"But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me.So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! -- Psalm 81: 11-13 (ESV)
On Easter Sunday of this year, CBS did a profile on Pastor Joel Osteen. Through this special and the short accompanying interview, Osteen reveals once again why he is not a biblical pastor and why he is in fact a wolf of the highest order, slaughtering the sheep and those that truly seek after God. Today's church is overly focused on the coming judgment as it is related to the behavior of the lost but fail to see the judgment that is already present within the church. Joel Osteen is a microcosm of that judgment. That 50,000 people per week and millions across the world would sit through his sermons is an indication of judgment, not blessing. If you think that doesn't sound like God then I fear you may have listened to too many Osteen sermons already. Just take a look at the key verses and we see God reminding us that eventually He gives us over to our stubborn hearts. He has already given us His Word yet we choose to sit through a man telling us that this is our best life now and God wants everyone healthy, wealthy and happy. We ignore the lives of the apostles, the challenges of the early church and even the sufferings of Christ Himself to lap up this confectionary gospel that has the power to save absolutely no one. That is judgment beloved. God is saying, as He said through the Psalmist here, if you wish to follow your own counsels -- go ahead! If you want to follow men like Osteen, who butcher the true Gospel to sell you earthly trinkets and baubles -- go ahead! If we will not submit to God then He will turn us over to our own rebellious hearts. Read the Old Testament. God turned over Israel into the hands of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines. He used the most evil nations in history, such as Assyria and Babylon, to destroy the kingdom of the ten northern tribes and the nation of Judah. These are the chosen people. The apple of His eye. We are but grafted in to them. Yet we think we can wink and nod at heresy throughout the body, the whoring out of God for money, and the destruction of His holy Word without consequence? Oh the arrogance we have. You want to see that arrogance, look no further than the opening line from the CBS piece out of the mouth of the pastor of the largest church in America:
"God is not in the condemning business; he is in the restoration business." -- Joel Osteen
The foundation of the false theology of Joel Osteen on display. First of all, God is not in any business but even if we use these carnal terms, He most certainly is in the condemning business. We just do not see it until it is too late:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. -- John 3: 18-19 (ESV)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -- Matthew 7: 21-234 (ESV)
He who does not believe is already condemned Joel. That is probably the bulk of the people who attend Lakewood because they have yet to hear the Gospel and only the Gospel has the power to save them. This is how so many will end up in front of Jesus saying "Lord Lord." I know we read these verses but do we stop to consider the profound, eternal sadness on that day? Time is up. We spent our life living for a false god and believing in a false gospel. Then we hear those three fateful words -- depart from me. Now God will restore us beloved but to claim He does not condemn is simply ludicrous in the face of Scripture and it essentially shuts the gates of heaven in the faces of those seeking God! This is not some feel good experiment on human compassion! These are eternal matters of heaven and hell and you want to preach to me about how significant I can be in my community? Really? Speaking about hell, Osteen was then asked if he felt he was cheating people by not telling them about hell. Here was his answer:
"No, I really don't, because it's a different approach. You know, it's not hellfire and brimstone. But I say most people are beaten down enough by life. They already feel guilty enough. They're not doing what they should, raising their kids -- you know, we can all find reasons. So I want them to come to Lakewood or our meetings and be lifted up, to say, 'You know what? I may not be perfect, but I'm moving forward. I'm doing better.' And I think that motivates you to do better."
It is a different approach than the Gospel. That is exactly what the problem is. Do not fall for the false argument about hellfire and brimstone either. Preaching the realities of hell is not the negative thing Osteen makes it out to be. In fact, it is far more loving to tell someone they are driving off a cliff than to hold their hand on the way down and tell them everything is going to all right. Osteen does not traffic in love. He traffics in the purest form of hate there is. How hateful is it to hold back the truth from someone? What if that truth could save their life? If you went to a doctor who ran tests and discovered you had cancer but instead told you that it was indigestion because he didn't want you to feel "beaten down"; would you call that love? Would you call it motivation to not tell someone the truth when that truth could save their very life?
While we are at it, look at how poorly he views the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ! As something that beats people down. Beloved there is an eternal difference between feeling guilty and repenting! Joel is honest about one thing here. When you attend Lakewood it is YOU that is lifted up and therein lies the problem. At church, it is Jesus that needs to be lifted up but Osteen has bragged about how little he uses Scripture. Instead you get folksy humor mixed with personal anecdotes and an occasional scripture reference either ripped horribly out of context or purposefully mangled beyond recognition.
The end of this statement reveals even deeper proof that Osteen simply does not understand what he is doing. He wants to motivate people to do better. That is the law beloved. We cannot do better. That was why God had to send Jesus Christ. The truth is that we do not need to feel better about ourselves. We need to feel worse because only then will we recognize our need for a Savior. Inside the theology of Joel Osteen, Christ is simply not needed. He "beats you down" and makes you feel guilty. Now take a step back and look at the entire statement from the perspective of a real person who needs God. They already feel beaten down by life. They already feel guilty on some level. This is what we in the Christianity business call "sin." We are not doing as we ought to. They come to Lakewood where they could hear about the savior of the world who died for all of these sins that are weighing them down. They could hear about the cross and the precious blood. They could be drawn by the Spirit of the living God and be saved eternally; leaving everything they walked in with at the foot of the cross. Instead however, they hear, "hey everyone is not perfect." Pick yourself up and move forward! And you know what? You feel motivated to try and do better. You may even be so inspired that it works for a week, a month, heck maybe even a year. The problem is that your sin was never addressed so eventually the inspiration wears off and you go right back to who you always have been. Even worse, maybe your life is required of you soon after and you stand before the King of Kings saying, "Lord Lord." This is serious business beloved.
We cannot continue to follow our own counsels. We cannot continue to gather around us ear scratching snake oil salesmen like Joel Osteen. There are eternal consequences. Oh that the people of God would actually listen to Him! That the church would again walk in His ways! Lest we continue to be turned over to the stubbornness of our deceitfully wicked hearts. Realize when you defend Joel Osteen you defend what he does to the sheep and the seekers. What he does to the Gospel. You defend motivating people instead of saving them. I remember once seeing Osteen preach about a father who came to him after service one day and said, "Joel, I am just a bad father." Osteen said he immediately corrected him, "Don't say you are a bad father. Say you're a good father!" I thought at the time, isn't the issue that he is a bad father? What he says is irrelevant. But that is the theology of Joel Osteen. Millions come to him each week and say, "Joel, I am just a bad sinner." Osteen responds, "Don't say that! Not everyone is perfect! Just go and do better! I don't want to beat you down!"
If you can see this and still think there is anything redeemable about his ministry then I fear you have watched him for too long. That is how judgment works.