If you want to stir up a hornet's nest (which would be a really stupid thing to actually attempt) or cause some mild controversy, just start talking bad about who or what's popular. My last post, I Love Joel Osteen, started several "conversations" on Facebook and (especially) Twitter. This completely reinforces my conviction that I need to further explain the dangers I see in the false gospel that is being preached today and kicking the borders of this conversation out even wider than they already are. So if you didn't read the first post, start there. If you have, let's keep talking.
We know that 2 Timothy is one of - if not THE - last letters that Paul wrote before his death. Near the end of his letter (4:1-4) to his young disciple he writes, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus...: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching - will no longer listen to right teaching - but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (ESV) Or as the NLT puts it, they will "look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear." Friends, that time is no longer coming. It's arrived. The reason, plain and simple, that millions of people flock to see and hear Joel Osteen and trip over themselves to get his newest book is because he's telling them what they want to hear. YOU are good. YOU should be happy. You DESERVE to be happy. In fact, GOD wants you to be HAPPY! And if you just believe it, name it, and claim it - if you just make that declaration of what it is you want God to do for you - then for heaven's sake, He's going to do it. Every day can be Friday! (Whatever the heck that means.) And as you've surely heard by now, you can start living "Your Best Life, Now!"
While I know some are deeply struggling with understanding how this can be bad and wrestling with accepting that this is a stone cold lie, I want to spend the next few posts conversing and discussing why this is a FALSE GOSPEL and is leading people further away from the TRUTH.
Let's start simple. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus tells his disciples, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will find true life." (NLT) In essence, Jesus says to the withering crowd who have expressed deep interest in following Him, "To be MY follower, you have to put yourself, your interests, your ambitions, your wants - your LIFE - on the cross. If you want to know what real life looks like, you've got to give yours up." Does this in any way, shape, form, or fashion sound like Jesus is saying, "You know, if you would just believe it and claim it, God will make you happy. He wants you to be happy!" I'm not reading that in there anywhere. Not seeing it. And in light of the message being preached at Lakewood and elsewhere - a message that is encouraging people to believe that God wants to "bless you" with all that stuff you really want - Jesus goes further here and says, "For what will a man profit if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (ESV) For those who watch, read, or listen to Joel Osteen, I would submit this question to you: Have you EVER heard anything mentioned about your soul? About denying your wants for the sake of being used for the Kingdom of God? Have you ever heard anything said about "taking up your cross"? [Think about it.] Hold this up to the light against the titles of many of Joel's books:
"YOUR Best Life Now"
"It's YOUR Time!"
"Becoming a Better YOU"
This is the clearest, most compassionate way I know how to state it: When the Gospel I'm believing is not calling me to advance GOD'S Kingdom, it's because somewhere along the road it has led me to become consumed with advancing, protecting, and defending MY kingdom! And MY kingdom is rusting, decaying, and dying a slow but certain death. (Matthew 6:19-24)
If you hold the Prosperity Gospel up to the light of the TRUE Gospel of Jesus Christ, what is it that you see?