Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? By Rick Warren. Grand Rapids : Zondervan Publishing House, 2002. 334 pp. $19.99.
This is both a popular and powerful book. Its influence has spread rapidly throughout Christianity and the book and related materials are popping up in churches. Warren’s purpose is to give Christians purpose—that is, direction in life. He wants us to live with eternity in mind, thus the title, The Purpose-Driven Life.
Warren argues simply and passionately for the Christian to embrace five purposes: 1) Worship – you were planned for God’s pleasure; 2) Fellowship – you were formed to be part of God’s family; 3) Discipleship – you were created to become like Christ; 4) Ministry – you were shaped for God’s service; and 5) Mission – you were made to tell others about Christ (pp. 303, 310).
Those reading this journal will no doubt wonder how Warren views the gospel. While presenting a case for Christians to live life with purpose, he does not say a lot about the gospel. However Warren’s presentation of the gospel is included. Here are some examples: “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’ (John 1:12 , NIV). Will you accept God’s offer?” (p. 58).
While the emphasis for Warren is believing in Jesus who died on the cross, he could clean up his presentation. It would have been better to make the offer of salvation contingent on faith rather than two items: believing and receiving. Yet, later the author states that there is one condition: “The invitation to be part of God’s family is universal, but there is one condition: faith in Jesus. The Bible says, ‘You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ (Gal. 3:26, NLT)” (p. 118).
The writer is generally clear in separating faith for salvation and works in the Christian life. His comment on Jas 2:24 is encouraging: “God’s Word is clear that you can’t earn your salvation. It comes only by grace, not your effort” (p. 72). Unfortunately, the writer repeatedly equates salvation with commitment, e.g., “You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ” (p. 137).
Warren makes it clear that the believer is responsible to live a worthy life. Examples of his views on rewards are seen in the following quotes: “At the end of your life on earth you will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well you handled what God entrusted to you. That means everything you do, even simple daily chores, has eternal implications. If you treat everything as a trust, God promises three rewards in eternity. First, you will be given God’s affirmation: He will say, ‘Good Job! Well Done!’ Next, you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility in eternity: ‘I will put you in charge of many things.’ Then you will be honored with a celebration: ‘Come and share your Master’s happiness’” (pp. 45-46). Also, “In heaven we are going to serve God forever. Right now, we can prepare for that eternal service by practicing on earth. Like athletes preparing for the Olympics, we keep training for that big day: ‘They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally’ (1 Cor. 9:25 , The Message)” (p. 255).
Generally Warren is clear in describing salvation as what God does when a person has faith in His Son, in contrast to rewards which are a result of the believer’s good works.
Even a great book could be a better book. No doubt some will see the following as shortcomings: 1) Though Warren argues for the future to motivate our lives here and now (a good thing), he never mentions the Millennium. The future Kingdom of Christ is not presented. This may be an attempt to appeal to a broad base of Christians, including those who hold to no Millennium; and 2) Rick Warren uses many Bible translations and paraphrases and most of the biblical quotes (of which there are nearly 1000) sound only vaguely familiar. Issue might be taken that many of the freer translations and paraphrases do not correctly reflect the meaning of the biblical text. Warren states that he does this to wake us up out of the doldrums of rereading the same text without fresh appreciation.
In the final analysis, the value of this work far outweighs its shortcomings. This book is motivating and highly practical. Warren gives specifics on what these ideals look like and how they can be practiced. The Christian is given concrete ways to translate Scripture into daily life experiences. Because Warren draws principles directly from the Bible, the believer who practices these principles will grow closer and closer to Christ-likeness. Therefore I highly recommend this book.
Oak Hills Community Evangelical Church