Archive for February, 2011

Radical by David Platt is one of the books that has been enjoying lots of word of mouth among American Calvinists (mainly neo-Calvinists) since its release.  When I had the opportunity to get a review copy, I took it.  I wanted to read it to see what the buzz was about, and the topic interests me.

“I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe.”

Years ago, I preached my Advent series from Revelation.  One of those sermons was on the dual strategies of the Evil One to destroy the church.  The Beast represents governments that persecute the church.  The Prostitute represents seduction, as the world seduces the church such that she slowly becomes like the world.  In some countries the church experiences persecution, but here in America we face the Seductress.  It goes without saying that the message was not well received by some.  So, that being said, I get what David Platt is trying to say in his book.

This is not a new subject.  Michael Horton has written numerous books on the subject of how American Christianity has been warped by American values (instead of the influence going the other way).  People like Ron Sider, Francis Chan and a host of others have tackled this subject in the 25 years since Christ rescued me.  In fact, this book is part Horton (he stresses some theological ideas contrary to American thought- Calvinism), part Francis Chan (a ‘radical’ approach) and part Ron Sider (“pack your bags, we’re going on a guilt trip).  Which makes this a difficult book to review.

“A command for us to be gospel-living, gospel-speaking people at every moment and in every context where we find ourselves.”

Radical is not as good as the hype nor as bad as most (poorly informed) critics make it out to be.  But let me start with some good things, because there are things I appreciate about the book.  There are things the American Church needs to reckon with regarding how we’ve been seduced by our corner of the world.

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This afternoon I was re-reading a chapter from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life in preparation for Community Group.  He was talking about child-like faith.  One aspect of that is an “as you are” quality.  Kids come as they are: dirty, selfish, excited.  Kids are fully present, even if it isn’t what you want them to be fully present in.

Too often we try to put on a face- like we have things together.  We act ‘religious’ instead of as a child with their father.

It is all about praying as a justified person.  When we are justified (pardoned and declared righteous by God on account of Jesus’ substitutionary obedience and atoning death), we don’t have to pretend with God.  He knows where we are messed up, confused or distracted.  He accepts us despite our messiness because of Jesus.  We don’t have to try and impress with our words and attitudes.

The self-righteous person tries to impress God, to gain God’s approval on the basis of prayer performance.  They think they have to think they have it all together to come into God’s presence.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The self-despairing person isn’t resting in their justification either.  They beg God (or run from Him).  They are depending on their tears, pleading, ‘passion’ etc. to gain God’s ear.  They refuse to rest upon Christ as well.

We will confess sin in prayer.  But we must not think we lose our justification when we sin (remember, it is all about what Jesus has done!).  We even confess as justified people owning up to our failings, resting in Christ’s death for our pardon.  That doesn’t mean we are casual, but neither are we in doubt as to whether or not the Father pardons His children.

Perhaps so many of us struggle in our prayer lives because we struggle in our understanding and experience of justification.  Our access in prayer is a function of our justification.  Prayer is a means to our sanctification.  But we must never make our access to the Father in prayer rest upon our sanctification.  As we understand and experience our justification, we should have a more meaningful, honest prayer life.

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Tim Keller has been quite productive lately.  He’s making use of a lifetime of ministry in putting these books together.  His latest is a bit of  a departure for him.  King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Story of Jesus takes a look at the Gospel of Mark.  I doubt this is a commentary.  But I imagine he’ll do what he often does and makes the material appropriate for a variety of audiences (and he usually does that very well).

Better yet, this book is on sale for 60% for the rest of February at WTS Bookstore.  Your first copy will automatically ring up at the special reduced price.  The rest will “only” be 45% off.  I know I’ll be buying a copy in the next week or so.  Why don’t you?

From the Preface:

“[The Gospel of] Mark does not read like a dry history. It is written in the present tense, often using words like ‘immediately’ to pack the account full of action. You can’t help but notice the abruptness and breathless speed of the narrative. This Gospel conveys, then, something important about Jesus. He is not merely a historical figure, but a living reality, a person who addresses us today. In his very first sentences Mark tells us that God has broken into history. His style communicates a sense of crisis, that the status quo has been ruptured… Jesus has come; anything can happen now. Mark wants us to see that the coming of Jesus calls for decisive action… Therefore we need to respond actively. We can’t remain neutral. We may not sit and reflect and find excuses for not changing our lives now.”

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I am reading a very popular book right now.  I agree with some/much of what the author is saying.  I think he’s omitting some very important things (the review will be forthcoming).  My beef lies more with how he is saying it most of the time.

As I was reading one chapter today, he was lamenting about his blind spot- repeatedly.  Which led me to believe that he is writing out of guilt, not necessarily faith.  He writes like a guilty man to other guilty people.  What do I mean?

Part of what I mean is confused logic.  He sees the problem, but does not quite seem to grasp the root or the solution.  The solutions seem far more grounded in moralism (try harder) than the gospel (Jesus changing our affections).  To show the seriousness of the problem (a sin of omission), he compares it to an on-going sin of comission.

Part of what I mean is the guilt manipulation.  Again, he seems to miss the gospel solution and resorts to unbiblical arguments to motivate people toward obedience.

In a word, he’s making people guilty.  It feels very much like a guilty man trying to make others feel guilty as though this is how we change.  When we write, or preach, as guilty men we produce guilty people.  We lose sight of heart sins, specific hearts sins, and use a shotgun approach instead of a strategic strike with gospel truth.


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Here is an interesting video to get the point of the gospel across, as well as our great need.

I think Jesus’ file should have been about a foot thick to illustrate his obedient life better.  But it does clearly display our need for His goodness (obedience) in justification.  I really like “I only read the articles!”

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Considering a Free Study Guide

Together 4 Adoption is offering a downloadable copy of their study guide.  You don’t need to read the book (Reclaiming Adoption) for the study guide to be helpful.  You can use it and still benefit.  It’s purpose is more than just to get you to adopt.  They want you to grow in your understanding and experience of being adopted by God (assuming, of course, that you’re in Christ).  I’ll have to compare it to my own material on the doctrine of adoption to see which is better for SS in the future.

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I’m nearly finished with reading The Letters of John Newton.  It is a great, humbling and encouraging read that is focused on the gospel.  The reason I bought the book was for a letter that ended up not being in the book.  It is a letter he wrote to a young pastor.  It is suitable for many of us.

Your understanding of the gospel is intellectually sound, but there is much legalism in your experience of Christ, and that perplexes you.  You are very capable of giving advice to others, but I wish you could apply more effectively what you preach.

Did he meet me?  Part of what is scary here is that we can intellectually “get it” but still have a heart bound by legalism.  We still try to relate to Christ with a legal spirit.  We seem quite capable, but don’t seem to live in light of what know intellectually.


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