Introduction to this Analysis. 2

Synopsis. 2

Summary Affirmation & Critique. 3

The Translation Issue. 3

What on Earth Am I Here for?. 3

Day 1 — It All Starts with God. 3

Day 2 — You Are Not an Accident 4

Day 3 — What Drives Your Life?. 5

Day 4 — Made to Last Forever 6

Day 5 — Seeing Life from God’s View.. 7

Day 6 — Life is a Temporary Assignment 7

Day 7 — The Reason for Everything. 8

Purpose #1 You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure. 9

Day 12 — Developing Your Friendship with God. 10

Day 13 — Worship That Pleases God. 11

Day 14 — When God Seems Distant 13

Purpose #2 You Were Formed for God’s Family. 13

Day 15 — Formed for God’s Family. 13

Day 16 — What Matters Most 14

Day 17 — A Place to Belong. 15

Day 18 — Experiencing Life Together 15

Day 19 — Cultivating Community. 16

Day 20 — Restoring Broken Fellowship. 17

Day 21 — Protecting Your Church. 18

Purpose #3 You Were Created to Become Like Christ 19

Day 22 — Created to Become Like Christ 19

Day 23 — How We Grow.. 20

Day 24 — Transformed by Truth. 21

Day 25 — Transformed by Trouble. 21

Day 26 — Growing through Temptation. 22

Day 27 — Defeating Temptation. 23

Day 28 — It Takes Time. 24

Purpose #4 You Were Shaped for Serving God. 25

Day 29 — Accepting Your Assignment 25

Day 30 — Shaped for Serving God. 26

Day 31 — Understanding Your Shape. 27

Day 32 — Using What God Gave You. 28

Day 33 — How Real Servants Act 29

Day 34 — Thinking Like a Servant 30

Day 35 — God’s Power in Your Weakness. 30

Purpose #5 You Were Made For A Mission. 31

Day 36 — Made for a Mission. 31

Day 37 — Sharing Your Life Message. 33

Day 38 — Becoming a World-Class Christian. 33

Day 39 — Balancing Your Life. 34

Day 40 — Living With Purpose. 35

Introduction to this Analysis

The following analysis attempts to model maturity in critical thinking. Immaturity approaches books with an all-or-nothing attitude. For example, “If I have any fundamental disagreements with a book, it’s a bad, worthless, dangerous, or otherwise undesirable book.” Or, “If the author is liberal, nothing he says can be worth my time.” Maturity approaches books with a “find the biblical; recognize and discard the unbiblical” attitude. Maturity recognizes that just because a person is liberal does mean everything they say is worthless. Maturity also weighs the significance of the good as versus the bad. The material in some books is so bad or the bad material is so pervasive as to render any effort to extract what is good a waste of time or worse, spiritually detrimental. In addition, I also attempt to model charity. Love, in book reviewing, assumes the best about the author’s intention unless the data cannot be interpreted in a positive light.

My analysis of each chapter is broken into three sections: Main point & key quotes, Affirmation, and Critique. The first section highlights chapter’s main points and the key quotes (usually taken from the offset/inset textboxes); hence its title. The second section identifies material in the chapter which resonates with me. The reader may assume that I affirm the main thrust of every chapter, unless I state otherwise. The second section identifies material in the chapter with which I disagree or believe to be biblically incorrect. I usually indicate my reasons for disagreement as well as the Scriptures grounds for my understanding.

With the exception of the material quoted in the Main Points & Key Quotes sections, I have consistently tried to place all quoted material in blue to help distinguish Warren’s material from my comments.

Synopsis

The Purpose-Driven Life answers the question “What on earth am I here for?” The answer is we are here for five purposes: (1) to bring God pleasure, (2) to belong to God’s family, (3) to become like Christ, (4) to serve God, and (5) to fulfill our God-given mission.

Summary Affirmation & Critique

In my opinion, any wholesale dismissal or condemnation of The Purpose-Driven Life reflects an immaturity in critical thinking skills or an unwillingness to consider its case. I have definite disagreements with Warren on various points throughout the book. However, given that the book primarily targets believers and not non-believers, its good far outweighs any bad. I have repeatedly benefited from reading and rereading Warren’s material.

It’s too bad that, while Warren recognizes that loving God is the “greatest objective of your life. Nothing else comes close in importance” (p. 70), he fails provide a coherent explanation of how loving God, bringing God pleasure, and worship relate to one another as our primary purpose. At times He identifies loving God as our first purpose (p. 282, 305), at other times he says it is bringing pleasure to God (p. 63), and still others its worship (p. 64, 310). Are these interrelated ideas? Yes! Are they identical actions? No! Rather than cycling through or alternating between these ideas, Warren would have helped us by identifying means and ends, methods and goals. Loving God is the Chief Command. Precisely how does it relate to worship and pleasing God? God is pleased when we love others. Is loving others an act of love to God? I think the book would be stronger and the church better if he had provided answers to these and other related questions and more explicitly oriented our primary purpose for existence around the most important command God has given us.

The Translation Issue

Warren makes liberal use of The Message, the New Living Translation (first edition), the Living Bible, and the Good News Bible, all of which are more or less highly interpretive translations. For a helpful chart of where these versions fall relative to more conservative translations, click here.

In my first review of the first 11 chapters of The Purpose-Driven Life, I left the jury out on whether Warren just picked and choose versions to suit his view. The jury is now in and its verdict is “yes and no.” In most instances, Warren seemed to be genuinely motivated to allow the reader to hear the truth through different words. In other cases, his choice of a translation appears to be motivated (unconsciously, I assume) by a desire to support his point.

My suggestion, when reading the book, is to view the Scripture translations Warren cites as interpretations of Scripture. Evaluate each interpretation just like you would evaluate a sermon or commentary. If it is on track, good. If not, ignore it or look it up in a reliable modern version and correct it.

What on Earth Am I Here for?

Day 1 — It All Starts with God

Main Points & Key Quotes

It’s not about you.

Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.

You were made by God and for God—and until you understand that, life will never make sense.

Affirmation

17, Warren’s opening statement still resonates with me even after having read it multiple times: “It’s not about you.” The reason? It’s truth, and that’s the way truth is: it never loses its resonance.

This affirmation is hardly new. It’s as old as Wesley who said “God made us to be happy in Him.” It’s as old as the Westminster Catechism which affirms that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” It is as old as David who said, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” It’s as old as Moses who said, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” What is “it?” Its referent is Life. Life, and more particularly, my life is not about me. It is about God.

Our origin, identity, meaning, purpose, destiny—they all originate and ultimate in God. I can’t help but think that such an approach would revolutionize high school and college career counseling, to say nothing of parental guidance regarding career choices. I remember my friends’ frustrated searches to find what they wanted to do in life. Warren is right on the money when he says that is the wrong approach to life.

20-21, Warren’s three concluding insights from chapter one bear repeating. (1) Identity and purpose are found only through relationship with Jesus Christ. (2) God planned the purpose of your life in eternity. (3) Your life’s purpose fits into the grand cosmic plan of God. Now that is something worth living for; someone worth dying for!

Critique

One might get the idea from reading this chapter that determining your life career has nothing to do with you. That is, of course, not true, and I don’t believe Warren intends us to infer that. Our problem is that we start with us and then tell God what we’ll do. God wants us to start with Him—His Kingdom, His Will—and then ask how we can use the gifts and abilities He has given us to participate in His plan.

 

Day 2 — You Are Not an Accident

Main Points & Key Quotes

You are not an accident.

Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God.

Affirmation

23, “While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children.” Very helpful distinction! For a discussion of Deut. 23:2 "A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD," see my blog post.

24, Clearly Warren believes in special creation. He doesn’t affirm that God created as He said He did, but everything Warren says here is good.

25, Here Warren specifically disavows atheistic evolution.

Critique

24-25, It would have been nice if Warren would have affirmed the Genesis account of creation. However, he says nothing here to indicate that he would affirm anything else. I don’t know whether he has made public statements about this, but it seems clear that in this book he is staking his position on purposeful, divine creation.

 

Day 3 — What Drives Your Life?

Main Points & Key Quotes

Everyone’s life is driven by something.

Many people are driven by guilt, by resentment and anger, by fear, by materialism, by the need for approval.

Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.

The benefits of living a purpose-driven life: it …

Gives meaning to your life.

Simplifies your life.

Focuses your life. — If you want your life to have impact, focus it.

Motivates your life.

Prepares you for eternity. — You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.

Affirmation

Excellent chapter, particularly Warren’s treatment of the wrong things that drive people.

30, “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance or hope.” Significant statement. At the same time, having a purpose is not enough. One must live for the purpose for which God designed him; otherwise whatever meaning seems to be granted by living for lesser purposes will evaporate in eternity.

31, “People who don’t know their purpose try to do too much—and that causes stress, fatigue, and conflict.” True. It is tempting to have one’s finger in many pies. The problem is none of them turn out well then. When I have stripped my life of the unessentials, I have always become more productive and satisfied.

33, “Purpose always produces passion. Nothing energizes like a clear purpose.” Perhaps this is why most of the Christians I meet have so little passion for the Kingdom of God. They are not living with a clear vision of the purpose for which God has created them.

33, “Given enough time, all your trophies will be trashed.” If that strikes you as morbid pessimism, you haven’t read Ecclesiastes enough. And if Ecclesiastes depresses you, it must be because you don’t understand what Solomon is saying. In a nutshell the message of Ecclesiastes is “Meaning and satisfaction are not found in any of life’s components; they are found only in life’s Creator.
            I just returned from a family picnic and walk in a park. As we walked in a Rotary Club memorial grove trees, I glanced down to see a marker half covered by grass and dirt. It was supposed to be the name of a Rotary club member on display “permanently.” But there is no such thing as permanence under the sun. Only the life and law that comes from above the sun offer the meaning and satisfaction our souls long for.

Critique

 None.

 

Day 4 — Made to Last Forever

Main Points & Key Quotes

Life is not all that there is.

You were made to last forever.

This life is preparation for the next.

When you live in the light of eternity, your values change.

Affirmation

37, “Eternity offers only two [choices]: heaven or hell” I appreciate Warren not capitulating to modern avoidance of using the term “hell.” Hell is real, and you don’t want to go there!

37, Living in the light of eternity – a powerful concept, certainly not coined by Warren, but well worth pondering and implementing into daily living. As he says on p. 40, we should live each day so that if it were the last day of our lives, we would be ready for eternity.

38, “There are eternal consequences to everything to do on earth.” Echoes of Eccl. 11:9!

39, I like Warren’s description of heaven’s activities: “rewarded for our faithfulness on earth and reassigned to do work that we will enjoy doing. We won’t lie around on clouds with halos playing harps!” Amen! If the talent parables teach us anything, it is that responsibility in little here leads to much greater responsibility there.

40, “God has a purpose for your life on earth, but it doesn’t end here.” This serves as a helpful balance to the book’s emphasis on finding & living out our purpose here. Yes, I must serve God in my generation, but my service here is preparation for greater service to come.

Critique

38, Warren quotes 1 Cor. 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” In reference to eternity. The language of this verse is probably true with reference to eternity, but contextually this verse has nothing to do with heaven. Paul is talking about the Gospel! In fact, the next verse tells us that what eye has not seen has been revealed to us!

 

Day 5 — Seeing Life from God’s View

Main Points & Key Quotes

The way you see you life shapes your life.

Character is both developed and revealed by tests and all of life is a test.

The more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be.

Life is a test and a trust.

Affirmation

43, “You are always being tested.” True. Fortunately habituated obedience can reduce the stress of the test.

43, “In my own life I have noticed that God tests my faith through problems, tests my hope by how I handle possessions, and tests my love through people.” Insightful. James 1:2-4 teaches the first; Hebrews 10:32-35 teaches the second, and 1 John 3:16-18 teaches the third.

46, Great comments on the significant of money as a means of testing us.

Critique

None.

Day 6 — Life is a Temporary Assignment

Main Points & Key Quotes

Life on earth is a temporary assignment.

Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is heaven.

Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better.

Affirmation

50, “Realizing that life on earth is just a temporary assignment should radically alter your values. Eternal values, not temporal ones, should become the deciding factors for your decisions.  Amen!

Good chapter.

Critique

49, “Compared with other centuries, life has never been easier for much of the Western world. We are constantly entertained, amused, and catered to. With all the fascinating attractions, mermerizing media, and enjoyable experiences available today, it’s easy to forget that the pursuit of happines is not what life is about.”

Contrast that statement with this statement from Wesley:

The Assembly’s Catechism asks, “For what end did God create man?” The answer is, “To glorify and enjoy him for ever.” This is undoubtedly true; but is it quite clear, especially to ordinary men? Do common people understand that expression, “To glorify God?” No; no more than they understand Greek. And it is altogether above the capacity of children; to whom we can scarce ever speak plain enough. Now, is not this the very principle that should be inculcated upon every human creature. — “You are made to be happy in God,” as soon as ever reason dawns.” Should not every parent, as soon as a Child begins to talk, or to run alone, say something, of this kind: “See! what is that which shines so over your head? That we call the sun. See, how bright it is! Feel how it warms you! It makes the grass to spring, and everything to grow. But God made the sun. The sun could not shine, nor warn, nor do any good without him.” In this plain and familiar way a wise parent might many lines in a day, say something of God; particularly insisting, “He made you; and he made you to be happy in him; and nothing else can make you happy.” We cannot press this too soon. (Sermon 114, “The Unity of the Divine Being”)

The essence of what Warren and Wesley are saying is the same; however, the manner of expressing is not unimportant. The pursuit of happiness in God is in fact the purpose for which God made us and is what life is about. The man who pursues his happiness in God will find the attractions, media, and experiences of this life tinny bangles and cheap bobbles whose allure pales in comparison to the rivers of pleasure God offers to those who seek Him.

 

Day 7 — The Reason for Everything

Main Points & Key Quotes

It’s all for him.

Living for God’s glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish with our lives.

When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God.

We bring glory to God by

Worshiping him

Loving other believers

Becoming like Christ

Serving others with our gifts.

Telling others about him

Jesus will give you everything you need to live for him.

Affirmation

53-54, Interesting discussion of God’s glory and how we glorify God. 

55, “When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God.

55, “We worship God by enjoying him. C. S. Lewis said, “In commanding us to glorify him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.” Lewis’s comment fits beautifully with the first commandment. To love God is to delight in Him, i.e., to enjoy Him. When you love God, you worship Him, for as Lewis observes, “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. … We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958], 94-95.)

Critique

58-59, In my first review of this chapter, I said:

I ran into my first major snag in Warren’s theology in chapter seven. At the end of the chapter he invites sinners to Christ, and that is admirable. But in my estimation he fails to give them proper directions on how to come to Christ. He says that they must believe; but he doesn’t say they must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, or that He died for our sins and rose the third day. Both of those items are core components of the apostolic gospel. Frankly, I am not inclined to think that Warren purposefully left out mention of those two items, but I do find it disturbing that his call to sinners is defective. A defective call may lead to a defective faith, and a defective faith is not a saving faith. When we “believe in Jesus,” we’re not just believing facts about His deity or even His resurrection. We are believing that He is the only way to God, that His sacrifice is the only atonement God will accept, and that He is the only solution to our desperate need for salvation from the wrath of God we justly deserve. (1/1/2006)

I also notice that any mention of repentance is also missing. For example, “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.’” The next two paragraphs that explicate “receive” and “believe” fail to note that receiving Christ necessarily involves a renunciation of the old way of life.

Purpose #1 You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure

Since I already reviewed the first 11 chapters previously, I began this review with chapter 12. I am slowly returning and commenting on chapters 1-11.

 

Day 8 — Planned for God’s Pleasure

Day 9 — What Makes God Smile?

Day 10 — The Heart of Worship

Day 11 — Becoming Best Friends with God

Day 12 — Developing Your Friendship with God

Main Points & Key Quotes

You are as close to God as you choose to be.

The building blocks to deeper friendship with God are …

choose to be honest with God

choose to obey God in faith

choose to value what God values

desire friendship with God more than anything else

God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does insist on complete honesty.

Bitterness is the greatest barrier to friendship with God.

The more you become God’s friend, the more you will care about the things he cares about.

Affirmation

94, the antidote to bitterness “is to realize that God always acts in your best interest, even when it is painful and you don’t understand it.” If one believes this, why would there be “resentment” to release (as Warren’s next sentence suggests)?

96, “We are often challenged to do ‘great things’ for God. Actually, God is more pleased when we do small things for him out of loving obedience.” Helpful balance.

98, Couldn’t agree more with the thrust of this chapter: “Intimate friendship with God is a choice, not an accident. You must intentionally seek it.”

Critique

92-93, “If perfection was a requirement for friendship with God, we would never be able to be his friends.” In the sense of absolute perfect in all areas, this statement is true. In the sense of moral perfection, this statement is false. God does require us to be morally perfect, that is why are union with Christ is absolutely necessary for fellowship with God. Union with Christ does not mean personal holiness is irrelevant. But any degree of personal holiness without union with Christ is insufficient for fellowship with our thrice holy God.

93, “Jesus is still the ‘friend of sinners’.” Contextually, Warren appears to intend this sentence for those who are believers and want to be close to God. This is a frequent, but gross abuse of the accusation made by the Pharisees against Jesus. Jesus’ friendship with sinners was always redemptive in focus. Jesus did not ‘hang out’ with sinners. He invited them to listen to him, to eat with him, to be on his turf and under his saving influence. We have no record of Jesus going to listen to sinners, to eat with them where he was not the center of attention.

93, “In the bible the friends of God were honest about their feelings, often complaining. … God, however, didn’t seem to be bothered by this frankness; in fact, he encouraged it.”

This statement runs afoul of 1 Cor. 10:10 where God punished Israel for complaining. There is a difference between stating the facts of one’s circumstances and feelings from within a stance of faith in God and doing the same thing in a way that questions God’s goodness, wisdom, and power. The former is not complaining; the latter is.

93, “God allowed Abraham to question and challenge him over the destruction of the city of Sodom.” Was it really a challenge? Sounds to me like a plea, not a challenge.

I’m not convinced that Jeremiah’s bitter statements or Job’s venting were without sin. Divine silence is not necessarily approval. God is merciful. I am leery about too glibly asserting the right to “vent” against God. Most ‘venting’ is nothing more than a revelation of a deeply flawed faith, i.e., a relative degree of faithlessness.

Day 13 — Worship That Pleases God

Main Points & Key Quotes

God wants all of you.

God is pleased when our worship is accurate, authentic, thoughtful, and practical.

Real worship is rooted in the Word.

Affirmation

100, Good opening paragraph. Amen!

101, “We cannot just create our own comfortable or politically correct image of God and worship it. That is idolatry.” Couldn’t have said it better myself! “Worship must be based on the truth of Scripture, not our opinions about God.” Again, right on! What I find strange is that seeker-sensitive churches, such as Rick’s, don’t seem to run by this principle. God is holy, majestic, transcendent, angry with the wicked every day … where do these truths find their expression in churches that remove the cross as an offensive symbol, expunge hell from the pulpit vocabulary, and cater to sinner’s tastes in music?

101, “Heartless praise is not praise at all! It is worthless, an insult to God.” Interesting. I wonder if it’s true.

102 — Good comments on the distinction between being moved by music and moved by the Spirit.

104 — I like Warren’s suggestion to try to praise God without using the words praise, hallelujah, thanks, or amen. He isn’t telling us to get rid of those biblical words. His point is to engage our minds in thought through expressions of praise rather than using stock phrases that do not require mental engagement. He suggests using words like admire, respect, value, revere, honor, and appreciate. When I asked myself what I admire about God, a whole new train of thought was generated. I had never thought of admiring God, but I do. For me, what I admire most about God is His creativity, particularly the way He designs utilitarian aesthetics, intricacy at every level of existence from sub-atomic particles to inter-galactic systems. His systems are complex, flexible, and stable. They are not brittle or rigid. They all have flexible latitude for variation. If the variation is mutational, His systems even have built in error identification and correction mechanisms! What power! What wisdom! What intelligence!

106, “Passive worship is an oxymoron.” Great statement.

Critique

100, “A Samaritan woman once tried to debate Jesus on the best, time, place, and style for worship. Jesus replied that these external issues are irrelevant.” That’s not what Jesus said! In fact, he said the opposite: they are relevant. The Jews were worshipping in the right place and in the right ‘style.’ Those items were not irrelevant; they just weren’t the most important things.

102, “The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God, based on the background and personality God gave you.” If Warren means the best style within the bounds of worship that is Scripturally accurate, as he affirmed early on this page, then I would suggest two modifications: (1) some people’s background and/or personality is so shaped by sin that what they are personally comfortable with will not be Scripturally accurate. Therefore, both background and personality must be consciously and rigorously subjected to Scriptural scrutiny. (2) This statement does not apply to corporate worship.
            Although Warren does not make this clear, or as clear as he should, I think he is talking about private worship when he makes the above statement. In that case I’m inclined to agree. There is no Biblically mandated style of worship, though the Bible does provide a variety of patterns. The real problem with this statement is that it gets pulled out the context of Scripturally accurate, authentic, individual worship and made to apply to corporate worship.

103, “You don’t bring glory to God by trying to be someone he never intended you to be. God wants you to be yourself.” True, if we understand that the ‘self’ God wants is a ‘self’ renewed in the image of Christ. False, if we mean my natural likes and dislikes apart from full renewal in the image of His Son.

103 “That’s the kind of people the Father is looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.” (Msg) What a gross misinterpretation of John 4:23! As though to worship God in spirit and in truth means God just wants people who are honestly themselves before him in worship. The whole context of John 4 argues that “in truth” means in accordance with God’s nature or word or both. Not in accord with our nature!

104, Warren misinterprets 1 Cor. 14:16-17 when he says, “Being sensitive to unbelievers who visit your worship gatherings is a biblical command.” Paul does not say to be sensitive to them. He tells the Corinthians to be sensible or understandable in their worship. If someone speaks in a language that visitors don’t understand, there will be no edification or evangelism. NT corporate worship was never intended to be a primary vehicle for evangelism. Sinners are not the focus on NT corporate worship nor is sensitivity to their likes, dislikes, or prejudices to be a determining factor in Christian worship.

Day 14 — When God Seems Distant

Main Points & Key Quotes

God is real, no matter how you feel.

God admits that sometimes he hides his face from us.

The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God.

When God is silent …

Tell God exactly how you feel

Focus on who God is—his unchanging nature.

Trust God to keep his promises.

When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him, you worship him in the deepest way.

Affirmation

109, “The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God.” A lot of truth in that. We seek Him for the joy of finding. The experience of joy is wonderful, but it must be joy sought in God, not merely joy sought.

109 — Warren notes that young Christians often receive “a lot of confirming emotions” from God, and even answers to “immature, self-centered prayers” as a confirmation of their relationship. “But as you grow in faith, [God] will wean you of these dependencies.” Interesting observation. Appears to be true.

111 — Great list of bullet points for focusing on God’s unchanging character.

112 — Helpful reminder of the price Christ paid for our redemption as a worthy basis for continual thanks and praise.

Critique

109, “Sin does disconnect us from intimate fellowship with God.” The statement is accurate as far as it goes. From an Arminian perspective, however, it doesn’t go far enough. Sin, if left unrepented and therefore unforgiving, will ultimately separate us from the life of God eternally.

Purpose #2 You Were Formed for God’s Family

Day 15 — Formed for God’s Family

Main Points & Key Quotes

You were formed for God’s family.

Your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever.

Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive.

Affirmation

117 — Helpful mention of the inner-Trinitarian life of God as the perfect pattern for relationship harmony

118-19 — Good development of the family of God and the benefits of being a member of the family. Would have been nice if Warren had a better grasp on the role of the Kingdom in God’s plan.

120 — valuable introduction to the significance of baptism

Critique

None.

Day 16 — What Matters Most

Main Points & Key Quotes

Life is all about love.

Relationships must have priority in your life above everything else because …

Life without love is really worthless

Love will last forever.

We will be evaluated on our love.

The best expression of love is time.

The best time to love is now.

Affirmation

125, “God says relationships are what life is all about.” True. First relationship with Himself, then with others. This really should shape our priorities.

125, “The point of life is learning to love—God and people.” Amen.

126, Great prayer suggestion: “God, whether I get anything else done today, I want to make sure that I spend time loving you and loving other people—because that is what life is all about. I don’t want to waste this day.”

Critique

123, “Learning to love unselfishly is not an easy task. It runs counter to our self-centered nature. That’s why we’re given a lifetime to learn it.” Entire sanctification makes a difference in this but it certainly doesn’t mean we have nothing more to learn about loving unselfishly.

124, “Jesus said our love for each other—not our doctrinal beliefs—is our greatest witness to the world” False antithesis. Love demonstrates the reality of our doctrinal affirmations. These cannot be separated. Take either without the other and we are no longer disciples of Jesus.

125, NLT’s translation “A second [commandment] is equally important” is really incredible. Equally important! It’s just as important to love others as it is to love God? That’s hardly what Jesus says!

125, “After learning to love God (worship), learning to love others is the second purpose of your life.” Remove the parenthesis and I whole-heartedly agree. But loving God and worshiping God are not identical. Loving God is self-sacrificially committing myself to be uncompromisingly loyal to Him, to delight in Him … and this is where worship comes in. Love worships, but worship is not love.

127, I wonder if “the best expression of love is time.” Jesus said the greatest expression of love was to give one’s life for another (John 15:13). Time is one aspect of that, but seems to narrow to be equal to one’s life.

 

Day 17 — A Place to Belong

Main Points & Key Quotes

You are called to belong, not just believe.

We discover our role in life through our relationships with others.

The church will outlive this universe, and so will your role in it.

You need a church family because …

it identifies you as a genuine believer.

it moves you out of self-centered isolation.

it helps you develop spiritual muscle.

it needs you.

you will share in Christ’s mission in the world

it will help keep you from backsliding.

Jesus has not promised to build your ministry; he has promised to build his church.

Affirmation

130, Great statement: “We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.” This is not postmodernism. This is biblical theology.

Top-notch chapter. Great arguments for the necessity of local church membership.

Critique

None.

Day 18 — Experiencing Life Together

Main Points & Key Quotes

Life is meant to be shared.

The difference between real and fake fellowship is in real fellowship people experience …

authenticity.

mutuality.

sympathy.

mercy.

Real fellowship happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives.

Every time you understand and affirm someone’s feelings you build fellowship.

We need others in our lives.

Affirmation

138, “Real fellowship is … experiencing life together. It included unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other ‘one another’ commands” Warren’s vision of fellowship is biblical and, therefore, compelling. He has correctly identified the longing we all have. His next point is powerful. “When it comes to fellowship, size matters: Smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but you can’t fellowship with one.” This was the genius of the Methodist class meeting, and the reason for the success of ‘small groups’ – the problem is we live in a culture that fears personal honesty and shuns the tough realities of holding people accountable.

141, interesting analysis of levels of fellowship, moving from shallow to deep: fellowship of sharing, of studying the Word of God together, of serving together, and of suffering together.

This chapter is an excellent summary of the key ingredients of authentic fellowship.

Critique

143, “Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it.” This is the standard view, but I’m uncertain that this is accurate. God doesn’t forgive without repentance. God is ready to forgive at all times. God seeks out sinners to reconcile them to himself. I think we should follow God’s pattern of forgiveness when dealing with those who sin against us. We must be ready and willing to forgive. We must seek the sinner out and seek reconciliation. We grant actual forgiveness when repentance takes place.

Day 19 — Cultivating Community

Main Points & Key Quotes

Community requires commitment.

Cultivating community requires: honesty, humility, courtesy, confidentiality, and frequency

When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.

The fellowship of the church is more important than any individual.

Affirmation

Boy! Another home run. This chapter ignites longing in my heart for real community.

From a fundamentalist perspective: Warren sounds like a fundamentalist here. Sin must be confronted. “The fellowship of the church is more important that any individual” (150). Right on target.

Critique

None.

Day 20 — Restoring Broken Fellowship

Main Points & Key Quotes

Relationships are always worth restoring.

Steps to restore a relationship

1.      Talk to God before talking to the person.

2.      Always take the initiative.

3.      Sympathize with their feelings.

4.      Confess your part of the conflict.

5.      Attack the problem, not the person.

6.      Cooperate as much as possible

7.      Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution.

In resolving conflict, how you say it is as important as what you say.

Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem.

Affirmation

153ff. Valuable discussion of what peacemaking is and isn’t.

Warren’s steps for restoring broken fellowship are right on target. Would to God we loved each other enough to practice this. I learned these truths in grad school while writing Developing Biblical Interpersonal Relationships. This is probably one of the most neglected truths I know, and frankly the one that provokes the most emotional opposition when I teach on it.

Critique

152, “the Bible tells us that God has given us the ministry of restoring relationships.” This is not what 2 Cor. 5:18 says. The ministry of reconciling men to God is not a ministry of reconciling men to men, though reconciliation to God will lead to reconciliation with men. Same verse mistranslated again on p. 154.

154, “Most conflict is rooted in unmet needs.” This strikes me as off-target: (1) James 4:1-4 identifies self-centeredness as the source of conflict, (2) Jesus tells us that we have two basic needs: food and clothing. Paul says, “Let us therewith be content.” Any other need has its answer in God through Christ in whom we are complete (Col. 2:10). Warren quotes James 4, but seems to miss James’ clear identification of our self-centered desires as the source of conflict and pins the problem on prayerlessness. Prayerlessness is a problem, but the root issue is deeper.

156, standard misinterpretation of 1 John 1:8 as directed to believers. My understanding of 1 John 1:8 is reflected in my answer to the following question from the 1 John study guide from my General Epistles course:

Question: 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we are not having (present tense) sin, we are deceiving ourselves. Does this mean all Christians sin regularly? Explain your answer.

Answer: No. John is addressing a heretical view of sin and is not arguing that believers have sin.
(1) If we are being cleansed from all sin (v. 7) and we are cleansed from all unrighteousness (v. 9); it is impossible to still have sin; so v. 8 must not be referring to believers.
(2) Further, in v. 8 ‘have’ is a present tense verb, and John explicitly denies that believers are characterized by or ones living (present tense) in sin (3:6-9). In fact, he says it is impossible for those who know God and have been born again by Him to live in sin.
(3) The following passages from 1 John also support this conclusion: 1 John 2:4, 9, 29; 3:10.
(4) The verb ‘have’ + sin occurs four times in John's gospel (Jn. 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11), each time with the sense of "to be guilty." That sense fits here as well: the heretics were claiming to have no guilt (of sin), probably due to proto-gnostic tendencies denying that guilt attaches to their person.

Day 21 — Protecting Your Church

Main Points & Key Quotes

It is your job to protect the unity of your church.

How do we do this?

Focus on what we have in common, not our differences.

Be realistic in our expectations.

Choose to encourage rather than criticize.

Refuse to listen to gossip.

Practice God’s method for conflict resolution.

Support your pastor and leaders.

Nothing on earth is more valuable to God than his church.

We must passionately love the church in spite of its imperfections.

We protect the fellowship when we honor those who serve us by leading.

Affirmation

163, “The sooner we give up the illusion that a church must be perfect in order to love it, the sooner we quit pretending and start admitting we’re all imperfect and need grace. This is the beginning of real community.” Amen and ouch!

164, “Remember, other Christians, no matter how much you disagree with them, are not the real enemy.” Too true. And yet Warren just said that when we criticize and complain we’re doing the Devil’s work. There are times when it is appropriate to tell a fellow Christian, “Get behind me Satan!” Or at least Jesus thought it was an appropriate way to address one of his own followers.

164, “Gossip is passing on information when you are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution.” That’s my definition! J I wonder if we both got it from the same source.

One the whole another good chapter.

Critique

162, Warren’s view that all believers are sinners, and therefore will hurt one another, “sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally,” is a standard evangelical position that grossly distorts the NT picture of believers as holy ones becoming more holy. We are not sinners. We are saints whose purpose is to love God, love others, and live holy. When we fail to do so, it is sin. But sin is not our identity. Holiness is. We are saints, and our identity is one of God-loving pursuit of holiness.

Purpose #3 You Were Created to Become Like Christ

Day 22 — Created to Become Like Christ

Main Points & Key Quotes

You were created to become like Christ

We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work

God uses his Word, people, and circumstances to mold us

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth

Affirmation

171, “We were created to become like Christ.”

 Yes, if Warren means that God’s purpose for all believers, “new creatures in Christ Jesus,” is that they be made like Jesus. It may also be true that Adam, though fully in God’s image, was not fully like Christ and therefore had more ‘becoming’ to do. However, Scripture doesn’t clear affirm this.

172 — Good paragraph rejecting any concept of becoming God or a god.

173, “Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone.” Correct on both counts.

173, “…life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven!” Great point! When we assume it’s supposed to be easy, we really create problems for ourselves.

173 — Good paragraph rejecting health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.

175 — Good emphasis on human responsible to “make every effort” to grow like Christ. His list of three responsibilities is accurate, though not comprehensive.’

176 — Valuable recognition of the place of truth, support, and environment in spiritual growth. “Spiritual maturity is not a solitary, individual pursuit.” American Christians have forgotten this.

Critique

173, “Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.”

Inaccurate. This statement wrongly implies that personality is not fallen. To the degree that our personality expresses itself in unChristlike ways, to that degree it needs to be transformed as well.

174, “Christlikeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation.”

False dichotomy. Eph. 5:1 “Be imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ …” It’s both. The Spirit empowers us to imitate. Warren actually ends up saying this, but his lead statement was overstated.

176, “Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process” Better: it is a life-long process of growth at different rates (sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and sometimes imperceptible). My understanding of passages such as 1 Thess. 5:23-24; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 3:16-19 also leads me to add that this process includes decisive points at which we consecrate wholly ourselves to God and God sanctifies us wholly.

 

Day 23 — How We Grow

Main Points & Key Quotes

God wants you to grow up.

We become whatever we are committed to.

The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act.

Affirmation

179, “Spiritual growth is not automatic. It takes intentional commitment.”

182-182 — Good analogy with autopilot. Will-power transformation without thought pattern transformation results in internal dissonance. That’s why most diets fail, both physical and spirit diet changes must be accompanied by mind changes as well.

183, “Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the best evidence of spiritual growth.”

Great summary of Phil. 2:1-8!

Critique

None.

 

Day 24 — Transformed by Truth

Main Points & Key Quotes

The truth transforms us.

The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.

Abiding in God’s word is accomplished by …

accepting its authority.

assimilating its truth.

applying its principles.

Affirmation

185, “To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word.”

187, pithy analysis of unreliable authorities often used as a basis for decision making: “culture (‘everyone is doing I’), tradition (‘we’ve always done it’), reason (‘it seems logical’), or emotion (‘it just felt right’).”

187, I could not agree more heartily with this paragraph: “The most important decision you can make today is to settle this issue of what will be the ultimate authority for your life. Decided that regardless of culture, tradition, reason, or emotion, you choose the Bible as your final authority. Determine to ask first, “What does the Bible say?” when making decisions.”

188-190, Warren’s five R’s for assimilating God’s word are valuable: receive it, read it, research it, remember it, and reflect on it.

188, interesting analysis of the parable of the soils in terms of receptiveness: hard soil = closed mind; shallow soil = superficial mind; soil with weeds = a distracted mind.

Critique

None.

 

Day 25 — Transformed by Trouble

Main Points & Key Quotes

God has a purpose behind every problem.

Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days.

Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance.

Respond to problems as Jesus would by …

remembering that God’s plan is good.

rejoicing and giving thanks.

refusing to give up.

Affirmation

194, “Everything that happens to a child of God is Father-filtered, and he intends to use it for good even when Satan and others mean it for bad.” Nice turn of phrase; wonderful truth!

195-96 — right on target analysis of Roman 8:28-29. The good God brings out of ‘all things’ is conformity to Christ.

198, “The secret of endurance is to remember that your pain is temporary but your reward will be eternal.”

198, “When you grasp the eternal consequences of your character development, you’ll prayer fewer ‘Comfort me’ prayers and more ‘Conform me’ prayers.

Critique

196, “Ruth was not even Jewish and broke the law by marrying a Jewish man.” There was no law that forbade Jews from marrying Moabites, particularly Moabites that had converted to Yahweh worship. The only restriction regarding Moabites that the Law makes is found in Deut. 23:3 where God prohibits Ammonites and Moabites from entering the congregation of the Lord.

 

Day 26 — Growing through Temptation

Main Points & Key Quotes

Every temptation is an opportunity to do good.

God develops the fruit of the Spirit by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality!

We think temptation lies around us, but God says it begins within us.

We overcome temptation by …

refusing to be intimidated.

recognizing our pattern of temptation and being prepared for it.

requesting God’s help.

Temptation is a sign that Satan hates you, not a sign of weakness or worldliness.

Affirmation

205 — valuable discussion of the difference between physical attraction or sexual arousal and lust. Warren rightly notes that “they are not the same.” “Attraction and arousal are the natural, spontaneous, God-given responses to physical beauty, while lust is a deliberate act of the will.”

205-206 — Although Warren does not explicitly argue that Satan has access to our minds, he assumes it and rightly so. The idea that Satan does not have access to our minds or thoughts is both wrong and misguided. Whether he has access to all our thoughts at all times, I have no idea. But if we argue that he has no access to our minds, then all evil thoughts or temptations to evil thoughts must arise from within. The biblical doctrine of a clean heart hardly comports with such a view of the source of evil thoughts.

Critique

202, Warren asserts the standard dichotomy between happiness and joy: “Happiness depends on external circumstances, but joy is based on your relationship to God” I used to believe this until I studied what the Bible says about happiness. Biblically, happiness and joy are cousins, if not fraternal twins, and as John Wesley said, “God made us to be happy in Him.” For more on this and how happiness relates to loving God, see my book Loving God: The Primary Principle of the Christian Life.

203, a couple lines in the top paragraph on the relationship between virtue and temptation to vice are, I think, biblically untenable:

“You can’t claim to be good if you’ve never been tempted to be bad.” Taken at face value, that would be that God can’t claim to be good, since he cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13).

Faithfulness is not built solely by temptation to unfaithfulness. Faithfulness is primarily built by determined commitment lived out daily.

 

Day 27 — Defeating Temptation

Main Points & Key Quotes

There is always a way out.

Four biblical keys to defeating temptation:

Refocus your attention on something else.

Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group.

Resist the Devil.

Realize your vulnerability.

The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind. Whatever gets your attention will get you.

The truth is, whatever you can’t talk about is already out of control in your life.

Don’t ever try to argue with the Devil. He’s better at arguing than you are, having had thousands of years of practice.

Affirmation

Warren’s four keys to defeating temptation are right on target.

210, I couldn’t agree more with his statement, “The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind.” I wish every young people between the ages of 10-12 could hear that every day. The seeds of teenage or young adult dissipation are sown in the mind during adolescence. The maintenance of a pure mind when the temptations first begin saves one from a world of failure and guilt down the road.

Critique

210, “Whatever gets your attention will get you.” Overstatement. Perhaps for effect? You can’t be tempted without a desire coming to your attention. Perhaps he means “whatever gets your focused and willing attention will get you.”

211, It’s a shame that the avenue most used by Satan to tempt God’s people and pump the sewage of the world into our minds—the television—doesn’t receive more than a passing “Get up and turn off the television set.” I have never met a person who could honestly say that the television has been a long-term means of fostering their hunger for holiness and a whole-hearted pursuit of God. On the contrary, virtually everyone I meet will admit that a critical appraisal of the television inevitably yields conclusions such as it is addictive, wastes time, dulls sensitivity to sin, requires an almost impossible level of vigilance to avoid exposure to immodesty, suggestions of immorality, godlessness, and constantly presses upon the viewer a set of values that are inconsistent with passionate love for God and others.

 

Day 28 — It Takes Time

Main Points & Key Quotes

There are no shortcuts to maturity.

While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow.

There is no growth without change, no change without fear or loss, and no loss without pain.

God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.

Affirmation

219ff. I found Warren’s discussion of what growth times “so long” helpful. If young converts who’ve gone through their initial spiritual growth spurt could get a hold of this truth, it would save them a lot of frustration and self-doubt. Warren’s reasons for what it takes so long bear repeating:

“We are slow learners.”

“We have a lot to unlearn”

“We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves.”

“Growth is often painful and scary.”

“Habits take time to develop.”

Critique

218, Warren’s view of eternal security comes through in a few places in this chapter. Although I disagree with his view of security, I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t press the issue.

 

Purpose #4 You Were Shaped for Serving God

Day 29 — Accepting Your Assignment

Main Points & Key Quotes

You were put on earth to make a contribution.

You were created, saved, called, and commanded by God … to serve.

If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, I should question whether Christ is really in my life.

Spiritual maturity is never an end in itself. We grow up in order to give out.

Service is the pathway to real significance.

Service is not optional.

Affirmation

228, “In God’s kingdom, you have a place, a purpose, a role, and a function to fulfill. This gives your life great significance and value.” Inspiring words. Inspiring truth. If this is really true (and it is), then the degree to which I feel aimless and worthless, must be an indication of the degree to which I am off-track in filling my place, purpose, and role in God’s eternal Kingdom.

228-229, Warren’s comments on the NT terms ‘minister,’ ‘ministry,’ and ‘call’ are right on target. Every believer is called to be a minister of God’s grace for God’s glory to the needs of others.

229, “If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, I should question whether Christ is really in my life.” Warren is just paraphrasing John: “But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) The proportional version of this statement is also true: The degree to which I love others, the degree to which I serve others, reflects the degree to which I love God and am like Christ.

232, “The Bible warns unbelievers, ‘He will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves,’ but for Christians it will mean a loss of eternal rewards.” Not too many years ago, I would have disdained the last half of Warren’s statement as neo-calvinistic poppy-cock. I grew up thinking that the idea of gaining or losing rewards in Heaven was unspiritual and little more than heavenly materialism. Piper’s quotations of Lewis, Edwards, Pascal, and others in Desiring God perhaps helped me gain the framework for a more biblical view of rewards, but it was Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards: Why Everything You Do Today Matters Forever that really laid out the biblical data for me. Jesus repeatedly urges us to labor for rewards in Heaven. For example, “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). If this is new to you, reread the Sermon on the Mount and notice how often Jesus offers heavenly rewards as a motivation for righteous living.

Critique

None of any substance.

Day 30 — Shaped for Serving God

Main Points & Key Quotes

You were shaped to serve God.

Your emotional heartbeat is key to understanding your shape for service.

God wants you to serve him passionately, not dutifully.

Affirmation

235, Eph. 2:10 is an excellent text that teaches precisely what Warren says it does. We are “custom-designed, one-of-a-kind, original masterpiece[s].” I heard all my life that “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” but I don’t remember anyone basing that statement on Eph. 2:10. If we are indeed God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works which God ordained

236, Warren’s acrostic SHAPE—Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience—is helpful.

237, Helpful labels for the most common gift-related problems: “gift-envy” and “gift-projection.” Warren’s two-page discussion of gifts here is really an excellent introduction.

238-39, Two characteristics of serving from the heart: enthusiasm and effectiveness. Very helpful!

Critique

235, I was pleased that Warren side-stepped directly committing the fallacy of semantic anachronism, but he comes close. It is true that “Our English word poem comes from the Greek word translated ‘workmanship.’” However, since it is not true that the Greek word poiema meant “poem” in the first century, I’m not sure that there is any particular value to be gained by noting this English etymology. When Paul wrote Philippians 2:10, he was not stating or implying that we were a divine poem. Rather, as Warren states, he would have been thinking of a “handcrafted [was there any other kind?] work of art [as long as ‘art’ is conceived of loosely].”

238-39, As much as I like Warren’s discussion of heart-felt service, there is a balancing problem that needs to be addressed: our hearts are fallen and depraved, even after salvation. And from a Wesleyan perspective, even after entire sanctification, the effects of depravity affect our passions. E.g., how many Christians find themselves naturally passionate about seeing the lost redeemed? Our lack of passion is not a basis for saying, “Well, I’m not shaped for evangelism; therefore, I don’t need to be involved in it.” Our lack of passion should drive us to our needs asking God to help us have a heart like His.

 

Day 31 — Understanding Your Shape

Main Points & Key Quotes

Only you can be you.

All our abilities come from God.

Every ability can be used for God’s glory.

What I’m able to do, God wants me to do.

Affirmation

What a great chapter! Together with chapter 30, I think this is the best presentation I’ve seen on the internal, personal elements one should consider when trying to determine how best to serve God. I would like to see him treat the external elements like direction through spiritual authority structures, wisdom from godly counselors, and providential direction.

244, “God doesn’t waste abilities; he matches our calling and our capabilities.”

244, “Your abilities were not given just to make a living; God gave them to you for your ministry.”

244, I like his philosophy that new church members should be told, “Whatever you’re good at, you should be doing for your church.” This approach recognizes that God may bring new members to start new ministries. Most churches seem to operate with the philosophy that your abilities must match our current ministry list for you to be used. At the very least, all new members should take a SHAPE inventory so that the church leadership can know where best to plug them in.

245, “Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities.” To be precise: exactly! This is a truth that ministerial students need to hear. It is frequently the case that a young person has a stereotypical ministry method and location fixed in their mind that is at odds with their SHAPE. If they could learn this principle, they might spend less time trying to fit their square peg in a triangular ministry slot.

246, “When you ministry in a manner consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction, and fruitfulness.” Again, so true!

246, Warren’s bullet list of types of past experiences that can help determine one’s shape for serving God is helpful. His following discussion of how God uses painful experiences is quite good as well.

Critique

242-43, It seems a bit odd that Warren uses Rom. 12:6a and 1 Cor. 12:6 as Scriptural support for his discussion of natural abilities when contextually both passages refer to spiritual gifts. The fact is most discussions of spiritual gifts acknowledge that it is often difficult to distinguish spiritual gifts from natural abilities. It doesn’t bother me that Warren skirts this issue, though I think some acknowledgement of it would probably be helpful.

243, “What I’m able to do, God wants me to do.” This true statement should be balanced by two additional considerations: timing and location. What I’m able to do, God wants me to do, but He may not want me to do it right now or right here.

243-44, “God will never ask you to dedicate your life to a task you have no talent for.” Leave out the ‘never’ and you have a valid generalization. There are two problems with this statement: (1) There are historical examples of people who were called by God to do something that they did not have talent for, yet God made them effective despite their inability. (2) More seriously, we sometimes misjudge whether ourselves thinking we do not have the ability to do what God wants us to do. Moses is a classic example (Exod. 3).

 

Day 32 — Using What God Gave You

Main Points & Key Quotes

God deserves your best.

You will never know what you’re good at until you try.

God wants you to enjoy using the shape he has given you.

Affirmation

Helpful chapter, particularly the self-analysis questions he suggests for identifying gifts and abilities on p. 250.

250, In ch. 31 I was wishing he would note that that God uses the Body of Christ to confirm our shape. Here he does: “Spiritual gifts and natural abilities are always confirmed by others.”

250-51, Warren is on track when he notes that discovering one’s gifts and abilities comes through serving and experimenting, not taking gifts tests. He’s clearly not opposed to gift inventories, but he rightly notes their weaknesses: standardization, relatively arbitrary definitions of the gifts.

253, Important warning against the temptation to compare our ministry to that of others or to conform our ministry to others’ expectations.

254-55. Good exhortation to continue to develop/hone our areas of giftedness.

Critique

254, “You will find that people who do not understand your shape for ministry will criticize you and try to get to you conform to what they think you should be doing. Ignore them.” This is the kind of statement that I would expect the headstrong or proud to take to heart to justify their rejection of people’s attempts to help them see that they have misperceived their shape. As a Bible college professor for whom part of my job is to help shape students, not merely help them discover their shape, I think a better response would be: when people criticize you, use it as a time for evaluation. Is there anything that is true in what they are saying? Share the criticisms with godly and wise counselors. Do they agree with any part of the criticism? If, after humbly investigating, it turns out that the criticism is inaccurate and/or unwarranted, then it can be ignored.

 

Day 33 — How Real Servants Act

Main Points & Key Quotes

We serve God by serving others.

Jesus measured greatness in terms of service, not status

Six characteristics of real servants. Real servants …

Make themselves available to serve.

Pay attention to needs.

Do their best with what they have.

Do every task with equal dedication.

Are faithful to their ministry.

Maintain a low profile.

Your shape reveals your ministry, but your servant’s heart will reveal your maturity.

Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks.

Affirmation

Excellent chapter.

258, “Your primary ministry should be in the area of your shape, but your secondary service is wherever you’re needed at the moment.” Helpful statement to guard against a mentality that thinks service outside of one’s shape is also outside of one’s responsibility.

259, It took me quite a while to learn this, but Warren’s right on the nose: “If you will remind yourself at the start of every day that you are God’s servant, interruptions won’t frustrate you as much, because your agenda will be whatever God wants to bring into your life. Servants see interruptions as divine appointments for ministry and are happy for the opportunity to practice serving.” In fact, I’m still working on making this a fixture in my thinking, rather than a fix-and-repair tactic.

261, I find the distinction between “upward” service to those in authority and “downward” service to those in need to be help. Both are service.

Critique

258, “We would rather be generals than privates. Even Christians want to be “servant-leaders,” not just plain servants. But to be like Jesus is to be a servant. That’s what he called himself.” True enough. Jesus also said, “You call me teacher and lord, and rightly so” (John 13:13). Warren seems imply that the use of the term servant-leader has a subtle, perhaps even, unconscious subtext of pride. While it may reflect pride, it need not. It can be a helpful description that distinguishes servant-followers from servant-leaders.

 

Day 34 — Thinking Like a Servant

Main Points & Key Quotes

Service starts in your mind.

Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes. Servants …

Think more about others than about themselves.

Think like stewards, not owners.

Think about their work, not what others are doing.

Base their identity in Christ.

Think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.

Real servants don’t try to use God for their purposes. They let God use them for his purposes.

The closer you get to Jesus, the less you need to promote yourself.

Affirmation

Great chapter, particularly his treatment of stewardship.

266, “We can measure our servant’s heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants.” Ouch. Good point.

Critique

267, Would have been nice if he had cited Eph. 4:28 in his discussion of making money for the Kingdom—we work to have to give to those in need.

 

Day 35 — God’s Power in Your Weakness

Main Points & Key Quotes

God loves to use weak people.

If God only used perfect people, nothing would ever get done.

Your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.

Paul’s model for dealing with our weaknesses:

Admit your weaknesses.

Be content with your weaknesses.

Honestly share your weaknesses.

Glory in your weaknesses.

Affirmation

Powerful and convicting! Great chapter!

274, “Contentment is an expression of faith in the goodness of God.” Great truth! And the converse is equally true: discontent is an expression of a lack of faith in the goodness of God. That is why God feels so strongly about complaining. It is a direct reflection on His all-sufficiency.

274-75, Warren’s reason for being content with inborn weaknesses are excellent:

“They cause us to depend on God.”

“They prevent arrogance.”

“They encourage fellowship between believers.”

“They increase our capacity for sympathy and ministry.”

277, “Our strengths create competition, but our weaknesses create community.” Perhaps “create” is an overstatement in both parts of the sentence, but it is certain true that a focus on strengths tends to competitiveness; whereas an awareness of our weaknesses tends to promote community. Point worth meditating on.

277, “At some point in your life you must decide whether you want to impress people or influence people. You can impress people from a distance, but you must get close to influence them, and when you do that, they will be able to see your flaws.” Good point.

Critique

275, “the adulterer David became ‘a man after my own heart,’ …” Common misreading of Acts 13:22. Paul is quoting from 1 Sam. 13, where Samuel tells Saul that “the Lord has sought for himself a man after his own heart.” Notice that this description of David precedes his anointing by Samuel. It is not an end-of-the-life analysis of David, either in Samuel or in Acts. Thus it is not true that the adulterer David became a man after God’s own heart. The sad truth is that a man after God’s own heart became an adulterer and a murderer.

276, Warren’s first bullet under Paul’s modeling of vulnerability in his letters is that he openly shared his failures. The passage he quotes to support this is Romans 7:19 “When I want to do good, I don’t, and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.” This was a failure, indeed, a sin problem in Paul’s life prior to his conversion. Romans 7:14-25 is not Paul’s testimony as a believer. I know that a broad spectrum of theological positions have regarded Rom. 7:14-25 as Paul’s testimony as a believer; however, I am convinced that a careful reading of the freedom from sin Paul describes in Romans 6 and 8 is completely incompatible with taking Rom. 7 as a post-conversion experience. Further it contradicts Paul’s testimony elsewhere: 1 Thess. 2:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; Acts 24:16. For further discussion of Rom. 7 in the context of Romans 6-8, click here.

 

Purpose #5 You Were Made For A Mission

Day 36 — Made for a Mission

Main Points & Key Quotes

You were made for a mission.

Jesus calls us not only to come to him, but to go for him.

The Great Commission was given to every follower of Jesus.

It is easy to get distracted, because Satan would rather have you do anything besides sharing your faith.

Affirmation

281, “God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your ministry is your service to believers, and your mission in your service to unbelievers.” While this distinction may not be rooted in biblical theology, I find it a helpful way to describe the dual-focus of the believer.

281, “Your life mission is both shared and specific.” This is also helpful to me. All believers share the commission to be witnesses, but God has placed me in a specific time in history, in a specific place, to fulfill a specific component of the overall mission. If I fail, the mission will not fail, but I will have lost the awesome privilege of playing my part.

283, “Your mission involves two great privileges: working with God and representing him.” Amen! That is why sharing the good news shouldn’t be a scary thing: Jesus is with us! I asked a student in my Life of Christ class if he would be afraid to go witnessing if Jesus would go with him, even if Jesus didn’t say anything. Without hesitation the student answered, “No!” Then it dawned on the student what he had just said! Jesus promised us, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” That means that he is with us when we go witnessing.

283, “Telling others how they can have eternal life is the greatest thing you could do for them.” Warren is right on the money. That is why witnessing is the highest form of loving our neighbor.

285, “William James said, “The best use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” The truth is, only the kingdom of God is going to last. Everything else will eventually vanish.” Great statement! This is why I am convinced that most discipleship fails to orient new believers to the grand meta-narrative of life.

Critique

282, “… the five purposes he created us for: to love him, …” I’m surprised by this statement. On p. 63, the first chapter on Purpose #1, Warren states, “Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life.” On p. 64, Warren broadens purpose #1 with this statement: “Bringing pleasure to God is called ‘worship.’” Are we to infer from this statement on p. 282 that, in Warren’s thinking, loving God and bringing enjoyment to God are synonymous? I think it is fairly clear from reading chapters 8-14 that Warren identifies worship, in the sense of bringing pleasure to God, as the primary purpose of the Christian life. That is why this statement is surprising to me.
            As I have done a biblical theology of what it means to love God, I have found worship to be a component of loving God, not loving God a component of worship. My read of Warren’s presentation so far is that he gives worship the primary place of prominence, not love. They are not synonymous.
            Another possibility is that, rather than loving God and bringing enjoyment to God being synonymous for Warren, in the process of writing this book, his awareness of the preeminence of loving God grew. This statement on p. 282 would then be a reflection of that development in Warren’s understanding. If that is the case, he is certainly headed in the right direction. Too bad he didn’t make this clearer in his development of chapters 8-14.

 

Day 37 — Sharing Your Life Message

Main Points & Key Quotes

God has given you a Life Message to share.

Your Life Message has four parts to it: your testimony, your life lessons, your godly passions, and the Good News.

Shared stories build a relational bridge Jesus can walk across from your heart to others.

While it is wise to learn from experience, it is wiser to learn from the experiences of others.

God gives us different passions so that everything he wants done in the world will get done.

Affirmation

290, “The essence of witnessing is simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord.”

291, “Another value of your testimony is that it bypasses intellectual defenses. Many people who don’t accept the authority of the Bible to listen to a humble, personal story.”

291, Helpful formula for writing out a personal testimony.

292, Seven helpful questions for extracting lessons from your life experiences.

293, A helpful qualification about passions: “You should not expect everyone else to be passionate about your passion.”

294, “A parent will run into a burning building to save a child because their love for that child is greater that their fear. If you’ve been afraid to share the good news with those around you, ask God to fill your heart with his love for them.” Good advice!

295, “The church that doesn’t want to grow is saying to the world, ‘You can go to hell.’” Wow! Powerful truth. May the Lord help us to care about the people around us!

Critique

290, “The essence of witnessing is simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord.” This is helpful as long as part of our personal experience is repentance and saving faith grounded in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without this, sharing personal experiences may never get to the point.

 

Day 38 — Becoming a World-Class Christian

Main Points & Key Quotes

The Great Commission is your commission.

It has never been easier in history to fulfill your commission to go to the whole world.

People may refuse our love or reject our message, but they are defenseless against our prayers.

Money: “You can’t take it with you”—but the Bible says you can send it on ahead by investing it is in people who are going there!

Affirmation

297, “You have a choice to make. You will either be a world-class Christian or a worldly Christian. Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment. They are saved, but self-centered. … In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and made for a mission.” I appreciate Warren’s connection of worldliness and self-centeredness. The core problem with humanity is self-centeredness, aka inherited depravity. Identifying it as an underlying cause for a lack of passion for souls is helpful. Worldliness cares little for others, except as they serve to meet its needs.

298, “World-class Christians are the only fully alive people on the planet. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.” I like the spirit of expectancy. Lord, help me to wake with this focus!

299, Warren’s section on how to think like a world-class Christian is excellent.

301, “The Bible tells us to pray for opportunities to witness, for courage to speak out, for those who believe, for the rapid spread of the message, and for more workers.” Helpful summary of our prayer responsibilities for the global side of missions.

304, “We are all called to be on-mission for God.” Amen!

I think this whole section (Purpose #5) provides pastors a helpful starting point for challenging God’s people about missions, not just foreign missions, but The Mission of every Christian. It has challenged my heart.

Critique

None.

 

Day 39 — Balancing Your Life

Main Points & Key Quotes

Blessed are the balanced; and they shall outlast everyone.

A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian.

You owe it to future generations to preserve the testimony of how God help you fulfill his purposes on earth.

Affirmation

305-6, The Great Commandment and the Great Commission “sum up what this book is all about – God’s five purposes for your life:

1.      “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.

2.      “Love your neighbor as yourself”: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.

3.      “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.

4.      “baptize them into…”: You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church to fellowship.

5.      “Teach them to do all things…”: You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.

Here it is again! Loving God is at the top where it’s supposed to be. My understanding of Warren’s purpose #1 keeps shifting. Here Warrens seems to give the clearest statement yet: “Love God through worship.” I’m still not convinced that worship is the heart of love, though it is certainly important.

I really like tying the purpose of life to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Again, these are not equal in importance. All of God’s will for us hangs upon us loving him whole-heartedly. When we love him, we love others from which flows evangelism, discipleship, ministry and fellowship.

I think Warren is right on target with these five Scripture statements as the purposes for our lives.

310, Interesting interpretation of John 17:4 “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” Warren notes that Jesus had not yet died, so the “work” he was referring to must have been something other than the atonement. “He had been … preparing his disciples to live for God’s purposes.

Critique

None.

Day 40 — Living With Purpose

Main Points & Key Quotes

Living on purpose is the only way to really live. Everything else is just existing.

When God is at the center of your life, you worship. When he’s not, you worry.

Before most unbelievers accept the Bible as a credible, they want to know that we are credible.

You can start living on purpose today.

Affirmation

312, Helpful connection between the key philosophical issues of identity, importance, and impact and the purposes for which God created us.

317, “You may wonder, ‘What about God’s will for my job or marriage or where I’m supposed to live or go to school?’ Honestly, these are secondary issues in your life, and there may be multiple possibilities that would all be in God’s will for you. What matters most is that you fulfill God’s eternal purposes …”

In general I think Warren is right. Many young people get hung up in the search for God’s will concerning job, career, marriage and lose sight of the overarching purposes for which God has created us. Instead of asking what is God’s will for my life, perhaps the question should be, “How can I best fulfill the life purposes God has already revealed to me in His word?”

318, The phrase from Acts 13:36 is challenging: “David served God’s purpose in his generation” (NIV). May God grant that each of His people, including myself, would live lives centered on Loving Him and Loving others. In doing so, we cannot fail to serve God’s purpose for our generation.

Critique

None.