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The ‘Jesus’ Who Stood At A Fork In The Road
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By David Sheldon

August 19, 2020

The following is an explanation of the “Jesus” that is presented in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life® published in 2002.

There are certain words which have become so familiar that little attention is given to the impregnated meaning. Unfortunately, many people have become sloppy in both reading and thinking about them. For example, take the name “Jesus”. What an incredible Person has this name! The Bible is filled with the wonder and glory of this One whom the angels said was to be named “Jesus” because He would “save His people from their sins.” The Scriptures not only use the name but infuse it with God’s meaning. In 2 Corinthians 11:4, Paul warns about the possibility of a “different Jesus” (as well as a “different spirit” and a “different gospel”). The use of this phrase “a different Jesus” is quite foreign to many within the visible church. So, what do we make of this and how important is it? The idea is that the name could be impregnated with a different meaning than that of the real Jesus. Thus, it would not represent the One so named. When a “different Jesus” is presented, it is by means of a “different spirit.” And when a “different gospel” is preached, taught, or received, it leads to a “different Jesus.” Paul speaks about the receiving of a different Jesus or the preaching of a different gospel in both 2 Corinthians and Galatians. It was extremely important to him! Ultimately, it comes down to either salvation via the truth of the gospel or being deceived and lost. The apostolic church took this very seriously as did those in the first few hundred years of the churches existence. There was Biblical truth in this regard as well as a number of church councils held to settle doctrinal issues specifically concerning both the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, of that gospel. In The Purpose-Driven® Life on page 57 we read:
“Jesus stood at a fork in the road. Would he fulfill his purpose and bring glory to God, or would he shrink back and live a comfortable, self-centered life?”
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
This statement ultimately deals with how one views the Person and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We want to make sure we have the right person since, on the next page, we are invited to believe and receive this Jesus and become part of the family of God. Not only that, the issue we are dealing with here is compounded by the fact that his next statement is: “You face the same choice.” He has identified Jesus as a potential sinner and elevated fallen man as if he could make decisions in like manner as Jesus. The early church councils defined Jesus in terms of His “essence” as the “Hypostatic Union.” (See Council of Chalcedon) Simply put: Jesus was and is only One Person, and is 100% God and 100% Man as to His two natures. The issues they were dealing with had to do with the fact that: some denied His incarnation, some denied His humanity, and some denied His deity. The issue is not would Jesus shrink back and live a self-centered life, but could the real Jesus “shrink back” (whatever that might mean)? Could Jesus (One Person, 100% God, 100% Man,) actually live a “self-centered life?” Now, I am making an assumption here. When I read this statement in the customary use of language and within context, it seems Warren is saying that Jesus could have either obeyed or not obeyed God the Father and, thus, sin/live a self-centered life. Was it possible for Jesus to be conflicted like this in His person and, thus, sin? (Particular church heresies which relate to Jesus having a dual personality are found in “Nestorianism” and “Sorinthianism.”) What is the problem with Warren saying, “Jesus came to a fork in the road”? First, this implies that Jesus had two options in front of him which he knew of. He could a) Obey and fulfill his God given role or b) Disobey and live a self-centered life (per Warren’s language – shrink back and obviously live in a self-centered manner). From where did Jesus’ thought to disobey God come since there is no external tempter in the statement? (Or, from where did the thought come in Warren’s mind to view Jesus like this?) Fallen man is tempted from within because we have a sin nature! Fallen man is tempted from without because he is “hookable” in regards to the temptations. How could Jesus be “conflicted” in deciding whether to obey or sin as noted in the statement? This issue ultimately deals with whether or not Jesus is incarnate deity!
A Different 'Jesus' is presented in the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
So, how should we look at Jesus’ incarnation and temptations? First, the temptations of Jesus proved that He could not sin because He did not. It would be like “testing” an item that we have manufactured to prove that it meets all specifications. We test it to prove that it meets the test, not to prove that it will fail. Remember, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He did not choose to test Himself, nor was He internally tempted/tested. Jesus was tested to prove that He is the One Person, the God-Man, who could not sin as such because He is God! It is not that the “man” part of Him was tested while the “God” part of Him took a back seat, twiddling His thumbs, wondering if He would succeed. If we said it like that it would seem like utter folly. It is that the One Person was tested! Another way to put it: If Jesus would have sinned it would have proven not that He was a man, but that He was not God incarnate – because God cannot be tempted by sin because of His Holy Nature!
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” James 1:13-14 NASB
When Jesus was tested He was always, always tested from outside Himself! He was never, never tested from internal conflict as to whether He would obey or sin! At the same time, we know Jesus, the eternal Son of God, identified with us in His incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 4:14-5:10). He knows what we go through when we are tempted from without (even though we alone are fallen).

1. He went through the same types of conditions and circumstances of human life that we do.

2. He did this in perfect obedience without sin and its’ suffering consequences.

3. He did this as God, the Son. Jesus, being God, took upon Himself humanity without setting aside His deity. He did, however, set aside His divine prerogatives as such.

Because Jesus did all 3 of the above, He could bear our sins at Calvary as the perfect Lamb of God for sin and also represent us before God as our perfect High Priest in His ascension to the right hand of God! Jesus was “conflicted” as He contemplated the painful consequence He would suffer in obedience He carried out as the God-man upon Calvary. This “conflicting” was His anguish as the Son of God the Father. He would be separated from God His Father whom He had been in perfect union with from all of eternity. And, as such, He would bear the wrath of God for sin. The horrible consequences for sin that Jesus bore cannot possibly be looked upon or understood by us. He absolutely was not making a decision like us! The horror was not the excruciating physical pain inflicted by men which is glorified in The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. (There are a couple of great reviews of The Passion of the Christ here and here.) Rather, the horror was that He would bear the wrath of God for our sins and He knew it before the fact! He knew that the suffering in His own flesh of the wrath of God would be incredibly horrible. Please take careful note of this point: Rick Warren diverts our attention from the horror of our sins before a Holy God and the consequences our sin had for Jesus (which is never clearly articulated) to the concept that Jesus was “conflicted” and could have sinned! The efficacy for salvation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary is based upon the nature of the One who was crucified there on our behalf. Make no mistake. He is fully God. He is fully man. He is the One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God who bore the wrath of God for sin. His shed blood was the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin because it was HIS shed blood. The purchase price for our redemption is an already accomplished fact as evidenced by Jesus’ statement upon the cross when He said, “It is finished.” It had God’s “seal of approval” when He raised Christ from the dead! It is one thing to employ the words: Jesus, sin, forgiveness, etc. in a book. It is quite another thing to bring people to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ by delivering the “gospel message” no matter the medium. Warren uses the words; Jesus, sin, forgiveness, believe, (not repentance that I could find), but the meanings are couched in misrepresentations of the very nature of this One and why He had to be crucified. Thus, the point is bypassed along with the ministry of the Holy Spirit who “convinces the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.” After all and ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament Gospel is made known by the effective presentation of the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. Be careful that you have not been mesmerized to “quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity” (p. 58), rather than be convinced by the Holy Spirit of your desperate need of the true Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and repent of your sin and believe in Him.

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