Counter Culture and the Gospel

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“Consequently, we must be careful across the church not to minimize the magnitude of what it means to follow Christ . . . The gospel is a call for everyone of us to die – to die to sin and to die to self – and to live with unshakable trust in Christ, choosing to follow his Word even when it brings us into clear confrontation with out culture.”

David Platt Counter Culture, p. 180

I recently read David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. Platt, former pastor of the mega church The Hills at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and New York Times bestselling author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, is now the head of the International Mission Board for the Southern Baptist Convention. Counter Culture is an extraordinary book especially within the cultural milieu the church currently is in. His book is a passionate call to rouse a dormant church in the midst of a culture desperately in need of the gospel, urging for faithfulness to that call regardless of the costs.

In the book he discusses nearly all of the contentious issues of the day, not simply by quoting Scripture, but also showing the rationale and ultimately the compassion of the Christian position. At one point near the end, he references Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV)

In this passage, he reminds Christians that a past action (“I have been crucified with Christ) brings a new identity (“I now live by faith”). But with this new identity comes a call that at times the Church seems to minimize, or lessen in severity in a feeble attempt to attract more people to the gospel. That is where the opening quote comes from (please read it again!).

Succinctly, in my view, Platt reminds all Christians that:

  • To minimize the call of the gospel is to distort the gospel;
  • The call of Christ is unmistakable – come and die, so that you can truly live!
  • Obeying this call will bring us into confrontation with culture at large!

Allow me to close by raising a few questions based on these three points:

  • How have you seen the church attempt to minimize the call of Christ?
  • If the call of Christ is unmistakable, and it truly is “come and die”, have you?
  • Why are we so fearful of clashing with a culture that admittedly doesn’t know God?

I pray you’ll wrestle with these questions today as they challenge you to evaluate your call from God, and as soon as you can get Platt’s book, and feast on it!

RA

A Newspaper and the Bible

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It’s been said to read both the newspaper and the Bible every day.

This past Saturday morning I was pretty depressed and downright angry.

Why?

I read the newspaper (online!), and the Bible much later.

Ugh!

Every morning I follow a similar routine. After I get ready for work, I first go to a local coffee shop to drink coffee and eat breakfast. The thing to know is that I’m not there for the coffee or food. My distinct purpose is to read the daily news, and then at least begin my Quiet Time with God, which will usually continue as I get to the office or go to a local college library to do further research on various projects.

As I was doing this Saturday, I was overwhelmed by three of the first five stories I read online. To put it bluntly, I was aghast at what I repeatedly read from one story to another because of the brutality and the complete disregard for the gift of life! Here’s a brief summary of three of those stories based on various sources (as of Saturday morning);

  • 43 college students in southern Mexico have been missing since September. They were last seen traveling to the city of Iguala for a protest seeking to raise money for their school. Last week a break in the case finally came when three people were arrested and supposedly said the mayor of the city ordered the students to be abducted and turned over to a Mexican gang because their protest would interfere with the mayor and his wife’s plans for the day! The gang promptly killed the students, burned them for hours among tires and any other debris they could find, and then dumped the remains in the river.
  • A mother and her boyfriend were arrested this week on charges of murdering and torturing her three year-old son. The alleged reason for this heinous crime – her son wouldn’t eat his breakfast! For that, the report says, they hanged him by his feet, bashed his head into a wall, whipped him with various implements, etc. The police have said it’s the worst case of child abuse they’ve ever seen.
  • In 2010, a husband, wife, and their two young sons were murdered by blunt force to the head in their home outside San Diego. After being killed at home, they were buried in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert. Their remains were finally found in late 2013, and this week, the husband’s business partner was charged with those murders. Why did this business partner allegedly murder this entire family? Investigators don’t have a clue!

You see why I was so upset? So without finishing my quest for the latest news, I finally turned to the Word of God, and this is one of the many verses that distinctly spoke to me:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;

  ensure justice for those being crushed. 

Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

    and see that they get justice.”

Prov. 31:8-9 (NLT)

This, and several other verses challenged me not to simply feel sad and despondent about the stories, but to realize we as Christians are called to do something about them:

  • Never live by ‘putting your head in the sand’. It’s easy to think, “Just stop reading the newspaper”, but we must be aware of what’s going on around us, no matter how depressing it might be.
  • Speak and demand justice for the victims who can no longer speak! We must hold our government officials and court systems (federal and state) accountable for ensuring justice occurs in our land.
  • Care for the families that are suffering.
  • Feel the pain and despair, and even cry! Stories like this should make us cry and yearn for that day when we will no longer see stories like this.

The misery and hopelessness of the world should never overwhelm us, but should be a call to action as the people of God: “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21 NIV)

And lastly, always remember we should read the newspaper and the Bible every day – both will give us a proper perspective on life: one, what life is like around us, and the other, how we should live in the midst of such a life.

RA