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40 Days that Start with a Different Gospel

A Critique of 40 Days of Purpose Introductory Video by Rick Warren
(Accompanying Book - The Purpose-Driven® Life by Rick Warren)
By David Sheldon

Did you know that, according to a leading voice in the American church scene, one can now "connect" to Christ? I was introduced to Rick Warren at my church in the fall of 2003 through his introductory video of "40 Days of Purpose" and his accompanying book "The Purpose-Driven® Life". (The video used to be available on his website, but I can no longer find it.) The video presents an introductory "gospel" and Warren leading in a prayer of salvation. During his original first session of the 40 Days of Purpose® tape you are introduced to two main concepts: 1. that a person is an eternal soul and 2. that life should have purpose before God. Then, Warren states, "what you do with your life on earth will determine where you spend eternity." At the close, Warren leads in a prayer for those who have not yet "opened their life" to Christ. But what does it mean to open your life to Jesus Christ when you have not considered the sin issue? There was no mention of the cross, sin, Jesus blood shed for remission, death of Christ, resurrection of Christ - nothing! This was certainly no "sinner's prayer".

The problem with leading in a prayer for salvation without acknowledging sin is that there is no foundation laid of guilt before God or a call to Biblical repentance (a change of mind - which results in a change of life). In fact, Warren is issuing this relationship with Jesus Christ to those who have both been in church or have never gone to church at all. In other words, an understanding of the holiness of God, sin, repentance, and the need for forgiveness is not an issue. He simply leads the prayer with "as much as I know how I open my life to you" (Christ). With this done, he then welcomes them into the family of God. The full context of the first session of this video tape very clearly indicates that he believes he has presented the gospel. But, he has not mentioned one thing about sin. (Please take time to review the original tape for yourself.) A different gospel preached in the public arena, a "church" no less, was my introduction to Rick Warren and probably the same introduction of thousands upon thousands of churches and, unfortunately, probably millions of people!

Therefore, this begs the question: Unto what Christ have those who followed him in the prayer opened themselves? Is Warren indirectly saying that a persons' sin is that they did not know that they were an eternal creature which is mentioned in one of his points? In addition, is their sin that they did not know that they can live a life of purpose before God? If a person opens their life up to this information (which evidently Jesus provides and is the reason they are now opening their life to Him) are they then saved? These are the only sins that it would seem he is addressing. In reality, these sins are the philosophical basis of the gospel he presents. In context, these thoughts raise themselves up against the knowledge of God and the word of the cross. That is, they wrongly place a person in a position before the cross that says they can add Jesus onto their life without considering their sinful condition. Now tell me, when you look in the gospels, do you ever see Jesus allowing for anyone to do this? Does He allow people to be in a position where He permits them to think that they can add Him onto their life or open their life to Him while ignoring their sinful ways? The real issue is that we are sinners before a Holy God. True Scriptural faith/repentance cannot occur unless the true gospel message is proclaimed and received. Faith comes by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). The fact is, if one is ignoring the reality of sin and its consequences, then one can not be receiving the Lord Jesus Christ of the gospel. Only sinners need a Savior!

Thus, are we missing a few important Biblical truths in this gospel presentation? Are the Biblical ideas of repentance and faith and forgiveness before a Holy God optional in presenting the gospel? If the answer is no, yet a person is moved to pray a prayer based on a gospel presentation missing these concepts, do we know who moved them? It should be noted that if the gospel is not presented, then another spirit is at work rather than the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth always presents the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, in the Biblical context of His redemptive work at Calvary. The Lord Jesus Christ of the gospel is the door and there is no other way into the fold. The Scripture tells us that the thief, robber, and false shepherd will tell us otherwise.

I believe a careful reading of all texts in regard to the book which accompanies the video session will clearly show it is centered in humanistic philosophy rather than the cross, similar to the self-esteem gospel. (Go to your local public library sometime and read the chapter on the Fatherhood of God in Self-Esteem: The New Reformation by Robert Schuller. If you are truly Christian make sure you are seated. Notice how he twists the real meaning of Scriptural words/concepts and yet continues to use those very same Biblical words.) Many people replace the cross of Christ with the vain philosophies of men; (Colossians 2:8). But that ends up making the message of the cross empty (I Corinthians 1:17). The cross of Christ is central to the gospel message! When you remove the center, you remove the true message! Thus, you remove the scandal and the reproach (I Corinthians 1:18; Hebrews 13:12, 13).

When Jesus looked toward the cross during His earthly ministry, He said it was the reason He came into the world. Yet we dare omit its' meaning from our gospel? The growing apostasy in the American church seems quite content in doing so. Not only was Jesus crucified at Calvary, but according to Paul the cross has something to do with us as well. (Galatians 2:20) (Do you know of anywhere in the New Testament epistles where the Apostles ever view our crucifixion in Christ as optional?) Life as we knew it came to an end! Are we allowed to pick and choose? That is, do we have the forgiveness He has provided without agreeing with the judgment God rendered there about the condition of our life apart from Him? You do realize it was one event, don't you? And why then continue (as the book and video do) to talk about forgiveness, about service, or fellowship or mission if we have indeed allowed for people to miss the Lord Jesus Christ of Calvary as the door? Not only that, those who opened their life to Christ now actually think they are bound for heaven. God help us if we have only further helped them continue in their lost condition before a Holy God and actually done it in Jesus name.

I thank God that those who shared the Lord Jesus Christ of the gospel with me for the first time had the audacity to think that I was a sinner and because of that I was on the road to eternal separation from God in a place called hell. They lovingly pleaded with me in regards to the truth of the gospel and my condition before a Holy God. They actually preached the Real One - knowing that I was to come under conviction of the Holy Spirit as a sinner and so I believed in the Savior! Do you know the love of that Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ of the Scriptures?

Unfortunately, Rick Warren placed a false door to the kingdom of God before people in a church setting, personally walked them through it, and then told them they were part of the family of God!

See Galatians 1:6-10 (here) and notice:

1. "Who" do we desert when we follow a different gospel?
2. Do you know why the Apostle Paul knew they received the gospel? (See Acts 18:23)
3. What does the Apostle Paul think about the "person" who makes a different public proclamation of the gospel than the gospel that HE preached and knew the Galatians received?
4. When Paul stood firmly on the gospel he was seeking whose favor? Do you?
5. When we don't stand firmly on the gospel Paul says we are seeking whose favor?

Finally, are YOU, like Paul, a true and faithful witness to the Lord Jesus Christ of the Gospel? Do you think like he thought (Scripture) when he made these statements?

More PDL reviews available:
A Purpose-Shaped Worldview (A Critique of chapters 1-7) - By David Sheldon
The Jesus Who Stood At A Fork In The Road ("Jesus" in The PDL) - By David Sheldon
God's Wisdom – Christ Crucified! (Versus the "wisdom" on pages 20 & 21) - By David Sheldon

Copyright, David Sheldon, 2003, 2010, all rights reserved.
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

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