A Rick Warren Sandwich

In a previous post I illustrated how Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church and pontiff of the Purpose-Driven movement, has said that he thinks we should stop feeding our congregations and start inciting them to Godly service, yet regularly fails to teach the substance of our faith.  In the last few days via his twitter feed, Warren has given a few “slices of bread” which I will use to make a Gospel sandwich.

A sandwich is usually called by what is in the middle, which is also the best part.  However, you cannot have a sandwich without the bread.  One might call it vital to the sandwich.  However, if you only have two slices of bread, a sandwich you have not.  Thus said, it is clear that what lies between the bread is what really makes the sandwich work.

A Slice of Bread

Take a look at this tweet sent by Rick Warren this week:

To see yourself as you really are you must FIRST see God as he really is. Only then can “the truth set you free” John 8:32

Inspired!  To really see who we are, we indeed must take stock of who we are in the presence of an infinite, all-powerful, perfectly righteous God.  It is interesting that the author of the book that starts with “It is not about you” and proceeds to say why it is about you, makes a bold statement like this. Compare this with the first verses of Zechariah 3:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments (Zechariah 3:1-3).

This is the high priest of Israel, but before the presence of holiness his fine priestly garments appear stained and dirty.  When we strive to “FIRST see God as he really is,” it is clear that it does not matter if we are who we are wired to be, because we are sinful in our very nature, and before a holy God none can stand.

Not only is this a desperate state, it is also a state of utter helplessness.  Joshua, the high priest, was clothed in his very best, but that was still not good enough for God.  Not only did Joshua’s best efforts fail him, ours do as well.  We try and try, and yet somehow we still fall short.

The ‘Good Stuff’

So far we have only looked at the first piece of bread: our deplorable state.  Look at what happens in the next verses:

And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by (Zechariah 3:4-5).

Here is the meat, the cheese, the lettuce and the tomato.  In spite of the fact that we can do nothing with a plain piece of bread, in spite of our wretchedness, Christ has stepped in.  Though it would have cost him nothing to turn aside, he paid the ultimate price:

[T]hough he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11).

Is this not good news?  Is this not gospel?  This means that in spite of the fact that we can do nothing about our condition, that we are utterly helpless to make any lasting changes in our own lives, God did it for us.  Christ, God in human flesh, came to take away our own filthy robes and then give us his robe of righteousness.

A Final Slice

Now back to Rick Warren for the next piece of bread to top off our sandwich.  If we have truly seen God for who he is, and in contrast have seen our own depravity and our need for a Savior; if we have been clothed in his righteousness, what naturally comes next?

God did not bring you this far just to leave you where you are. “He who began a good work in you will complete it” Ph.1:6

Note how Warren emphasized that it is God who is at work here.  God did indeed, through the work of his Son, get us this far.  The atoning work of Christ has put us in right relationship with God.  No doubt, with news as good as this who could sit still?  Not only are we compelled to shout it out, but we are also compelled to do what we can to express our gratitude.  Look at what Joshua is told after he receives his new duds:

And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here” (Zechariah 3:6-7)

Now that is a sharp command.  But it is not a command to some person with no basis or merit.  The command goes to the one whom God has chosen, called, and clothed.  It goes to the one who recognizes the price that was paid and the enormity of what has just been done for him, and how he could not do it for himself.  Joshua, the high priest, has come to grips with his need for a Savior and God has made that way for him.

Joshua has tasted the meat, cheese, and onions in the sandwich and is ready and willing to follow God’s command as a response.  Glance back at Warren’s insightful tweet: who is doing that work?  God is!

All Bread, No Sandwich

My problem with Warren’s teaching is this: he has loaves of bread for sale, but leaves out the meat.  No doubt as Christians we are called to service, but pastors miss the mark when they neglect to give us the heart of what makes us Christians in the first place: Christ!  Christ is not only the answer to every question, but he is also the question.  The answer is not 42, it is Christ.  The question is not a planetary computer program, it is Christ.

May each of us strive to not only be Christian outside of our churches, but to also boldly proclaim Christ from our pulpits and from every pew.  May Jesus shine out of us during every hour we are at work and with every word spoken to our friends and families.  May we do good work, under the power of God, because he first loved us!

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

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