We’re studying David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream chapter by chapter.
In this chapter, Platt ponders God’s purpose in making us.
On one hand, we were created by God to enjoy his grace. Apart from everything else God created, we were made in his image. We alone have the capacity to enjoy God in intimate relationship with him. …
[O]n the other hand, God immediately followed his blessing with a command. … God gave his people his image for a reason — so that they might multiply his image throughout the world. …
Simple enough. Enjoy his grace and extend his glory.
Platt quotes –
(Eze 36:22-23 ESV) 22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
And he concludes,
God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth. This basic, fundamental truth permeates Scripture from beginning to end. Yet I wonder if we unknowingly ignore the great why of God. (p. 69)
Platt criticizes the notion that the focus of Christianity should be the individual Christian’s salvation.
If you were to ask the average Christian sitting in a worship service on Sunday morning to summarize the message of Christianity, you would most likely hear something along the lines of “The message of Christianity is that God loves me.” Or someone might say, “The message of Christianity is that God loves me enough to send his Son, Jesus, to die for me.” (p. 70)
Is that right? Am I the focus and object of Christianity?
Therefore, when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family. When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family. … This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture. (p. 70)
We must guard against misunderstanding here. The Bible is not saying that God does not love us deeply. On the contrary, we have seen in scripture a God of unusual, surprising, intimate passion for his people. But that passion does not ultimately center on his people. It centers on his greatness, his goodness, and his glory being made known globally among all peoples. And to disconnect God’s blessing from God’s global purpose is to spiral downward into an unbiblical, self-saturated Christianity that misses the point of God’s grace. (p. 71)
Now, I want to pause here and make a very careful distinction. I think Platt would agree with me on this. God’s “global purpose” — his mission — is not merely to show his greatness. God is not on a great heavenly ego trip. Rather, God acts out of love, not vainglory. His purpose is to restore as much as possible of humanity to right relationship with God — for the sake of man. But that purpose requires that certain things happen first. First, mankind cannot worship God unless mankind acknowledges God as God. God wants his glory demonstrated because there is no other way for man to be in right relationship with God. Second, God’s people must participate in God’s redemptive, loving mission.
God does not love in order to show his glory. He shows his glory in order he might be known for the gracious, loving Being that he is and people be drawn to him. You see, when we make the desire of God to show his glory paramount over God’s love, we can distort our understanding of God to make him less loving than he really is. And that’s a colossal mistake.
It really is all about love, but it’s love for all of mankind, not just me. And for me to be the happiest, I must be in right relationship with God, not merely saved but transformed into God’s image, the image shown by Jesus. When I become like Jesus – when I become a selfless servant of God – I become like God and I can enjoy a form of happiness unimaginable to the selfish.
Platt then criticizes the notion that not everyone is called into God’s mission.
[W]e have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for all. (p. 73)
Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell. We owe Christ to the world — to the least person to the greatest person, to the richest person and to the poorest person, to best person and to the worst person. We are in debt to the nations. Encompassed with this debt, though, in our contemporary approach to missions, we have substantially taken ourselves out from under the weight of a lost and dying world, wrung our hands in pious concern, and said, “I’m sorry. I’m just not called to that.” (pp. 74-75)
Platt isn’t saying that everyone should pack up and move to a foreign mission field, but that everyone can do something of consequence in the foreign mission field. For example, he cites a Birmingham businessman who founded a ministry to provide clean drinking water in communities where people are dying from waterborne illnesses. He cites a retired couple who travel the U.S. and the world doing disaster relief work.