God said to Moses, "I am who I am." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, "I am has sent me to you.'" -- Exodus 3: 14 (ESV)
If you heard there was a new Christian book coming out entitled, "The Power of I Am", you might get very excited at first. It could be a fantastic journey through the awesome attributes of God! Perhaps it is an in depth study on the seven "I am" statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. Maybe it is a look at the incredible encounter Moses had with God when the creator of the universe told us His glorious name -- I Am! Either way, what a subject for believers to embrace. A God focused book about the God who saved us while we were yet still sinners. The God who is the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life and the vine to our branches. Only the truly reprobate could take the moment when God personalized Himself to the human race and make it about us. Only someone who has no clue about doctrine and less understanding of blasphemy could take the amazing concept of I Am and turn it into a decree and declare, word of faith, nonsensical heresy. In other words, only Joel Osteen.
Beloved we have no more time left to be coddling wolves. I understand that Joel seems like a great guy. He has a million dollar smile and a positive, uplifting, motivational gift that few have. None of that is going to matter when we are standing before Christ giving account and discover that He never knew us. I cannot tell you how many brothers and sisters give a nod and a wink when it comes to Osteen. Oh what harm is he doing! He makes me feel better about myself! It is time to stop making our salvation to be just about us. There are other people out there and they do not need to hear that this is their best life now. They need to hear they are a sinner and Christ died to save them. The gospel Joel preaches is no gospel at all. It is completely different with a different Jesus that has zero power to save anyone. The Bible teaches us about those who would bring a different gospel:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. - Galatians 1: 6-9 (ESV)
So Joel Osteen's new book is entitled, "The Power of I Am" but it has nothing to do with God. It has to do with you. It has to do with the power Joel says is inside of you. He thinks so little about God that he cannot even see how utterly blasphemous it is to take the name of the Lord, I Am, and use it to prop up his word faith heresy. It is staggering in it insolence and obliviousness. This book idea came out of the popularity of a sermon he gave by the same title. Oprah loved it so much she used it in her life class series and Joel was happy to come on and pitch it. Here is a link to the sermon:
The opening premise is that what follows our self-statements that begin with "I am" determine our life. That what follows the words "I am" will "come looking for you." So if you choose to say I am ugly, then ugliness will come looking for you. If you say I am poor then poverty will seek you out. The good news according to Joel is that we get to choose the I am statements that come out of our mouth. So if we say, I am healthy then health will start looking for us. If we say I am blessed then blessing will start looking for us. The principle he claims is at work here is that the positive I am statements "trigger God" to send these things to you.
I kid you not. He actually said that. For the pro-Joel crowd who cannot see the enormity of damage he causes in the kingdom we need to pause here and consider these opening heresies. God is not up in heaven waiting for us to say positive things about ourselves so He can finally release blessings upon us. He is not some narcissistic tooth fairy. He is omnipotent and that means all-powerful. Who is god in the scenario Joel has outlined? We are! Our words control God! What absurdities! Imagine a person seeking God because they were just diagnosed with terminal cancer and they hear this nonsense. That all they have to do is say I am healthy every morning and then God will be activated to send health their way. Then they get worse. Then they die. Then they go to hell because they were separated from God and Joel did nothing to help the separation. Instead he sold her some magic beans that had no magic in them at all. What damage is then done to her family who watched her say these silly self-help statements every morning while she was dying? Will they ever want to come to God? Probably not. Probably an entire family wiped out from the possibility of salvation even though the cancer may have been the triggering event to send that woman seeking the Lord! At one point Joel says that even if you are poor you should say I am well-off. How would that work in the slums of third world countries Joel? If your theology is only good for the suburbs then it is by definition false. So we come to the first Bible twisting of this sermon:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2: 10 (ESV)
To Joel, because the New Living Translation (NLT) says "masterpiece" instead of workmanship, this means that God wants us to constantly remind ourselves that we are a masterpiece. A work of art. One of a kind. Me, me, me. The problem is that the NLT often misses the mark when it comes to good translation and to quote verse ten here out of context is borderline criminal. Verse ten is part of a teaching on the new way of grace versus the old way of works. That we cannot by our own works do anything. That we are actually God's workmanship, created by Him for His good pleasure and to do His works He has laid out for us. Powerful when you meditate on it but Joel Osteen takes it and turns it into a really bad Saturday Night Live skit of the Stuart Smalley show.
Next up Joel wants to use the Bible to show people who spoke positively about themselves. So he heads to the Psalms, which are largely very uplifting and positive and refers us to Psalm 139 where David said, "I praise you because you made me in a wonderful way." Osteen then wonders what it would be like if we all talked about ourselves like David did. So what's wrong with that preacher? Two things. First it misrepresents what God is trying to get across in Psalm 139 and secondly, it cherry picks a verse and makes a false assumption about David. So you can ascribe to Joel's teaching if you like but do not delude yourself into thinking it is remotely what God said and if we are not approaching the Bible to hear from God then why approach it at all? Psalm 139 is not about David positively confessing who he is. It is a celebration of the omniscience and omnipresence of God Almighty! The one verse he references out of context is meant to marvel at the work God has done in creating us. It is to bring glory to God but Joel Osteen uses it to teach people to bring glory to themselves. Secondly however, he leaves the listener with the impression that David believed in positive confession and the word faith tenets when nothing in Scripture indicates that. It is just as easy to find verses David wrote that were of the opposite emotions:
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.And I say, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest;yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; SelahI would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest." - Psalm 55: 4-8 (ESV)
What? David confessing that his heart is in anguish? That the terrors of death have fallen upon him? That horror overwhelms him? Doesn't he realize that anguish, terror, and horror will seek him out? What absolute nonsense from Osteen. What is more disturbing however is that this teaching will slaughter sheep. It will lead people to hell yet we think because he does it with a smile we ought to give him a pass. But we should not and hopefully the next scripture abuse is enough to convince us. Osteen tells the story of Sarai, the wife of Abraham. He explains that because a woman not bearing children was looked down upon Sarai must have had a lot of bad "I ams." Joel said he could see her saying, "I am a failure, I am not attractive, I am inferior." But now she has this promise from God that as an older woman she was going to have a baby but according to Osteen, "God knew it would never come to pass unless He changed her I ams." He would go on to say that this was so imperative that God changed her name to Sarah, which means princess. So according to Pastor Joel, now Sarah had to hear over and over again that she was a princess every time someone said her name. Good morning princess (Sarah). Pass the ketchup princess (Sarah). This way it got down on the inside of her. So she went from I am a failure to I am a princess. Wow, what a story! What a tale of transformation! If only it were true! But it is not beloved. NONE of this is true. None of it is accurate. None of this is scriptural. Let's go down the list of bible twisting:
1) While it is true that barrenness for women was looked down upon Joel reads into scripture all of the negative "I ams." Nowhere does the Bible even hint that Sarai said all of these negative things about herself.
2) Once again the god Osteen is preaching about is not the God of the Bible. The notion that God could not bring something He wanted to pass unless we changed our self talk is ludicrous. It is arrogantly ludicrous.