The Senior Pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Victoria, Dan Rutherford, is on a mission. A mission, embraced by his fellow elders at the church, to lead a Gospel revolution at Gateway, and to reach 1% of the city of Victoria with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To assist in sparking a Gospel revolution within Gateway’s congregation Dan has been recommending books to the congregation. His most recent recommended read is Radical by David Platt (Multnomah Books, 2010). I had heard of this book before; I think my sister had read it and given it to my wife, Heather. But I had not read it yet. A couple of weeks ago, Dan asked me to make sure I read it and so earlier this week I finally got around to it. Only about 1/3 of the way through it, let me say it is already among the books I can heartily endorse–especially for “Christians” tired of the same old evangelical humdrum that passes for authentic faith in North American churches. Here’s an excerpt that powerfully resonated with me and had me practically shouting, “Amen!” on the beach as I read it:
So how do we respond to this gospel? Suddenly contemporary Christianity sales pitches don’t seem adequate anymore. Ask Jesus to come into your heart. Invite Jesus to come into your life. Pray this prayer, sign this card, walk down this aisle, and accept Jesus as your personal Savior. Our attempt to reduce this gospel to a shrink-wrapped presentation that persuades someone to say or pray the right things back to us no longer seems appropriate.
That is why none of these man-made catch phrases are in the Bible. You will not find a verse in Scripture where people are told to “bow you heads, close your eyes, and repeat after me.” You will not find a place where a superstitious sinner’s prayer is even mentioned. And you will not find an emphasis on accepting Jesus. We have taken the infinitely glorious Son of God, who endured the infinitely terrible wrath of God and who now reigns as the infinitely worthy Lord of all, and we have reduced him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for us to accept him.
Accept him? Do we really think Jesus needs our acceptance? Don’t we need him?
I invite you to consider with me a proper response to this gospel…
The danger of spiritual deception is real. As a pastor, I shudder at the thought and lie awake at night when I consider the possibility that scores of people who sit before me on a Sunday morning might think they are saved when they are not. Scores of people who have positioned their lives on a religious road that makes grandiose promises at minimal cost. We have been told all that is required is a one-time decision, maybe even mere intellectual assent to Jesus, but after that we need not worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory. We have a ticket to heaven, and we can live however we want on earth. Our sin will be tolerated along the way. Much of modern evangelism today is built on leading people down this road, and crowds flock to it, but in the end it is a road built on sinking sand, and it risks disillusioning millions of souls.
Biblical proclamation of the gospel beckons us to a much different response and leads us down a much different road. Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus. These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. And salvation now consists of a deep wrestling in our souls with the sinfulness of our hearts, the depth of our depravity, and the desperation of our need for his grace. Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.
You might think this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience, but that is not the case at all. Indeed, “it is by grace you [are] saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” [Eph 2:8-9] We are saved from our sins by a free gift of grace, something that only God can do in us and that we cannot manufacture ourselves.
But that gift of grace involves the gift of a new heart. New desires. New longings. For the first time, we want God. We see our need for him, and we love him. We seek after him, and we find him, and we discover that he is indeed the great reward of our salvation. We realize that we are saved not just to be forgiven of our sins or to be assured of our eternity in heaven, but we are saved to know God. So we yearn for him. We want him so much that we abandon everything else to experience him. This is the only proper response to the revelation of God in the gospel.
(David Platt, Radical: Taking back your faith from the American Dream, [Multnomah Books: Colorado Springs, Co, 2010], pp 36-39.)