Friday, March 8, 2013

Follow Me by David Platt

It has been a few years since David Platt published his first book, Radical. That book took the world by storm. That book tries to expose the values and ideas in our culture and the church which are in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has to be entitled Radical because to live as Jesus has called the Christian to live will seem very radical in our culture.

But now, Platt has come out with his second major book, Follow Me. He explains the purpose of this book in contrast to Radical at the very beginning:
"The purpose of this book, then, is to take the next step. I want to move from what we let go of to whom we hold on to. I want to explore not only the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, but also the greatness of the one we follow in this world. I want to expose what it means to die to ourselves and to live in Christ" (4).
Platt takes the concept of this book from several invitations of Jesus. Early in Jesus' ministry, He invited a few early disciples to abandon their fishing occupations and "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). Several times in the gospels, He says something similar to "If anyone is going to follow me, he must deny himself" (Mark 8:34; Luke 14:26-33). These are statements of complete abandonment. Jesus is calling someone to not only give up all they are and have, but to come to Him as the complete life giver.

As I read this book, I had several different emotions running through me. I would like to break my review into these three different emotions.

This Book Angered Me
I want to be clear, it was not really the book that angered me. For I agreed with almost everything in the book. It was the accuracy of the book that angered me. You see, I feel I have become jaded against the American Church. I feel as if so many people play games with church and what it means to be a Christian. I feel so many people come on Sundays, think they are okay with God because they prayed some prayer at some point in their life. This book furthered my angst with those that have watered down the gospel to some incantation of fire insurance. This rightful heart cry by Platt can be seen on almost every page of this book. Just flip it open anywhere and you will find a slap in the face against soft-selling Jesus. For instance, there are many statements like this: 
"People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians" (18).
I agree with that statement. Fully. But as I read this book, I found myself further angered towards those that are giving Jesus a bad name by saying they believe in Him and then living their life any which way they want. And by the way, I am not saying my attitude is correct in this matter. While I feel Platt is right in his assessment, I wish my heart was more broken and compassionate as opposed to angered.

This Book Scared Me
In many ways, I can see the response to a message like this (like I saw from his book, Radical) is legalism. That is, the response is doing for the cause of Christ so that I can prove my commitment to Jesus. It is just the same old idolatry shaped in the form of "well, I don't watch rated R movies. Well, a Christian never watches TV. A true follower of Jesus reads and prays two hours a day." As I was meeting with a few friends to talk about this book, one of them said, "It can be very easy to respond to books like this with a list of checkmarks."

We love those checkmarks. And that is what scared me in this book. It can be idolatry of good things instead of bad things. It can be the worship of the things needed to do in order to walk with Jesus. To be clear, I do not think that is the heart of Platt. Probably just the opposite. It is about following a person. Platt says,
"When Jesus came on the scene in human history and began calling followers to himself, he did not say, 'Follow certain rules. Observe specific regulations. Perform ritual duties. Pursue a particular path.' Instead, he said, 'Follow me.' With these two simple words, Jesus made clear that his primary purpose was not to instruct his disciples in a prescribed religion; his primary purpose was to invite his disciples into a personal relationship" (54). 
"Amid all these pleasures we are wired to pursue, we must always remember that our deepest craving is not for something but for Someone" (109).
In some ways, this scared me because I fear people will respond with those ritual duties instead of the intimacy with their Savior.

This Book Encouraged Me
The best part of the book for me personally was the end. Read to the end. That is where Platt describes his "personal disciple-making plan." I loved the intentionality he describes of making disciples. He just does not assume it happens for himself, his staff, or the members of their church. But they intentionally fill one out every year. They answer the following questions.
  • How Will I Fill My Mind With Truth?
    • How will I read God's Word?
    • How will I memorize God's Word?
    • How will I learn God's Word from others?
  • How Will I Fuel My Affections For God?
    • How will I worship?
    • How will I pray?
    • How will I fast?
    • How will I give?
  • How Will I Share God's Love As A Witness In The World?
    • Who?
    • How?
    • When?
  • How Will I Show God's Love As A Member Of A Church?
    • Where?
    • What?
  • How Will I Spread God's Glory Among All Peoples?
    • How will I pray for the nations?
    • How will I give to the nations?
    • How will I go to the nations?
  • How Will I Make Disciple Makers Among A Few People?
    • How will I bring them in?
    • How will I teach them to obey?
    • How will I model obedience?
    • How will I send them out?
This is definitely a list of questions that I will be seeking to reflect upon in my own life. I love being intentional in things, and I believe this will help me even more. Not because I have to, but because I love to serve my Savior as efficiently and effectively in the short years I have on this earth.

In the end, I would recommend this book. It's hard not to. I probably liked it more than Radical. Read it. I have no doubt you will be challenged.

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