Are you believing the gospel as it is described in God’s Word, or are you believing an Americanized version? This is the poignant question posed to readers in chapter two of Radical. Many of us have bought into a watered-down, Americanized false gospel, and therefore, we have a watered-down, Americanized response to Christ’s call to discipleship.
When my grandpa was in seminary, he was asked to write a paper on the chief attribute of God. He wrote a wonderful essay on God’s love. And he received a big fat F. Grandpa wouldn’t mind my sharing this story–he loved to tell it–to illustrate the trap that so many Christians fall into. Is God loving? Absolutely. There are countless verses in Scripture where God tells us how much He loves His people. The problem comes when we stop at God’s love without looking at the whole of what Scripture says about God. God’s Word tells us that He is the sovereign Creator, the Holy Judge who must deal justly with sin. My grandpa’s seminary professor said that God’s chief attribute is His holiness–His purity and righteousness that makes Him God and us not God. Are we willing to give as much weight to John 3:36 as we do to John 3:16?
As Platt writes, “The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back, enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as Judge who might damn us . . . We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give him” (p. 29).
Platt asserts that we must also face what the biblical gospel says about who we are in relation to God. Here’s a pop quiz:
True or false?
1. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.” (Radical, p. 32)
2. “You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.” (Radical, p. 32)
The first is what is being proclaimed in many churches all over this country. It leads to complacency, entitlement, and the expectation that God will fix all my problems and make me happy.
The second is what God’s Word says about our human condition. It leads to wholehearted devotion of our entire life to a God who came to us, to redeem us from the pit of our sin and make us righteous in His sight. It causes overflowing gratitude and commitment to our Creator who poured out the wrath we deserve on His sinless Son. In Platt’s words, “Surely this gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that he is” (p. 37).
Which gospel are you believing? And how will you respond?