The counter culture in America…
March 17th, 2019
I’m rereading Radical by David Platt. It’s been a couple of years since I first encountered the book and it’s got enough content in it that going through it repeatedly is probably the only way to grasp some concepts that lay in the text. They aren’t hidden at all. The text is engaging enough you can easily become focused on one aspect while another slips by your eyes.
I’m not sure if David came up with the reference “American Jesus”, and I’m fairly sure that when the book was first released even though he used this term to identify the social gospel present in America, he surely couldn’t have foreseen this scourge overshadowing the church in the United States as it does today. Nor could Pastor Platt expect that that gospel that runs contrary to the words of Jesus would have become so predominate and today be exported to the world.
I mentioned the film American Gospel in the last couple weeks and gave a link to it on YouTube. It was perhaps that film that prompted me to go back through David’s writing with a different perspective than the wide-eyed reader I was a few years ago.
The American Jesus
I will not put words in David Platt’s mouth, but if he were to pen Radical today, I think he might have started out the book focused more on the False Christ that exists in America today. He ties the American Jesus to the contradictory image of the Jesus of the American Dream fulfilled contrary to the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus in the scripture laid down challenge after challenge to potential disciples.
Beginning in Luke chapter nine the fifty-seventh verse, Luke recalls three men who approached Jesus seeking to become his followers.
Jesus responded with three separate challenges; one to each of them men.
The first told Jesus that he would follow Jesus everywhere. To him…
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Luke 9:58 (ESV)
The next was okay with the first response and told Jesus that he would be right there with him but first he must go bury his dad. Jesus retorted…
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60 (ESV)
The third man was undaunted by the responses that Jesus gave the first two and told Jesus let me run home and say goodbye to my family, and I am with you Jesus! The response to him was…
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62 (ESV)
Disheartening words for each of these men.
The American Jesus doesn’t do that. The gospel of the American Jesus is inspirational and inclusive. It assures us we are all God’s people, and he loves every one of us willing to forgive us for all of our shortcomings. We can be rich and healthy; successful in every aspect of what the American Dream offers us.
But when this false Christ does not deliver on his promises, his disciples scatter to the winds. No commitment to be obedient to the Jesus of the Bible.
Even worse is if there is health, wealth, and earthly treasure to be gained. Worse because this false Jesus doesn’t insist on commitment, doesn’t call for sacrifice, and does not atone for the sin in the lives of its followers.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
I could step through every property of these people talked about by Paul, and you’d find all of them in the American Church, following the American Jesus, and embracing the American Dream.
The Jesus of the Bible calls for commitment and change in the disciple.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24 (ESV)
The American Jesus doesn’t tell the follower they must rise up with the instrument of their suffering, deny their passion and desires to follow. No, the American Jesus, would never call for that.
The Jesus of the Bible does.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are
being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep
to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)
Reflecting back on David’s book and the contrast of the church with the new multimillion church building proud of the mere $5,000 that they raised for famine relief of starving people made me sick.
There are churches all across the United States that have sprawling campuses with lush landscapes and expensive concert halls for sanctuary’s, where flashy productions are put on every week and they do not preach the Gospel of the Christ of the Bible.
If this were only affecting the leadership of these churches, this criminal adulteration of the Gospel that exists would be one thing, but these churches are discipling apostate followers who are doomed to hell and don’t have a clue of the clutches they have fallen into, because it feels good and sounds great and it makes them feel so privileged to be a part of.
They have been duped by the American Jesus and while they don’t have the love and compassion of the Messiah living in them; it satisfies their ears with the music and excitement found in the special effects and lights that are filling the room. The message isn’t too bad either, nothing too difficult to deal with, after all they are all family with the American Jesus.
Paul lays it on the line in the second letter to Timothy…
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:10-13 (ESV)
When we surrender our lives to the Jesus of the Bible, the true Christ, we die to this flesh with Jesus and are raised in the Spirit to a new life in him. We live with the Spirit of Christ in us. If he was to suffer, we will suffer as well. If we deny him, He will deny us. Even in periods of our faithlessness, he remains faithful because he simply cannot deny himself.
The Messiah of the scripture is a different Jesus than the one that is being pushed to prominence in America and now across the globe. He’s radically different, and so are those who would be his disciples.
In Jesus, the true vine,