HHA | 9/17/2014
A couple of weeks ago Victoria Osteen made a statement that perked up even the sleepy churchgoers ears. I hope we are all aware of the dangers in the “prosperity” gospel that focuses on gratifying the flesh rather than living in the Spirit. We must remember that this world is not our home. Satan would have us live as though it is, because he knows that in so doing, we will live a powerless life under his control, effectively stopping the spread of the true gospel of salvation for millions who are desperately lost.
I was aware that the Osteens are part of the worldwide church which has drifted away from solid doctrine, but still it struck me how much Victoria’s misguided statement is right in pocket with the UN’s “Happiness” campaign. The truth is that (worldly) happiness pales miserably in comparison with the joy that comes from walking in obedience with Jesus:
– Asking God for a repentant heart.We repent and ask Him to do through us what we cannot do for ourselves. Confessing our sin, realizing that we are powerless to do right on our own but that in Him is forgiveness, mercy and grace. In Him is true and abundant LIFE. Without Him there is nothing to be found but temporary happiness.
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” – Acts 3:29
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9
– It is only when we are broken of the desire to serve our self-centered-will, our fleshly desires and abide in Him, that the miraculous love of Jesus can move in our life with all power and supernatural joy! We NEED the movement of the miraculous in our lives today!
“[…] Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” – John 15:9-11
– Remembering whose we are and where our true life and home is.
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” – 1 Cor 6:20
“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:17
The happiness being offered by our society is fleeting. But joy is all-encompassing, unspeakable and everlasting! Joy comes from the spiritual realm, where-as happiness is worldly and dependent on earthly circumstances. True joy is ours when we lay down our will and seek to live for Him. True joy comes through repentance.
This is all yet another part of the deception of the days we are living in.
“Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time” – Luke 12:56
Christians, it is time to crack open those Bibles and study them like our life depended on it!
Those in power would have us dumbed-down, not only in a worldly sense, but also spiritually. They would have us to be self-indulgent, self-worshiping, consumer-minded, void of critical thought, shallow and satisfied with temporary HAPPINESS.
Just think for a moment what people who buy into this false teaching will do when things begin to fall apart and they lose everything, when they become sick and their loved ones are dying. They will think that God has abandoned them. Or worse yet, they will think that He doesn’t exist at all and they’ll be vulnerable to the great deception when the anti-christ (alien savior?) comes on the scene.
I agree with the author’s statement below: “Pray for Mrs. Osteen, her husband, and those influenced by their false teachings.”
A video of the wife of popular television pastor and best-selling author, Joel Osteen, has been making its way through social media. To give Victoria Osteen a huge benefit of the doubt would mean she either misspoke or we’re lacking some sort of context showing her point to be the opposite of what she said. At face value, her words are absolutely heretical and directly contrary to the words of Jesus Christ and the New Testament. Take a look at the video for yourself. [Note added on 8/30: A clip from The Cosby Show was added by someone else to the end of this video that may come across as demeaning to Mrs. Osteen.]
Here is a transcript of what she said:
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”
No. Not Amen. Not at all! This is heresy. I would sort of agree with the words inserted from Bill Cosby: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” [Edited 8/30] They aren’t really the dumbest words I’ve heard, but they are absurd when compared to what the Bible teaches.
Mrs. Osteen’s words may sound wonderful to a culture raised in the belief that life is all about self, but they are directly opposed to the Bible. Before looking at some specific passages, let’s see if there are some hints of truth in what she said, after all, effective lies often have some degree of truth.
Does God want us to be happy? In a sense He does, but that happiness will often look very different than what Mrs. Osteen and her husband have taught for years. Life is not about having Your Best Life Now (the title of one of Joel Osteen’s books) since our best life will be when we are with the Lord in glory. True happiness is found when we serve the Lord wholeheartedly, which is essentially the opposite of living for ourselves. Mrs. Osteen wants you to Love Your Life (her book title), but God wants us to love Him.
Does God take pleasure when we’re happy? I guess it depends on what you mean by happy. If you mean the fleeting emotion we often experience only to be unhappy hours later, then I would disagree. If you mean that we are filled with joy because out of a grateful heart we are obediently doing what God has created us to do, then I would agree that God would take pleasure in that, but I don’t think I would go as far as saying that is what gives Him the greatest joy.
Am I against happiness? No. Am I saying we can’t have fun as Christians. Absolutely not! Am I saying we should despise our lives? No, I’m not. I am saying that we need to stop focusing so much attention on ourselves.
Love Self or Deny Self?
Mrs. Osteen’s words fly in the face of one of the major components of living a godly life. Let’s start with what the Son of God said.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:23–25)
Is Victoria Osteen’s book full of the same self-love heresy seen in the video?
Jesus Christ said that true followers need to deny self. He taught that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–39). This doesn’t mean that we need to learn to love ourselves first (as is often taught today), but that we already do love ourselves and we need to take that focus off of ourselves and put it on God and others. Victoria Osteen encouraged her listeners to live for self. These two ideas cannot be more diametrically opposed.
Jesus lived a selfless life and set the example for us to follow. He willingly went to the Cross to die an unimaginably torturous death so that we could be saved from our sins—not so we could go around chasing after all the things we think will make us happy. Does the New Testament have anything else to say about this subject? Yes, far too much for one blog post. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
In Colossians 3:17, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” What motive should we have for the things we do? Did Paul say to do it for yourself? Certainly not! He said to do everything “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He said something similar in 1 Corinthians 10:31. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
To learn more about the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see my new book, In Defense of Easter.
But what would Paul know about happiness? After all, this was the guy who was scourged five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked three times, in prison multiple times, and constantly under the threat of people who wanted to kill him (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). Yes, and he was one of the most faithful Christians who has ever lived. He understood that Jesus didn’t die on the Cross and rise from the dead so that we can live for self. He did it to save us from sin and to enable us to live for God.
Perhaps Mrs. Osteen should read the book of Job. This godly man lost every earthly possession and his entire family except his wife. He lost his health, and yet he trusted God. He was called blameless, upright, and righteous (Job 1:8; Ezekiel 14:14). Job was not happy during his trials, but he was extremely faithful.
Maybe Victoria Osteen should read Hebrews 11. This chapter is often called the Faith Hall of Fame because it highlights many of the Old Testament heroes who exhibited tremendous faith in God. But if you read this chapter, please read it all the way through, because then you’ll find out about some unnamed people with great faith. Here is what the writer of Hebrews had to say about them.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35b—38)
Christian, these are your role models! These are the people we should seek to imitate. They were willing to give up everything for the sake of following Christ. To live for self means that we are putting our own desires above what God has told us to do. It is arrogant and prideful, and it is the exact opposite of what the Bible instructs. We are to be humble, deny self, and live for God’s glory.
If you call yourself a Christian, please do not be deceived by the “gospel” of self that is so prevalent in our culture. If you seek true and lasting happiness, it will only be found when you are serving your Creator. It will never be found serving yourself. Mrs. Osteen’s words remind me of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1–5)
Turn away! Take your eyes off yourself and focus on Jesus Christ. Pray for Mrs. Osteen, her husband, and those influenced by their false teachings. Pray that they will take their eyes off of self and turn to the Savior. And please pray for me as well. I’m certainly not immune to pride. Pray that I will keep my eyes focused on Christ rather than self.
The response to my recent post about Victoria Osteen’s message to do things for oneself instead of doing them for God really took me by surprise. I expected some people to support what I wrote and others to be against my post, but I never would have anticipated the vast numbers who read the article. I have truly been encouraged by many people who took the time to read the post and leave some edifying comments. Thank you for those.
Originally published late Thursday evening (August 28), the post has already led to the five busiest days on my blog, by far. The number of Facebook “Likes” or “Shares” is nearing five thousand, about 20 times higher than the next three most popular articles on my blog. Obviously, this has been a hot topic, and it has prompted two follow-up posts. This will be the first of those posts.
If you’re looking for an article that slams Victoria Osteen, you won’t find it here, since this article will hardly be about her. And you won’t find it in my previous post, since that one focused on critiquing her claims. Instead, this post will focus on some of the errors being made by many of those who have left comments in support of her message. I am not singling anyone out; I’ll just cover general ideas used by multiple people who were critical of my previous post.
Error #1: Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
It would fair to say that I saw this one coming a mile away. Our culture has conditioned people to think that no one should ever be able to say that someone else is wrong—except, of course, the person telling you not to judge is doing the very thing they tell you not to do. It’s absolute hypocrisy.
The self-contradictory thinking has led to Matthew 7:1 being perhaps the most popular Bible verse in the United States today. Three years ago, I wrote a post on it as part of my blog series on commonly misused Bible verses.
Perhaps I should mention the fact that my post never judged Mrs. Osteen. I focused on critiquing her words. I did not impugn her character or “judge her” because I don’t really know where her heart is at. My post was about the message she delivered.
Indeed, it is hypocritical to state that it’s wrong to say that someone is wrong because then you are doing the very thing you said is not allowed (i.e. you’re telling someone they are wrong). But there are other problems. This charge rips the verse from its context and twists it to suit the desires of the speaker. It fails to recognize what Jesus was actually speaking about (self-righteous or hypocritical judgment).
Finally, it ignores the fact that we are commanded to make judgments on a regular basis. It’s true that we aren’t the one who decides whether a person goes to heaven; that’s God’s call. But we are supposed to call sin “sin,” and we are told that the Scripture is useful for “doctrine, for reproof, forcorrection, [and] for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Error #2: God Promises Health and Wealth to Believers
Some of the people who commented on my post tried to argue that God promised Christians that He would grant them lives full of health and wealth. This idea, known as the “prosperity gospel,” is certainly appealing to the flesh. I mean, who doesn’t want good health and sufficient wealth, besides those who have learned contentment and how dangerous it can be to trust in these things (Philippians 4:10–13)?
A handful of verses are quoted out of context to support this idea. We won’t examine all of them here since it would take too long, so let’s look at a frequently cited example. Mark 10:28–30 andLuke 18:28–30 have Jesus telling His followers that those who have left family or land to follow Him will reap a hundredfold. But there are some problems with the way these verses are being used. First, Mark explains that all of these things will be received with persecutions.1
Second, Jesus said in the parallel passage in Matthew that these rewards will happen “in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
Finally, these passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke immediately follow the account of the rich young ruler. After the man heard the Lord’s response to sell everything, he went away sad. Jesus then taught His disciples about the difficulty and dangers of wealth. To interpret this passage as prosperity adherents have done would mean that Jesus had just informed His disciples how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, and then He essentially said, “But don’t worry. I’m going to make you super rich!” How does that possibly make any sense?
But a greater problem exists for those who tout this “prosperity gospel.” While God does bless some of His followers with good health and substantial wealth, they are in the vast minority over the scope of church history. And contrary to what prosperity preaches say, it is not due to their lack of faith. Some of the most faithful people in history have suffered greatly and had no wealth to speak of. I quoted the end of Hebrews 11 in my blog post. There we read in the Faith Hall of Fame about believers who were destitute and about another believer who was sawn in two. Where was their prosperity? In heaven. The very place where Jesus told us to store our treasures (Matthew 6:20).
Consider the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul—a man responsible for writing 13 books of the New Testament. He told Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). He told the Colossians, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1).
After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Lord told Ananias to go to Paul because “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15–16).
Paul was incredibly faithful in his walk with the Lord, yet he was constantly being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, suffered from a lingering ailment, and eventually he was martyred. God did not promise him earthly health and wealth.
Of course, Jesus was also persecuted and put to death. Yes, He willingly laid down His life, but even though He was perfectly faithful, living a sinless life, He had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20). He had no earthly wealth, and He suffered beatings, betrayal, persecution, and death. He said that if the world persecuted Him, they would persecute His followers too (John 15:20).
But if we are to believe these prosperity preachers, then we should conclude that Paul and Jesus lacked faith to the extreme. How tragic! Many books have been written to point out the dangers of the so-called prosperity gospel. I would highly recommend Dr. Robert Bowman’s The Word-Faith Controversy for a solid, yet loving refutation of these ideas.
In the next post, I will look at three more common arguments being used by people attempting to defend or excuse what Victoria Osteen said. The first one will focus on the claim that everyone else has problems, so she shouldn’t be singled out. The second point will address the popular claim that she didn’t really mean what her critics are saying. Be sure to check back in a couple of days for that post. The third and final argument addressed with be the claim that we cannot do anything for God or to please Him.
So many people in the church today lack discernment. We all need to follow the example of the Jews in Berea who were nobler than those in Thessalonica. Why? Because they took the time to search the Scriptures daily to see if the things that Paul taught them were true (Acts 17:11). If they can be commended by Luke for checking up on Paul’s teachings, then you’d better believe that you have a right and an obligation to examine my teachings in light of Scripture. And the same goes for the teachings of Victoria Osteen, her husband, your own pastor, or any other person who makes claims about the Bible. Prayerfully and carefully search the Scriptures daily and do everything for the glory of God—not for yourself.