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About the Author
David Platt is the lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. As the author of the New York Times bestselling book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David has traveled extensively around the world, teaching the Bible and training church leaders. A lifelong learner, David has earned two undergraduate and three advanced degrees. David and his wife, Heather, live in Alabama with their family.
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FOLLOW MEA CALL TO DIE. A CALL TO LIVE.
By DAVID PLATT
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2013 David Platt
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUNCONVERTED BELIEVERS
IMAGINE A WOMAN NAMED AYAN.
Ayan is part of a people who pride themselves on being 100 percent Muslim. To belong to Ayan's tribe is to be Muslim. Ayan's personal identity, familial honor, relational standing, and social status are all inextricably intertwined with Islam. Simply put, if Ayan ever leaves her faith, she will immediately lose her life. If Ayan's family ever finds out that she is no longer a Muslim, they will slit her throat without question or hesitation.
Now imagine having a conversation with Ayan about Jesus. You start by telling her how God loves her so much that he sent his only Son to die on the cross for her sins as her Savior. As you speak, you can sense her heart softening toward what you are saying. At the same time, though, you can feel her spirit trembling as she contemplates what it would cost for her to follow Christ. With fear in her eyes and faith in her heart, she asks, "How do I become a Christian?"
You have two options in your response to Ayan. You can tell her how easy it is to become a Christian. If Ayan will simply assent to certain truths and repeat a particular prayer, she can be saved. That's all it takes.
Your second option is to tell Ayan the truth. You can tell Ayan that in the gospel, God is calling her to die.
To die to her life.
To die to her family.
To die to her friends.
To die to her future.
And in dying, to live. To live in Jesus. To live as part of a global family that includes every tribe. To live with friends who span every age. To live in a future where joy will last forever.
Ayan is not imaginary. She is a real woman I met who made a real choice to become a Christianto die to herself and to live in Christ, no matter what it cost her. Because of her decision, she was forced to flee her family and became isolated from her friends. Yet she is now working strategically and sacrificially for the spread of the gospel among her people. The risk is high as every day she dies to herself all over again in order to live in Christ.
Ayan's story is a clear reminder that the initial call to Christ is an inevitable call to die. Such a call has been clear since the beginning of Christianity. Four fishermen stood by a sea in the first century when Jesus approached them. "Follow me," he said, "and I will make you fishers of men." With that, Jesus beckoned these men to leave behind their professions, possessions, dreams, ambitions, family, friends, safety, and security. He bid them to abandon everything. "If anyone is going to follow me, he must deny himself," Jesus would say repeatedly. In a world where everything revolves around selfprotect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourselfJesus said, "Slay yourself." And that's exactly what happened. According to Scripture and tradition, these four fishermen paid a steep price for following Jesus. Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified in Greece, James was beheaded, and John was exiled.
Yet they believed it was worth the cost. In Jesus, these men found someone worth losing everything for. In Christ, they encountered a love that surpassed comprehension, a satisfaction that superseded circumstances, and a purpose that transcended every other possible pursuit in this world. They eagerly, willingly, and gladly lost their lives in order to know, follow, and proclaim him. In the footsteps of Jesus, these first disciples discovered a path worth giving their lives to tread.
Two thousand years later, I wonder how far we have wandered from this path. Somewhere along the way, amid varying cultural tides and popular church trends, it seems that we have minimized Jesus' summons to total abandonment. Churches are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity. Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus simply involves acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words. But this is not true. Disciples like Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Ayan show us that the call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it's a summons to lose our lives.
Why, then, would we think that becoming a Christian means anything less for us? And why would we not want to die to ourselves in order to live in Christ? Yes, there is a cost that accompanies stepping out of casual, comfortable, cultural Christianity, but it is worth it. More aptly put, he is worth it. Jesus is worthy of far more than intellectual belief, and there is so much more to following him than monotonous spirituality. There is indescribable joy to be found, deep satisfaction to be felt, and an eternal purpose to be fulfilled in dying to ourselves and living for him.
That's why I've written this book. In a previous book, Radical, I sought to expose values and ideas that are common in our culture (and in the church) yet antithetical to the gospel. My aim was to consider the thoughts and things of this world that we must let go of in order to follow Jesus. 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.
I invite you to join me on this journey in the pages ahead. Along the way, I want to pose some particular questions about common phrases in contemporary Christianity. My goal in considering these questions is not to correct anyone who has ever used certain words, but simply to uncover potential dangers hiding behind popular clichés. Even as I ask such questions, I don't assume to have all the answers, and I don't claim to understand everything that following Jesus entails. But in a day when the basics of becoming and being a Christian are so maligned by the culture and misunderstood in the church, I do know that there is more to Jesus than the routine religion we are tempted to settle for at every turn. And I am convinced that when we take a serious look at what Jesus really meant when he said, "Follow me," we will discover that there is far more pleasure to be experienced in him, indescribably greater power to be realized with him, and a much higher purpose to be accomplished for him than anything else this world has to offer. And as a result, we will allevery single Christianeagerly, willingly, and gladly lose our lives to know and proclaim Christ, for this is simply what it means to follow him.
PRAY THIS PRAYER
I have a friendlet's call him Johnwhose first exposure to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young. During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry. What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.
The church man looked at John and said, "Well, you don't want to go to hell, do you?"
"No," he responded.
"Okay, then," the man said, "pray this prayer after me. Dear Jesus ..."
John paused. After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, "Dear Jesus ..."
"I know I'm a sinner, and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins," the man said.
John followed suit.
"I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin," the man said.
Again, John echoed what he had heard.
"Amen," the man concluded.
Then the man looked at John and said, "Son, you are saved from your sins, and you don't ever have to worry about hell again."
Surely what that man told my friend in church that day was not true. Surely this is not what it means to respond to Jesus' invitation to follow him. Yet this story represents deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape.
Just ask Jesus into your heart.
Simply invite Christ into your life.
Repeat this prayer after me, and you will be saved.
Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer? Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to "ask Jesus into their heart" or to "invite Christ into their life"? Yet this is exactly what multitudes of professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they've been assured that as long as they said certain words, recited a particular prayer, raised their hand, checked a box, signed a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation is eternally secure.
It's not true. With good intentions and sincere desires to reach as many people as possible for Jesus, we have subtly and deceptively minimized the magnitude of what it means to follow him. We've replaced challenging words from Christ with trite phrases in the church. We've taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds, and the consequences are catastrophic. Multitudes of men and women at this moment think that they are saved from their sins when they are not. Scores of people around the world culturally think that they are Christians when biblically they are not.
"I NEVER KNEW YOU"
Is that possible? Is it possible for you or me to profess to be a Christian and yet not know Christ? Absolutely. And according to Jesus, it's actually probable.
Do you remember his words near the conclusion of his most famous sermon? Surrounded by people who are actually referred to as disciples, Jesus said,
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
These are some of the most frightening words in all the Bible. As a pastor, I stay awake some nights haunted by the thought that many people sitting in church on Sunday may be surprised one day to stand before Jesus and hear him say to them, "I never knew you; away from me!"
We are all prone to spiritual deceptionevery single one of us. When Jesus says these words in Matthew 7, he's not talking about irreligious atheists, agnostics, pagans, and heretics. He's talking about good, religious peoplemen and women associated with Jesus who assume that their eternity is safe and will one day be shocked to find that it is not. Though they professed belief in Jesus and even did all kinds of work in his name, they never truly knew him.
Such deception was probable among first-century crowds and is probable in twenty-first-century churches. When I read Matthew 7, I think of Tom, a successful businessman in Birmingham who started attending the church I pastor. Tom has spent his entire life in church. He has served on just about every committee that any church has ever created. One of the pastors from Tom's former church even called one of our pastors to tell us what a great guy Tom is and how helpful Tom would be as a member in our church.
The only problem was that although he had served in the church for more than fifty years, Tom had never truly become a follower of Jesus. "For all those years I sat in the seats of churches thinking I knew Christ when I didn't," Tom said.
Jordan is a college student in our church with a similar story. Listen to her journey in her own words:
I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart at the age of five. This prayer temporarily served as a "Get Out of Hell Free" card while I continued to walk in sin. I looked better than all the other students in my youth group, so this served to validate my faith. If this validation was not enough, my parents, pastors, and friends told me I was a "Christian" whenever I questioned my faith because I had prayed that prayer and I looked nice on the outside, so they knew for sure I was "in."
But my heart was still not open to understanding grace. It was obvious that the prayer I prayed before was probably not going to cut it. So what did I do? I did what anybody would do who was not yet willing to admit their total brokenness and depravity before a holy God: I "rededicated" my life to Christ (a term that was not coined in Scripture, I assure you).
Yet I was still dead in my sin and not repentant. I still thought my good works committed in the past and those I would continue to do in the future counted for something. I could save myself; I was sure of it. I led Bible studies and went on mission trips, but none of that mattered. I was still by nature a child of wrath.
During my freshman year of college, I was finally confronted with the extreme tension that rested between my sinful self and God's holy nature. For the first time, I understood that the point of the cross was to justify the wrath of God that should have been directed toward me. I fell on my knees in fear and trembling and adoration and tears and confessed my need for Jesus more than I needed anything else in the world. Now I am pleased to confess that "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
After years in the church, Jordan underwent a massive transformation in her life from knowing about Jesus to living in Jesus. She went from working for Jesus in an attempt to earn God's favor to walking with Jesus out of the overflow of faith.
I don't think Tom's and Jordan's stories are unique. I believe they express a pandemic problem across contemporary Christianity. Masses of men, women, and children around the world just like Tom and Jordan are sitting comfortably under the banner of Christianity but have never counted the cost of following Christ.
THE HARD ROAD
This is why Jesus' words in Matthew 7 are so critical for us to hear. He exposes our dangerous tendency to gravitate toward that which is easy and popular. Hear his warning: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." In other words, there is a broad religious road that is inviting and inclusive. This nice, comfortable, ever-so-crowded path is attractive and accommodating. The only thing that's required of you is a one-time decision for Christ, and you don't have to worry about his commands, his standards, or his glory after making that decision. You now have a ticket to heaven, and your sin, whether manifested in self-righteousness or self-indulgence, will be tolerated along the way.
But this is not the way of Jesus. He beckons us down a hard road, and the word Jesus uses for "hard" is associated in other parts of the Bible with pain, pressure, tribulation, and persecution. The way of Jesus is hard to follow, and it's hated by many.
Just a few chapters after these words in Matthew 7, Jesus told his disciples that they would be beaten, betrayed, mistreated, isolated, and killed for following him. "Be on your guard," Jesus said, "[for] they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings.... Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.... All men will hate you because of me."
On another occasion, right after Jesus commended Peter for his confession of faith in him as "the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus rebuked Peter for missing the magnitude of what this means. Like many people today, Peter wanted a Christ without a cross and a Savior without any suffering. So Jesus looked at Peter and the other disciples and said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
Shortly before Jesus went to the cross, he told his disciples, "You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." In each of these passages in the book of Matthew, the call to die is clear. The road that leads to heaven is risky, lonely, and costly in this world, and few are willing to pay the price. Following Jesus involves losing your lifeand finding new life in him.
Excerpted from FOLLOW ME by DAVID PLATT Copyright © 2013 by David Platt. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction Francis Chan ix
Chapter 1 Unconverted Believers 1
Chapter 2 The Great Invitation 25
Chapter 3 Superficial Religion and Supernatural Regeneration 51
Chapter 4 Don't Make Jesus Your Personal Lord and Savior 75
Chapter 5 Children Of God 97
Chapter 6 God's Will For Your Life 123
Chapter 7 The Body of Christ 149
Chapter 8 A Vision of the Possible 175
Chapter 9 Born to Reproduce 203
A Personal Disciple-Making Plan 227
About the Author 245