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Patheos asked me to review David Platt’s new book Follow Me. And I agreed. David Platt and I have never met. To date, we’ve never shared the conference platform together nor have we ever talked or emailed one another. So we’re complete strangers at this point.
This is the first book of Platt’s that I’ve read and I’m not sure if he’s ever read anything that I’ve written . . . though if I could venture a guess, he’s probably read Pagan Christianity, at least parts of it. I’ll explain why later.
Before I go into the review, let me lay some groundwork.
In the New Testament, we have different books for different audiences and different purposes. For instance, Galatians is the Magna Carta for Christian liberty and freedom in the Scriptures. The audience of that letter are Christians who are trying to make God happy by their good works. In other words, it’s written to legalists.
James, on the other hand, is written to a completely different audience. It’s written to libertines . . . those whose faith is built on mental assent. James is a great book for professing or lukewarm Christians.
As I’ve often said, the libertine lives as though there is no God while the legalist lives as though he is God. (For a discussion on the gospel of the legalists vs. the gospel of the libertines, click here.)
Because James and Galatians are written to two different audiences, some Christians think they are in contention. But they aren’t. They are just addressing two different sides of the gospel.
But neither James nor Galatians touches the sublime elements of the gospel that are sketched out in Ephesians and Colossians — the two high watermarks of New Testament revelation. In those twin towers, Paul gives us a breathtaking revelation of Jesus Christ, His indwelling life, and God’s Eternal Purpose in Him. These themes are also discussed in Romans, particularly Romans 8.
David Platt’s Follow Me is like the book of James. It’s written to young Christians who have imbedded a false or half gospel. The audience is libertine Christians who “have accepted Jesus into their hearts,” but who are living their lives for themselves. It’s aimed at lukewarm Christians who profess faith, but live in the flesh.
Platt’s book isn’t like the book of Galatians, so a legalist or burned-out Christian isn’t going to be set free from this book. Neither is the book written in the spirit of Ephesians or Colossians. There’s nothing in it about God’s Eternal Purpose.
In fact, this touches a point in the book with which I differ with Platt. Platt’s book essentially echoes D.L. Moody’s Revivalist Theology. Moody was a great evangelist. Unfortunately, he read the entire Bible through the eyes of an evangelist (Platt does the same thing).
For Moody, the entire Bible has only two messages: 1) You’re a sinner so you need to be saved (conversion). 2) Once you’re saved, you need to get other people saved and teach them how to be good Christians (discipleship). That’s why God created you: to make disciples. Period, end of story.
But as I’ve demonstrated in From Eternity to Here, this line of thinking is false. God’s purpose goes beyond the salvation of souls and the making of disciples. In fact, God’s Eternal Purpose is not centered on human needs. Humans came into this world not in need of salvation (see Genesis 1 and 2). God had something else in store for human beings and that’s why He created them. The Lord had a purpose that had nothing to do with the fall or salvation.
When the Lord opened my eyes to His Eternal Purpose, it blew everything else off the table. D.L. Moody’s Revivalist Theology went out the window and gave way to the sight of Peerless Worth. The revelation of God’s Eternal Purpose was a game-changer for me and it’s been the same to all who have been awakened to it.
A few things I particularly liked about David Platt’s book, Follow Me.
Platt takes dead aim at the sinner’s prayer and the concept of receiving Jesus as one’s personal Savior. (Many people have pointed out that he must have read my book Pagan Christianity. In that book (written in 2008), George Barna and I devote an entire chapter to each of those traditions, showing where they came from and why they are unbiblical. (Btw/ I didn’t see a reference to Pagan Christianity in the endnotes <teasing grin> . . :-))
However, I wished Platt talked about water baptism . . . for that was the first-century Christians’ way of bringing people to Christ. Water baptism is the New Covenant, post-resurrection fulfillment of Jesus’ word, “Leave all, take up your cross, and follow me.” It’s the first step to becoming a follower of Jesus. Many Protestants don’t understand the power and significance of baptism and have turned it into an empty ritual. But it has everything to do with following Jesus.
A few other observations about the book can be noted in my review of Francis Chan’s Multiply. (Sadly, Mr. Chan has yet to respond to my 5 challenging questions to him.)
Many of the observations I made about Chan’s book applies to Platt’s book as well. The message is great for the lukewarm or professing Christian. The Lordship of Jesus isn’t something that can be mentally obtained. However, following Jesus is much more than trying to be a good Christian and trying to make other people good Christians. I cut my teeth on that particular gospel and it’s been tried and found wanting.
Those who embrace it with zeal in their 20s usually burn out when they’re in their 30s. What’s needed today . . . and this is the heart of New Testament revelation . . . is to learn how to live by the indwelling life of Jesus Christ. For without that, we have little idea about how to follow Jesus. I noticed that Platt gave brief mention that Jesus lives in us, but there was no discussion on how to live by His indwelling life.
When serving the Lord trumps knowing the Lord, something is wrong. This is one of the reasons why modern Christianity is so shallow. So many young believers are trying to give away tickets to a place they’ve never been themselves.
Paul said, “That I may know Him . . .” Serving must flow from knowing. Following Jesus means learning to live by His indwelling life . . . which necessitates and involves knowing Him deeply.
For those who have the idea that the gospel can be juiced down to “God is holy, you’re not, so get off your lazy duff and start making disciples,” this book will only constitute more fodder for a performance-based tendency that lacks a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, for the professing Christian who has never yielded his or her life to Christ’s Lordship, Follow Me may be the right medicine.
Perhaps professing believers abound in Platt’s ministry, so he felt the need to write this book. In my world, however, professing and/or lukewarm Christians aren’t terribly interested in attending deeper Christian life conferences or reading Christian books that contain spiritual depth. Instead, those who are hungering for more of Jesus Christ and/or who are burned out from making a god out of “serving God” abound. This no doubt accounts for my reaction to this book. Our main audiences appear to be quite different.
All told, I think it’s vital that authors and speakers who are doing the Lord’s work today learn to connect with each other and learn from one another. It’s unhealthy to only dialogue with those in one’s same stream. This limits our vision and gives way to sectarianism. It also fosters the echo-chamber phenomenon that’s in the drinking water of Christianity today, the end of which keeps the body of Christ in a state of shallowness.
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