Warning: I’m not a big fan of The Purpose Driven Life. I’d rather have a forgiveness-driven life, or a cross-centered life. Warren’s book starts out well: “It’s not about you,” but then is mostly about you.
Chris Rosebrough at Extreme Theology has been contrasting Christ-centered theology with me-centered theology. Rosebrough puts much of the church planting movement, including The Purpose Driven Life, in the category of me-centered theology. He has two great diagrams that illustrate the difference.Diagram #1 shows me-centered theology. The most important thing is “changing lives,” and the Bible becomes a handbook for better living (he doesn’t mention Joel Osteen in this post, but it certainly fits the Your Best Life Now theology as well).If this is the model for Christianity, then sermons are about how to have a better ____________, or be a better _____________. Bible study curricula—for youth or adults—ends up being all about character development or fixing this or that problem in our lives. Worship ends up being all about what we promise to do for Jesus or how much we love him. Jesus himself becomes the #1 example for how we should live our lives. Yes, he may have died on the cross for our sins, but after that, the Christian life is all about us getting our act together.
A more Biblical, Christ-centered model for living the Christian life looks like this:
Christ is at the center, not I. Christ is not only the center of our justification—us being in a right standing with God because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in our place—but he is also at the center of our sanctification, which in this sense is the process of growth that occurs. We are as fully dependent on God for our growth as Christians as we are for that initial salvation from sins.
Christ is not only the author of our faith, he is the perfecter of our faith; the one who brings our faith to completion:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)
In this theological system, the center is “Christ crucified for our sins.” The gospel is central, not just for our justification, but for our entire lives. The Bible is now much more than just a how-to manual, but a book with a much broader scope. The Bible is now no longer primarily about how to get our acts together, but the story of God and man’s relationship to God. Preaching becomes a proclamation of Jesus Christ as the one who saves us from beginning to end, rather than “Five steps to a happy marriage.” Worship becomes a proclamation about God and what he has done for us in Christ, rather than songs about how deep inside, we really, really, really love Jesus.
Here is my passion: The gospel, and the “Christian life” as a whole, is all about Christ and what he has done for us, not about what we do for God.
This does not mean that we aren’t to do good works, but more about that some other time.
Grace and Peace