The Osteen-Oprah Interview and Why Doctrine Matters
1Timothy 4: 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV)
The third time seemed like the charm for Pastor Joel Osteen this week as he appeared on the new Oprah Winfrey Network; where he sat down for an hour long interview. I say the third time because Pastor Joel has appeared twice before on national television and seriously flubbed the most basic tenet of our faith; namely that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14: 6 (NIV)
This time Pastor Joel appeared more prepared for the question and did correctly assert Christ as the way to heaven; although he did parse the answer a bit by saying there were many ways to Christ. Oprah did not take the bait however so the issue ended there. But as always there was plenty to delve into when someone sits down for an hour long interview. Before the would-be Pastor Joel apologists get upset you must realize this is not "picking on" Joel Osteen. He runs the largest church in the country. He willingly took the microphone for this interview.
And I will start by commending him for not taking any money from his church. It was very nice to hear that the lifestyle he leads is based solely off the money he has earned in book sales and from that he generously gives back as well. I firmly believe that the "God wants me poor" theology is no better than the "God wants me rich" theology. The issue for God is not where your wallet is at but where your heart is.
But as I watched last night I realized there was an underbelly of innuendo being put forth that if you were not careful you might have missed. There seemed to be a concerted effort to make "doctrine" a dirty word. It was referred to as "rules and regulations" that "beat people down." Pastor Joel smiled and seemed to agree or at the least did not challenge the assertion. That is a dangerous train of thought beloved.
Now, we believe in God but that does not make us special. The Washington Post had reported in 2008 that 92% of Americans believe in God. The actual percentage of atheists is quite low and always has been. Belief in one God has never been extraordinary:
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. James 2: 19 (NLT)
Then the question becomes what God do you believe in? What do you believe about your God and more importantly, where did those beliefs come from? This is what we refer to as "doctrine." The dictionary definition is, " A particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated, as of a religion or government. " God created us but He did not leave us uniformed. He has provided for us His Word; the Bible. I know that the faithless will say it was written by men but we know that God divinely inspired the writers. It was God who wrote the Bible through these men. Just consider that the Bible was written by forty different authors spread out over 1600 years! Yet despite the vast differences in language, culture and time, the themes remain consistent throughout the Bible and there are no contradictions. Quite frankly man is not smart enough to pull off this feat with divine intervention and organization. And why did God go to such great lengths?
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (NLT)
This life is dangerous to navigate. We can barely leave the house anymore without a GPS system to direct our paths. Well, the Bible is God's GPS for our everyday life. First of all, doctrine is useful for us to teach us what is true. We need to know what is true because of all the deceitful pitfalls in the world. Remember there is an enemy to our souls and he is not only described as a murderer but a liar:
For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8: 44 (NLT)
What we believe shapes our thinking. What we think shapes our actions. How we act shapes the outcomes in our lives. For instance, last night Pastor Joel was defending his riches and in doing so said, "How can I be a blessing if I am poor?" This cuts to the very heart of what is wrong with a vast majority of American Christianity. In connects the word blessing to material wealth in this life. The title of Pastor Osteen's bestselling book is even entitled, "Your Best Life Now." The Bible assures us that while we can live the eternal life now, the best is certainly still to come:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega--the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21: 1-7 (NLT)
No more death, sorrow or pain! That is the best life beloved! There is nothing any man can offer us that will compare. The Bible teaches us that blessings are what God has already given us, not what the enemy shows us we do not have. In a lot of instances, blessings are when God holds something back from us we think we want! Blessings are eternal, not carnal. In order to sift through the deception we must know the truth and the Bible teaches us that the root of all evil is the love of money yet too many churches sell the pursuit of money as being a righteous cause.