The following clip of Victoria Osteen, wife and co-pastor to Joel Osteen, has been making the rounds on my Facebook feed. In the clip Mrs. Osteen encourages the 40,000 some odd congregants of Lakewood church to “do good for your own self”. But, she adds, to do good not just for God’s sake, but “do good because God wants you to be happy.” The clip finishes with a shot of Bill Cosby saying, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” from the Cosby Show.
It struck me that some people who watch, listen, or read Joel & Victoria Osteen, and find their messages encouraging, might be confused by this. Perhaps you’ve heard others say critical things about the Osteens. Why are people saying this is a stupid statement? Who would want to knock down the Osteens when they inspire so many? Doesn’t God want us to be happy? Why are people so against of these Christian ministers?
I’ll tell you why this video has people so upset. This was a rare occasion where the Osteens have stated what they believe and teach in plain language. Victoria came right out and basically said, “It’s all about you.” It is true that God desires our joy, but that joy is only to be found in God. It’s an issue of who is at the center. The very purpose of our fulfillment in God is ultimately to bring God glory. It’s for His sake. In the Osteenic view the roles are reversed. God exists to make you happy. Your joy, your fulfillment is not in the giver but in the gifts He blesses you with. You are the central focus, not God. This is no minor quibble! To remove God’s glory as the center point and insert anything else, including yourself, is idolatry. In essence the Osteens teach self-worship.
The fact is, Joel Osteen has spent his ministry actively and consistently avoiding topics such as sin, judgement, Jesus Christ, and even the gospel. You say, “Ya, well you can’t cover everything!” Friend, these are the most basic tenants of Christianity. You leave these out, and no matter how many crosses or spinning globes you have in your church, it ain’t Christianity anymore. Check out this interview he did on Larry King a few years ago. These aren’t things a Christian, or a pastor no less, should be uncertain about. Osteen’s focus is not Christ it is YOU—YOUR happiness, YOUR success, and YOUR personal fulfillment. Lest there be any confusion, let me say it emphatically, the Osteens fall into the biblical category of false teachers.
Objection: “But they seem so nice! And they help so many people!”
Answer: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:15
You look at his smile and say oh he’s harmless. But our Lord points to those pearly whites and says, all the better to eat you with, my dear. If wolves dressed like wolves they couldn’t trick the sheep. If false teachers all looked like false teachers no one would follow them. Beware.
Objection: “He really inspires people, and his messages make me feel good about myself. What’s wrong with that?”
Answer: 2 Timothy 4:3 – “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
False teachers scratch where our self-centeredness itches. It feels good because he tells us what our sinful, selfish hearts want to hear. It feels good because it’s all about me. But it’s wrong because it’s not all about Christ.
Friend, I don’t write these things to upset you. I write that you might not be deceived. Don’t take my word for it. Please, just turn off that TV and open your Bible. Read about Jesus. Compare His message to what the Osteens teach. It’s radically different. Do not be hoodwinked by hucksters that only tell you what you want to hear.
Can I tell you of a joy that is much greater than what the Osteens can offer you? But before I do, first you must face some hard truths. Are you ready?
You don’t have within you the potential to achieve your dreams, you won’t be able to save yourself through the power of positive thinking, you aren’t even a good person. Ouch.
A lot of people have in their minds that on judgement day God will have a few of the more burly angels haul out a big scale. Then we will place our good deeds on one side and our bad ones on the other, and if our good deeds outweigh the bad we will get into heaven. We all imagine that if we aren’t as bad as Hitler we’ll be good to go. Now I don’t know the atomic weight of a deed, but I know this: That good deeds side of the scale is going to be much lighter than you think (Isaiah 64:6). It helps me instead to imagine God’s evaluation of us as a college exam. God has demanded 100% perfect obedience out of you, you need to get 100 out of 100 right (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16), but after you turn in your Scantron sheet you realize you’ve forgotten your #2 pencil and misspelled your own name. You aren’t going to pass! It’s not even going to be close. You can’t go back and fix it and there’s no extra credit.
The Bible says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). and that “the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23). that means what you’ve earned for your sin, your wages, what you’ll be paid for break God’s law, is death. Eternal damnation. This is more serious than a couple of oopsies, this isn’t something you can make up for later by determining to be a better person. Your “hidden potential” is impotent to help with this problem. We’ve broken God’s righteous law. Our lives have been an affront to a holy God who deserves and demands perfect obedience. It’s not that sin just makes you unhappy, and being a better person would make you more fulfilled and successful; its that you are in massive trouble with the Creator of the universe. Am I saying what you think I’m saying? Yes! Left to themselves, all people are destined for hell. You are destined for hell. Are you listening yet?
“I thought you said something about joy… ?” Hang on. I’m getting there.
So that’s the diagnosis. What’s the prescription? It’s not more cowbell and it’s certainly not repeating “I am” statements in the mirror over and over.
God’s only begotten Son was sent to this earth 2,000 years ago in the flesh of mankind and lived a perfectly righteous and obedient life. He never sinned once. He fulfilled God’s law perfectly. He lived the life that we were supposed to live. He got a 100%. And then he was crucified, and in that death God laid on Him all the wrath of death and hell that sinners like you and I have earned as the wages for our sinfulness. He was our substitute. He was buried, and 3 days later He rose again, defeating the power of sin & death. And He has ascended back to the right hand of God the Father. Here’s the good news, if you will turn from your sin, tell him you want to leave it behind, and put your trust in Jesus Christ as your only hope of righteousness, He will forgive you for your sin and impute to you His perfect righteousness. That means God takes Jesus’ 100% test and signs your name at the top of it. In His sight you will be justified—declared righteous! And He will begin the process of transforming you to be more like Christ, and He grants to you eternal life with Him!
Why would you refuse this offer? Why would you continue chasing the poisoned candy folks like the Osteens offer? Do you love some sin in your life? Do you find it hard to let it go? Friend, your sin is killing you. Turn to Christ. Give your life to the One who offers life. Repent and believe the gospel. Have your life transformed to a life that brings Him glory, and you’ll find that only there is true joy to be found. You are free to drop the self-affirmations because you’ve been affirmed by the only one whose judgement really matters.
Maybe you’re saying, “I know all this stuff! I’m a Christian. I have put my trust in Jesus Christ.” Praise God for that! But why on earth are you watching Joel Osteen? A man who lives to steal the glory that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so richly deserves and give it to you. How dare he. How dare you! Turn off that garbage and get on your knees. Direct your praise, direct your attention to Him. Do good, sure, but in His power, to please Him not just to please yourself. And the wonder of it all is that you will find joy in this as a byproduct. But let your motivation be His happiness, His glory, His pleasure. Not yours.
It’s not all about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Him. And thank God that it is, for what a privilege it is to find our joy in Him alone.
I’m dusting off the blog because in the hopes that I can be of some small service in shedding light on this current event. Take it for what it’s worth.
So the President has come out and said he supports gay marriage, and in an election year! At the same time North Carolina has voted to legally define marriage as between a man and a woman, thus excluding same-sex couples from the equation. What do we do with this news?
Now, I realize I speak to two audiences here, and I hope that this can be helpful to both. First, to the Christian who doesn’t know how to respond to the issue of homosexual marriage, I hope that this will give you some clarity on that. Second, to those that don’t accept the Bible’s authority to say what is right and what is wrong. To you I hope this will help you to at least understand where (most) Christians are coming from and why we just can’t seem to agree on some things!
There are two issues at work here.
- The Christian’s view of homosexuality
- The Christian’s responsibility in politics.
1. What Do We Do With All These Gay People?
Let’s make a few things clear. Sin is sin because God says it is, not because it doesn’t hurt anyone else. That is the difference between Christian morality and secular morality. Christian morality makes the arbiter of right and wrong the transcendent God as revealed in the Bible. Secular morality (and this too may come in Christian packaging at times) makes man the authority of right and wrong. The secularist will nod in approval to the golden rule. Of course, how can a society function unless laws enforce the doing unto others as they would do unto you? (I don’t want to have my stuff stolen, so the law should punish me if I steal other people’s stuff. Makes sense!) However, secular society has no category for when a Christian comes in and says, “actually what you do at home in your bedroom is wrong.” From the secular standpoint they conclude, “Mind your own business, you weirdo!” Thus we come to an impasse and all conversation ceases to be fruitful until we acknowledge these presuppositions.
Now most Christians (I would hope) would agree that homosexual acts are a sin (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:24-32). You have to do some serious self-deception to make the Bible “unclear on these things”. Homosexuality is an abomination against God because it defies His natural order and His clear commands in Scripture.
Great, Another Hater
Does this mean I hate gay people? Nope. And by the way, calling everyone that disagrees with you a hater, is pretty rude. Stop it. I don’t hate liars or adulterers either. If I hated people that sin I’d hate all of mankind and myself. I’d keep my lips zipped about God’s righteous judgement on sin and the glorious provision of Jesus Christ as the only answer! If I didn’t care I wouldn’t say a word, and everyone would like me!
Now let’s make a quick distinction:
There is a difference between feelings of homosexual attraction, which is a symptom of a sin-sick world (akin to how some people have a predisposition to drink to excess), and the indulging in those feelings to the point of homosexual lust or homosexual relations. Let’s think in terms of Jesus’ teaching on adultery here (Matt. 5). Let me be clear, I don’t think anyone chooses to have weird feelings (temptations), but they do (like the whole world!) choose to indulge in sin.
Certainly, there is an extra element at work in the issue of homosexuality that I would be remiss to ignore. Paul seems to indicate that it’s homosexuality and societal approval of it and other sins is a symptom of God removing His restraining hand in judgement (Rom. 1:27,32). But on a basic, how-do-I-respond-as-a-Christian level, homosexuality is a sin that damns, like lying damns, like stealing damns, like how ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD damns us all (Rom. 3:23). So we must be careful not to get all high and mighty and say, “look at those unbelievers sinning!” Playas gonna play and sinners gonna sin. Our job is to show them that IT IS sin and that they, like us, and the whole world, need to repent and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord to save them from God’s righteous judgement (that’s why it’s called the Good News). Sinners saved by grace show grace to sinners.
2. What about Gay-Marriage?
Obviously the issue is compounded when you throw in a political element. If you agree that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes then the redefinition of marriage to include gay couples is rightly disturbing to you. Furthermore, as messed up as it is in America, the family really is the backbone of civilization. And YES marriage that God recognizes is between a feller and a lady (Gen. 2:20-25), so when a group of a people or a president of a nation, say “HEY, let’s change this thing”, that’s a big deal!
So how do we respond? What is the Christian’s responsibility politically? Let me make it simple (Look up these verses):
Pay your taxes (Luke 20:25), obey the government (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-15), and pray for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Now of course, if the law forces us to act in opposition to God’s commands we must be like Peter and obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20). So if at some point the government tries to force our churches to marry people of the same sex, we will politely say, “no, we have to obey God on this one, jail us if you want.” That’s it. Really, I would be happy to see a cogent Biblical argument for a Christian’s responsibility politically, because I just can’t find it. We are ambassadors for Christ and citizens of His Kingdom, all societal transformation that results from us is a byproduct of exemplary righteous living and the conversion of other lost people, not political activism, else our archeologists would have uncovered “Peter for Proconsul!” buttons by now.
Christian, you are rightly saddened by this symptom of sin further decaying our society, so respond in this way: pray, vote if you want, call people to repentance for sin, but outlawing sin doesn’t actually solve the problem, the gospel does. Yep, this extends to other political issues too.
And the gospel is this: Everyone who has lived has sinned and is therefore condemned before God. At the end of time all people will stand before Him and be judged by the righteous standard of His law, and everyone who has not forsaken their attempts at making themselves righteous and clung completely to Jesus Christ as the sacrifice and savior for sin, and the Lord of their lives, will face an eternity in hell.
You can say, “well I don’t believe in God or sin or any of that,” but it is true, and we’re all going to face him, and I think deep down you already know it. So quit lying to yourself. Forsake your sin, turn from your rebellion against God and believe on the King, Jesus who died and received God’s wrath, so that you don’t have to. Grab a Bible and start reading the book of John, see if this man Jesus does not compel you.
And Christian, just remember; Nations come and nations go. God is sovereign over all. He’s got this (Psalm 103:19, Daniel 2:21).
Comments are open.
Keep it civil, or I’ll delete it. I’m gonna try to interact with you if I have time, but no promises. Thanks!