In recent days, I have read two books that challenge me to the core. They are Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and Radical by David Platt. Both are written to lay an axe to the root of westernized Christianity so as to allow a new shoot to arise that reflects a more true form of biblical Christianity. With the precision of a surgeon, these authors force readers to re-examine the validity of their commitment and lifestyle in the light of the unbending demands Jesus placed before those who would choose to follow Him.
I recommend that every follower of Christ read these books and be challenged by them. They rightly assert that our American faith is measured by the achievement of the American dream. In our country today, standards for a committed Christian have been reduced to a set of comfortable accomplishments. If a person reads his Bible, attends church, avoids big sins and tithes, he is viewed by the American church as a dedicated follower of Christ. If a person is married, has a family, a good job, a nice house and drives a fine car, he has achieved the ultimate.
Platt and Chan do not let us off the hook so easily. They have the audacity to challenge our American dream and cultural Christianity with the demands Christ places on all who would choose to follow Him. These demands are often relegated as being applicable only to those who have chosen to enter the ministry and especially to those who have surrendered to the mission field. In reality they apply to every follower of Christ.
There are no categories or levels of commitment regarding the call of Jesus to those who would choose to be His disciples. His demand is simple. A person who chooses to follow Him does not do so to gain fire insurance, but makes a conscious decision to leave all behind, deny one’s own agenda and live a sacrificial life of love for God and others. Occupation, status, agenda, location and direction in life all come under the Lordship of Christ. The ultimate for a follower of Christ should not be a steady job, house, car and savings account. Commitment cannot be measured by the number of times we sit on a pew or the number of committees on which we serve. The measure is whether we are willing to lose everything to follow Jesus. Are we committed to seek Him for direction in where we live, work, give and go?
These authors, both local church pastors, take aim at the American version of Christianity that allows us to live in luxury while ignoring the suffering around the world. Their confrontation of comfortable Christianity should not go without serious reflection. Can we who have so much ignore the plight of so many, both among us and to the ends of the Earth? While millions are starving, can we gorge ourselves and feel no compulsion to seek ways to alleviate the hunger? Can we attend church in this free land and enjoy its wonderful benefits and forget those who risk their very lives to gather in the name of Jesus? Do we complain when the preacher shares a simple gospel message “because we already know the Gospel,” when millions have never heard the name of Jesus?
Else I give the impression that the authors seek only to lay guilt trips, be assured their approach is biblical and direct. Guilt trips only make us remorseful and sad. Conviction that moves us to action comes by a clear presentation of the truth of Scripture whereby the Holy Spirit applies these truths to our hearts.
While I think every believer should read these books, let me be clear. Neither man is infallible in his presentation. Some could argue with the interpretation of certain points. So I want to encourage you to take a further step beyond simply reading these books. Take your Bible and read again the Gospels. Pay careful attention to the call Jesus places on those who desire to follow Him and become His disciples. Do not pass by His words quickly. Ponder them, personalize them and then experience them in your life. I predict you will not be able to live, worship, give and serve in the same way you do today. No longer will you be satisfied with the compartmentalization of your life into secular and spiritual realms. You will utilize your gifts, money and time to serve the only One worthy of your life, and that is your Savior and Lord.
So go ahead. Grab these two books and be challenged by them. Then read the Gospels and be convicted to move from comfortable cultural Christianity to a radical faith exemplified by a radical commitment to follow Jesus.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.