Bible knowledge and ministry experience - which requires years of time in the desert.  We can take Paul’s time in the desert as an example - the disciples years walking personally side by side with Christ as an example.

I have been asked, on occasion what I mean by "it always leads to mortal danger?"  This is a fair question and to be helpful I will explain how naivete can be expressed in different ways and how those ways lead one to mortal danger.  What follows here is a particular but incomplete list of only a few ways and the particular danger that accompanies that naive expression.

Everything is simple

The first and often most insipid expression of immaturity and naivete is the "everything is simple" argument. This is the young Christian that believes the Bible is simple, the Gospel is simple and only troublemakers and those that would confuse the church make it hard with doctrine.  Indeed, doctrine is most often the enemy of Christian growth to these Christians.  Instead of growing up in doctrine, these children in the Faith see maturity as pursuit of service, of evangelism and worship.  It’s all simple and doctrine only confuses things, brings division and stifles true Christian love and spiritual growth.

The problem is it isn't simple.  Nowhere in Scripture does God ever say it's simple.  Rather it's a mystery, it's hidden, it's deep calling unto deep, it's maturity that requires searching and study
and even then Peter, as a mature Apostle of our Lord and elder of the Church acknowledges that many of Paul's teaching are just down-right hard to understand!  (2 Peter 3:16)  Peter does not rebuke Paul for making it hard.  Rather he calls them wisdom and warns against twisting them.  What is more twisting to the deep things of Scripture than the admonishment that they are unnecessary?

Jesus confounds the crowds with parables, and then patiently explains them to men who knew Scripture.  It is never simple.  Only the naive think so, and the mortal danger that accompanies the refusal to submit to the complexity of God is 1) arrogance, 2) ignorance, and 3) indifference to the mysteries of God.  We will plumb the mysteries of God for eternity!

Arrogance arises in our hearts when we pretend to “get it.”  We fail to head Peter’s admonition to not be “led astray by the error of [ ] unprincipled men and fall from [our] firm grasp on the truth.” (2 Peter 3:17)  We fail to “make every effort to be sure of [our] calling and election [so that we might] never stumble into sin.”  Indeed arrogance is most often seen in a failure to engage in the battle against sin.  Rather than fight sin we do everything possible to avoid that battle.  We attend worship services, we seek the gifts of the Spirit, we participate in book studies, we go to fellowship meetings, we listen all day to Christian music, we teach Sunday School class, we witness, we go on short-term missions, we dig wells, we feed the hungry, we smile and greet one another with an empty and shallow sincerity because we never know our own battle much less our brother’s battle against sin.  We have run as fast as we can away from the battle against sin seeking anything that can provide a sense of security that we are seeking Christ without attempting to mortify sin in our hearts.  This is the rotten, fly infested, putrid fruit of arrogance.  Instead of falling on our knees in humble admission that God is a mystery and His words are deep waters to ponder and meditate on daily, that our purpose is to build up His word into our hearts for the singular purpose that we might not sin - instead of this posture, we walk boldly into the throne room of God with putrid and defiled clothes rank with feces and and the odor of vomit as if nothing were wrong.  Arrogance most deceives us in the state of our own need of a Savior.  This indeed is the deceitfulness of sin.

Ignorance is a necessary consequence of thinking everything is simple.  When we refuse to recognize that God is immense, complex, infinite, we fail to see God for who He is.  We fall into an idolatry of believing in a simple god who isn't there.  This is a most quick spiritual death.  The mortal error of ignorance is a lack of true worship.  We go through the steps of worship, but we must continually seek higher emotional experiences to fill a void left because we are never meeting the true God of Scripture instead substituting a simple god of our own making.  The addiction of emotion-driven worship is one consequence of taking a Majestic God and substituting a simple god.  Like the alcoholic dreaming of his next drink, like the drug addict willing to do grotesque things with her body to get the next hit, like the sex addict sacrificing family and friends to get that next comforting high - the worship addict seeks to find god in an emotional experience sacrificing true knowledge of God found in the revelation of God in Scripture.

Indifference is the last of my short enumeration of consequences to the “everything is simple” expression.  When we allow the young in the Faith to believe the lie that everything is simple, these young become indifferent to the mysteries of God.  They are inconsequential to their experience of Christianity.  Indifference is manifest in a believer who fails to open Scripture on a regular basis; who fails to admonish themselves or others when they see sin creep in - indeed they begin to fail to see sin for what it is - the abject denial of God’s sovereignty.  When we sin, we rush headlong into the throne room of God, violently shoving God from the throne, seating ourselves and calling for the death of God for imposing His will on our lives.  When we live in indifference, we don't even know we're trying to kill God - we don't see sin - we don't know sin - we don't know God - we are, in perfect spiritual death, become dead to God and the things of God.

Indifference is usually the last of the consequences of this error.  We see this most often in the young in the Faith when they walk away from the Church, abandoning the Faith of their youth.  They're usually not overtly hostile to the Gospel, just indifferent.  They stop going to church.  They see little problem with having more and more ungodly friends.  They stop reading Scripture.  They die day after day and they don't even know they're dying.  Indifference is the saddest of the consequences of believing “everything is simple.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Radical by David Platt Part II

In the course of examining the first couple chapters of the Book Radical by David Platt, I’ve realized that more needs to be touched upon.  This is part 2 of a multipart analysis of this book.

I should note that, so far, through 5 chapters I’ve not read anything I believe to be heretical or unorthodox.  While I strongly disagree with the hyper-evangelical bent of the book and the pharisaical creation of a new commandment (and no we’re not talking about John’s admonition to love one another) to evangelize the world – I find that the sentiments of Pastor Platt fall relatively in line with what most churches in America today believe regardless of whether they practice the same.  However, I believe most churches in America today to be wrong on this point.

On page 58, Pastor Platt makes reference to a so called Great Commission.  Wherein does this Great Commission lie?  Matthew 28:16-20 is a commission given by Jesus to eleven disciples – those who would be called Apostles because of this very commission.  Mark 16:14-20 is of doubtful authority, but even if admitted is again directed only to the eleven.  Luke 24:44-49 contains an allusion to a commission which admits easily an interpretation of a specific commission to the eleven, as only the eleven were present.  Acts 1:4-8 contains a direct commission to the eleven as well.  There is no general commission to other believers here, and there were certainly more than the eleven, as can be seen by the upper room happenings a few weeks later.  Additionally, you have the problem that no women were ever present for the so-called great commission.  John 20:19-22 also notes that only the Apostles were present for the commission.  There were clearly other believers.  Why does Jesus limit his commission to the Apostles?

I believe the answer is found in Paul’s testimony.  In Romans 1 Paul sets himself up as an Apostle – one called by God personally.  There were already 11 (or 12) Apostles throughout the church and certainly some objection would have been made had the commission given to Paul been a general commission applicable to all.  However, I don’t believe that to have been the understanding of either the other eleven Apostles or the general Christian community.  That Paul was called by God to be a witness – called personally by Christ – (Galations 1:1) not as a result of his calling by the Holy Spirit through the elders of the church at Antioch – was proof sufficient for the first century believers and the other eleven Apostles.  Indeed, the word Apostle means one called by God.  While we are all in a sense called by God, the twelve were specifically called (commissioned) by God for the purpose of taking the Gospel to all nations.  While we have the privilege of continuing that endeavor, it is not our commission to seize upon.

I argue that it is this commission specifically that makes the Apostles the Apostles.  If everyone is commissioned, then everyone is an apostle.  The fact that we call it a “commission” is instructive.  A commission is simply put; the authority to perform a task or certain duties. The task is to take the Gospel to the ends of the world; the duty is to be a witness for Jesus.  This task and duty was a grave and serious duty which commanded the submission of the church general. 

The idea that the commission was great is not found prior to the 17th century in Christian writings.  Common usage of the term was not ubiquitous until the 20th century.  I can find no use of the term in the writings of Luther, Calvin, Edwards et al.  The first usage of the term that I can find is in the 19th century among the contemporaries and likes of Charles Finney.  Indeed, John Calvin seems to note in his commentary that the commission was limited to the original eleven Apostles as it was given directly to them.

This is not to say that a non-great commission person doesn’t believe in missions.  John Calvin and others certainly believed in, participated in, and devoted their lives to evangelism and missions.  The difference is the purpose of the Christian.  It’s subtle I grant, but important.  If I live my life to be pure and holy unto God, loving my brother whom I see and with an eye to the perfection of my faith, I will certainly evangelize and pronounce the gospel.  However, the same cannot be said in reverse.  If I live my life to evangelize, it does not follow that I will focus my will and heart towards obeying God in all matters of heart and body and spirit and mind.  It does not follow that I will love my brother whom I see – rather, if my primary goal is missions, I will instead love the stranger over the brother – the heathen over the Church. 

The great fallacy and error of hyper-evangelism is not that it seeks to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus, but that it attempts to supplant the purpose of the Church – to glorify the Father and Son with another purpose – to convert the world.  Does evangelism glorify God?  Certainly it almost always glorifies God.  But that is not the only means of glorifying God, and if an unrepentant man convinces his soul that it need not concern itself with the mortification (killing) of sin in his heart because his principal goal is the ministry of evangelism then that man cannot be said to glorify God even while evangelizing. 

Pastor Platt’s devotion to missionary work above sanctification can be shown in the following quotes:

From page 16: “While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God”

From page 17: “Consider the cost when Christians ignore Jesus’ commands to sell their possessions and give to the poor”

“The cost of believers not taking Jesus seriously is vast for those who don’t know Christ and devastating for those who are starving and suffering around the world”

From page 18: “For the sake of more than a billion people today who have yet to even hear the gospel, I want to risk it all. For the sake of twenty-six thousand children who will die today of starvation or a preventable disease, I want to risk it all”

From page 21: “We will discover that our meaning is found in community and our life is found in giving ourselves for the sake of others in the church, among the lost, and among the poor”

From page 49: “Meanwhile, Jesus commands us to go. He has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical Christianity”

From page 52: “It’s a foundational truth: God creates, blesses, and saves each of us for a radically global purpose”

From page 54: “But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church? We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world”

“In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that”

“[ ] each follower of Christ in the New Testament, regardless of his or her calling, was intended to take up the mantle of proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth. That’s the reason why he gave each of them his Spirit and why he gave them all the same plan: make disciples of all nations”

From page 55: “Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell”

“But what if we don’t need to sit back and wait for a call to foreign missions? What if the very reason we have breath is because we have been saved for a global mission? And what if anything less than passionate involvement in global mission is actually selling God short by frustrating the very purpose for which he created us”

From page 56: “When we say we have a heart for the city we live in, we confess that we have less than 1 percent of God’s heart”

“In all this missions talk, you may begin to think, Well, surely you’re not suggesting that we’re all supposed to move overseas. That is certainly not what I’m suggesting (though I’m not completely ruling it out)”

“Meanwhile, flying right in the face of this idea is Scripture’s claim that regardless of where we live—here or overseas—our hearts should be consumed with making the glory of God known in all nations”

“[ ] from cover to cover the Bible teaches that all the church—not just select individuals, but all the church—is created to reflect all the glory of God to all the world. Because every single man, woman, and child in the church I pastor is intended to impact nations [ …] there is a God-designed way for us to live our lives here, and do church here, for the sake of people around the world who don’t know Christ”

I could go on and on throughout this book, but I believe the number of quotes above makes it indisputable that Pastor Platt believes the principal purpose of man is to glorify God through the act of evangelism.  One wonders what the purpose of man will be after Revelations 22.  Indeed, the purpose of the church and everything the church does is for the sake of the unsaved – never mind glorifying Jesus or ministering to Jesus (see “to the extent that you’ve done it to the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it unto me”).  Pastor Platt would convict us that if we don’t subscribe whole-heartedly to his understanding of missions, we’re practicing an unbiblical Christianity – more that if we’re not radically committed to world missions we’re practicing an unbiblical Christianity.

Really Pastor Platt?  Really?  If I’m saved while fighting drug addiction, I should set aside that fight against the flesh and take up missions?  If I’m saved while having several immediate family members still unsaved, I should put foreign missions above my own family and immediate sphere of influence?  If I’m saved, I should put foreign missions above personal sanctification and holiness?  Really Pastor Platt?  You really have a large church of people redeemed from the bondage of sin who believe this too?

On page 18 Pastor Platt equates the needs of a spiritually dead person with a child suffering from starvation or a preventable disease.  This is the hidden error that most grieves my heart.  While we can all have a heart for suffering, it is Christianity alone that provides enough glimpse at the holiness of God wherein we find the alarm over a person’s bondage to sin and eternal damnation to so outweigh the present needs of our bodies that we turn away from everything to gain that propitiation that alone can buy peace between us and God.  Comparing a lost soul to starvation and disease is like comparing a single grass hopper to a swarm of deadly locusts.  One can harm a little – the other kills you.  Starvation and disease can kill your body, but sin kills you eternally.

Think about that Pastor Platt and all those who would put social needs on the same par as spiritual needs.  If I feed someone with food today, I’ve met a temporal needs that they will forget forever after 30 seconds in hell.  In fact, if I feed them today and tomorrow and for the rest of their lives, if I give them money for college, if I teach them a foreign language, if I introduce them to the spouse of their dreams, if I bless them with 110 years of productive happy life – all of that will be forgotten eternally within the first 30 seconds of hell.

But let us go further.  Let me turn it on myself.  If I spend my life feeding the poor, and evangelizing the lost and spend not enough time on personal sanctification and holiness – if I enter heaven with less personal holiness because I was out evangelizing – I will regret it for eternity!  For no one will ever be in heaven because I was out evangelizing.  God saves by His will, not mine.  No trick of my mind or intellect can grant someone faith.  I will certainly have the honor and treasure left for doing the will of God, but even that is in peril if I didn’t do it for the right reason.  If I evangelize because I imagine it’s my personal calling when it isn’t..  if I evangelize because I deceive myself into thinking I can change the eternal destiny of someone.. If I evangelize for any other reason than to give glory to God, that reward is lost eternally.

Our works will be tried by fire and many good works built of straw, hay, stubble and sticks will be consumed.  The man who is committed whole heartedly to eradicating sin from his heart brings immensely more glory to God than evangelizing ten thousand souls and leaving his own stained with sin.  For what power is their in salvation if we continue to live in sin?  What does Christ accomplish at the cross if we simply become a Christian and move right to evangelism as the principal aim without first understanding that above all, our obligation is personal holiness?

Pastor Platt asserts that the Holy Spirit is given principally for missions.  I don’t find that in Scripture however.  Instead I find the Holy Spirit given for many reasons, not the least of which is the sanctification of the believer.  To put one reason above another is to pretend to know the mind of God where God has not revealed it.  I don’t doubt but that some are given the Spirit to powerfully pronounce the gospel, and I hope that I and my son are among those.  However, I also know that the Spirit is given to everyone to kill sin in our lives and I know that my son and I are called to do this.  In the words of John Owen, “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”

More on Chapters 6 et seq to follow.

Book Review: "Radical" by David Platt Part I

I've been recently asked to review the book Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt and feel that posting a simple blog entry might be more helpful than trying to give my thoughts in the interrupted and disjointed context of a conversation. It's not that I don't wish to hear feedback on my feedback - rather, I'd like to have the advantage of hearing a response to the whole of my understanding and opinion rather than piecemeal understandings of what I might have just said. The art of conversation is lost in our generation because we're too impatient to have a long enough conversation to warrant listening.  By the way, it is entirely a fair criticism that I am writing a review before I'm finished reading the book.  This is a chronilogical review and should be understood as such.  To the extent that any errors I note are corrected in later chapters shame on me.  To the extent I misunderstand something that is made more clear in later chapters, again - shame on me.

This book, Radical, is now selling well - according to the New York Times and therefore warrants a bit of discussion and criticism. I don't mean criticism in the usually understood negative connotation, but rather, criticism in the sense of thinking critically about what the authors says.

So, here we go - first chapter. If the sense and gist of a book can be captured from its first chapter, then this is a book about feeding the poor. Pastor Platt begins by - literally - by noting his status as the youngest pastor of a mega-church in history. I don't believe he does this in pride, although it is brought up so often that one wearies of hearing it, rather, Pastor Platt seems to be stating his purpose in writing as a personal crisis of faith subsequent to becoming pastor of a mega-church. The irony here is not lost on me. "My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him." And herein, we see the genesis of the title. It is hard to criticize someone who writes about being radically obedient to Jesus. From the onset, Pastor Platt has preemptively dissuaded any real critical examination of his argument because, after all, who wants to argue against radically obeying Jesus.

As I noted, this first chapter is about feeding the poor. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not saying the book is about feeding the poor. I am simply noting what the conclusion of this first chapter is. Before we get there, I would like to note a few fallacies of logic and clear thinking. Pastor Platt begins with a few unspoken assumptions that are put forth as axiomatic, but which I would suggest are not only suspect, but far from logical. The first is his discussion of a small nuclear group of pastors in an Asian country who meet in an environment hostile to the corporate practice of Christianity. In this context Pastor Platt makes the following assumptions - 1. these Christians are being persecuted for their faith, 2. these Christians are more spiritual/devout because of their willingness to be a Christian when the consequences for corporate practice are severe, and 3. these Christians are to be commended for their authentic emotional expressions and simplicity of faith.

This morning I had a discussion with a friend who noted that there are some who believe that Christians under persecution act differently than Christians who aren't being persecuted. However, it is my opinion and observation from Scripture that all Christians are persecuted and being persecuted. Jesus does not say "the world will hate some of you" or "the world will hate many of you." We, all of us, as followers of Christ and those who have faith in him for the atonement of our sins, are now being persecuted by this world. Many in the West have been deceived into believing that because our mortal lives are not being attacked, that we're safe. I would posit, however, that we in the West are as much under attack as any other church at any other time. The enemy of Christ is rarely so foolish as to believe that the most effective means of combating Christianity is a head on attack on the lives of the faithful. The lesson was learned more than 3000 years ago in the life of Job. The lesson was re-learned during the Roman persecutions. There are times when the enemy is effective using the threat of life, but most often, the more effective threat is not against mortal life, but against Spiritual life. We are never so much hampered in our realization of our faith than when we are deceived about our faith. In this, while Pastor Platt makes what I believe are erroneous assumptions, we both agree on the conclusion - there is something wrong about Christianity in America. We agree our faith, has been altered into something un-Christ like. Pastor Platt incorrectly assumes a purity in a church that is being mortally threatened. There is little in Scripture, if anything, to suggest that believes who are being mortally threatened, are somehow better off spiritually, or more spiritual, or more holy or more anything. To criticize comfort for comfort is to naively understand the grace of God. To some are granted mortal peril, to others spiritual peril. But the world will and does hate God and those who follow God. If we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are not being persecuted, then the enemy has already won a great battle. We are a steer who still thinks he is a bull.

The first assumption, that these Asian Christians are being persecuted for their faith is wrong. I'm not saying that they are not being persecuted for their faith - I am saying that we cannot presume they are. The fact is they cannot meet corporately to practice their corporate Christianity without threat of mortal peril. Granted. However, we would need to know more. In many countries it is permissible to meet corporately under license of the government and this restriction is imposed against all religions. In this context worshippers are not persecuted for their faith, they're persecuted for having any faith - Islam, Buddhist, Christianity, Jew... it matters not. You can hardly say someone in such a country is persecuted because they follow Jesus - they're persecuted because they follow anyone. Also, it denies the fact that all Christians everywhere and at all times have been and will be persecuted by the ruler of this world. It makes artificial classes of Christians - those who are persecuted and those who are not. Lastly, there is nothing to suggest that the mere proclamation of faith in Christ is what is being denied. What we are told is that to meet corporately is what occasions peril. Fellowship is a key and integral part of the Body of Christ - to be denied fellowship is a harsh measure of Grace. And there are those Christians who will risk their lives to gain fellowship - but that is different than risking your life to proclaim your faith in Christ. It is also different from risking your life to evangelize. Each persecution is real and harsh Grace, but each occasions different responses. We are all going to be persecuted and the mode of that persecution is largely not our choice - rather it is a Grace of God. It is, therefore, simply not logical to assume that because one person or group is prevented from congregating that their ideas of Christianity, that their expression of Christianity, that their understanding or Christianity is more pure, more holy, or better in any facet or quality than anyone else' Christianity. Pastor Platt makes a grievous error in making the first and second assumptions.

The last assumption, the deference and honor given to these Believer's expressions of worship due to their hardships falls quickly when we note the fallacy of the first two assumptions. In reality, there is no measure of the Holy Spirit given to various Believers on account of their situation. All true Believers worship God in truth, all Believers struggle with sin, all Believers proclaim their faith. All are members of the same body, and to suggest that those under mortal peril are somehow "eyes" while those who live in relative mortal safety are somehow "dishonorable parts" is to deceive ourselves about the body and the Head and the Grace of God. Pastor Platt begins his book with three insupportable assumptions which form the basis of a great deal of erroneous thinking later on as we shall see.

While illogical argument is bad, there are worse things. Perhaps Pastor Platt will remedy this in the chapters that follow, but it cannot be excused until such time and there is always a lack of responsibility in teaching an incomplete doctrine hoping that the reader will hang around for the correct completion. I am of course referring to Pastor Platt's teaching on the Rich Young Ruler.

Pastor Platt completely and inexcusably omits the first communications between Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (RYR). He skips to the "sell everything you have" language and makes that the focal point and purpose of this dialogue. Never mind that no where in any other Scripture do we have a command to sell everything and give to the poor. Pastor Platt fails in his adherence to the discipline that Scripture interprets Scripture. There is no context given to these words. I take this opportunity to correct an older brother in the faith, hopefully in meekness and humility. Pastor Platt - Jesus first words to the RYR are most alarming - "Keep the commandments." You note how much Jesus fails in his salvation message with "sell everything" but you fail in your understanding of Jesus' salvation message by omitting, intentionally or negligently, Jesus primary teaching - "Keep the commandments." The command of Jesus for that RYR to sell everything is a response to the RYR's arrogant, self-delusional and false proclamation that he had indeed kept the commandments. Jesus was illustrating that man's heart. It is not fair to suggest that Jesus is giving a general command to all believers at all times to sell everything and give to the poor, or that Jesus is teaching the rich to do this. How do we know this? For one, Jesus, nor any other prophet or writer in Scripture, ever commands anyone else to do this. Secondly, the righteous and/or wise are blessed by God with riches (see Job and Proverbs, and Abraham, and Solomon). Thirdly, we see examples of the rich worshipping God without feeling compelled to give everything they have to the poor - Mary's vial of perfume which she poured on Jesus was worth a years' wages. Who has that kind of money? Judas, the false disciple, complained that the perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. I wonder if Pastor Platt realizes how much his teaching echo Judas instead of Jesus with regard to selling everything and giving to the poor.

Before I am blasted by those who don't know me; let me state for the record my beliefs about the poor and giving. Proverbs alone teaches more than any other book about the poor. In this book God reveals his heart for the poor. We are taught that to despise the poor is to despise his maker. There is everything commendable about giving to the poor, about having a heart for the poor. It is a mark of a heart for God that one has a heart for the poor. And to the extent that Pastor Platt condemns American greed and commercialism/materialism because we do not have a heart for the poor he couldn't be more right. But to confuse one moment in Jesus' life, one conversation, one teaching on the law and our depravity and our ability to keep the law, as a general teaching to eradicate poverty, as a church-purpose to alleviate poverty in the world, is simply indefensible from the Scripture.

This chapter is so full of errors that it may take as many words to rebut them as Pastor Platt has used, and for that I apologize. Let me assure you that Pastor Platt's second chapter is one to be commended as one of the most elegant pronouncements of the Gospel that I have ever read. But we are not there yet, we are still dealing with the errors of Chapter 1.

Pastor Platt has, in my opinion, a distorted view of Jesus' calling of sacrifice. He confuses both the scope and the actuality of the sacrifice called for. Jesus' requirement is everything - agreed. We are commanded to give our very lives so we can hardly have right to complain should our property or relationships or security be imposed upon by God's Grace. However, the realization - the actuality of the sacrifice is not the same in every instance. While all are called to give their lives to Christ, very few will die a martyr's death. Pastor Platt apparently conceives this in that he is not admonishing everyone to die a martyr's death. However, Pastor Platt fails to understand that while we are all called to give our lives to Christ, few are required to give every possession to the poor. Nowhere in Scripture, the example of the RYR notwithstanding, are we called to poverty in material goods. We are called to be impoverished in our own righteousness. Ananias and Saphira as noted examples. The Holy Spirit does not kill them because they fail to give everything to the poor. Indeed, it is noted that while it was theirs it was theirs to do as they wish. Is the Holy Spirit through Peter contradicting Jesus?

One last example from this chapter illustrates the inconsistent and immature logic of Pastor Platt. Lest I be unfair I'll give the exact quote and admit that (hopefully) he is trying to make a point by being extreme. "A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection." In this quote Pastor Platt attempts to describe what Jesus requires - and he notes that if we disagree we are idolaters, molding Jesus into our own image and worshipping ourselves. However, Pastor Platt has committed the same error he cautions against. The easiest refutation against this teaching is regarding marriage. Nowhere are we called to forsake marriage so that Jesus receives all of our affection. In fact, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. If a husband is to so love Christ that his love for his wife looks like hate, then how can he at the same time love his wife as Christ loves the Church. This is an example of immature reading of Scripture. I am not meaning to suggest that Pastor Platt is an immature person or lacks responsibility in his pastorate or personal life. I am suggesting that when we approach Scripture, we are to understand these are the thoughts of God. Some of them are hard to understand, and we should not approach Scripture with a simplistic "it means what it says" while restricting ourselves to one verse only. Scripture interprets Scripture because only God knows the mind of God.

This first chapter is so replete with poor logic, bad eisegesis, and inflammatory statements that it is hard to even take it seriously. Perhaps I spend too much time reading scholarly works that I cannot see this for what it is. It may be that Pastor Platt has intentionally written a provocative and inflammatory chapter to hook the reader into reading more. I can certainly understand why the social gospel proponents are chomping at the bit after reading this chapter. Pastor Platt has become their new poster child. Honestly, it was hard to keep reading at this point and I would have stopped if not for the promise I made a couple friends to provide feedback. I am glad I did because Chapter 2 is one of the best chapters I have read from any Christian author in the past 10 years.

Chapter 2 is an eloquent, informative, accurate, concise and beautiful expression of the Gospel. Pastor Platt covers Scripture from the Fall in Genesis to the Atonement on the Cross to the ultimate glorification in heaven. Pastor Platt recognizes accurately God's role in salvation and man's role. His teaching reveals the sovereignty of God in salvation and is bound to make more than a few northern liberals uncomfortable in his pronouncement of depravity and grace. I wish I could excerpt this chapter alone, and I hope that Pastor Platt has many more thoughts on pronouncing the Gospel.

In reading chapter 3 and quickly realizing that Chapter 2 was a brief respite from the chaotic thinking - it does occur to me that Pastor Platt has at least one thing in so many writers who are confusing Christians today. He fails completely to understand the principal will of God in a believer's life.

Pastor Platt's hobby horse is evangelism and he has fallen into the error of extremism I refer to as hyper-evangelicalism; that is, believing the entire purpose and will of God for a believer's life is evangelism to the entire world. However, his error is but one of many who fail to understand God's will for our lives. In seeking to replace God's will, men will grasp onto anything they can and particularly those things that bring them personal comfort. Some see that thing as health, wealth and prosperity. Some see it as peace between the nations; some see it as being some sort of protestant Mother Theresa. And some like the late Bill Bright, Billy Graham or Pastor Platt as evangelism.

Again, I have to realize that someone may read this who doesn't know me. Allow me to explain. I am a strong proponent of evangelism. I've personally witnessed to hundreds of unbelievers in my life. I have crafted my elevator speech/2 minute personal testimony. I've practiced mass evangelism, one on one evangelism, written evangelism and defensive/apologetic evangelism. There is without a doubt, a commission given by Jesus just before He ascends to His Father. The Church is to be made of all peoples in all nations and tongues. There is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no black or white in the Church. We are all of us, redeemed sinners saved by grace through faith in the atoning work of Christ. Evangelism is the highest calling.

However, it is just that. Not all are called to be evangelists. Not my words. If Pastor Platt doesn't like it, I'm sorry, but the Scriptures clearly teach that not all are called to be evangelists. Pastor Platt tries to get around this by suggesting that we are all called to be personally involved in evangelism.

Regardless of whether Pastor Platt is right or wrong - he fails to recognize the singular most important thing a Christian can ever be doing. In his distortion of the traditional statement of the purpose of man - he makes it the singular purpose of the church and man to witness. His words are "enjoy his grace and extend his glory" This is a subtle change in the traditional understanding "glorify God and enjoy him forever." The subtle change is "extend"

It would take paragraphs and paragraphs to fully explain the purpose of man and why it is not to "extend the glory of God." However, I think it sufficient to mention a few things. First, the singular activity which Jesus, over and over again requires, which every single NT author requires, is NOT and is NEVER evangelism or witnessing. It is ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE the eradication of sin in the believer's life - the mortification of sin in our hearts and minds, the sanctification of the believer. The commission Jesus gives is to make disciples - a sanctification procedure above all. But Jesus teaches that we do not love God if we don't keep his commandments. Note that Jesus, and Paul and John do not teach that we don't love God if we don't evangelize. That is only one commandment given at one time to one group of believers. The so-called "Great Commission" (I laugh that Pastor Platt capitalizes it as if it were a name of God) is given to one group of believers. Jesus is not found teaching this to everyone. No where in the NT do we find any other teacher giving this commandment to another group of believers. If we as Americans have failed to understand Jesus' principal teaching as "go forth into OTHER nations and witness" then so has Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude.

The commission is a commandment - given to one group of believers. And many other believers are commanded to go forth through the ministry of the Holy Spirit; see for example Paul's commission at Antioch - indeed on the road to Damascus. However, not every Christian is so called and Pastor Platt's attempt to read this into Scripture is simply bad eisegesis. You cannot make a theology by capitalizing something.

Every Christian is called to live a holy life. We read this in almost every book of the NT. Why does God give us this commandment, often and everywhere - but hide the commandment to go into all nations in one teaching to one group of believers? Is God obtuse? Is God's will hidden? The entire purpose and error of this book so far is revealed in a quote from Chapter 4:

Meanwhile, Jesus commands us to go. He has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical Christianity.

Wow. Really? Does Pastor Platt really believe he has adequately supported this from Scripture? Based on one teaching from Jesus to one group of believers? If I don't have a radical devotion to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, I'm an unbiblical Christian. Never mind that I spend hours in prayer fighting sin in my life and working towards holiness. Never mind that I recognize my first and primary mission field is my family and those God has brought into my immediate sphere of influence. Never mind that I am called to server and love the brethren first and foremost. Never mind that I am trying to learn the mind of God by studying Scripture. If I don't have a "radical devotion" to world evangelism then my Christianity is unbiblical. Really Pastor Platt?

Throughout this book Pastor Platt continually gets so many things right. He accurately teaches the Gospel, he accurately denounces the American Dream as unbiblical. He accurately condemns a biblical understanding/gospel that puts us at the center of the Gospel instead of Christ. But he also fails completely to understand the nature and purpose of sanctification. We bring glory to God first and foremost by repentance and the fight against sin. Angels can pronounce the Gospel and they will one day. Only man can glorify God through the abandonment of sin and the turning to Grace. Only men can glorify God through faith in Christ. Our purpose is to be sanctified and live according to God's will. For many, that will includes evangelism - for me it does. But for many it simply does not. Children are called to be sanctified - they don't have to wait. They are not called to be missionaries or to have a heart for missions. We simply see no evidence of a so-called Great Commission in Scripture. If it is "great" because it comes from Jesus, then we deny the work of the Holy Spirit in the Inspiration of Scripture and might as well only live the red letters. If it is great because it is the last commandment, then we deny the continuing Lordship of Christ and the many commands he has given the Church since the ascension. It is only "great" because some rightly or wrongly have a great heart for missions and mistakenly project that ministry onto every one else. Simply because the Gospel will go to all nations and tribes and tongues, does not mean that every Christian is responsible to make it happen. It's bad logic, it's bad exegesis, and it's bad theology.