The following is my analysis of something Rick Warren said on an audio CD called “The Invitation”. I listened to track 7, “Admit, Believe, and Receive” and found the message confusing and short of the Truth.
After rightly introducing Jesus Christ as the Truth, he asks two questions:
“What does Jesus want you to do with the truth?”
I think that’s a good question. And I’m glad he asked it because often times people are told “they don’t have to do anything”. To answer the question, I would say to believe and obey the Truth is a good place to start. Warren goes on:
“How do I know the truth?”
That’s another good question that he’s already answered and one that he won’t really answer again. He already pointed out what Jesus said, “I am the Truth”. To know Jesus and His words is to know the Truth. Instead of answering, Warren moves to answer his first question, “what does Jesus want me to do with the truth?” Warren says:
“Well you do four things.“
First, “Admit”… saying, “I admit that God has not been first place in my life….And I ask him to forgive all my sins.”
Warren’s step 1 includes two things, not just one: “admit AND ask”. Admit sin and ask for forgiveness. Warren’s first step requires that the sinner understand the Gospel and also have the free will to choose. Rick Warren is speaking in generalities with little Scriptural support. Warren continues with his second step on what to do with the truth:
Second, “Believe….Say, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ died to pay for my sins.”
This is Warren’s 2nd thing “Jesus wants me to do with the truth.” But if I have already “admitted” that I have been living in rebellion and if I have already “asked for the forgiveness of my sins”, doesn’t it require that I already believe prior to his first step? Warren has the “cart before the horse” by putting admitting sinfulness and asking for forgiveness as step 1 ahead of believing the Gospel. Why would someone “admit and ask” in Warren’s step 1 unless he already believes? Warren leaves a sincere listener a bit confused. And there is more to this second step when Warren adds:
“If you confess Jesus as your Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Warren has done a curious thing by inflating his step 2 to include “confession”, as he did in step 1, as if they were one and the same. Warren says if you DO these things, “you will be saved, it’s a promise.” “So first I admit and then I believe“, he says. Next he moves to his third step:
Third, “Receive”…Saying, “I receive God’s free gift of salvation.” Quoting Eph. 2:8,9, he says, “It is a gift of God,…God gives me what I need, not what I deserve.” He continues, “The Bible says people get to heaven by ‘believing and receiving'”.
From this third point, Warren talks about the futility of trying to earn salvation or else heaven would be filled with people bragging about what they did to get there.
Warren ignores or overlooks that he has not given three steps, but more like five, to DO what the truth says. Warren has just said that heaven will be filled with those who “admit”, “ask for forgiveness”, “believe”, “confess sins”, and “receive. That makes five things Warren says one must DO with the truth.
That small point aside, what about this third point, “receiving” salvation? Is that like standing in line to get a free handout? Do I just show up in line and receive it? God’s giving out salvation and all I have to do is take it?
It’s interesting that Warren’s steps do not include “repentance”, which is change because Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). And Peter said to the non-Christians he preached to, to “repent and return in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19). Sounds like Warren has left out a important “thing to do” with the truth. Warren also says nothing about Baptism even though Jesus commanded it as did the Apostles. Warren moves to his next step:
Fourth, “Inviting”, this explains how we believe and receive according to Warren. Say, “I invite the Lord Jeus Christ to be the Lord of my life.”
This is Warren’s 4th thing to do with the truth. After Warrens says you have “admitted” you sin, “asked” for forgiveness, “believe”, “confessed”, and “received”, now he says you have to “invite”. Explaining this point, he turns back to what he said in point 2, “the Bible says ‘if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be saved.'” So Warren’s point 4, what to do with the truth, is a conflation of point 2, to “believe”. Warren explains that this means confessing him Lord of your life. It means He’s your “boss”, “manager”, “director”, “president”, and on, and on. He’s in charge and that’s what it means for you to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.
So on top of everything else Warren has said we must DO with the truth, we must “receive” and “invite” him to be our Lord. That’s at least 7 things Warrens says we must do with the truth. Warren says this while at the same time saying we do nothing for our salvation.
With all that Warren says you must DO with the truth, why no mention of repentance? Warren must believe you don’t have to repent to be saved. He has said nothing about repentance or Baptism, things which are commanded in the Bible.
Warren says you can right now “take these steps” by praying a sinple prayer of commitment. I’m glad that Warren admits there are “steps” to salvation. Only he has left some out. And the “Sinner’s Prayer” isn’t even found in the Scriptures. Warren says the “steps” are to admit, confess, believe, ask, receive, commit, and pray, you shall be saved. Why nothing about Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-5; Gal. 3:26,27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pt. 3:21? When it comes to teaching salvation, Warren leaves vital information out of the message. And the “steps” he gives for responding to the truth are not well thought out.