We love our religion here in America. We love our impure lustful carnality and do not mind defending it. Oh, we wrap it up in the name of Jesus but at the end of the day it has nothing to do with Him at all. If it did, it would be obedient to Him and His Word. We would cringe when we heard something contrary to His teachings instead of rushing to embrace it. We would do the work of a Berean and be more worried about offending our Lord and Savior than we appear to be sometimes about offending man. As Jesus Himself once lamented - why do we bother to call Him Lord when we refuse to do what He says? The reality is we have swaths of Scriptures in the New Testament from God specifically warning us about false teachers. Swaths of Scriptures telling us to name their names. Mark them clearly. Come out from among them. Openly rebuke them. Have nothing to do with them. The flip side of this coin however is we have many carnal and inspiring leaders in the American church today that our flesh likes. They do not challenge us. They feed our flesh. In a worldly sense, they are very likable. We want to hold their hands and sing Kumbaya. They scratch our itching ears. They tell us that Sodom isn't so bad. That it is somehow redeemable. They take all of the fluffy stuff they can find in the Bible, usually rip it violently out of context, and ignore anything that might get in the way of their feel-good gospel. We rarely stop to even examine anymore what it is we have placed our faith in.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. - 1Corinthians 15: 1-2 (ESV)
So I feel compelled to remind you dear brothers and sisters of the Gospel that was preached unto you. The Gospel which you received and in which you should be standing, lest you fall. The Gospel that brought you to salvation and penitent faith in Jesus Christ. We are supposed to hold fast to this Word - not the cult of personality. If we do not, then we have believed in vain. What does that mean? It means we were never saved to begin with! Do we really want to spend a lifetime believing in vain? What are we holding fast to today? Who are we holding hands with; merrily skipping down the broad path that leads to destruction?
I say this as the backdrop to a frank discussion regarding Joel Osteen, "Pastor" of Lakewood "Church." Beloved, I understand that Joel is a very likable fellow. I understand that he probably does some great humanitarian works. I understand that he has probably helped many people with their self esteem and motivation. I can even live with the notion that he genuinely believes he is doing the Lord's will. This is not about his heart. It is not about his intentions. It is not about his personality. It is about his teaching. It is about his doctrine. The bottom line is when you hold his teaching up to the light of Scripture you must conclude he is a wolf in the sheep pen. He is a wolf of the highest order. This is not a matter of opinion for anyone with an objective eye and a decent grasp of Scripture. It is not debatable. It is proven fact. I alone have documented multiple times he has simply abused the Word of God in order to prop up his word-faith and prosperity heresies. That alone disqualifies him. In addition to this however is his spoken admission to not caring about even using Scripture when he preaches. About how the vast majority of his illustrations are personal anecdotes. About how he says that doctrine is not his gifting. About his affiliation with the new age mystic queen, Oprah. About how he stated that Mormonism is an acceptable Christian denomination. About how he can never answer questions about heaven correctly. About how his sermons cannot be preached outside of this country; a sure sign they are not of the real Gospel. Just the other week he stood by watching as his wife declared that we do not even worship God for God but rather for ourselves. That God is never more pleased than when we are happy. That we do not go to church for God but rather for ourselves. This is the gospel of the Osteens and it is not of Christ. It is beyond carnal. It feeds the flesh, not the Spirit. His gospel is devoid of any discussion of sin and the need to repent. He barely mentions Jesus at all. Perhaps the most egregious thing is his insistence to pretend to care about bringing people into the kingdom. After each feel good, self help, Jesus-less message, he looks into the camera and has the people repeat a three sentence prayer that is guaranteed to save no one. Yet he tells them they are born again! It is beyond cruelty. Jesus warns us about this:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. - Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)
There is no third choice beloved. We are either with Christ or we are against Him. He is trying to gather people unto Him. If we are not found doing so then by definition we are scattering the people He is trying to reach. THAT is what Joel Osteen does. In the wake of the scathing criticism the Osteens have received over Victoria's comments, which she doubled down on instead of apologizing, some of the Osteen sycophants have rushed to defend the indefensible. We hear the same tired old nonsense. We hear that "this is why people do not like Christianity." Wrong. People do not like Biblical Christianity because it forces them to not be their own God. It forces them to recognize another as Lord. I assume many would look upon the Joel Osteens of the world and wonder how a man who preaches about Jesus can live the lifestyle he does. Hypocrisy is rarely lost on the lost. Recently, I came across this defense of the Osteens offered up by Christian music artist, Carman Licciardello:
ABOUT JOEL OSTEEN: I usually don't comment on this stuff but I feel I need to speak up. For some reason many credible church leaders are finding the need to dissect Joel Osteen as a speaker and even his credibility as a Christian. Even going after his wife and dissecting her words by the phrase as if they're prosecutors and she's on a murder trial. Folks this has got to stop. Joel is one of us. He is a God ordained bridge between the mainstream world and the church and we really need to protect our bridge. He's a pastor. He's not an evangelist. Though he does offer prayers for salvation, he doesn't have to in order to fulfill his call. We have to see him for everything he is instead of terrorizing him for everything he's not. He can not say everything we want him to say. But if we keep him in place he creates a hunger in people to go to their local churches and hear "the rest of the story". The Bible says Some are called to reap, some to water and some to sow seeds. Joel is a world class seed sower. Who, by the way, is not afraid to water and reap. So let's back off this key representative in the mainstream world. Satan loves it when we partner with him and destroy our own leaders. God has a seed sower for every generation. Wether it's Norman Vincent Peale or Robert Shuller or Joel Osteen. We support our troops in the military, now lets support our troops in the church. Joel Osteen is one of our finest soldiers and he needs our support. Can I hear an Amen ?
Where do we start in debunking this nonsense? I do not find a need to dissect Osteen as a speaker; nor do I need to question his credentials as a Christian. I am however compelled by 1Thessalonians to test everything. I am directed by Titus 1:9 to openly rebuke false teachers. The more important consideration here is why? Why does God command me as a minister to openly correct false teachers? Because wolves kill sheep. There is a reason why Jesus used such clear metaphors. So we could not pretend it means something else. Paul instructs Timothy to guard his doctrine because the very salvation of his listeners is at stake. When Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian elders he said he was free of their blood because he did not hesitate to proclaim the entire will of God. Not just the feel good parts. Do we understand what this means? While people like Carman Licciardello seem infinitely concerned about Joel Osteen, God is far more concerned about the people who sit under his false teaching and will end up in hell because of it. As for the charge of "going after his wife", this is absurd to the point of being a willful deception. Victoria Osteen took the microphone and choose to rattle off how the Gospel is really about us and not God. If she had come out the following week and simply said she misspoke; I never would have brought it up again. Anyone can make a mistake. Instead she doubled down on her nonsense and once again, why are people more concerned about Victoria Osteen than they are about the sheep of God?
Despite what Mr. Licciardello believes, Joel is not one of us. If you think he is a "God ordained bridge" than you simply do not understand the Bible. If he is God ordained, why does he blatantly mangle His Word so much? He is a pastor in name only because the Bible says a pastor feeds the sheep and Joel does not. He feeds their flesh. He tells them this is their best life now. He tells them that they can simply speak things, including prosperity, into existence. I am not sure what Carman means by saying Osteen does not need to concern himself with salvation in order to fulfill his call. What the heck is his call then? I do see him for everything he is and everything he is has very little to do with the Gospel. People who correctly expose his false teaching are not "terrorizing" him. Once again hyperbole to the point of absurdity. Once again a flesh statement out of concern for the carnal personality instead of the sheep of God. This is not about Joel saying "everything we want" him to say. It is about him saying anything resembling the Gospel. It is not what I want. It is what Jesus wants.
Note here how twisted the logic has to become to defend the indefensible. The next statement is, he creates a hunger in people to go to their local churches and hear "the rest of the story". Is this a tacit admission that Osteen does not present the full story? It sure seems like it is. The sad thing is that Christians would find this acceptable and still believe the man is doing the work of the kingdom. Nowhere in Scripture does God call for someone to whet the appetite for someone else to deliver the Gospel. Now Mr. Licciardello tries valiantly to pretend that this is true because of the verses which state some sow and others water but let's take a closer look at that passage:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. - 1Corinthians 3: 5-9 (ESV)
According to the rationale employed, the sower preaches less than the Gospel message and the one who waters brings it home. That is sheer nonsense and not supported by these verses. Both the sower and the one who waters are called to preach the full Gospel without compromise. This passage clearly says that he who plants and he who waters are one! Yet in Carmen's twisted logic, Osteen is a "world class sower?" Are you serious? You cannot be a sower of any grade without preaching the Gospel! Perhaps we have so watered down the Gospel today that asking people to repeat a three sentence prayer passes for acceptable. I assure you it is not. You cannot preach a half hour about how great we are. How much power our words have. How much God wants to prosper us. Then casually smile into the camera and ask people to say a prayer they do not understand. About sin you never addressed and the need to repent which you never explained. It is an insult to Calvary beloved. It is an insult to the sacrifice of the cross.
Carmen did get one thing right. Osteen is a key representative in the mainstream world. Unfortunately, he is also a key representative of the mainstream world. When the mark of the beast arrives and business cannot be conducted without it, does anyone truly believe that Lakewood Church will not be lining up their congregants to take the mark? Seriously? Carmen's insight into what Satan loves misses the point. Joel Osteen is not a leader of Christianity. He is Tony Robbins with a Bible. Perhaps the most telling part of the rant from Carmen is the comparison of Osteen to two very dubious people, neither of which represented Christ either. Norman Vincent Peale is the father of positive thinking doctrine that has grown into the word-faith heresy. He is on record as saying Christ is only one way to heaven and that he found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine. He has said it is not necessary to be born again. The church which Peale theology is most associated is Marble Collegiate Church in NYC. Peale was pastor at Marble for 52 years. Marble wants people to become their best selves and does not believe the Bible should be interpreted literally.
Robert Schuller was one of the staunchest adherents to Norman Vincent Peale. Many say that Schuller took the doctrine of positive thinking and advanced it into positive possibilities. He is largely considered the father of the seeker friendly church, which is poisoning the body of Christ to this very day. Schuller has inspired Rick Warren, who took the seeker friendly theology and pumped it full of steroids in the purpose driven church model. They firmly believe in giving people (the unsaved) what it is that they want instead of what God says they need. All perceived negativity is stripped out of the Gospel. No real discussion of sin; in fact Schuller said people should not be called sinners. No real discussion of repentance. Here is a direct quote from an article in Time Magazine in 1985:
"I don't think anything has been done in the name of Christ that and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition."