I Feel Good

It seems as if every generation has a book that decidedly marks their time; for the better or for the worse [1].

Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life” has arguably reached such grand proportions. It has spent 174 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list [2] promising people a purposeful life if they’ll become a follower of Jesus Christ.

His message is not new. His mentor, The Reverend Robert Schuller, gave us “Way To The Good Life”, “Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking”, “Self-Love”, “You Can Be The Person You Want To Be”, and “Self-Esteem: The New Reformation” [3].

Schuler’s mentor, Norman Vincent Peale, gave us “The Power of Positive Thinking”.

Joel Osteen’s bestseller “Your Best Life Now” [4] is proof text that mainstream Christianity has embraced the gospel of self-esteem that Robert Schuler advocated from his Crystal Cathedral over 25 years ago.

Their message declares the gospel to be the answer to those unfulfilled and frustrated with life. Listeners are encouraged to respond to the gospel because of its ability to bring meaning to life. Their hearers are promised that they will live better than before if they will pursue an experience with God.

It is a promise of fulfilling the self rather than dealing with sin.

While the gospel of Jesus Christ results in bringing change and fulfillment to a soul that is not its purpose in the life of a believer. When the Gospel is preached as a source of self-fulfillment or life-enhancement it loses its effectiveness to accomplish the goal to which it was ultimately sent. The purpose of the Cross is not to enhance the life we already have. To the contrary its function is to cause the death of our carnal nature and empower us to be resurrected “a new creature” in Christ Jesus [5].

The cross is not about self-esteem. It’s about sin.

If all we offer is a gospel of self-fulfillment and personal meaning we have nothing to offer of eternal consequence. Paul said he would preach nothing but, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” [6].

If believers are to develop a lasting faith the matter of our fulfillment in life cannot be our motivation for responding to the gospel. The sinner must respond to the gospel regardless of their satisfaction with the condition of their life. An individual’s motivation for responding to the gospel must always be the quickening of the Holy Ghost awakening the soul to its congenital sin problem.

As Oscar Vouga stated, “This is the most vital part of our “Gospel Message”; that God would
wash every sinner in the blood of Calvary…” [7].

Norman Vincent Peale’s lasting contribution to modern Christianity is premised on truth. The gospel indeed results in meaning, confidence and purpose. Paul affirmed, “we are complete in Him” [8].

The problem is not that their premise is in error. Rather the injustice lies in promoting what is ancillary and missing the primary purpose of the Cross.

The gospel is not our hope because it brings meaning or self-esteem. The Cross deals with our sin nature, arresting that which separates our soul from God, making it the hope of the world and the believer’s victory over sin.

The Cross dealt with sin once and for all [9] and that is something to feel good about.

 

 

[1] For the better think Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe whom Abraham Lincoln called “the little woman who started this great war”. For the worse think Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Karl Marx’s Manifesto.
[2] As of May 2006 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Purpose_Driven_Life)
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/robert_schuler
[4] http://www.publishersweekly.com/bestsellerslist/20.html?channel=bestsellers
[5] 1Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
[6] 1Corinthians 2:1-2
[7] Oscar Vouga, Our Gospel Message (Hazelwood, Missouri: WAP, 1967) pg. 13.
[8] Colossians 2:10
[9] Hebrews 10:10

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