David Platt

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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.

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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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  • Jeff

    Wow Chase, your comment breathes pure arrogance. Are you part of Platt’s mega church or something? You mean no disrespect? what’s your definition man? first, have you even read Pagan Christianity? I didn’t see anywhere where Frank said what you accused him of. But I read both books and what Platt it’s pretty obvious he read Barna and Viola. I thought his answer to Glenn was right. He mentioned other books and mentioned one by Leonard Sweet where he was a coauthor. so what? Come on man, reading anything wrong into that comment just shows what’s inside of you.

    Your remark is a good example of what’s wrong in christianity, people who don’t know one another assigning bad motives. Chase, you just revealed your own heart by doing this, arrogance and lofty thinking. I’d guess you’ve not read any books by Frank. It would do you well because you just sinned without even knowing it. Matt. 7:1-4

    Frank, loved this review man. more mature than all the pablum by popular personalities. I thought you were super gracious with this review. How come Platt hasn’t come on here to interact?

    Crickets.

    I just ordered your new book and can’t wait to dive in and thanks for being so generous with the 25 free books! Wow!

  • chase black

    I have read both Radical and Follow Me and both works point to the work of Christ in the transformation of a believer. Both, provoke readers to substantiate their conversion (for their own sake) with the transformational evidence of the applied Gospel by the Holy Spirit. In other words, meeting Jesus will, without a doubt, cause a transformation in the “new life” of the believer.
    Frank, I think that perhaps your review of the book in focus, Follow Me, is somewhat tainted by your estimation of your own literary genius. I mean no disrespect, but seriously your work, Pagan Christianity, is not the only published work on the subject expressed in the ideas that Platt presented in his book. It is also reasonable to assume that more authors than just yourself, have grappled and struggled with the same issue. Finally, who answers the question posed by Glenn, “could you recommend what the best book on the indwelling Christ would be …” with a response that names your own work as one of the best you could recommend? There seems to be an underlying issue here, but I suppose it could just be my own arrogance calling into question your struggle with pride – you decide.

  • Frank Viola

    No contradiction. There are many good points in the book as I pointed out. And some places he does a great job at underscoring *problems* — as here. But it falls short on solutions, to my mind. Again, if the author connected with others outside his circles who are ahead of him in certain areas, his message would be so much richer and beneficial. And I’m sure they would benefit from his portion as well. Just a thought.

  • Paul

    I just bought this book. It came accross to me as a fire and brimstone kind of preaching. I agree with you Frank but i think that many new christians who pick up this book and read the first 10 pages may be hurt or feel like their being judged and throw the book down! Repent and be baptised. It takes years to change your life sometimes. It’s not an over night kind of thing. I believe God knows our hearts and if we are truly trying then we will be saved. Easier said than done. Thankful for his grace!

  • http://www.principalponderings.org Jason Van Bemmel

    Frank,

    I think your review is really unfair. Chapter 3, “Superficial Religion and Supernatural Regeneration,” directly and clearly contradicts your review of the book.

    “Do you ever feel like your Christianity consists of nothing more than a list of truths to believe, things to do, and boxes to check in order to earn God’s approval? In your efforts to pray, read the Bible, give, and serve in the church, do you ever feel like you’re never doing enough? Like the plate spinner who entertains audiences by trying to keep all kinds of plates in the air at the same time, do you ever tire of trying to please God with your performance? In the end, do you feel like your faith is mainly duty with minimal delight? This is the curse of superficial religion: the constant attempt to do outward things apart from inward transformation.”

    Platt, David (2013-02-05). Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (pp. 57-58). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com Randi

    ohhhh a course on the HOW of the indwelling…… that is so exciting!!!!!!!!! :)

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  • Frank Viola

    Major Ian Thomas’ “The Saving Life of Christ & The Mystery of Godliness” and my book with Len Sweet “Jesus Manifesto” are a start. The course that will release in the Fall will be extremely practical. I’d also suggest “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee. You can get all of the above books at a discount here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/bestbooks/

  • Glenn

    Frank – could you recommend what the best book on the indwelling Christ would be to understand this in a more mature way?

  • Frank Viola

    That’s not what comes through in the book. But again, I think it’s a good piece for the lukewarm and professing believers. And it’s well written and packaged.

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  • Jordan

    “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.”

    I think this is unfairly generalized; if you listen to any of Platt’s sermons you will see quite quickly and clearly his emphasis on the futility of “trying to be a good Christian” or to make anyone else so. He encourages all believers to depend fully on the power of Christ for not only our salvation but for that of others. But making disciples is a direct command from Christ and and overarching theme of the NT, and David puts great emphasis on that as well because it’s biblical.

  • http://kurtwillems.com Kurt Willems

    Interesting review Frank. I agree with much of what u said… I have not read the book but appreciate ur insights


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