Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose of Christmas," spoke with Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman at the offices of our partner, The Wall Street Journal.

“I’ve paid for everything you need to get into Heaven. I’ve paid your ticket.” And so rather of this list of “Do’s” to get into heaven, it’s a matter of done. That’s the gift…

We don’t handle grace very well. We want salvation the old fashioned way-we want to earn it.

Well we get very mixed messages on this because we are taught about grace. On the other hand, we are also taught that if you do bad things you are going to hell. Why are we getting these mixed messages?

Well actually I don’t think it’s a bunch of bad things that send us to hell. I think it is rejection of God’s grace. I had a guy one time [say], “Rick, will smoking send me to hell?” I said “no—it will make you smell like you’ve been there. But it’s not gonna send you to hell.”

The fundamental issue is, people often ask me, “What’s the worst sin?” They expect me to say adultery, or taking drugs or something. The Bible clearly states, in the book of Isaiah, it’s pride. It’s pride. It was pride as Isaiah talks about Satan to get kicked out of heaven. And the middle letter of sin is “I” and the middle letter of pride is “I.” It’s this attitude of ‘I’m gonna run my life, I’m gonna be my own God, and to me that’s the thing that keeps us out of heaven. It’s refusing to accept God’s rightful rule in my life.


Now when you talk about, “well what about all these things we are supposed to do?” Those things are not the root of our salvation, they are the fruit of our salvation. In other words, they’re the results. Jesus said “by your fruit you’ll know them.” But the fruit isn’t the apple tree, it’s the result of the apple tree. It’s the root that gives that apple tree its apple-ness. So, it can be a confusing message. It really can be. Because on one, on the one hand, we’re talking about “it’s all a gift, it’s a free gift.” And on the other hand, then, once you accept it, it should change your behavior.

-The other part that’s always been confusing or challenging to people is you’re saying that part of this great gift is that God has already forgiven you for, as you put it, everything you have done and will do. And when you reach heaven you are already forgiven for any sin. But in a way it’s not any sin – it’s any sin except one sin, which is the sin or the mistake of not believing in Him. Why if he forgives us for murdering or raping would he not forgive us for believing in Him?

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