This is all true, of course. But there is no mention of either sin or repentance here. True, Warren does require change. But biblical repentance is always and self-consciously a turning away specifically from sin , not just from amoral priorities or value neutral relationships. Still no repentance. That is not all — you need to repent as well. Indeed, there has been no explanation of why the unbeliever would even need forgiveness.
He is still left asking the fundamental questions of the Gospel. Who is Jesus?
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Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for me? Do I really deserve death for my sins? How could Jesus die the death that I deserved? The Gospel has not yet been defined biblically. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Here sin and forgiveness are verbally mentioned, which is great; but there still has been no clear explanation of who Jesus is, nor of why our unrepentant sin offends God and makes relationship with him impossible i.
He told them Jesus died for them! What else do you want him to do, sit the non-Christian down in a seminary class before he can be converted? After all, no one really understands the full implications of deciding to follow Christ the moment they repent and believe. Yet the person and work of Jesus Christ are the very objects in which the unbeliever is to place his faith.
Saving faith is not blind. Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity. If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! The rest of the book, then, assumes that the unbelieving reader prayed the prayer, and that praying the prayer ensures that the reader is now a bona fide Christian.
Even if the Gospel and its required response had been sufficiently explained, the unbeliever is now told that his internal assurance of salvation and the affirmation of his conversion by others are dependent on the mere sincerity of his prayer. But we are never told in Scripture that if we pray a prayer once, we should feel assured of our own salvation this is not what 1John teaches.
We will know others, and ourselves, by our fruits Matt ; 1John ; James ; 2Peter Genuine conversion is only discerned by the fruit that true repentance bears over time.
He has not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. He has not heard how to respond savingly to that Gospel by the graces of repentance from sin and trust in Christ. Warren tells the unbeliever how he should live, but does not clearly tell him what he should do to be saved or where he can find the power to live such a life. Such ambiguity obscures the Gospel of grace and confuses unbelievers as to what it means to be a Christian. A prayer — even a sincere one — may or may not be evidence of the saving faith James writes of in James 2.
Warren is certainly right in fully intending to share the gospel before he begins to expound the purposes of the Christian life. But encouraging assurance of salvation where there is not even the bud, much less the fruit, of repentance is one of the biggest problems in American evangelicalism today. The purposes that Warren propagates are solidly biblical purposes, and every Christian should be concerned with them.
The problem is that they become moralisms in the absence of a clear Gospel presentation. Because the Gospel presentation is cloudy, conversion is easily confused with living on purpose.
It is righteousness by works. Even prior to his Gospel presentation, Warren confuses the idea of living on purpose with the reality of conversion. But surely the greatest tragedy is neither death nor life without purpose, but both life and death without responding to the Gospel in repentance and belief. Quit playing word games and get on with fulfilling the Great Commission! People do it every day. They read their Bibles, sing songs at church with a tear in their eye, give to the missions fund, maybe even share their faith at work and go on a short term missions trip, all the while harboring and hiding years of unrepentant sin under the floorboards of their hearts.
This is certainly a more accurate picture of repentance, though still lacking the specific connection with sin. Yet is repentance only supposed to happen after conversion?
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No, repentance is part and parcel of conversion, which means that calling unbelievers to it is fundamental to preaching the Gospel of Christ accurately Mark The Christian pastor is therefore on dangerous ground to follow Warren in waiting to clearly call people to repentance from sin until after he has convinced them that they have been converted without it.
When we delay the call for repentance, we confuse the meaning of both evangelism and conversion, unwittingly deceiving people that they have either shared the Gospel faithfully without requiring repentance, or that they have responded to the Gospel savingly without rendering it. This sounds great, and I agree that God does not look at mere outward appearances, but that our affections and attitudes matter to Him.
But the integrity or sincerity of my desire to please God is not fundamentally what God looks at as saving — otherwise salvation would not be wholly of grace, as Warren would wholeheartedly agree, and millions of devout Muslims would be on their way to heaven, which Warren would wholeheartedly deny. A person can have a deep desire to please God, but without repentance from sin and belief in Jesus Christ alone as the one who has paid the penalty for that sin, no one is converted. Also, sometimes when God looks at my heart, He sees sin — pride, covetousness, bitterness, anger, lust — the whole nine yards, even though I am a Christian.
The elements of my old nature are all still there inside me, even though I am sad and sometimes embarrassed to admit it, and even though God has dealt the decisive blow to my old nature in the death and resurrection of Christ. What does God think of me then? What God looks at in my heart cannot be only my desires. If that were the case, it would be impossible for anyone to be saved. What was going on at the time it was written? Do any of these truths written thousands of years ago apply today? If so, which ones? How do they apply? Are there truths in this chapter that contradict the ideas we hear in the world?
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If so, what are they? Is there something in this chapter that surprised you? If so, how were you surprised? Are there any verses in this chapter that confuse you or that seem to contradict other parts of the Bible? In view of what we have read, what changes do you think God would want you to make in your attitude, words, or actions? What is one passage that encourages you? How does it encourage you? What is one passage that inspires you? How does it inspire you? Who wrote this passage? What is the message of this passage? When was it written?
Where was it written? Why was it written? What was the purpose? How does it relate to passages that are before or after it?
How can I apply the message to my life? Doug Britton, MFT Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. Click here to print this Bible study. Evaluate your small group leadership skills. Read More. Icebreakers to get your small group talking. Thank you! Please check your email to confirm your subscription.