Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream


David Platt

Multnomah Books, 2010, 230 pp.   ISBN 978-1-60142-221-7


David Platt is the thirty-something pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a 4000-member congregation in Birmingham.  David contrasts what Jesus said disciples would be and do with what we tend to be and do as churches and Christians living in a North American culture.  Exploring the biblical gospel, we will discover that “our life is found in giving ourselves for the sake of others in the church, among the lost, and among the poor.” (21)


Chapter One.  Someone Worth Losing Everything For - What Radical Abandonment to Jesus Really Means

“Jesus apparently wasn’t interested in marketing himself to the masses.  His invitations to potential followers were clearly more costly than the crowds were ready to accept, and he seemed to be ok with that.” (2)  “Jesus actually spurned the things that my church culture said were most important.”  (2) 


 “I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe.” (3)  “…somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.  We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” (7)


“While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark.” (14)


“For the sake of more than a billion people today who have yet to even hear the gospel, I want to risk it all.  For the sake of twenty-six thousand children who will die today of starvation or a preventable disease, I want to risk it all. …” (19) 


Chapter Two.  Too Hungry for Words - Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Gospel

“Fundamentally, the gospel is the revelation of who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to him.”  “…we desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.” (28)


“Everything in all creation responds in obedience to the Creator…until we get to you and me.  We have the audacity to look God in the face and say, ‘No.’” (31)   


“Biblical proclamation of the gospel beckons us to a much different response and leads us down a much different road.  Here the gospel demands and enables us to turn from our sin, to take up our cross, to die to ourselves, and to follow Jesus.  These are the terms and phrases we see in the Bible. … Jesus is no longer one to be accepted or invited in but one who is infinitely worthy of our immediate and total surrender.” (39)


Chapter Three. Beginning at the End of Ourselves - The Importance of Relying on God’s Power

“The question for us, then, is whether we trust in his power.  And the problem for us is that in our culture we are tempted at every turn to trust in our own power instead.” (45)  “The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability.”  “Even more important is the subtly fatal goal we will achieve…to our own glory.”  (46) 


“This is how God works.  He puts his people in positions where they are desperate for his power, and then he shows his provision in ways that display his greatness. …  I am concerned that all of us—pastors and church members in our culture—have blindly embraced an American dream mentality that emphasizes our abilities and exalts our names in the ways we do church. … We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith.”(48-50)


“What if God in all his might is simply waiting to show his power in a people who turn their backs on a philosophy of life that exalts their supposed ability to do anything they want and who instead confess their desperate need for him?” (54)


“This is the great promise of God in prayer.  We ask God for gifts in prayer, and he gives us the Giver.  We ask God for supply, and he gives us the Source.  We ask God for money, and he doesn’t give us cash; instead, so to speak, he gives us the bank!” (58)  “…the resources of heaven are ready and waiting for the people of God who desire to make much of him in this world.” (59) 


“It is the way of Christ.  Instead of asserting ourselves, we crucify ourselves.  Instead of imagining all the things we can accomplish, we ask God to do what only he can accomplish.” (60)


Chapter Four.  The Great Why of God - God’s Global Purpose from the Beginning Till Today

“Meanwhile, Jesus commands us to go.  He has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical Christianity.” (64)


In Genesis 1, God created human beings in his image.  He created them for fellowship but he also commanded them to multiply and fill the earth, to extend his glory to the ends of the earth.  In every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history, God is pouring out his grace on his people for the sake of his glory among all peoples.  (65)


“The Egyptians and all the nations after them knew that he is the Lord and he saves his people.  God blessed his people in a miraculous way so that his salvation would be made known among all peoples.” (66) 


“God goes so far as to say that when he acts among his people, he doesn’t show his grace, mercy, and justice for their sake but for the sake of his own holy name among the nations.” (Ezekiel 36:22-23) (68)  “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.” (79) 


“‘God loves me’ is not the essence of biblical Christianity. … ‘God loves me, so that I might make him—his ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatness—known among all nations.’  … We are not the end of the gospel; God is … We have received salvation so that his name will be proclaimed in all nations.  God loves us for his sake in the world.” “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.” (70-71) 


“But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church?”  “Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations.” (72)    “We have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all.” (73)


What about the needs here?  “They are smoke screens because most of us really are not very concerned about the needs right around us.” (75)  “As we have seen all over Scripture, God’s heart is for the world.  So when we say we have a heart of the United States, we are admitting that we have a meager 5 percent of God’s heart, and we are proud of it.”  “Certainly there are great needs here.  But must we insist on dividing the Great Commission into an either-or proposition? …shouldn’t every Christian’s heart be ultimately consumed with how we can make God’s glory known in all the world?” (76)


“Because from cover to cover the Bible teaches that all the church…is created to reflect all the glory of God to all the world.” (77)


Chapter Five.  The Multiplying Community - How All of Us Join Together to Fulfill God’s Purpose

“But Jesus is so different from us. … his revolution would not revolve around the masses or the multitudes.  Instead it would revolve around a few men. …who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, teach as he did, and serve as he did.  All he needed was to revolutionize  the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.” (88)


He told the disciples, ‘Now you go out and do the same with others.’  Any Christian can do this.  Jesus says every Christian must to this. (90)


When we read about Jesus teaching, we mustn’t mentally jump to a classroom.  “On the contrary, the world was a perpetual classroom for Jesus and his disciples, providing opportunities for instruction at every moment.” (99) 


When there is teaching we must jump from our self-centered mindset (What can I get out of this?) to ask, “How can I listen to his Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others?  (102)  “Making disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching people the Word of Christ and enabling them to do the same thing in other people’s lives—this is the plan God has for each of us to impact nations for the glory of Christ.” (103)   


“Whereas disinfecting Christians involves isolating them and teaching them to be good, discipling Christians involves propelling Christians into the world to risk their lives for the sake of others.” (105)


Chapter Six. How Much is Enough? - American Wealth and a World of Poverty

“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.” (108)  “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.” (109)


“Caring for the poor is one natural overflow and a necessary evidence of the presence of Christ in our hearts.  If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts.” (110)


“I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, ‘How could they live in such big houses?  How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes?  How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn’t have food and water?  How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t even exist?’” (111)


In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, “I am much like the rich man, and the church I lead looks a lot like him too. … Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate.” (115)  We find no verse in the New Testament where God’s people are told to build a majestic place of worship.  (117)  What are our priorities?  In the U.S. we spend more than $10 billion each year on church buildings.  Church real estate is worth more than $230 billion.  (118)


 “Our possessions can be deadly.  They can be subtly deadly.”  “We are fine with thinking of affluence, comfort, and material possessions as blessings.  But they cannot be barriers.  We think the way the world thinks—that wealth is always to our advantage.  But Jesus is saying the exact opposite.  He is saying that wealth can be a dangerous obstacle.” (125)


“Why not begin operating under the idea that God has given us excess, not so we could have more, but so we could give more?” (127)


What would happen…if we stopped asking how much we could spare and started asking how much it was going to take?” (130)


“…the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war.  It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably.” (136)  “Ultimately, I don’t want to miss eternal treasure because I settle for earthly trinkets.” (138)


Chapter Seven.  There is No Plan B - Why Going is Urgent, Not Optional   [Apologetic against universalism]

Americans believe all men are created equal and we tend to extrapolate that to faith, that all religious views are equal.  There are two errors of universalism: 1) believing that one doesn’t have to trust Christ for salvation (intellectual universalism) and 2) living as if people will be okay in the end without Christ (practical universalism). (142)


“If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.”  (143)


The author’s exposition of Romans demonstrates that all are guilty before God, are condemned for rejecting God, and need God’s way of salvation that comes through faith in Christ—which is the church’s responsibility.  “This is God’s plan.  He sends servants, and his servants preach.” (155)  “So there you have it—the simple divine plan for taking the gospel to all peoples of the world.

God sends his servants. ® His servants preach. ®People hear.  ®

Hearers believe. ® Believers call.  ®Everyone who calls is saved.” (156)


The one potential breakdown is when the servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples.  (156)


“A soft-drink company in Atlanta has done a better job getting brown sugar water to these people than the church of Jesus Christ has done in getting the gospel to them.” (159) 


“This is a case worth living for.  It is a cause worth dying for. … Some wonder if it is unfair for God to allow so many to have no knowledge of the gospel.  But there is no injustice in God.  The injustice lies in Christians who possess the gospel and refuse to give their lives to making it known among those who haven’t heard.  That is unfair.” (159)


“In the middle of a Christian culture asking, ‘How do I find God’s will for my life?’ I bring good news.  His will is not lost.”  “The question, therefore is not ‘Can we find God’s will?’ The question is ‘Will we obey God’s will?’”  (160)


Chapter Eight.  Living When Dying is Gain - The Risk and Reward of the Radical Life

“The reward of the American dream is safety, security, and success found in more comfort, better stuff, and greater prosperity.  But the reward of Christ trumps all these things and beckons us to live for an eternal safety, security, and satisfaction that far outweigh everything this world has to offer us.” (171-72) 


“The key is realizing—and believing—that this world is not your home. …we must focus our lives on another world, …a heavenly one. … If your life or my life is going to count on earth, we must start by concentrating on heaven.”  (179)


“This, we remember, is the great reward of the gospel: God himself.  When we risk our lives to run after Christ, we discover the safety that is found only in his sovereignty, the security that is found only in his love, and the satisfaction that is found only in his presence.  This is the eternally great reward, and we would be foolish to settle for anything less.” (181)


Chapter Nine.  The Radical Experiment - One Year to a Life Turned Upside Down

The challenge is for one year:

  1.  Pray for the entire world.  []
  2. Read through the entire Word.  [Use any Bible reading plan.]
  3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose. [Select some project or cause and get involved in it.]
  4. Spend your time in another context.  [2%, enough time for a mission trip]
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community. 


Jesus told his disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers (Mt 9:36-38).  “When Jesus looked at the harassed and helpless multitudes, apparently his concern was not that the lost would not come to the Father.  Instead his concern was that his followers would not go to the lost.” (187) 


“When God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check.  He sent himself—the Son.”  “If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is.  It will happen primarily through giving ourselves.”  (198) 


“Going starts where we live, but it doesn’t stop there….  If there are a billion people who have never heard the gospel and billions of others who still have not received the gospel, then we have an obligation to go to them.  This is not an option.  This is a command, not a calling.  What is a matter of calling is where we will go and how long we will stay.  We will not all go to the same places, and we will not all stay the same length of time.  But it is clearly the will of God for us to take the gospel to the nations.”  (200) 




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