We have opposing viewpoints from two well-known men of God, both preachers and best-selling authors. This is based on the recent sermon from the much younger of the two. David Platt, author of Radical, pastor and prodigy of the Southern Baptist Convention, laid down the gauntlet with a bold, foundation rattling statement that rocked the Christian establishment. He has gotten many evangelicals, even the SBC itself, to reconsider a very core practice of our faith and ask the questions, “Have many Christian, believing they have been saved, been misled?” And “How does a minister follow the biblical method of leading a lost soul, ready and willing, to commit their life to Jesus Christ?”
Platt elaborated on his provocative beliefs when he spoke at the 2012 Verge Conference in Austin, TX. He gave a sermon titled, God’s glory among the nations. In the sermon, as in his book Radical, Platt addresses the growing problem of apathy in American churches. In his sermon he addresses what he considers to be a primary cause. He believes many were fooled into believing they were saved, when they truly were not. He blames modern false teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Platt, the whole idea that we can “accept Jesus into our hearts” through prayer is superstitious and unbiblical.
That’s a bold statement, worthy of consideration. As Christians we are taught (biblically) to discern the teaching of our church leaders for ourselves. Let’s compare Platt’s message with the message of a well-known evangelist who has devoted his life to doing that very thing, asking people to “accept Jesus into their hearts,” Billy Graham. Watch these short video’s, a sample sermon from each minister, and let our mind and more importantly, our spirit, discern who’s speaking God’s Word and leading the lost to find salvation.
Here’s a quote from Platt’s sermon highlighting his main point, in case you need additional clarification on his statement:
“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life,” Platt said. “Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’? It’s not the gospel we see being preached, it’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls. It’s a very dangerous thing to lead people to think that they are a Christian, when they have not biblically responded to the Gospel.”
Now, let’s watch and listen to a sermon from Billy Graham, one of those “modern evangelists” whom Platt describes as having preached such a “superstitious prayer” and asked sinners if they are willing to “accept Jesus into their hearts” and “invite Jesus Christ into their lives.”
If witnessing that sermon from Reverend Graham doesn’t quicken your spirit and make you want to “accept Jesus into your heart”, whether for the first time or the one hundredth, you may be right to question your faith. If it seems unfair to compare the young up and coming Platt to the more experienced and esteemed Billy Graham, it most likely is. That’s because one is an anointed messenger speaking under the power and authority of the Almighty, and the other, an intellectual standing on the shoulders of theologians, whose words ring somewhat hollow of Spirit. That’s not to say Platt isn’t a true man of God. He is surely a brother in Christ doing the Lord’s work, but he’s selling a gimmick (explained further in a moment) and still has a journey ahead of him before receiving that true anointing.
To be fair, Platt apparently tried to make the point one cannot be saved in word alone. Surely no true believer could argue that, but the same could be said for his method or any other for sharing the Gospel with the lost. In listening to Billy Graham’s sermon, although he used the exact phrase Platt criticizes, “accept Jesus into your heart”, in no way does Dr. Graham imply that words alone are enough for salvation. He makes it clear the “heart” is a representation of a true commitment from within. Billy Graham set the standard for how modern evangelists should be a witness for God’s Word and effectively communicate what it means to be saved through Jesus Christ.
In a Christianity Today article, Platt responded that one can’t fully understand his message from a short clip. That’s true, and if you don’t want to pony up the $3.99 to hear the rest, I can tell you he doesn’t elaborate much further on his “superstitious prayers” claim. I can tell you what you do miss in the three minute segment is Platt venturing off into the realm of “disillusioning millions” himself with questionable teaching. Platt, with the same message as in his book Radical, places tremendous emphasis on the Great Commission.
There’s nothing wrong with that, yet while he mentions local missions, he clearly puts greater importance on global missions. He then goes on to endorse and quote from George Eldon Ladd and the doctrine of Kingdom Theology (the gimmick referred to). Kingdom Theology is a tenant of the Vineyard Movement, a neo-charismatic denomination that according to Wikipedia, “ describe themselves as the ‘radical middle’ between evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is a reference to the book The Quest for the Radical Middle, a historical survey of the Vineyard by Bill Jackson” (Name of book sound familiar?).
In a nut shell, Kingdom Theology asserts that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will not occur until Christians have completed the Great Commission, and the fact that He has not yet returned is evidence that Christians have not yet fulfilled Jesus’ command to go and take the Gospel to all nations, supported by Matthew 24:14 which states, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
One could make a case for Kingdom Theology if we take that verse alone and use it out of context. However, when we study the full chapter, and read the verses before and after, Jesus isn’t saying at all that He’s not returning until Man completes a task. In the beginning of Matthew 24, the disciples ask Jesus about the end of the world and Jesus tells of the signs to come for the end times, giving a vivid description of His Second coming. It’s quite a powerful and exciting point in scripture.
In Matthew 24:6-7, the signs are famine, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, false teachers, as well as persecution and murder of Christians (sounds like today’s headlines). Then the good news comes in verse 13, “but he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Now read verse 14, “And this gospel shall be preached in all the world as a witness…” ‘This gospel’ or ‘this good news’ for Christians being that we will have suffering, but those who endure will be rescued (to be with God). Remaining faithful, even through adversity, is our testimony. Overcoming through Christ is our witness to all nations. Man didn’t have to complete some monumental divine task for the coming of Jesus the first time, neither will we for His Second Coming.
The next problematic teaching of Kingdom Theology is that when it comes to The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, it puts more weight of importance on traveling to foreign lands and seeking out societies that have never heard or are less exposed to the gospel. Platt plainly says, “We can’t be content to just sit in one place.” The key to global missions being more important than local missions is, according to Platt, all about “access”, to the Gospel. Platt states in his sermon that we Americans have plenty of opportunity to hear God’s word while many foreign nations such as Yemen and North Korea do not.
This down plays the importance of the average Joe plumber or homemaker, who is not called to be a third world missionary. It’s as if to say that a quiet ministry, raising our children to serve the Lord, working dutifully at our jobs, being an example in our lives for Christ and a witness for those around us while on our daily walk, is less significant. That doctrine simply is biased and does not hold up scripturally. It may not be as exciting a story in church, but sharing the gospel with our family and neighbors is just as pleasing to the Lord as converting someone from a Muslim or Communist nation that has never heard of Jesus.
Indeed, many pagan nations will suffer because they’ve denied the one true God— tragically, a fate this country is well on it’s way to sharing. To be clear, every believer is called to a specific purpose and all believers are to be a witness for Christ as they are fulfilling their calling. Certainly, global missionaries taking the gospel to isolated or persecuted people groups, that are lost, suffering and in great need, are admirable servants. However, a man, even a missionary, who stands up and tells others, “Look at me and all the good works I’m doing for the Lord, why aren’t you doing the same?” reminds us of the parable The Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus said,
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:10-14 NKJV).”
The truth is, believing or not in the Kingdom Theology interpretation of the Great Commission or the Second Coming will neither damn any souls nor rescue them. However, it does cross over into more of a “good works” philosophy as opposed to “grace” taught by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2. The point of comparing these sermons with opposing views and exploring the doctrine of Kingdom Theology is this; we as believers are to discern for ourselves the messages of our church leaders and pastors. An anointed man of God is a rare thing, but there will be many false teachers in the final days (Matthew 24).
We should not blindly follow anyone without affirming their teachings for ourselves. We should never venture off too far into the words of men or spend more time reading paperbacks than the inspired word of God in our bibles. When a doctrine comes with a few short “proof verses”, and we are told to fill in the gaps with man’s interpretation, we should immediately begin to question. The good news is we can rest assured knowing that when we seek truth and understanding through prayer and study, from the one true source that is the Lord and His word, He will reveal it to us. Jesus taught us,
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened (Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV).