David Platt asks, “How Much Is Enough?”

I was reading my weekly section of David Platt’s Radical and found myself in Chapter 6.  A few paragraphs into the chapter I read:

Not long ago God began uncovering a blind spot in my life.  An area of disobedience.  A reality in God’s Word that I had pretended did not exist.  More aptly put, I had lived as if it did not exist.  But God brought me to a place of confession before him, before my family, and before the faith family I lead.

Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty.  They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day.  Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day.  That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.

More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease. To put it in perspective for me, that’s twenty-six thousand Joshuas and Calebs (my two sons).  To put in in perspective for the church I pastor, if this were happening among the children in my community, then every child eighteen years or younger in our county would be dead within the next two days.

Suddenly I began to realize that if I have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and if poverty is rampant in the world to which God has called me, then I cannot ignore these realities.  Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry.  If I am going to address urgent spiritual need by sharing the gospel of Christ or building up the body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire physical need in the process.

Frighteningly, though, I have turned a blind eye to these realities. I have practically ignored these people, and I have been successful in my ignorance because they are not only poor but also powerless.  Literally millions of them are dying in obscurity, and I have enjoyed my affluence while pretending they don’t exist.

But they do exist.  Not only do they exist, but God takes very seriously how I respond to them.  The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor.  The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who neglect the poor.  Jesus pronounces woes upon the wealthy who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming” upon them.  In a humbling passage, Jesus says to those who turn away from him by ignoring the physical needs of his people, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Even as I type this, my stomach is churning.  It is churning and I am upset because I know this to be true of my thoughts and actions.  This is tough stuff and the rest of this chapter doesn’t get any lighter, but it is true.  And that is the point I want to make.

When faced with a stark, yet true, reality such as this, what will you do?  Are you cut to the heart?  Do you fall on your face and ask for forgiveness for unintentional (or intentional) callousness?  Are you moved but then soon forget?  Do you brush it off?  I feel so small and insignificant in light of the plight of the poor…but maybe that is as it should be, for then God can accomplish something through me that will glorify only him and him alone.

Father, I don’t know what to do with this…I believe it is true and I believe it is the will of your heart and your son’s heart that we not neglect the poor and needy. May this mission never fade from our thoughts…may we never become comfortable in our blessing that you have so richly provided.  May we release our abundance to give to those for whom you intend to be blessed.  Please give us concrete ideas on how we can individually and corporately  address what you put into our hearts and state through your Holy Word, and then equip us with your awesome power to begin your work, stay the course, and accomplish your will in our lives and in the lives of others.  You are faithful and trustworthy and I believe with all my heart that you will honor this request.  Amen!

Be Blessed!

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The Real Gospel…

Our understanding of who God is and who we are drastically affects our understanding of who Christ is and why we need him, For example, if God is only a loving Father who wants to help his people, then we will see Christ as a mere example of that love.  We will view the Cross as just a demonstration of God’s love in which he allowed Roman soldiers to crucify his Son so that sinful man would know how much he loves us.

But this picture of Christ and the Cross is woefully inadequate, missing the entire point of the gospel.  We are not saved from our sins because Jesus was tried by Jewish and Roman officials and sentenced by Pilate to die.  Neither are we saved because Roman persecutors thrust nails into the hands and feet of Christ and hung him on a cross.

Do we really think that the false judgment of men heaped upon Christ would pay the debt for all humankind’s sin?  Do we really think that a crown of thorns and whips and nails and a wooden cross and all the other facets of the crucifixion that we glamorize are powerful enough to save us?

Picture Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As he kneels before his Father, drops of sweat and blood fall together from his head.  Why is he in such agony and pain?  The answer is not because he is afraid of crucifixion.  He is not trembling because of what the Roman soldiers are about to do to him.

Since that day countless men and woman in the history of Christianity have died for their faith.  Some of them were not just hung on crosses; they were burned there.  Many of them went to their crosses singing.

One Christian in India, while being skinned alive, looked at his persecutors and said, “I thank you for this.  Tear off my old garment, for I will soon put on Christ’s garment of righteousness.”

As he prepared to head to his execution, Christopher Love wrote a note to his wife, saying, “Today they will sever me from my physical head, but they cannot sever me from my spiritual head, Christ.”  As he walked to his death, his wife applauded while he sang of glory.

Did these men and women in Christian history have more courage than Christ himself?  Why was he trembling in that garden, weeping and full of anguish?  We can rest assured that he was not a coward about to face Roman soldiers.  Instead he was a Savior about to endure divine wrath.

Listen to his words: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  The “cup” is not a reference to a wooden cross; it is a reference to divine judgment.  It is the cup of God’s wrath.

This is what Jesus is recoiling from in the garden.  All God’s holy wrath and hatred toward sinners, stored up since the beginning of the world, is about to be poured out on him, and he is sweating blood at the thought of it.

What happened at the Cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus’ hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon his soul.  In that holy moment, all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us came rushing down like a torrent on Christ himself.  Some say, “God looked down and could not bear to see the suffering that the soldiers were inflicting on Jesus, so he turned away.”  But this is not true.  God turned away because he could not bear to see your sin and my sin on his Son.

One preacher described it as if you and I were standing a short hundred yards away from a dam of water ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide.  All of a sudden that dam was breached, and a torrential flood of water came crashing toward us.  Right before it reached out feet, the ground in front of us opened up and swallowed it all.  At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God, and when he had downed the last drop, he turned the cup over and cried out, “It is finished.”

This is the gospel.  The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the Resurrection so that all who trust in him will be reconciled to God forever.

AMEN!

Excerpted from the book Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt