Why People are Being so Mean to Victoria Osteen

joel1The 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.

joel2The 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.

Vintage Balance ScaleA 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.

It’s Jesus.

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.

tv-offMaybe 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.

What is Christian Marriage?

Following up on last week’s post I would like to share a message that was on the Renewing Your Mind broadcast this morning from R.C. Sproul. It is titled What is Christian Marriage?

From the website:

Before people try to redefine marriage, they need to first be able to define marriage. What is marriage? What is its purpose?

Even if you aren’t a Christian it might be helpful for you to take a quick listen. Sproul is an engaging communicator and It’s less than 30 minutes long. It may help you to better understand the perspective we bring to the marriage issue.

If I find the time I may follow up on this more this week. Enjoy.

What’s a Christian to do About Gay-Marriage?

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?

Obama supports same-sex marriageNow, 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.

  1. The Christian’s view of homosexuality
  2. 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.

Why do you hate me?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.

Gay Cake Topper2. 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.

Conclusion

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.

God is Soveriegn
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!

Receiving a Gentle Sharp Rebuke

Well I’m on vacation in Florida, but I wanted to take a moment to write a quick blog post. The topic is receiving criticism.

Phil Johnson posted a timely blog post today over at the Pyromaniacs blog on 2 Timothy 4:2. He writes in regard to the oft shirked duty of pastors to rebuke, reprove and exhort. Please go have yourself a read.

in these postmodern times, it is commonly thought that “gentleness” excludes every kind of rebuke or correction—especially the sharp rebuke. But it’s clear that Paul saw no necessary contradiction between gentleness and firm rebuke. That has to be our perspective as well, or we will never be up to the simple yet far-reaching task Paul lays on our shoulders here.

As I’ve grown in my faith, I have found that one of the things I am most grateful for are rebukes, both from trusted brothers and from total strangers. Make no mistake, I certainly appreciate encouraging words. Many times the Lord sends them just when I feel I can’t go any further. But with my goal being holiness, no amount of positive affirmation has the ability to shake me out of the stupor of deceiving sin. For this I need to be rebuked.

You're right, I can't handle the truth!

Since starting this blog I have received, along with many notes of encouragement (thank you!), some small amount of criticism (thank you, too!). To my shame I admit that too often my first reaction is to bristle at these more critical messages. However, to the credit of Christ in me and the sanctifying work of His Spirit, I have been given to taking a second look and to considering each scrutiny and rebuke (even the rude drive-by anonymous commentator. You know who you are!). You could ask my wife, and she would tell you that I obsess over these remarks. I really do try to honestly evaluate myself in light of them—even when they come from such quarters as the Tone Police. Sometimes I conclude that the criticism is unfounded. Sometimes I am forced to humbly accept it, repent and trust Christ to help me make the necessary heart changes. But why take the time to do this? Because, though I frequently fail and succumb to the flesh in regards to receiving correction, my desire is to be more concerned about living righteous than being right.

Phil Johnson’s post struck home with me because, though he was focussing on giving rebuke, I want to be rebuked. You should, too.

If holiness is our goal then, though it will hurt, we must be willing to accept correction, even sharp correction. All for His glory.

So, I guess bring it on… but do please be gentle.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6

The Danger of Bad Theology

American AtheistsI came across a very sad article on the American Atheists website (incidentally, it’s full of sad articles) about a former Word-Faith Charismatic preacher who became disillusioned and eventually completely rejected Christianity and God. I found it interesting, however, because it gives an inside look into how someone can trick themselves into believing all sorts of things are happening when they really aren’t. It also exposes the danger of abusing God’s Word; holding God to promises that He has not made to you. When you eisegete passages, assuming every word applies directly to you—as long as it’s not negative of course—it’s only a matter of time before you come up against a wall.

He recounts some of his experiences,

I heard God audibly and I became so bold that I would throw people out of wheel chairs. I would lay people down who had back injuries flat on their stomachs and run on their backs believing that I was carried along by the wind of God (Mal 4:2 The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings). For this was the demonstration of the Holy Ghost and power (1Cor 2:4)! And my language and message were not set forth in persuasive, enticing and plausible words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, proof by the Spirit and power of God that was operating in me and stirring the most holy emotions in the minds of my listeners and thus persuading them. Continue reading The Danger of Bad Theology

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Update: Well it appears this actually came out in 2009. So I guess I’m late to the party as usual, but I still think it’s worth checking out.

Happy Wednesday! I’ve got something special for you today.

One of my favorite things to do when I want to relax is to watch videos on vimeo. There are so many great videos there. Many are wrought with deep meaning. The best border on the sublime. It’s like Youtube without the cats.

Actually, I went to film school, and though my interest in making films has faded a bit, I still have a lot of affinity for the medium, especially when it’s not wasted on making shallow garbage.

So I was poking around on Vimeo yesterday and came across this trailer for this “Bookumentry” (I know, right?). If you are into art and philosophy I think you will dig it.

How intriguing! Here’s a bit about it from their websiteContinue reading Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Update: Jesus vs. Religion Guy is a Class Act

This gave me the warm fuzzies.

Jefferson Bethke the guy who made the Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video responded to Kevin DeYoung’s critique. He proved himself to be a humble man of character with a very teachable spirit. We need more men like him among this rising generation of Christian leaders. Respect.

Here’s part of their email conversation,

I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff

This my friends is what we call Christian brotherhood.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Which is Better Jesus or Religion? (Hint: It’s a trick question)

Jefferson Bethke
Jefferson Bethke

Update: Bethke has since responded to Kevin DeYoung’s critique.

This week my Facebook newsfeed was booked solid with this guy’s face. It’s a 4 minute spoken-word poem by a fella named Jefferson Bethke titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. After about the zillionth repost of this thing I finally watched it. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it by now, but if not you should go take a look before reading on. It’s gone viral—at the time of my writing YouTube had it listed at just shy of 7 million plays.

I really dig Jefferson’s passion, his strong affirmation of the gospel, and his rejection of self-righteousness. BAM, nailed it! There is so much to be praised in this poem, and I do praise it, but I did feel a little irked by a couple things in the video. It took some time to sort through exactly why I felt that way… Continue reading Which is Better Jesus or Religion? (Hint: It’s a trick question)

Is Faith Rational?

I’ve said before that I believe a misunderstanding of faith is behind much confusion concerning Christianity, both from those who don’t know Christ and those on the inside. Here are two articles I saw this week that deal with the topic of faith vs. reason.

The first is from Stand to Reason:

First, we don’t know about Christianity by faith.  Everyone knows about the claims of Christianity and the Bible in the same ways other things are known.  Faith isn’t a way of knowing. It’s trusting in what we have come to know to be true.  Faith is laying hold personally of what is true in the Bible.  Knowledge is the first step and it’s no different than coming to know about anything else.  So it can be discussed between those who have faith and those who don’t because they’re both operating in the same way to evaluate truth claims.  Faith comes after knowing.

Read more: Faith isn’t Knowing

The second is from Pyromaniacs:

even among Christians who are not anti-intellectual jellyfish, I’ve met some who very reverently think that some of our beliefs simply are not rational. They’re mysterious, they have to be held by faith, not reason.

To this I’d just begin by noting that the opposite of faith is not reason; it is sight (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7).

But are some of our faith-tenets irrational? Two that I hear cited specifically are the Trinity, and the Virgin Birth.

Read More: Is Christianity Rational?

I’m Not Dead

Just wanted to check-in and tell you that yes, I am still alive. These last few weeks have been busy, but fear not, there will be new content coming this week and much more in the future as I am planning out a schedule to blog with more frequency.

So stay tuned! If you aren’t subscribed, I recommend that you do so without delay.

Meanwhile, here’s a Spurgeon quote that I saw over at Challies this morning about the issue of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility:

“That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and I find that in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”