A 'Seeker-Sensitive' Gospel Presentation?
Those who are in the flesh, and those that are in the Spirit (Romans 8:9)
Those who dwell in the domain of darkness, and those who are in the kingdom of the glorious Son of God (Colossians 1:13)
Those who are dead in sin, and those who are alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11; Ephesians 1:5)
The Good News (or Gospel) message of the Bible is how God transfers people from this first group to the second group. This is the most important message ever heard by human ears, for everyone in the first group (the group into which we are all born) will experience everlasting suffering, shame, and contempt, while everyone in the second group will experience everlasting peace, love, and joy in God to the glory of His grace. As this message is so vitally and eternally important, it is crucial that the message is proclaimed correctly, lest people believe themselves to be in the second group, while remaining in the first.
Many people in reading my previous two posts will ask, 'why are you making such a big deal about these statements by Warren? Isn't he preaching the Gospel message, and isn't that what's important?'
But my point in this blog is to demonstrate how an unbiblical view of God and an unbiblical view of Man results in a corruption of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Concerning the Gospel, Rick Warren has written:
Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe. The Bible promises, "To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." Will you accept God's offer?
First, believe. Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes. Believe you're not an accident. Believe you were made to last forever. Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Believe that no matter what you've done, God wants to forgive you.
Second, receive. Receive Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfill your life purpose. The Bible says, "Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!" Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: "Jesus, I believe in you and receive you." Go ahead.
If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! You are now ready to discover and start living God's purpose for your life. (The Purpose Driven Life, "Day 7")
Blogger Scott C. Mooney has carefully explored this passage of The Purpose Driven Life and come to the following conclusions:
Their need, according to him, is to “believe and receive.” (p.58) What is the content of the requisite belief? The closest Mr. Warren comes to the truly biblical message is to say, “Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you.” (p.58) However, nowhere does he provide any insight into what quality of Jesus’ death makes it a death “for” anyone. In the first six “Days” of his treatise he never even so much as mentioned the death of Christ. Also, what is the content of what we are to receive? “Receive his forgiveness for your sins.” (p.58) However, Mr. Warren never has provided a satisfactorily biblical discussion of sin. Absent such discussion, what can “receive his forgiveness for you sins” possibly mean to the reader? In terms of the system Mr. Warren builds in this treatise this phrase is meaningless. If Christ’s mission was to bring us full understanding of God’s glory, if sin consists of failing to bring God glory, and if Christ’s death is not a substitutionary propitiation, then how can forgiveness be more contentful than “a fresh start”? (p.28) Though his ideas of “believe” and “receive” are devoid of content, Mr. Warren nevertheless presses on to direct his readers to utter this prayer: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” (p.58) What can this mean? He presents this to the reader as “…the prayer that will change your eternity.” (p.58) If the creature has the initiative and the power to determine eternity for himself, and therefore to determine eternity for God also, then how can any remotely biblical content attend his notions of “believe” and “receive”? Indeed, it cannot. [emphases added]
Now I would like to briefly point out three problems in Warren's Gospel presentation found in The Purpose Driven Life:
1. What are we saved from? In Warren's presentation, we are saved from purposelessness. Biblically speaking, we are saved from the wrath of God (Romans 1:18). It is crucial that sinners come to view themselves as under God's wrath, so that they will know that they must be delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
2. What is sin? In Warren's presentation, sin is failure to give God the glory that he deserves. Biblically speaking, Warren's statement on this issue is true, but insufficient. As Mooney also explains,
“Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the Law of God.” So says the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q14. This is based upon the very clear statement of 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” The sinner stands morally guilty before God. The sinner is not “disconnected from God’s presence,” rather he comes under the wrath of God, “for it is on account of these things [men’s sins] that the wrath of God will come.” (Col. 3:6)
It is crucial that sinners come to view themselves as lawbreakers, so that they will cry to the just God for His mercy (Psalm 19:7; Luke 18:13-14; James 4:6-7)
3. What is the relationship of sinners to God outside of faith in Christ? Warren stresses that sin separates us from God's presence. Again, this teaching is true, but insufficient. As the following passages declare:
Colossians 1:21, "And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions."
Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.”
In addition to the aspect of alienation, or separation, from God, sin has also placed us at mutual hostility with the just and holy God. It is crucial for sinners to come to realize this truth, so that they will realize their need for reconciliation with God, which only comes through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).
[The above blogpost was originally published on 9/28/05.]