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Pastor Rick Warren: Promoting Works Righteousness?

If life is a test, as Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, preaches, I’m in trouble.  I checked my score, and right now I’m getting an F.  Where do I sign up to take the test again?

Chris Rosebrough, at his website A Little Leaven, has released a video in which Pastor Warren preaches:
And God says during your lifetime on earth, I’m gonna test you, and I’m gonna see how you use, responsibly, the gifts that I’ve put into your life... Because life is a test... Some of you are actually getting into this test a little late, and so you’ve got some makin’ up to do.  And you didn’t realize that life was a test.  And so now, in the later stage of your life, you’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got because God says He’s watching...
God is watching.  He watched as Jesus was hanged on a cross outside the wall of the city, as blood and sweat ran down our Savior’s body. He watched as Jesus became a curse for us.  He watched as He crushed Him and caused Him to suffer.  He watched as Jesus cried out “It is finished.”  At that moment, Jesus, the Son of God, died.  And with Him, all Christians died.  And with Him, all Christians are raised to new life through their Baptism.  The written code, that was against us and stood opposed to us, was canceled.  God now sees us covered by the blood of the lamb.  He sees us as sin-free.  By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone we are given a crown of life.


The Church is also watching.  It is eternally vigilant, safeguarding against those who would wrest the crown of life from our brow.  Pastor Warren states:
You see, it takes more than belief, it takes more than faith, to really please God.  He says it takes faith that results in loving others.  Religion without love doesn’t matter.  It’s not enough to say “I believe,” or even that I know my purpose.  What matters, is how I love God, and how I love other people. That’s the great commandment.
It doesn’t take “more than faith.”  It takes faith alone. Sola Fide:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.
Romans 1:17

When Pastor Warren tells you “you’ve got some makin’ up to do,” when he preaches it takes faith plus something else, he’s preaching false doctrine.  While it may be that Pastor Warren believes in salvation by grace, not by works, that basic truth is sometimes difficult to distinguish in his teaching.  The “great commandment” is Law. From his teaching, he may be misleading his followers, causing them to seek their own righteousness based on works:
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Romans 10:3-4

If, as Pastor Warren says, “What matters, is how I love God,” I’m in serious trouble. Sometimes I act like I don’t love God or my neighbor.  I’m failing the test.  But it’s not my report card that God the Father receives in the mail, it’s Jesus Christ’s report card, and He’s got straight A’s.  Good works are important, but they earn us nothing before God; they profit our neighbor and are evidence of our faith.  Our merit is based solely on Jesus Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Don't rely on the merits of your own report card, but rather on the merits of Jesus Christ.

Written by Scott Diekmann

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For further reading:

Chris Rosebrough’s video, “Rick Warren’s ‘Gospel,’ It’s a Religion of Works Not Grace,” is about 2 ½ minutes long and can be viewed at:

The Purpose-Driven Life: A Review of the Book From a Lutheran Perspective: