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Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. - Philippians 1: 15-18 (ESV)
When Charisma News runs an article entitled, "Why You Should Stop Hating on Celebrity Pastors Like Joel Osteen"; I feel almost compelled to respond. The article found at the link above is a tour de force of not understanding the Bible, the Gospel, or the difference between discerning false teaching and "hating" someone. It is rife with poor assumptions and strawman arguments designed to apologize for wolves who tear apart the flock of the Lord. The first error made is that the author believes there is a disturbing trend of hatred towards celebrity pastors. I do not know anyone who cares about the celebrity status of a false teachers. Discernment is focused on doctrine. The issue is simple. False doctrine produces false conversions. It leads people away from Christ instead of to Him. The Bible makes this abundantly clear:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. - 1Corinthians 15: 1-2 (ESV)
You can believe or you can believe in vain. You can believe in the real Gospel, which is the power of God unto the salvation of men or you can believe in a gospel that has no power to save whatsoever. How serious is this? When Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian elders he declares that he is innocent of their blood because he did not hesitate to proclaim to them the entire Gospel. Do we get that beloved? You cannot mangle the Gospel. You cannot pick the warm fuzzy parts and ignore the requirements. You cannot preach the crown of glory without the crown of thorns. It has nothing to do with their celebrity status and everything to do with their doctrine. A point the author is clearly confused about:
"While I don't agree whole heartedly with each of these pastors' doctrine, preaching style or opinions, I do think that they each of them have the capability to bring people to Christ." - Tyler Speegle
This is so important so please do not miss the inherent contradiction in this statement. It is at the heart of the errors made in supporting false teachers. You cannot believe someone's doctrine is wrong and think they can still bring people to Christ. Doctrine is what saves the person to begin with. Remember that He is His Word:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)
Paul makes it crystal clear to young pastor Timothy. Your doctrine is what will save your hearers. Why? Because only the real Gospel saves. Every other gospel leads to believing in vain. Ironically, Tyler Speegle also does not understand that divisions in the body of Christ are not caused by "haters" but by false doctrine:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. - Romans 16: 17 (ESV)
This is why we mark the very people Speegle defends. The bulk of the article is not worth responding to. Just the flawed suppositions. Joel Osteen is not hated. Quite frankly he seems like a nice guy. The issue is that he does not reach people for Christ. He does not preach the Gospel. He openly admits that Scripture is secondary in his preaching. He never preaches about sin and repentance. His pre-fab altar call is nauseating in its ignorance. Now, can the Holy Spirit still draw people through him? Sure. God can do anything and if you truly seek Him, He is not hard to find. But the reality is that vast majority of his listeners will end up saying Lord Lord on the last day because they were deceived and they believed in vain.
He also routinely mangles the Bible when he actually does use it. I have well documented his sermons and their abuse of Scriptures. Speegle seemingly does not care about the Word as he tries to defend the biblically indefensible. Jesus did not try to reach the unreachable as Speegle writes. He preached the coming kingdom and the need to repent. If you think it was all puppies and rainbows by the way, then you have not read the Gospel accounts or His letters to the churches in Revelation. Speegle closes his case for loving wolves by stating that we all should just abide by the key verses today. Unfortunately for Speegle, these verses are not what he thinks they are. I do not expect precise biblical understanding when you get your theology from a man who thinks we can have our best life now as opposed to heaven.
Speegle incorrectly concludes that Paul is teaching here that as long as someone says they are preaching Christ then we ought to rejoice and leave them alone. What absolute nonsense. The point Paul is making here is about the motives behind people who are correctly preaching Christ. So if someone correctly preaches the Gospel for selfish, envious, or ambitious motives we ought to rejoice in the fact that the Gospel is preached correctly. God will deal with the motives of the heart. The issue Speegle misses is that the requirement for rejoicing is the correct preaching of Christ! The problem with Joel Osteen is he does not preach the Gospel. Same goes for the litany of other celebrity pastors he tries to prop up. Paul consistently warns us about false teachers beloved. So for the record, discernment is understanding what is true from what is false. Charles Spurgeon took it even farther:
Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right. - Charles Spurgeon
It is not hatred that drives a discernment ministry beloved. It is love. It is love for the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is love for the sheep that they may not be led astray. It is love for the lost that they may come to true salvation. I do not hate Joel Osteen. I hate that his teaching is false. I hate that many who follow him will end up in hell. The only thing I might hate more is when people muddy the waters by defending the very wolves who make merchandise of the body of Christ and shut the doors to heaven in the faces of those who are truly seeking.