If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. - 1John 2: 29 (ESV)
Occasionally I will flip through the religious stations just to keep up with all the latest false teachings. This morning I stopped at the "Destined to Reign" program of Joseph Prince, the king of eisegesis. That is a fancy word for reading your pre-formed bias into the biblical text and no one does it as breathtakingly often as Joseph Prince. That is because he no longer preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead he preaches what he refers to as the gospel of grace. That there is a grace revolution that God has divinely imparted just to him. It is an old heresy known as antinomianism, which teaches that the law has no place in the life of a believer. So now when Prince approaches the Bible it is not to hear what sayeth the Lord but rather to strip mine it to prop up his false gospel. The problem is that he needs to go deeper and deeper because he has preached so many times already on the obvious grace passages. The deeper he goes, the greater the stretch he has to make to have it fit with his pre-formed bias.
This morning's message came to us from Lakewood Church, where Prince was a guest speaker for Joel Osteen; a perfect storm of falseness. Instead of going through point by point, I will highlight some of the more obvious examples that demonstrate that Joseph Prince is not only dangerous but is disqualified from handling the Word of God. First to defend the ministry of Joel Osteen, Prince offers up for us John chapters three and four. He said God told him to look at them side by side. This is a staple of Prince preaching. To deflect anyone from questioning him, everything he preaches he claims is divinely given to him by God directly and audibly. Apparently, God has Joseph on His speed dial. In looking at John three we see the interaction Jesus had with Nicodemus and in John four we see His interaction with the woman at the well. To Prince, Osteen's ministry is akin to the way Jesus dealt with the woman at the well. He said with Nicodemus Jesus had to be all precise and theological. This is because Nicodemus was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Jesus had to explain about being born again. But with the woman, there was no mention of being born again! It was much more simpler. It was just about drinking from rivers of living water - hallelujah pass the offering plate! So in the theologically bankrupt mind of Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen's ministries are like this because he just tells it plain. He just reaches out to anyone who needs it. Theology? Nah - save that for the Pharisees! Wow, the arrogance is staggering.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)
Hmm, seems that God is disagreeing with Pastor Prince. It seems doctrine is vital for the very salvation of the listeners. Where did Prince go wrong? For starters it is ludicrous to read into these two exchanges the purpose behind the two conversations but if you insist then you should start with the obvious. Nicodemus was engaging Jesus in a specific conversation and the issue of living water may have come up with the woman because they were at a well! Jesus starts the conversation by asking her to draw water for Him. To use these stories to try and suggest that a preacher today can be fine without sound doctrine and theology is beyond asinine. Yet that is the entire point here. Prince wanted to prop up his friend but recognized that Joel Osteen is a doctrine-free zone.
Next up, Prince drags out an old heresy of his when he tries to teach about the need to not mix grace and law. To prove his point he travels to Revelation:
"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. - Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)
This is the opening salvo of Jesus Christ against the Church at Laodicea. It is pretty straightforward. Jesus prefers either hot or cold. Why? Well when you are hot for Jesus, that is self explanatory. There is a fire burning. A zeal for the Lord and the things of the Lord. If you are cold however, you can still come to Him. If you do nothing for God you can still see your need at some point. But when you are lukewarm beloved - that is a dangerous place to be. Of all the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, this one most closely resembles where we are in modern Christianity. We think that we are rich but we are poor. We think we are prosperous but we are wretched. We think we can see but we are blind. This is the point Jesus is trying to make. The cold person can still come to the point of needing Christ but the lukewarm person thinks they are already there when they are not! Jesus once taught that when we convince ourselves that the darkness within us is really light - how deep is that darkness. Just try having a biblical conversation with someone sitting under blatant false teaching. You will be greeted with verse fragments ripped out of context, accusations of discord, and general disdain. People like their lukewarm-ness. They bathe in it.
That said, what does Prince do with these verses? He claims that the reference to hot is actually referring to his grace teachings and cold is referring to the law. Thus the lukewarm is when someone dares to try and mix them. That the mixing of grace and law makes Jesus want to vomit. One little problem. That is not what these verses mean. There is zero indication that these verses have anything to do with grace or law at all. But when you approach the Bible to strip mine it, this is where you end up. Much like when Prince dragged another old heretical teaching of his in this sermon dealing with the Parable of the 99 and the 1. In the Prince version of the story, it leads to a redefining of the word repent. Prince opined that when he reads the story he is inevitably confused when the ending is summarized as such:
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15: 7 (ESV)
Prince declares in his faux confusion - where did the sheep repent! The good shepherd did all the work. He searched for the sheep. He found the sheep. He placed the sheep on his shoulders. He brought the sheep back to the pen. He called for the celebration. Where did the sheep repent? Prince's conclusion is that repent merely means to consent to be loved. That repentance has nothing to do with sin anymore. That it just means you consent for Jesus to put you on His shoulders. Aww"how terribly unbiblical. Yet it cuts to the heart of the problem with greasy grace. In the theology of Joseph Prince, God is never mad with you. God never punishes you. God is always pleased as punch with you. Well if that is the case then he has some thorny problems with major portions of Scripture. Like for example the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira from Acts chapter five. To deal with it he actually preached a whole sermon about how they were unbelievers, which is ridiculous to the point of absurdity:
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? - Acts 5: 3 (NIV)
Besides the fact that the entire surrounding context, even back in chapter four shows them to be believers this verse alone proves it. How can Ananias be accused of lying to the Holy Spirit if he was not a believer? Unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit. Besides this story and countless others greasy grace has a problem with, Prince also realized that the issue of repentance is problematic for his teaching. So he simply changes the definition of repent. Why is this a problem? Because without repentance there is no forgiveness of sin. There is no salvation. Continuing on in the theology of sloppy agape, Prince actually makes the claim in this sermon that God is never defined in the Bible as holy but that He is defined as love.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."- 1Peter 1: 13-16 (NIV)
Are we understanding how dangerous these teachings are to unsaved and unregenerate people? People who will now think that to repent they just have to consent to be placed on the shoulders of Jesus. That God is defined as love but not as holy? Prince actually mocks the notion that God is holy be using a deeper intonation when saying the word. Now he is always careful to say that of course God is thrice holy but it is done in such a marginalized way and always as an afterthought to the actual teaching. Then other teachings are just out there; such as his "double jeopardy" teaching in the middle of this sermon. Prince claims that God cannot punish us for sins today that Jesus already paid for yesterday. It would be double jeopardy he exclaims gleefully! Let us unpack all of the problems with this teaching so we can see how insidious and dangerous it truly is.