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Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. -- Romans 16: 17 (KJV)
I believe the vast majority of Christians and church-goers will agree we are living in the end times. The love of most is growing cold, creation is groaning, and the church is gathering around her teachers to scratch their itching ears. Many of us wonder how so many will be deceived in the end. How can one succumb to such false theologies when we have the Word of God? The reality is we do not want the Word any more than we want God. We just want to confirm that our sin is ok while still being assured of heaven. That is a false assurance however built upon a false gospel that preaches a false Christ. That is how so many will stroll down the broad path to meet Jesus where they will say "Lord Lord" and He will cast them into darkness. These false teachings are propagated and advanced however due to an expanse in technology. For every discernment minster crying prepare the way of the Lord there are ten people with higher sounding titles asking -- what's the problem with Joel Osteen? That is the name of the above linked article, found on churchleaders.com. Did you get that beloved? A website for leaders in the church, ran this article assuring the sheep of the Lord that one of the most ravenous wolves today is toothless and lovable. Let us reason together with the Bible and try to dissect this offering from someone named Philip Wagner. Because the article is so long, I will try to summarize as best I can without missing the crucial points and avoiding the many strawman arguments Wagner offers up.
Point One -- The importance of the full Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Joel Osteen, controversial? How could that be? He preaches the most clear and simple gospel message a person could hear."
One local pastor said to me later, "I hear you are supporting the Joel Osteen Crusade."
I said, "Yes I am. He reaches thousands of people for Jesus Christ, he's in our city, I want to be a part of it."
What is the positive gospel? 1. Our sins are forgiven? 2. God loves us -- just like we are? 3. God has something special for each of us to do? Just sounds like the 'regular-amazing-outstanding-full of mercy- gospel' to me! You know" 'Amazing Grace' and all that.
So in the last year I've discovered there are many outspoken Christians and leaders who don't like Joel Osteen. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion -- even if it is ill informed. The disappointing thing to me is that Christian leaders speak out publically against Joel and thereby encouraging other Christians not to respect him or to doubt his authenticity. They feel the liberty to publically attack those whom they don't really understand or know. It's embarrassing.
Joel is focused on reaching the lost and the unchurched. He does it really well. Joel Osteen is criticized for everything. What he says. What he does not say. (That's my favorite one).
It would not take long for one of these self appointed 'judges of all other ministries' to listen to one of my messages and find flaws. I leave things out. I mis-speak. I don't say what I was going to say and sometimes say what I should not. But that does not make me a liar, a hypocrite, a fake or a false prophet.
As a Christian, I'm discouraged by the behavior of leaders who criticize, attack or diminish the significance of other Christian ministers.
Our church has a 'shallow end of the pool' -- it's an entry point- we don't teach everything we believe every time we speak. There is a 'deep end of the pool' as well -- it's discipleship. Much more is taught to people in those areas of our church ministry. -- Philip Wagner
The Bible cannot be clearer on this subject. Only the Gospel has the power of God unto the salvation of man according to Romans. In Acts 20 we see Paul proclaim he is innocent of the blood of the Ephesians because he did not hesitate to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Paul taught Timothy to guard only two things -- his life and his doctrine. The reason he was to be so careful with his doctrine is because the very salvation of his listeners was at stake. The Bible says that preacher and teachers of the Word will be held to a higher standard. This is not some game. The eternal destination of the souls of men hangs in the very balance of what we preach.
Joel Osteen does not preach the Gospel, simple or otherwise. He openly admits that theology is not his gifting, which disqualifies him from the position he holds. He openly says that everyone already knows what they do wrong, so he will not preach on sin. Now beloved, let me say that I do not doubt the sincerity of Joel Osteen. I can live with the fact that he perhaps thinks he is doing the Lord's work but I am not called to evaluate his sincerity -- only his doctrine. Why? Because his sincerity will save no one. He does not hold "crusades" -- that is absurd. He holds shows where he presents a motivational seminar chocked filled with bible twisting. We see however that Wagner himself has no clue what Gospel is. God does not love us just like we are, which is why He gives us a new heart and a renewed mind. Yes Jesus died for our sins but Joel Osteen never preaches about that. God does not have something special for each of us to do. That is Rick Warren Purpose Drivenology that has spread like a cancer through the churches in this world. Amazing Grace is amazing because of what a wretch I was. That wretchedness is never discussed at Lakewood Church. That is the entire point.
It is not a matter of doubting Joel's authenticity. His defenders will try to make everything personal. Claim that critics dislike him. Nonsense. Joel seems like a very likable wolf. Yet a wolf he remains because of what he teaches. The fact that we are sinners is not deep end theology. It is salvation 101. You cannot get saved without realizing why Christ had to go to the cross, which Joel Osteen never preaches about. You cannot disciple someone who is unsaved. While Wagner mocks the notion of being criticized for what is not said it is actually a very crucial and salient point. If you preach a gospel that never examines sin and the need to repent but instead focuses solely on love and word faith doctrine you may very well grow a church but you are not growing the kingdom. Joel is very good at reaching people but what is he reaching them with? Jesus rebuked the Pharisees likewise for traveling to world to win a single convert but in doing so making him twice the son of hell that they were. Please also understand here beloved we are not talking about misspeak or saying something one should not. We should always have mercy for people. We are dealing with repeated and unrepentant false teachings. That is what heresy is.