Friday, December 5, 2008

"Try Jesus for 60 Days..."

Purpose Driven...Rick Warren was on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes the other night, talking about his new book "The Purpose Driven Christmas" or something like that. In the words he was able to get in he surprisingly did come close to communicating at least part of the Gospel. But then, he goes and makes a statement like this one in his exchange with Alan Colmes:

COLMES: All right. Let me ask you: you talk about, OK, so you think everybody needs a savior.


COLMES: Well, what about those people who don't — you know, I happen to be Jewish. Not everybody — and Jesus, by the way, I have a lot in common with. Same religion.

WARREN: Absolutely.

COLMES: So not everybody necessarily goes that route.

WARREN: The thing is, Alan, I believe Jesus Christ came for everybody. I don't think he came for Christians. The Bible says take this good news to the whole world. I don't care whether you're Baptist, Buddhist, Mormon, Methodist, Jewish, Muslim, or no religion at all. Jesus Christ still loves you. You still matter to God.

COLMES: True, and I think that's a wonderful message. But if you don't accept Jesus, if you're not something who goes that route religiously...


COLMES: ... can you find your way to heaven? Can you still be — go to the same place when it's all said and done?

WARREN: I'm not the authority on that, but I believe Jesus is. And everybody's betting their life on something. Jesus said, "I am the way." I'm betting that he's not a liar. I'm betting that he told the truth.

COLMES: What about — what does it say for all those people who do not accept Christ as their personal savior?

WARREN: I'm saying that this is the perfect time to open their life, to give it a chance. I'd say give him a 60-day trial.


COLMES: Like the Book of the Month Club.

WARREN: Give him a trial. See if he'll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 60 days. Or your money guaranteed back.

OK, so first he says he's "not the authority" on who receives the gift of eternal life and who doesn't, but points to Jesus as the authority. OK, I'll accept that, although as a pastor - or even as a Christian - he speaks for the One who is the authority. It's not above his pay grade, so to speak. But when he presents faith in Jesus Christ as something to be "tried", he passes the bounds of Gospel clarity by a mile and enters the realm of therapeutic deism. "Try trusting Jesus for 60 days"? That's a completely wrong picture of what Biblical faith even means, on so many points. Conditional trust? I'll have faith if Jesus holds up His end of the deal? Not even close to truth. Biblical faith in the person and work of Christ is life-consuming, all-or-nothing, complete and unequivocal trust in who He is, what He accomplished, what He promises and how He commands to live. Nothing less. In fact, the Gospel writings are full of references to people who followed Christ for a while to see what He could do for them, like healing sicknesses and giving them food. But when He confronted them with the hard truths of real repentance, they followed Him no more.

But look at what he says is the test of reality, the motivation someone should have for "trying Jesus." It's to "change your life." Now, God is certainly in the life-changing business. Or more Biblically speaking, the life-granting business. The Gospel of Christ is the message He uses to resurrect spiritually dead sinners to life everlasting, and to reform lives spent in sin and rebellion into lives of righteousness that glorify Him. But the benefits of trying out Jesus given here are all about self-improvement, self-actualization, self-fulfillment. Have you noticed how the phrase "change my life" is used as an advertising testimony these days for everything from weight loss plans to self-help books to laxatives? So by using this as the test of the reality of Christ, what Warren is doing is what so many others do today - market the Gospel as another self-improvement option to be tried out. And hey, if you don't like the results you get in a couple months, you're free to go try some other option like liposuction or Scientology or Oprah. Whatever works for you, that's what counts. After all, the individual is the arbiter of truth, right? Unfortunately, in our postmodern world, that's the perception.

When the Gospel of Christ is peddled as a cure for whatever ails you to be tried out, rather than as the absolute truth of eternity that we each must face, there are three losers. First, the person being marketed to loses because they have been denied the life-giving truth of the Gospel. Second, the marketer loses since they are knowingly or unknowingly communicating a false Gospel. And most importantly, God loses as He is denied the glory He so richly deserves in the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of His sovereign grace in Christ.

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