ST. LOUIS – Author and pastor David Platt gave an impassioned plea to thousands of mostly college-age students to commit their lives to Jesus Christ regardless of the cost to their lives while preaching during Urbana 2012, a triennial student missions conference. Platt warned that many Christians have reduced the eternal significance of Jesus.
"Jesus is the alpha and the omega. He is the beginning and the end. He is the first and the last. He is the final amen … Christ our Creator, our deliverer, our everlasting father, He is God," said Platt from the stage inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis before an estimated 16,000. "Jesus is the very word of God made flesh … Jesus is all of these things and [yet] we have reduced Him to a poor, puny savior who is just begging for us to accept Him into our hearts."
Platt, who is the lead pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., made the point that people (believers and nonbelievers) need Jesus more than they realize.
"Your heart is beating at this moment because Jesus is giving it rhythm and if He were to stop, so would you," he said. "For far too long and in far too many ways we have minimized the majesty of Jesus in the church and we have deluded what it means to be His disciple in the world."
Earlier in the day, during an Urbana press conference, Platt said that he wanted to convey to his audience that "Jesus is worthy of our trust."
He explained, "He's worthy of our plans and dreams. He's worthy of our affections. When we see His worth for who He really is then we will eagerly, willingly and gladly give our lives, even lose them if necessary to make His glory known to the ends of the earth."
While discussing parts of the Gospel which describe Jesus asking people to do such things as give up everything they own, Platt wondered how people today would respond.
"This is where we come face-to-face with the frightening reality. Jesus has said these things to us. He has beckoned every single one of us to love Him in a way that makes our closest relationships in this world look like hate in comparison," he said. "He has called us all to die to ourselves. He has called every single one of us to give up everything we have to Him."
To make Scripture more palatable, people often make translations of the Bible that shy away from the reality of what Jesus is asking His followers, Platt said.
"This is where we start redefining Christianity according to our preferences. This is where we start taking the Jesus of the Bible and twisting Him into a Jesus who we are a little more comfortable with – a Jesus who looks like us and thinks like us and talks like us, a Jesus who is okay with nominal devotion, who doesn't mind materialism. A Jesus who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes," he said.
The real danger is that when Jesus is molded into "our image" then Christians who are gathered at church are not worshipping the Jesus of the Bible, Platt emphasized.
"We are singing songs and lifting up our hands to ourselves," he said. "The danger is we think we are worshipping Him."
Prior to Platt, Chai Ling, author of A Heart for Freedom and twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her role in leading the Tiananmen Square Student movement, gave her testimony about accepting Jesus into her life. Ling is the founder of All Girls Allowed, whose goal is to lift up Jesus' name by exposing and ending the human rights violations caused by China's one-child policy.
The Urbana conference concludes on Monday, New Year's Eve.
For a live stream of parts of the conference on the Web, visit https://urbana.org/live.