For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew fist and also to the Greek. - Romans 1: 16 (ESV)
In the effort of full disclosure, I have always like Max Lucado. I used to get his daily devotionals emailed. I understand why so many like him. He seems very genuine in a world and a church that often is not. There is a reason however why the Bible warns us that our hearts are wicked and deceitful. God could have just said our hearts were wicked and we all would have understood but He added deceitful for a reason. We have to understand that not only is our nature that bends towards sin constantly, but that if we trust our hearts we will always lie to ourselves to protect our wickedness. If we trust our intentions we will always deceive ourselves. If we trust our genuineness we will always discover in the end that we were not being honest with ourselves. That is why God gave us His Word. It is always true. It never changes. It cuts both ways but that is what we need in order to discern what is from God and what is not. So please, do not ever think these are efforts in character assassination or that there is some visceral secondary gain on my part because there is not. While I my take pleasure in exposing a truly egregious false teacher like Mike Murdoch or Benny Hinn, the Max Lucados of the world simply make me sad. But it is not about him or me. It is about Jesus Christ and His Gospel. It is about the individual sheep who are going to stand before the Lord on the last day only to discover that after years of thinking they were serving God that He in fact never knew them. So I do not view Max Lucado as a charlatan. I view him as just one of the latest victims of the plague.
We have written about the plague before. It was released by the Seeker-Friendly Industrial Complex, which coordinates the business of church across this world. The plague is the purpose driven church model. This has been written about in great detail on these pages. It teaches new pastors that they are in fact not shepherds but instead visionary leaders. It teaches them to focus the efforts of their church on appealing to the unsaved goats instead of tending to the sheep God has entrusted to them. It teaches them that it is ok to let sheep leave the pen through what they deem as a "blessed subtraction" as long as they find a replacement pew-sitter. It neuters and cleanses the Gospel of anything that might offend the unsaved. No more discussion about the cross, the blood, our sin and need for repentance. Instead of changing our ways, we are encouraged to invite Jesus into our hearts like He is a wallflower at some eighth grade dance. Instead of worshiping God for who He is we do so now to minimize God and reduce Him to our level. I am a friend of God instead of how great thou art. And that is really getting closer to the core shift that had to occur for this all to take root. People had to buy in to the new way of thinking. This me-centric gospel that is really no gospel at all. Not just the Kool-Aid drinkers mind you. It is easy to exploit people like Andy Stanley. No beloved, they had to infect people like Max Lucado as well.
A few years back Lucado gave an interview to Christianity.com when he was promoting a new book. I had not seen it at the time but it came up again recently. Most of it was typical interview banter. Lucado was always a touchy-feely pastor type and this book was about getting through crises, so it was to be expected. Then towards the end there were two questions that drew answers out of Lucado that brilliantly displayed that he too has been infected with the Purpose Driven Plague. This decaying mindset that is opposed to the true Gospel and instead is man-focused. The first inquiry in question was what other preachers he liked to listen to. Here was his answer:
"I really enjoy listening to Joel Osteen. I think Joel has a unique assignment in his ministry, and that's to cast a wide net. He's got a different assignment and a different gift mix, than for example, a John MacArthur; and I enjoy listening to John MacArthur equally; but you can see they're two different types of preaching. I enjoy Joel because I think his assignment in ministry is to encourage people, and we live in a day that is so discouraged, discouraging. I enjoy John MacArthur because I think -- it seems to me -- his assignment is to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding. He'd be more like a Beth Moore or a David Jeremiah; I think we need that as well." -- Max Lucado
Wow, where do we start? It is disturbing enough that any minister of the Gospel would enjoy listening to Joel Osteen. I get why beloved. Believe me I do. We used to joke years ago at my old church that when we wanted to feel better about ourselves we would go home and turn Osteen on. The truth is that is no joke. But as I grew in the Word and started thinking beyond myself, Osteen became clearer for what he was; a wolf. Remember beloved, his intentions are irrelevant. This is not a judgment about his character but rather his teachings. Now when I watch Osteen to do a sermon review for example, I am no longer encouraged. It is not encouraging watching 50,000 people say amen to things that are completely unbiblical and untrue. We do not have the power of creation in our words as Osteen teaches. God is not supernaturally lining everything up for our success. Sometimes the answer from God is no. For the unsaved person, I am devastated watching Joel Osteen. Because they never actually hear the Gospel. They hear some Christianese with a little Jesus sprinkled in for the sake of false piety but make no mistake beloved who Joel preaches about. You. It is YOUR best life now. It is seven steps to a better YOU. Heck, the last book he wrote was a series of positive self-statements, called "I am." Pure blasphemy and the Purpose Driven Plague wrapped up in one.
Does Joel Osteen cast a wide net? Absolutely and pity the poor people caught up in that net like dolphins caught in tuna nets. The end result is usually death. Can some people eventually find God through the Osteen ministry? No they cannot because he does not preach the Gospel and as the key verses teach us; only the Gospel has the power of God unto the salvation of man. Now, can hearing this infected me-me-me blather lead someone to want to seek a better source? Sure. That person escaped the Osteen net however. Just watch the sinner's prayer net he throws out each week. Does anyone with an ounce of discernment really believe that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our salvation can be boiled down to three sentences after a half hour sermonette about how I can feel more significant? This is born straight out of the purpose driven plague which teaches salvation in a nine word prayer! If you want to see the people caught up in the wide net of Joel Osteen's heresy let us turn to the Gospel of Matthew:
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 I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' -- Matthew 7: 22-23 (ESV)
This is one of the saddest exchanges in the entire Bible should give any minister pause. These people who stand before Christ were fully churched. They had their unique assignment all figured out. They were driven by their supernatural purpose. None of that mattered of course because they were not saved! They were not born again! They did not even know the Jesus they thought they were serving! How does this happen? By getting caught up in a net of heresy that introduces them to a false christ. A christ that has no power to save them. A christ devoid of His Gospel. Joel Osteen is only the poster child for such falseness and if you can sit through his sermons as a minister and not weep for the lost, then I would wager you still are in this only for yourself.
Then there is the absurd comparison between Joel Osteen and John MacArthur. Lucado is right that they have different assignments. MacArthur's is to preach the Gospel and Joel's is not. But look at the thinking beloved! Look at how infected Lucado's thought process is when it comes to these matters. He thinks that it is Joel Osteen's ministry assignment to encourage people in a discouraging world. As if God assigned him to not preach the Gospel but pretend that he is. As if God instructed Joel Osteen to preach this prosperity word faith slop that will consign untold numbers of people to hell. As if God commissioned Joel Osteen to present a completely humanistic creed, devoid of a scintilla of the true Gospel. Beloved, this is what the Purpose Driven Plague does when it infects your brain. Everything is couched in terms of us instead of God. So because the world is so discouraging, and Joel Osteen is so encouraging, his divine assignment must be such. If you look at it from the perspective of God however and through the lens of the Gospel, you see things a bit clearer. The world is a very discouraging place. Why is that so? Is it because we just don't know how to positively speak about ourselves? Is it because of Trump or Clinton? Is it because of economic uncertainty? Culture wars? Those are merely symptoms beloved. Like a malpracticing surgeon, Joel Osteen is slicing away at the symptoms of the world without bothering to address the cause.
Oops. There's that little three letter word again. The world is discouraging because of sin. Everything can be traced back to it. This is a dying world that has only one chance for salvation and that is Jesus Christ. The only thing with the power to save them is the Gospel. So how in the world is it "encouraging" for someone like Joel Osteen to hold back the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of mortal offense, while taking a scalpel to the symptoms of discouragement. Superficial treatment for a terminal disease is not encouraging. It is cruel. It is like when an injury requires a tourniquet but your doctor treats it with a Band-Aid. At least it's ouchless right? Next up is this infected notion that John MacArthur has the assignment to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning by craftiness in deceitful schemes. -- Ephesians 4: 11-14 (ESV)
Now remember the question posed to Lucado was to name some preachers he liked. Take a good look at these verses. This is the explanation from God why He gave the church the leaders. It is to equip the saints for ministry. To build up the body of Christ. To help the sheep attain the unity of the faith and the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ. To be mature and no longer like spiritual children tossed about by the very three things the Purpose Driven Plague employs against the church. False doctrine, human cunning, and craftiness in deceitful schemes. When Andy Stanley preaches that we do not need to rely on the inerrancy of Scripture we are hearing human cunning. When Robert Morris preaches that God will curse all of your money unless you give him the first ten percent you are hearing deceitful schemes. When Joel Osteen preaches that God is always going to resolve all of your problems the way you desire you are hearing false doctrine. A few years back, Rick Warren wrote an article to pastors about tips to ensure their Easter visitors would return the following week. One of the things he recommended was NOT preaching the Gospel so they "had a reason to come back." That is what is truly discouraging beloved. To desperately need to hear the only thing that might be able to save me only to hear a sermon on strengthening my marriage because some tool of the devil thought it was more important that I came back to his soulless church than to possibly be drawn to the cross by the Holy Spirit. To hear the ideas of human cunning carried out through deceitful schemes when all I needed to hear was that Jesus Christ died for my sins. That is what discouraging should look like. If you are called to be a minister then it is your job, gifting, ministry or whatever you want to call it -- to equip the church with a detailed biblical understanding.
As if to cement the notion that Max Lucado can no longer discern what is true from what is false, he compares John MacArthur to Beth Moore and David Jeremiah. Now, I do not agree with everything John MacArthur preaches. We disagree on pre-destination and cessationism but MacArthur is still a solid expositor of the Word of God. He is one of the more trusted sources out there today. Beth Moore is an absurdly false teacher. She is cozy with Osteen, Hillsong and the entire Seeker-Friendly Industrial Complex. She has also been in bed with Joyce Meyer and espouses many mystical and new age teachings. David Jeremiah, once long respected, is another teacher who is simply not finishing strong. He is now a regular on the false Christian network of TBN, has taught the false seed-sowing method of fleecing the flock, and he was uniquely tied to ex-Catholic Mystic, Roma Downey and the heretical AD miniseries. Without getting into specific details, the lack of discernment from Lucado is simply and sadly, staggering here. To compare a solid exegete of God's Word like MacArthur, to two false teachers blows my mind. Why would you point other sheep to wolves? One of the last questions asked of Lucado reveals the final insight. He was asked what advice he would have for up and coming ministers.
"I would really encourage the person to seek out his or her unique ability, the unique assignment. You know, try to discern what kind of role you have, what are your spiritual gifts, and do the most what you do the best. All of us have to do some of what we don't do best, but as we stay in ministry, it's wise for us to recognize that some of us are called to be visionary leaders, others are called to be pastors, others are called to be counselors, so never apologize for your unique assignment." -- Max Lucado