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They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might -- 2Thessalonians 1: 9 (ESV)
For those who may not have been paying attention within the church for the last twenty years, Hillsong is one of the largest operations of heresy on the planet. They are one of the grandest architects of Christo-tainment, which has largely replaced typical church services throughout this country and the world. It is not a church. It is a conglomerate. A corporate entity. It sells franchises throughout the world from its home base In Australia. It operates schools to teach people how to become better heretics. It operates its own music business from which it makes millions of dollars. It targets and ensnares young and impressionable Christians who are more likely to embrace the experiential Christianity it sells and the carnal desires it promotes. It is led by Brian Houston, who unashamedly wrote a book entitled, "You Need More Money." Houston is a prosperity gospel pimp. He makes merchandise of the Gospel at every turn and the result has been spectacular for him and his family.
His wife, Bobbi is equally outspoken and just as money-centric as her hubby. She protects the racket at all costs. Hillsong is a brand and the Houstons know how to defend their brand. Which is why Bobbi Houston took to Twitter yesterday to gush over the recent appearance of Hillsong NYC Site Pastor, Carl Lentz, on the Oprah Winfrey Channel. Lentz appeared on a program Oprah calls "Soul Sunday", which had the queen of new age mysticism interviewing Lentz for about a half hour. After pretending that Lentz did a great job at representing the Gospel, which he did not, Bobbi anticipated blowback:
""sadly the God haters and Hillsong haters and Oprah haters will be frothing and manifesting," -- Bobbi Houston
God, Hillsong, and Oprah? One of these things is not like the others. It is interesting and sad that in the deluded mind of false teachers that hating them is akin to hating God. Not to mention the seemingly oblivious mindset in associating yourself with Oprah, who has supported and promoted some of the worst new age teachings today. In Oprah's beliefs it is all about a spiritual experience, not a Scriptural one. Even throughout this interview she seemed to mock any sense of traditional orthodoxy; over-pronouncing the name Jesus whenever she felt that she had to mention Him. Oprah has embraced the teachings of Rob Bell, the Universalist, who believes everyone goes to heaven and there is no literal hell. So without apologies to Bobbi Houston, I am not frothing or manifesting (not sure what she meant). I am just concerned that people will watch the performance by Carl Lentz and actually think this was the Gospel. Then God forbid, they might go to his church. Because despite the fact that Carl never mentioned hell one time during the half hour, it is a very real reality for everyone. Our key verse reminds us of the parts of the Bible no one wants to preach from anymore. There is a reason why the Gospel needs to be preached and it is not just so you can have your best life now. It is not so you can overcome past hurts, build a better marriage, or feel more significant. It is that there is an enteral destination awaiting everyone and you better know where you are heading.
So I watched the entire interview with Oprah. To be honest, I felt bad for Carl Lentz. He seemed tortured in trying to find the words that will sounds as biblical as possible without alienating the host or taking a substantive stand on anything. That is a fine tight rope to walk. I have already seen people completely trash his performance and while some points have been substantive, some have seemed nit-picky. An interview is a fluid process beloved. We can approach this with grace and truth to call out what was good, bad and ugly and this interview had it all. Let us start with what was good. Carl Lentz appeared to be a humble man. He appears to often say the absolute right thing. He mentioned Jesus on more than one occasion during the half hour. He even mentioned sin a couple of times. I believe I heard the word repentance once. When asked about the Bible he said, "It's all we got." I will take that as a correct and very positive affirmation of Scripture. He talked about acceptance. When asked about ego, his answer was exceptional. That a pastor should always be pointing people to Jesus and away from himself. I do not want to be critical without acknowledging that there were parts of this interview that went well enough.
The bad however is that the correct Christianese was never properly connected to each other. There were sound bites but no substance. It is admirable to say that people need Jesus but meaningless if you are not going to explain why they need Him. The answers Lentz offered were all couched within this ethereal sense of spirituality. He said things like once you bow your knee instead of explaining why Christ is Lord. He used overly simplistic lingo like "turning the keys over" to Jesus. This dumbing down of salvation will not lead anyone to penitent faith in Christ but sure sounds sweet on the Oprah Channel. What was also bad was this joint effort to continue to malign the word religion. This is a popular refrain from false teachers who are pushing a more experiential faith that eschews the Bible. The problem is that God instituted the word religion:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. -- James 1: 27 (ESV)
Now, I am sure that most outfits like Hillsong do enough good deeds in the world as to appear pious but the second part of this statement is where they run afoul. They are horribly stained by the world. They embrace worldliness and try to make it hip and cool. They blend their church with the world instead of being apart from it. Lentz would probably all but admit that. It is the marketing scheme. One of the more sadly ironic moments during the interview was when Lentz actually tried to sell the notion that his church is just all about the Bible and that it doesn't need to be made hip or trendy. Carl Lentz is the epitome of the hip-relevant pastor dude that we see across this country. His church is probably the hippest and trendiest in the entire world. He preaches in ripped jeans and leather jackets to personify the hip and trendy image. The music at his church is like a rock concert and he is the main attraction. Oprah was right in referring to him as a rock star. If Lentz was sincere about wanting this to be all about the Bible then he should disavow himself of the gimmicks and bells and whistles. Stop making his church about the show and celebrities. Somehow I doubt he would even consider such a thing because deep down he must know that he has created a church that is all about the cult of personality. The problem is that he is that cult. He is that personality. Jesus? Yeah you can turn the keys over to Him man.
That leaves us with the ugly and there unfortunately was plenty to choose from. For starters, Lentz allowed Oprah to steamroll him on her new age beliefs at every turn. He just did not seem to want to be in disagreement with anything she said. Religion bad? Sure. Church blocks people from God? Yeah I feel ya sister. Perhaps the worst was when Oprah defined the Holy Spirit as "a thing, a power, a force, or divine energy." Lentz reply? "That is exactly what it is; a divine energy." Say what? What about saying He is God? What about saying that He is the third person of the trinity? What about not referring to Him as an "it?" Instead it was another Kumbaya moment for him and Oprah as they reduced God down to something akin to the force from the Star Wars movie dynasty. If that was not ugly enough, he also blew it when being asked about Jesus and whether or not you had to be a Christian in order to be in relationship with God:
No, I believe that when Jesus said that "I am the way, the truth, and the life," the way I read that, Jesus said that he is the road marker, he is the map, so I think that God loves people so much, that whether they accept or reject him, he's still gracious, and he's still moving, and he's still giving you massive red blinking lights, for chances to take a right turn when maybe you'd take a left, but I believe God loves people, and that's what this whole gospel is based on, it's love". -- Carl Lentz
I do not want to get lost in the weeds of this nuance. The question is worded poorly, reflecting this falsely sold notion of a "relationship" with Jesus. The truth is this. Everyone in this world is in relationship with Jesus. The question is what the state of the relationship is. The secondary nuance, which Lentz said multiple times, is this notion of love being offered in lieu of the Gospel. Yes God is love. Yes the overarching message is that God so loved the world. But if you stop there you have not actually arrived at the Gospel message. The message is not just love. It is repent. God loved us so much He would not leave us in our sin and unregenerate state to suffer eternally the realities of hell. That is not the love Lentz is speaking to in this interview. Instead it is a carnally based human understanding of love. To not hurt people's feelings. Read the Bible Carl. Those who He will separate out as goats will not feel very loved on that day. God is also just. The Gospel message demands the truth. There is no love without truth. The cold hard reality is that most of this world is driving off a cliff. The Gospel message tells them that they must turn from their present course in order to be saved. Carl Lentz's gospel of love wants to hold their hand on the way off the cliff telling them that everything is going to be all right. That is not love. It is pious cruelty. Jesus is not a road marker. He is not a map. He is God incarnate, sent to redeem us from our sins. How profound that Lentz has no problem saying that He is the way the truth and the life but cannot bring himself to finish the verse:
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14: 6 (ESV)