A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. - Ecclesiastes 10: 19 (ESV)
We have to decide as Christians why we go to church. Why we wake up on a Sunday and shuffle off to a steepled building for an hour and a half or so. Why we choose to serve in ministries. Why we choose to go to prayer meeting, attend leadership conferences, or go on missions trips. Why do we choose to do these things? Last year Victoria Osteen made some public buzz when she claimed that we do these things for ourselves. That we literally worship God for ourselves. After a week of public outcry, the Osteens doubled down on Victoria's claims. I give them credit for at least being honest because what is preached at Lakewood Church is very much a "gospel of me." One merely needs to look at the book titles from Joel Osteen to determine that. There are "Becoming a Better You" and "Your Best Life Now." God is leveraged to this end to give the appearance that He is somehow involved in this debacle but it is only for appearance. It is hardly just the Osteens beloved. Joseph Prince and his adherents preach a sugar coated, ear tickling gospel of funky grace.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. - Jude 1: 3-4 (ESV)
This is perversion of grace teaches us that we can do whatever we want to in this life and God will simply not care. All sins paid for in full. Sure he will claim he is not preaching a license to sin but he preaches out of both sides of his mouth with a forked tongue. While he says that he will also tell Christians to discard the Ten Commandments. He will also preach sermons such as the Benjamin Generation, where he promises five times as many blessings and anointings if you just follow his teaching. He has preached messages entitled "God Is No Longer Angry with You Today." Well, hallelujah - pass the offering plate! His bestselling book is entitled "Destined to Reign"; because that is how he views mankind. Not as sinful creatures in desperate need of a Savior but kings and queens themselves with God as the blessing dispenser we all desire. Then you have the hucksters who preach for shameful gain:
You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ's authority, knowing that God is watching us. - 2Corinthians 2: 17 (NLT)
We all know the names. Mike Murdoch, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland and countless others. Just last week Dollar found himself in a media storm because he thought nothing of asking the poor people that go to his church to sow $300 each so he could buy himself a new 65 million dollar luxury Learjet. As sad as that was it was sadder to watch poor people come to his defense, as if there was nothing even cosmetically wrong with such a lewd and disgusting request. These preachers are usually in the Word Faith camp, which Osteen also adheres to. This teaches that our words have the same spoke creative power of God and that in fact we are "little gods." This of course is blasphemy but when you are preaching for profit there are no rules. The late Myles Munroe, who Dollar gave the eulogy at his funeral, took this heresy to its absurd conclusion by teaching God has no authority on earth unless man gives it to Him via prayer. I kid you not.
Then you have the fruit loop fringe of modern Christianity. Places like IHOP and the enormously false prophet Mike Bickle. Just recently a former IHOP insider who escaped that treacherous darkness shined some light on what is frankly nothing more than a cult. Students at IHOP are not taught the Word of God but rather, the prophetic words of Mike Bickle. Then they are told they will answer to God for what they did with these surpassingly great revelations. Once again, I kid you not. Along with Bickle is Bill Johnson and Bethel Church in Redding California. Bill preaches that God always wants to heal you even though he wears prescription eyeglasses. Go figure. He pretends that "glory clouds" descend in his church and the angel feathers routinely fall all around him in public. Gemstones and gold dust manifestations as well. The heretical worship outfit known as Jesus Culture originates from here and they actually have a "School of the Supernatural"; where they teach the gifts of the spirit even though the Bible says they cannot. This group is into experiential Christianity and false signs and lying wonders. Their experience and how they feel trumps Scripture and doctrine, which they dub as "religion."
This can go on and on beloved. Seeker friendly and purpose driven churches have traded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a gospel of social relevance. The unsaved are now called unchurched. The personally challenging portions of the Bible are ignored for the parts that are more feel good. Plenty of lessons about how God is your friend but none about Him being your Lord. Plenty of sermons about how you are the head and not the tail but none about picking up your cross and denying yourself. Altar calls that make a mockery of salvation. People assured by deceived leaders that they are saved when they are not. This is how we get to the verses in Matthew 7 which tell us many will say Lord Lord when they stand before Christ only to discover that He never knew them. I just saw one seeker friendly mega church in the middle of a four part sermon series about why the 1990's were awesome. On Super Bowl Sunday, another church preached life lessons from our favorite commercials. Yet a third church found the pastor and his wife preaching via Skype from their kitchen so they can show their congregants what they eat and how to shop and eat healthier. These are all sermon examples beloved! Sermon examples.
Which brings us full circle. Why do we go to church? Is it to hear how rich God wants us to be? Is it to hear how wonderful we are? Is it to get goose bumps and liver shivers? Is it to hear that it's OK to continue to wallow in my sin? To be vindicated, exonerated, celebrated? The sad truth is many of us do not want to hear God's plan. We want God to validate our own plan.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. - 2Timothy 4: 3 (NIV)
And gathering they are beloved. Millions of people turn out and tune in these people every single week. I know faithful Bible believing Christians who still dabble here or there with one these false charlatans. How do they get away with it? How can they convince millions of people that their brand of heresy is the truth? Because they are able to manipulate the Scriptures beloved and we are too spiritually apathetic to care. Remember that the Bible says that the Bereans were of more noble character because they did not just accept what Paul was preaching at face value. They went and checked everything he had to say against Scripture. God must be our plumb line. The Bible is not some collection of trite sayings to guide our lives. It is a glimpse into the mind of God! It is His final revealed Word on everything we will face in this life. A life that spends more time seeking God's will then reading His Word will end up understanding neither. There is no subject left unanswered. There is no lie of the devil He has not debunked in His Word. But here is the thing - we have to truly want to hear it. We have to do our part to delve into His Word. To make sure what we are hearing is actually true. I understand that might be more work than you signed up for but isn't it better to actually hear what God has to say? Let me give you an example. Last year Osteen preached at Yankee stadium to over 50,000 people. In his sermon about how we need to speak more positively about our lives (word faith heresy) he said, "because the Bible says we are to call that which is not as though it were." The crowd erupted. Hallelujah! Yes, we are to call things that are not as if they were! You don't have money? Just speak to your wallet and declare it full! No job? Just tell your interviewer that they have to give you that job! It was such a powerful moment and the whole sermon hinged on this"except it was completely false:
as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. - Romans 4: 17 (ESV)
Beloved this is not a small thing. It is a spiritual sleight of hand that borders on the criminal. The Bible does not say that we are to call things that are not as though they were. It says GOD has that ability and power. Another Osteen sermon was based on the notion that we have to expand our imaginations about what God could do in our lives. At one point Joel stated this, "Whatever you want, you have to be able to imagine it if you expect God to bring it to pass. It says in Genesis that nothing will prevent them from what they imagine." I was intrigued because I simply did not remember such a verse but after some time I found it:
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. -- Genesis 11: 6 (KJV)
Beloved, take a moment and realize how deceptive this is. Joel Osteen preached that if we want God to bring to pass the blessings we want then we must imagine it and to prove it he offers up a verse from the story of the Tower of Babel, describing when God was so angry with mankind for their imaginations, that He scatters them to the four ends of the earth and confounds their languages! The verse Osteen offers actually teaches the opposite of the point he is trying to make! Let's try another one: