Then Jesus said, "You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin." -- John 19: 11 (NLT)
Joel Osteen took to CNN again this week to shill for his latest book, which appears to be a re-varnished attempt at word faith heresy. This is not to say that I do not believe in the power of positive self-talk; I certainly do. I think that how we view ourselves is crucial for being able to walk with the power God intended for us in this world. How we view God within us however; that is more important. Word faith's error is in assuming the power resides in the spoken human word instead of the living resurrected Christ.
I have been accused of picking on Pastor Joel and I am ok with that criticism. When you lead the largest church in the country and insist on going on national television and not proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ I think you leave yourself open for criticism. When asked about prevalent sin for example, Osteen responded to Soledad O'Brien that he was "not about pushing people down." The inference, whether intended or otherwise, is that God is in the business of pushing people down when in reality He is about pulling them up out of the very sins that hold them in bondage. This is the tightrope someone walks when they are more concerned about offending someone then they are with preaching the Gospel. Remember, Christ did not come to bring peace:
"Don't imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. "I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!' -- Matthew 10: 34-36 (NLT)
The Gospel is going to divide if it is preached correctly. There will be some who will simply refuse God according to His terms. Those divisions will even be within our own families. The "kumbya" Christianity that has started to infect the modern church just does not seem to get this. It is why the theories of church growth are heresy at their core. The object is not to find a way to unite as many people as possible in a building, collect 10% of their income, assure them of eternal life, and live happily ever after. The object is to preach the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ and let the sword separate out the goats from the sheep. He who gives his life will find it again in Christ and he who clings to his life will lose it.
Yet when I read the transcript of the latest Osteen interview, I was led to consider the proper role we have as the church in these, the last days. It seems that sometimes we can get things so backwards in the modern church. When it comes to the lost -- we are supposed to be outwardly focused -- to bring the light into the darkness:
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." -- Matthew 28: 18-20 (NLT)
This of course is the Great Commission. I think sometimes this becomes in our minds like those great classic songs we have heard so much that we start to take for granted. This is what Jesus Himself commissioned us to do. Instead the modern church has a propensity to look down upon those who are on the outside of salvation looking in. Instead of bringing the love of Christ to the lost we bring the morality of religion. It is a moral standard we ourselves do not live up to. The lost do not need a religion; they need a relationship with God.
We also tend to get wrong how we are to look inwardly at ourselves. We have the tendency to not be critical for the sake of false unity. This is not what we have been commanded in Scripture:
It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. -- 1Corinthians 5: 12 (NLT)
I know this flies in the face of the "judge not" crowd but those Scriptures are about hypocrisy, not judgment. Jesus in fact commands us to help our brother with the speck in his eye after we have removed the log in our own. But we get all uncomfortable when we look inward. A large part of the reason I believe is that there is entirely too much church worship and pastor worship going on in America; instead of God worship. I love my pastor but he did not die for my sins. Any true man of God will always point you to God.
And therein lies the problem with a self-help, motivational speaker such as Joel Osteen. As a guru, he seems immensely qualified but as a pastor he seems somewhat lacking. I have heard a lot of people say that he does no harm and they like him because he makes them feel better about themselves. I will suggest the possibility that we do not need to feel better about ourselves as much as we need to feel better about our God. In the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew God shows us what happens when we start to think better of ourselves. Peter correctly answers that Jesus is the Christ and our Lord compliments him, and then explains how the church will be built and that Peter will be given the keys to heaven. Peter must have felt pretty good about himself at this point, no? The very next story we see Jesus tell His disciples that He must go to the cross and Peter rebukes Him for saying such a thing. Here is the response from Jesus:
Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." -- Matthew 16: 23 (NLT)
Quite the stark contrast God is showing us from one moment to the next. That is how quickly pride can infect our lives. We have a responsibility as the body of Christ that I think we shirk too often. This brings us to the key verse. Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate and says something very telling -- the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin. We know that it is Pilate who orders the crucifixion, the torture, the flogging, and eventually the death of Christ. Yet he has the lesser sin. Why? Because he does not know any better. The people who handed Him over however -- they knew better. They knew the Scripture inside and out. Yet they ignored what they knew and focused only on what they felt threatened their religious existence and crucified the one they claimed to be waiting for. It is frightening to think that religion can blind you so much that you fail to see God standing right in front of you"and then you kill Him.
This is the danger the modern church faces today as well. For the sake of inclusion and relevance, the Gospel is being sacrificed one tiny bit at a time while the church sings kumbya. When we look at the very people we are charged with bringing the Gospel to -- we bring them derision and judgment instead. When we look inward we balk at anyone daring to say anything at all. Even when a man who supposedly shepherds 43,000 people says on national television that he only talks about sin while being interviewed. You see the ones who handed Christ over to Pilate had the greater sin because they had the greater responsibility. Today that responsibility falls to the church. It is time we started focusing correctly. Focusing on a world that desperately needs to hear the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ before that trumpet sounds. Focusing on cleaning up our own house. If you want to be Tony Robbins and motivate people to have their best life now, fantastic -- just do not claim the mantle of Christianity. Do not worship your religion to the point that you hand Christ over and do not even recognize Him when you do so.