I have said on many occasions the most significant statement in Rick Warren’s bestseller The Purpose Driven Life is the first four words of the first chapter, “It’s not about you.” These four words are a startling contradiction to the current cultural perspective. Most in our society seem to be possessed with an innate sense of entitlement, governed by materialism, and in a headlong pursuit of pleasure. Their tacit creed is, it’s all about me.
As a pastor this is a grave concern. The Church in America is immersed in this cultural misconception, and while the Church should be exerting an influence of godliness and good on society, it is apparent that the Church has been influenced by society’s false perspectives. By falling under society’s influence the Church in America has ignorantly crippled itself.
The very next paragraph of Rick’s book offers a fuller explanation. “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
There you have it. It’s not about you; it’s about God. Now I can understand that people who do not know God, and who reject what the Bible teaches, and are self-centered believe that life’s purpose is the pursuit of what they want. What I do not understand are people who claim to be Christians, believers in the Bible, and claim to be God-centered, and ignore what the Scriptures teach.
On the sixth day of creation Genesis 1:27 declares “God created man in his own image.” Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, man was created in God’s image to reflect His glory. When our first parents sinned they not only disobeyed God, they also failed to bring Him glory by being obedient. This thought is echoed in Romans 3:23 when Paul writes “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin is more than disobeying God; it is simultaneously failing to fulfill our created purpose, to bring Him glory.
The salvation offered by and in Christ is not only intended to save us from the penalty of sin, but to deliver us from the power of sin in our lives. He is to be Savior and Lord, not either or. I hate those bumper stickers that say “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” If the Christian has sinned he needs to flee to Christ in repentance and seek His forgiveness, not offer some lame excuse on the bumper of his car. There is more to Christianity than wearing a cross around your neck and drinking from a coffee mug that has “Man of God” painted on the side. Christianity is much more than a media campaign.
The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice is foreshadowed in the words of Moses to Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me (Exodus 8:1).” Just as God demanded the release of His people from the bondage of slavery so they could serve Him, Christ has delivered the believer from the bondage of sin to serve Him. We have been saved for a purpose; we have been saved to serve.
When one accepts Christ as his Savior, he becomes a member of a worldwide body of believers, the family of God, the Church. Part of making Christ one’s Lord means becoming a member of a local family. It was Christ who founded the Church by His sacrifice. He knew we could accomplish more for His kingdom if we joined together and marshaled our time, abilities, and resources to fulfill His commission to disciple the world. God knows, as should we, that we can accomplish more together than we ever could alone.
Since its inception the church has had its problems from within and without. One can read about them in Paul’s letters. When problems arise some are quick to forsake the church. But problems are to be resolved in the light of Scripture and the Spirit of Christ. Despite its shortcomings, the Church remains the only earthly institution charged with spreading the Gospel. Serving in a local body of believers, a church, the Christian is afforded the opportunity to mature individually and collectively. He can fulfill his commitment to Christ and glorify God. It can’t be done alone, because it’s not about you.