David Platt

B. Childress
Aug 25 2013

THROUGHOUT SCRIPTURE, God uses the picture of adoption to describe his relationship with his people.  This picture
became all the more poignant for my wife, Heather, and me when we chose to adopt our first son.

We began the process by deciding on the place from which we might adopt.  We put a map of the world on the table and
we prayed, “Lord, direct us to the child that you desire for us.”  He led us to adopt internationally from the country of
Kazakhstan.  I barely knew Kazakhstan existed before this process, but after months of praying, we submitted our
application to adopt a Kazakh child.

Shortly thereafter, I remember telling a woman that we were adopting a child internationally.  She responded, “A real
one?”  I thought to myself,
What kind of question is that?  No, We’re going to adopt a plastic one and put it on our
mantel to look at.  Yes, we’re adopting a real child!
 Though I responded with more tenderness than I felt inside, the
reality began to set in: we were going to be a real mommy and a real daddy for a real son or daughter who, at that
moment, had no real family to care for him or her.

The process of international adoption can be long and in many ways grueling.  Some have described it as a paperwork
pregnancy.  You virtually have to demonstrate to two governments that you are the ideal family.  First, we had to
undergo a home study, which was a bit of a challenge since our house had recently been submerged by Hurricane
Katrina in New Orleans.  Through the help of our family and various churches, we put together a makeshift apartment as
fast as we could.  A social worker visited us and asked questions about our lives, families, marriage, and parenting
philosophy.  As part of the home study, we had to be finger printed by what seemed like every type of government or
civic organization in the United States.

Then Heather and I had to get a physical that would verify a clean bill of health for us as parents.  We went to the   
doctor’s office, and everything was going well until we got to the eye chart.  I went first, and I still maintain that the lighting
was dim in the hallway where we stood.  With my hand over my right eye, I began reading the large letters, but before
long I was struggling with the medium-sized letters.  I started sweating, thinking,
I can’t fail this eye exam and delay the
adoption process
.  The nurse knew I was not doing well, so she suggested I switch eyes.  I took my hand off my right
eye, only to find that in my nervousness I had been pressing down hard on that eye, and everything was blurry. I couldn’t
even read the top letters now.  I was visibly flustered, and the nurse said, “Why don’t you calm down, sir, move over, and
let your wife go?  Then you can try again.

“That sounds great,” I said, stepping aside to regain my composure and refocus my vision.  Once I was able to do that,
and as Heather was still completing her exam, with both eyes open I looked down at the letters and memorized them.  
When it was my turn to try again, I stood confidently with one eye covered and read off every single letter.  The nurse
was pleased that I was now getting them correct, and I thought to myself,
Hey, if you want me to, I can do this with both
eyes covered!

With home studies, fingerprints, and physicals past us, we began the long, agonizing process of waiting.  Every single
day, we thought about our child, wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and longing for the day when we could hold that
little one in our arms.

Finally, about a year later, I received an e-mail.  It was a picture of a boy.  Nine months old.  Abandoned at birth.  In need
of a home, a mom, and a dad.  I printed out the picture and ran to show it to Heather.  We laughed, we cried, we
rejoiced, we prayed, and within two weeks, we were on a plane, headed to Kazakhstan.

It was the day after Valentine’s Day in 2007.  Upon arrival in our son’s city, we were immediately taken to his orphanage,
where the director met us and escorted us into a small room.  She shared all sorts of medical information with us about
our son, and then it happened.  A woman rounded the corner with a precious ten-month-old-boy in her arms.  Words
really can’t describe the immediate swell of emotion that filled the room.  The woman handed him to us, and for the first
time, Caleb Platt looked into the eyes of a mom and a dad.

For the next four weeks, we visited Caleb in his orphanage.  We held him, fed him, sang to him, laughed with him, and
crawled all over the floor with him until the day finally came for us to adopt him.  We were instructed on what to wear,
what to say, and what to expect when we stood before a Kazakh judge.  Our hearts were pounding in that courtroom as
the proceeding played out.  After a number of questions and testimonies concerning Caleb’s background, the judge
pronounced, “I grant this application of adoption, and this child now belongs to David and Heather Platt.”  We left the
room with tears streaming from our eyes, ready to pick up Caleb from his orphanage for the last time.

The parallels between Caleb’s story and the gospel story are many, but I want to point out one that is particularly
significant.  Adoption like this begins with a parent’s initiative, not a child’s idea.  Before Caleb was even born in
Kazakhstan, he had a mom and a dad working to adopt him.  While Caleb was lying alone at night in an orphanage in
Kazakhstan, he had a mom and a dad planning to adopt him.  And one day when Caleb was placed in the arms of his
mom and dad, he had no idea all that had been done, completely apart from any initiative in him, to bring him to that
point.  It seems obvious, but it is especially important; this precious ten-month-old boy did not invite us to come to him in
Kazakhstan to bring him into our family; he didn’t even know to ask for such a thing.  No, this orphaned child became our
cherished son because of a love that was entirely beyond his imagination and completely outside of his control.  He did
not pursue us, for he was utterly unable to do so.  Instead, we pursued him.

This is the heart of Christianity, and we are prone to miss it when we describe becoming a follower of Jesus as inviting
him into our hearts.  The reality of the gospel is that we do not become God’s children ultimately because of initiative in
us, and he does not provide salvation primarily because of an invitation from us.  Instead, before we were ever born,
God was working to adopt us.  While we were lying alone in the depth of our sin, God was planning to save us.  And the
only way we can become part of the family of God is through a love entirely beyond our imagination and completely out
of our control.  Christianity does not begin with our pursuit of Christ, but with Christ’s pursuit of us.  Christianity does not
start with an invitation we offer to Jesus, but with an invitation Jesus offers to us.


Consider the biblical background leading up to that fateful day for those four fishermen who first heard Jesus’ invitation
to follow him.  This story in the first book of the New Testament takes us all the way back to the first book of the Old
Testament.  There in Genesis, the first man and first woman sinned against God and were separated from his
presence.  Orphaned from their Creator as a result of their rebellion, the rest of the Old Testament tells the story of their
sinful descendants.

Murder, wickedness, sexual immorality, and corruption soon saturate the pages of the Bible.  Only six chapters in, it
becomes clear that the inclination of every person’s heart is consistently evil, beginning from childhood (Genesis 6:5; 8:
21).  The judgment of God on the depravity of man is both dreadful and devastating as he floods the entire world and
then destroys sinful cities.

A perusal through the pages of the Old Testament shows severe punishment toward sin and sinners alike:

  • As fire from heaven rains down on Sodom and Gomorrah, God instructs Lot and his family to flee and not look
    back toward these cities.  In disobedience, Lot’s wife glances back and suddenly loses her life (Genesis 19).

  • After the fire falls on Mount Sinai in a display of God’s glory, God gives his law and instructs his people to rest on
    the Sabbath.  Not long thereafter, a man is caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and he is brought before the
    Lord for judgment.  In response to this man’s sin and disobedience, the Lord declares that he should be stoned to
    death (Numbers 15).

  • The same fare befalls Achan and his family when they disobey God’s command not to keep plunder from a battle
    (Joshua 7).

  • Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offer unauthorized fire before the Lord in the Tabernacle, and they are
    immediately consumed (Leviticus 10).

  • Though commanded not to touch the Ark of the Covenant, Uzzah reaches out to keep it from falling, and he
    immediately dies (II Samuel 6).

Many people read stories like these in the Old Testament and walk away confused.  After all, isn’t God a God of love?  
Aren’t these punishments for sin a bit severe?  Annihilated for looking backward?  Stoned for picking up sticks?  
Consumed for one wrong offering and killed for one inadvertent touch?

Such questions, though honest, reveal a fundamental problem with our perspective.  We naturally view sin through man-
centered eyes.  The reason we wonder if these punishments are overly harsh is because we cannot imagine ever
responding this way if the offenses were against us.  When people disobey us or do something we have asked them not
to do, we don’t conclude that they should die.

Yet the penalty for sin is not determined by our measure of it.  Instead, the penalty for sin is determined by the
magnitude of the one who is sinned against.  If you sin against a log, you are not very guilty.  On the other hand, if you
sin against a man or a woman, then you are absolutely guilty.  And ultimately, if you sin against an infinitely holy and
eternal God, you are infinitely guilty and worthy of eternal punishment.

Azeem, an Arab follower of Jesus and a friend of mine, was sharing the gospel recently with a taxi driver in his country.  
The driver believed that he would pay for his sin for a little while in hell, but then he would surely go to heaven after that.  
After all, he hadn’t done too many bad things.

So Azeem said to him, “If I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?”

The driver replied, “I would throw you out of my taxi.”

Azeem continued, “If I went up to a random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?”

The driver said, “He would probably call his friends and beat you up.”

Azeem, “What if I went up to a policeman and slapped him in the face?  What would he do to me?”

The driver replied, “you would be beat up for sure, and then thrown into jail.”

Finally, Azeem posed this question: “What if I went to the king of this country and slapped him in the face?  What would
happen to me then?”

The driver looked at Azeem and awkwardly laughed.  He told Azeem, “You would die.”

To this Azeem said, “So you see that the severity of sin’s punishment is always a reflection of the position of the person
who is sinned against.”  The driver thus realized that he had been severely underestimating the seriousness of his sin
against God.

How about you?  Have you underestimated the seriousness of your sin?  The likelihood is that you may have been led to
do so in the church.  For far too long we have convinced one another that we are basically good people who have simply
made some bad decisions.  Whether we’ve lied or cheated or stolen or taken God’s name in vain, we’ve all made
mistakes.  We just need to invite Jesus to come into our hearts, and he will forgive us of all these things.

But assuming that we can even make this kind of invitation shows that we don’t grasp the gravity of our sinfulness.  In
our sin, we are utterly unable to call on Christ because we are totally consumed with running from God.  At the core of
who we are, we are enemies of God with no real desire for God.  Sure, we’ll take a quick fix for our sin when it’s offered
to us – tell us the prayer to pray or the words to say, and we’ll do it.  Yet deep down inside we’re still controlled by sinful
hearts that are looking for a way to save our skin while we live for ourselves.

Lest you think that I’m overstating our sinfulness, listen to the testimony of the Bible.

  • In our sin, we have alienated ourselves from God and are hostile toward him (Colossians 1:21).

  • We are slaves to our sin and dominated by Satan (John 8:34; II Timothy 2:26).

  • We love darkness and hate light (John 3:20; Ephesians 4:18).

  • We live in impurity and wickedness (Romans 6:19).

  • Our minds are depraved, blinded to truth by the god of this world (Romans 1:28; II Corinthians 4:4).

  • Our desires are disordered, our hearts are sinful, and the wicked passions of our flesh wage war against our souls
    (Romans 1:26; I Peter 2:11).

  • Our bodies are defiled.  We are morally evil and spiritually sick (Romans 1:24; Genesis 8:21; Matthew 9:12).

Hear Paul’s humbling New Testament testimony as he summarizes Old Testament truth:

There is no one righteous, not even one;

    there is no one who understands,

    no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,

    they have together become worthless;

There is no one who does good,

    not even one.

Their throats are open graves;

    their tongues practice deceit.

The poison of vipers is on their lips.

    their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are swift to shed blood;

    ruin and misery mark their ways,

And the way of peace they do not know.

    There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Romans 3:10-18

Do we realize all of this?  Our problem is not simply that we have made some bad decisions.  Our problem is not just that
we’ve messed up.  Our problem is that we are – at the very core of our being – rebels against God, and we are utterly
unable to turn to him.

This is what the Bible means when it says we are dead in sin.  When Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians and said,
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live,” (Ephesians 2:1-2) he meant that they were
completely dead.  Not partially dead.  Not almost dead.  Not halfway dead.  Not kind of dead.  Completely dead.

So how can people who are dead invite someone else to give them life?  Before you were born, did you invite your
parents to have you?  When a man’s heart is flatlined, does he invite people to resuscitate him?  No.  All of these things
are impossible for those who are dead.  Similarly, inviting Jesus to come into your heart is impossible when you’re dead
in sin.  In your death, you need someone else, completely outside of you, to call you to life and enable you to live.


This is what God does in his grace, and it’s precisely what we see all throughout the Bible.  In the midst of massive evil,
God calls Noah and saves him from the flood.  In the middle of pagan Ur, God calls idolatrous Abraham and invites him
to become the father of a great nation.  While his people work as slaves in Egypt, God calls the murderer Moses from
Midian to lead them out of slavery.  Upon their deliverance, God tells the people of Israel, whom he had called,

    The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other
    peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he
    swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery,
    from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

God chose to set his love on the Israelites not because of any merit in them but solely because of mercy in him.  

The trend continues.  Despite the obvious qualifications of all of Jesse’s other sons, God appoints the unlikely David to
become the king of Israel.  He calls prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Ezekiel.   God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed
you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
(Jeremiah 1:5).  From the mass of sinners throughout the Old Testament, God initiates relationships with men and
women that they might be the recipients of his grace for the display of his glory.

Therefore, we are not surprised when we get to the book of Matthew and see four sinful Jewish men standing by the
sea.  There is nothing in them to draw Christ to them.  Sometimes I hear sermons on Matthew 4:18-22 in which
preachers talk about all the reasons why Jesus would choose these fishermen to be his disciples.  “Fishermen have this
or that skill and hold this or that perspective, which would be essential for disciples of Jesus,” they say.

But such conjecture misses the whole point of the story.  Jesus is not calling these disciples
because of who they are,
in spite of who they are.  They do not have many qualities in their favor.  They are lower class, rural, uneducated
Galileans.  Likely not well respected, they are hardly the culturally elite.  Moreover, their exceeding ignorance, narrow-
minded ways, Jewish prejudices, and competitive pride make them the least spiritually qualified for the task to which
Jesus is calling them.

that is the point.  These men decidedly do not warrant Jesus’ pursuit.  Yet he comes to them.  He walks up to them in
the middle of their work, and he invites them to follow him.  Later he tells them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you
and appointed you.” (John 15:16).  These men become disciples of Jesus
solely because of the initiative – and invitation
– of Christ.

This same story is shared by every man and woman who has followed Jesus since that day described in Matthew 4.  No
one has ever been saved from their sins because they have pursued Jesus.  Everyone who has ever been saved from
their sins knows that they have been pursued by Jesus -  and their lives haven’t been the same since.


When we realize that Jesus is the one who takes the initiative and invites us to follow him, everything changes – on
multiple levels.  

First, our souls are struck by the greatness of the one who has called us.  We are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the
follow me because we are awed by the majesty of the “me” who says them.

Consider the eye-opening, jaw-dropping portrait of Jesus that Matthew paints leading up to this initial encounter between
Jesus and his first disciples (Matthew 1-4).  Matthew describes Jesus as the Savior who came to deliver men and women
from their sins.  He tells us that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah whom God’s people for centuries had eagerly
anticipated and anxiously awaited.  In his description of the Virgin Birth, Matthew puts Jesus’ full humanity and full deity
on display, making it clear that Jesus is unlike anyone else who has ever been, or will ever be, born.  Jesus’ birth is
heralded by a host of wise men who journey hundreds of miles to bow at his crib.  His ministry is preceded by John the
Baptist’s proclamation that the Savior King of the nations and the righteous Judge of all men has arrived.  At the end of
Matthew 3, heaven itself opens up, and God the Father declares, “This is my Son, whom I love.” (Matthew 3:17).  The
beginning of Matthew 4 portrays Jesus as the new Israel who will not succumb to sin and the new Adam who will reign
victorious over Satan.  After all this, when Jesus comes to these fishermen and says, “Follow me, and I will make you
fishers of men,” one thing is abundantly clear: Jesus is not some puny religious teacher begging for an invitation from
anyone.  He is the all-sovereign Lord who deserves submission from everyone.

I remember the first invitation I ever received from the White House.  When I opened my inbox and the subject line of the
e-mail said, “From the Office of the President of the United States,” I knew this was not my average correspondence.  As
I read the words, “The President requests the pleasure of your company on a certain date at a certain time in a certain
room of the White House,” I began to wonder if this was a joke or if this was real.  I did some research to find out whether
it was authentic, and it was.

The invitation was for the following week, and though my schedule is usually pretty full, I dropped everything I had on
that day in order to be at that appointment.  I quickly booked flights to Washington, DC, and made sure that I was there
in plenty of time to meet the president.  I was honored to have been invited by him, and I changed everything around to
respond to his invitation.

If this was my reaction – and I’m guessing yours might be similar – to a world leader of one country, a man who is in
power for four, maybe eight, years, then how much more does an invitation from the everlasting, ever-reigning God of
the entire universe in the flesh alter everything in our lives.  Do we realize the weight of the one who has invited us to
follow him?  He is worthy of more than church attendance and casual association; he is worthy of total abandonment and
supreme adoration.


Yet even the illustration of an invitation from the president fails to accurately picture the invitation of Christ.  For Jesus
has not invited us to journey to him; instead, he has made the journey to us.  What if instead of receiving an e-mail, I had
received a knock at my door, and there the president invited me to meet with him?

Cody is a member of our church who moved to Thailand to share the gospel with college students.  One night, a student
named Annan invited Cody to go to a movie.  The two of them arrived and sat down in the theater to watch the film, but
before it began, a video was shown about the king of Thailand.  Immediately, everyone in the theater rose and
applauded, including Annan.  Some people began to cry tears of joy.  As this short video played, people were visibly
moved simply by the sight of their king on the screen.

When the movie ended and Cody and Annan walked out of the theater, Cody asked, “Why did everyone react with such
emotion when the video about the Thai king was played?”

Annan responded, “Oh, Cody, we love, respect, and honor our king, for he is a king who cares for his people.  Our king
will often leave his palace and come to villages and communities in Thailand to be with the people – to know them and
identify with them.  We know that our king loves the Thai people, and we love him.

As Cody listened, he knew that this description was setting the stage for him to share the story of a much greater King.  
In the days to come, Cody told Annan about how God, the King over all the universe, loved us so much that he came to
us in the person of Jesus.  He came to identify with us, even to the point of taking all our sin upon himself, in order to
save us and to make it possible for us to follow him.  Upon understanding this glorious reality, Annan became a follower
of Jesus – not because he had been pursuing King Jesus, but because he realized that King Jesus had pursued him.


Do you realize the wonder of this?  Marvel at the majesty of the one who left his throne in glory to come to you and me.  
To multitudes of people in this world, this is the most outlandish of all claims.

“God would not debase himself by becoming a man,” a group of Muslim men told me in the Middle East.  We were sitting
together in a restaurant during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which Muslims fast during the day.  We were
eating dinner after sundown, and they began to ask me what I believe about God.  In response, I began to share about

When I told them that God had come to us in the person of Jesus, one of the men, Raahil, stopped me and said, “That is
not true.  God would never do that.  His character is too great.”

I replied, “I agree that God’s character is great, and that is precisely why he came to earth as a man.”

“I don’t understand,” Raahil responded.

I said, “Let me tell you a story and then ask you a question.”  Raahil consented, and I continued.  “The story is about me
and a girl.  I loved this girl, and I wanted to marry her.  So when it came time for me to tell her how much I loved her and
to ask her to marry me, do you think that I sent one of my friends to relay that message for me?”

Raahil replied, “No, of course not.  You need to be the one to tell her that you love her and to ask her to marry you.”

I said, “Exactly.  I needed to go to her and tell her myself, because in matters of love, one must go himself, right?”

Raahil responded, “Yes, that is right.”

Then I replied.  “This is how God shows the greatness of his character toward us.  He has not ultimately sent this person
or that prophet, this message or that messenger to communicate his love for us.  Instead, he has come himself, because
in matters of love, one must go himself.”

Raahil sat back and smiled.  I couldn’t help but think that for the first time his heart was opening to the idea that God
displays the greatness of his love not by staying distant from us, but by coming directly to us.


Indeed, Jesus has come to us, as a human like us, in order to provide for us.  He came to live the life we could not live –
a life of total and perfect obedience to God.  He never once sinned, a fact that uniquely enables him to be our Savior.  
Supposed Christians who deny the sinlessness of Christ demonstrate that they do not truly know Jesus, for he is only
able to save because he had no sin.

Jesus came to live the life we could not live and to die the death that we deserve to die.  We have already seen that
even one sin before an infinitely holy and eternal God warrants infinite and eternal punishment.  And this is why Jesus
came: to endure the holy wrath of God due us.

My book
Radical attracted publicity in a variety of different places.  In one particular article, a Birmingham News reporter
made the following comment about the book: “While it’s a common pulpit truism that ‘God
hates sin but loves the sinner,’
Platt argues that God hates sinners.” Indeed, it was a direct quote from the book, but the article included no context from
which the quote was taken.  Concerned church members started asking me, “Pastor, do you believe that God hates
sinners?”  People in the city e-mailed me, not so kindly, saying, “You’re preaching hatred in that church and all over our

This is one of those places where I found myself in a bit of trouble for quoting the Bible.  Does God hate sinners?  Listen
closely to Psalm 5:5-6: “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.  You destroy those who
tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.”

Wow.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said God hates sinners.  Maybe I should have said that he abhors and destroys them.

This is not an isolated statement in Scripture.  Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone we read of God’s hatred
toward the sinner, his wrath toward the liar, and so on.  And the Old Testament doesn’t stand alone on this.  In John 3 –
that chapter where we have one of the most famous verses about God’s love (John 3:16) – we also have one of the
most neglected verses about God’s wrath (John 3:36):  “Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath
remains on him.”

So all of this raises the question, Is it really true that God hates the sin but loves the sinner?  Well, yes, of course, in one
sense, but not completely.

Think about it.  As we have already seen all the way back in Genesis, our sin is not something that exists outside of us.  
Sin is ingrained into the core of our being.  We don’t just sin; we exist as sinners.  So when Jesus went to the cross to
die, he was not just taking the payment of sin, as if it were separate from us.  He was not just dying for our lusting or our
lying or our cheating or our other sins.  Instead, he was paying the price that was due us as sinners.  He was dying for
us, in our place, as our substitute.  In the words of Isaiah 53, “He was pierced for
our transgressions, he was crushed for
our iniquities…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6, emphasis mine).  When Jesus was
pulverized under the weight of God’s wrath on the cross, he was experiencing what you and I deserve to experience.  He
was enduring the full punishment due you and me as sinners.

Therefore, we must be careful not to lean on comfortable clichés that rob the cross of its meaning.  The startling reality
of Scripture is clear: we are sinners.  In the words of Isaiah, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6).  
Meanwhile, God is holy, possessing righteous wrath toward sin and sinners alike.  Yet God is also merciful, possessing
holy love toward sinners.  So how can God show both righteous wrath and holy love toward sinners at the same time?

This is the climatic question of the Bible, and the answer is the cross of Christ, God shows the full expression of both his
wrath and his love, as Jesus is stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, crushed, chastised for the sake of sinners.

Does God hate sinners?  Absolutely.  Look at the cross.  Jesus is enduring what we are due.

Does God love sinners?  Absolutely.  Look at the cross.  Jesus is saving us from all we are due.

Sometimes I ask people, “How do you know you are a Christian?”  Or “How do you know you are saved from your sin?”  
The most common replies I hear from professing Christians are “Because I decided to trust in Jesus” or “Because I
asked Jesus to save me however many years ago” or even “Because I have given my life to Jesus.”  Notice how each of
these replies begins with the words, “Because I…”  Such responses are not wrong, and I assure you my aim is not to be
the word police, but I do want to offer what I hope is a healthy reminder that you and I are not saved from our sin
primarily because we decided to do something however many years ago.  Instead, we are saved from our sin ultimately
because Jesus decided to do something two thousand years ago.  And based upon his grace, his mercy, and his love in
coming to us, sinners totally unable to save ourselves, we have been invited to follow him.  
The love of God in the life
and death of Christ is the only foundation for authentic salvation


Earlier I described how Heather and I were planning to adopt our son Caleb before he was even born, just as God had
planned to adopt his children before they were ever born.  This is what Paul means when he says that,

    The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and
    blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance
    with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves
    (Ephesians 1:3-6).

These words evoke awe and amazement, don’t they?  To consider that before the sun was ever formed, before a star
was ever placed in the sky, before mountains were ever laid upon the earth, and before oceans were ever poured over
the land, God Almighty on high set his sights on the Christian’s soul.  Such truth is mind-boggling and breathtaking at
the same time.

Not only did he plan to love his children, but he also pursues us with his love.  Over and above our sinful rebellion and
selfish resistance, God in Christ pursues his people.  Like a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep in order to find one
that is lost, God seeks after his people (Luke 15:1-7).

This image took on entirely new meaning for me one day when I was with a group of Bedouin families in a North African
desert, most of whom had never even heard about Jesus.  My friend Mark knew the head of a household in a particular
Bedouin tribe.  The man’s name was Zayed, and he had invited Mark and me to visit him when his tribe was near a
particular road.  So we drove for many miles into what seemed like the middle of nowhere until we came upon these
nomadic people.

As soon as we stepped out of the car, I felt like I had been transported back in time.  We walked into the desert and met
men and women sitting under large tents that provided shade from the scorching sun overhead.  We were surrounded
by livestock of various kinds, and Zayed invited us to sit down with him and the others right next to a herd of sheep and
goats.  In gracious hospitality, they served us snacks and began boiling a milk-like drink over a makeshift stove they had
assembled in the ground.

As we sat with them, we talked about where they had been traveling recently and how they had been living off the land.  
Bedouin herdsmen lead their families through the desert from place to place, setting up shelter and finding food and
water in different settings according to different seasons.  Their animals are their livelihood, and tending them daily is
their occupation.

So as we talked, I told them the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15, I told them how Jesus had described a shepherd who
lost one sheep out of a hundred, yet he left the ninety-nine behind in order to go in search of that one.  When he found
it, he hoisted it up on his shoulders and brought it back, where everyone celebrated the sheep that had been found.

As I finished telling the story, everyone around me was nodding their heads.  Zayed said to me, “Every one of our sheep
is valuable.  If I were to lose just one of them, I would go absolutely crazy trying to find it.  I would not be able to sleep
until I found it.  And when I found it, I would be so happy, and my family would rejoice with me.”

I smiled and then said to Zayed, his family, and his friends, “This story is a picture of God’s love for us.  God has created
us, and we are valuable to him.  And even though we have wandered away from him, he comes searching after us.  In
what seems absolutely crazy to most people, God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sin so that we could be saved
by him.”  I continued, “Just as you go to great lengths searching after your sheep, I want you to know that God goes to
great lengths searching after his children until they are found by him.”


But surely the searching love of God must be believed, someone might say.  God is not the only one working in
salvation, is he?  A man or woman must choose to receive or reject the mercy of God in Christ, right?

Absolutely.  The mystery of God’s mercy in no way negates the nature of man’s responsibility.  This entire book revolves
around the decision each one of us makes to follow Jesus.  But lest we ever think that such a decision begins with an
invitation born out of our own initiative, the Bible clearly reminds us that left to ourselves, we would be lost forever.  The
only reason we can seek Christ in our sinfulness is because Christ has sought us as our Savior.  The glory of the gospel
is that the God of the universe reaches beyond the hardness of our hearts, overcoming our selfish resistance and sinful
rebellion, and he saves us from ourselves.  Such mercy magnifies God’s pursuit of us and crucifies our pride before him.

When Heather and I arrived in Kazakhstan to adopt Caleb, we were met at the airport by a young woman named
Vitalina.  She was our translator for the next four weeks, going everywhere with us during our time in Caleb’s city.  After
we met her, she directed Heather and me to a taxi, where we all took our seats for the ride to the orphanage.

“What kind of work do you do?”  Vitalina asked me.

“I’m a pastor,” I said.

She responded bluntly, “A pastor?  Why are you a pastor?  Don’t you know that there is no such thing as God?  God is
for the weak.”

I smiled and replied.  “That’s true.  I am weak, and God is strong.  He has done something for me and in me that I could
never have done myself.”

This was the beginning of daily conversations with Vitalina about who God is and how God loves.  Every opportunity we
had, Heather and I shared about how God had loved us enough to adopt us as his children through Christ, and how that
love was now the motivation behind our desire to adopt Caleb.  Over that four-week span, Vitalina listened to us
constantly talk about the faithful pursuit of God who comes to us in our weakness and captivates us with his love.

Then it happened.  It was our last night in Caleb’s city, and we were preparing to board our plane.  After we had received
our tickets and loaded our luggage, Vitalina pulled me aside.  “I need to tell you something,” she said.

“Okay,” I replied, “what is it?”

“Last night, I realized that God does exist, and I recognized that he had sent you all here in his pursuit of me.”  She
continued, “He has done something for me and in me that I never could have imagined.  Last night, I repented of my sin
and became a follower of Jesus.”  Then she said with excitement, “Now I am a child of God!”

As joy leaped inside my heart, a smile spread across my face.  I celebrated with Vitalina, encouraged her, and prayed for
her.  Time was short, though, and the plane was ready to leave.  So I picked up Caleb, and as Heather and I boarded
the plane, we looked back, holding a child in our arms while waving good-bye to a child in God’s arms.

I praise God that he has not left the invitation to salvation up to sinful men and women who in their rebellion would never
choose him.  I praise God that he has taken the initiative to call and enable us to follow Jesus, so that in his overcoming
grace we might find eternal satisfaction for our souls.

To be a Christian is to be loved by God, pursued by God, and found by God.  To be a Christian is to realize that in your
sin, you were separated from God’s presence, and you deserved nothing but God’s wrath.  Yet despite your darkness
and in your deadness, his light shone on you and his voice spoke to you, inviting you to follow him.  His majesty
captivated your soul and his mercy covered your sin, and by his death he brought you life.  Do you know for sure that
you are his child, not ultimately because of any good you have done – any prayers you have prayed, steps you have
taken, or boxes you have checked – but solely because of the grace he has given?


FOLLOW ME: A CALL TO DIE. A CALL TO LIVE., by David Platt, Copyright 2013, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.