A Letter to My Church Concerning my Issues with Joel Osteen

To the Congregation at Cuyahoga Valley Church,

 

I recently preached a message from Acts 4 – the story of Peter and John being arrested for proclaiming Christ and their subsequent questioning by the religious elite. The aim of my sermon was to help people see the importance of the proclaimed gospel. The gospel is a message that demands a response.

 

The second point of my sermon was that the true gospel has exclusive claims, namely that salvation comes through faith in Christ ALONE1 . In an effort to highlight the religious pluralism that pervades America, I quoted an interview that Joel Osteen did on the Larry King show in 2005. King pushed Osteen very hard on the issue of salvation in Christ alone. Time after time Osteen refused to take a clear stand on the issue and I took issue with this from the pulpit. Before I get into my main arguments of this letter, I want to address the apology that Osteen posted a few days after his interview on King. A few people have emailed me noting the apology and that it ought to acquit Osteen from my charges. I disagree. Perhaps I should have mentioned the apology and dealt with it from the stage, but I didn’t. Perhaps I could have handled the whole thing differently. Nonethless, Osteen’s teaching has not changed – as you will see below – and I hold fast to my belief that the people of CVC (and all believers) should consider his teaching dangerous. I also hold fast to my conviction that calling out false teaching publicly is a biblical responsibility of the pastorate. Apology or no apology, he continues to sell America (literally) something that is most assuredly not the gospel message. He may claim Christ, but I take serious issue with what he teaches about what Christ provides in his death and resurrection.

 

The vast majority of the feedback from the sermon was positive, but there were a few who felt as if I had slandered and inappropriately judged Joel Osteen. I view my statements not as slander, but as a necessary shepherding response to incorrect doctrine. I always welcome criticism of the content of my sermons. I want to ensure that I am exegeting passages correctly and that I am staying true to the Word of God. However, my heart has been rather heavy the last few days, not because of the criticism, but because of the fact that some who are members or regular attenders of CVC seem to be believing the self-help gospel of Joel Osteen. Therefore, I am writing this response. My goals are three-fold. First, I want to show from the Bible that Christians and pastors are responsible for guarding the flock, which God has entrusted to them, from false teachers. Secondly, I want to draw attention to several biblical texts that show us what false teachers look like and how they operate. Finally, I will show how Joel Osteen  fits the biblical mold of a false prophet and offer a few warnings to those who believe his message to be biblically sound.

This letter is a bit long and even contains footnotes – yes, footnotes – sorry. When you see a footnote, you can click on it and it will take you to the reference. Then there will be a little blue arrow that you can click that will bring you back to where you were. But I believe that it will be worth your time. The arguments are not exhaustive, but ought to be enough to cause you to at least explore the issue of false teaching further. I hope that in it you hear my heart for our church and the purity of the gospel message.

 

Guarding the Flock
In several places the New Testament writers use the examples of shepherd and sheep to indicate the relationship between pastors/elders and the congregation of a church. Peter exhorts the elders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). The underlying implications of this word, shepherd (poimaino) are to care for, guide, provide for, and protect – just as a good shepherd would do for his sheep. This is the same word that Jesus uses in John 21:16 when he instructs Peter to tend (poimaino) my sheep. Shepherding is not only a caring pursuit, but a defensive one as well. Paul helps us understand the defensive connotations of this word in his guidance of the Ephesian elders: He charges them to  “be alert” and “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock” because “fierce wolves will come among you…men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-31, emphasis added). One of the responsibilities of pastors and overseers (shepherds) is to keep wolves away.2. Any time that I speak against a doctrine or teacher from the pulpit it is for this purpose – I take very seriously the charge to guard the flock from wolves. The majority of the time I will cover what we believe and stand for. However, there are times when the text or the culture demands that I speak against what we, as a church, reject as truth.

 

Wolves Disguised as Sheep
Jesus is not silent concerning false teachers. He addresses the danger of false prophets in his first public discourse, warning the people to “beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15)3.  Jesus goes a step further and explains the typical disguises that false teachers use – they will be sneaky and subtle – wolves in sheep’s clothing. Peter and Paul also offer some descriptors to help us spot those preaching a false gospel. In 2 Peter 2, we see that false teachers, “will secretly bring in destructive heresies” and that “in their greed they will exploit you with false words.”  Paul warns the church at Rome to, “watch out for those who cause division and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them! For such persons do not serve the Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive” (Rom. 16:17-18). Paul goes on to charge Timothy, a young pastor, to preach the Word in all it’s fullness. He explains why: “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and they will turn away from listening to truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This text is key as we consider Joel Osteen. Why such a huge following? Because people are accumulating for themselves teachers that say things that they want to hear.4

 

As with the warnings of Jesus, notice how Peter and Paul both draw attention to the clever, subtle way in which these false teachings and false doctrines will slip into the church – secretly, with smooth talk and flattery, appealing to itching ears. We must put out of our minds people screaming into megaphones from street corners and brazen fools like the Phelps family holding signs of protest. People like this rarely if ever gain any type of legitimate following. They are not the primary concern. The sneaky ones, the one’s who mix truth’s with lies, the ones who seem to look harmless, the people who have their Bibles out and use the name of Jesus – they are the concern. Claiming Christ does not negate the potential for false teaching – as we will see.  In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he prompts us to notice that due to the fact that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, “so do his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Cor. 11:14). Sadly many preachers and teachers who proclaim false doctrine are still labeled as Christian – even Evangelical. Regardless of labels, we must learn to test everything we hear and compare it to the whole teaching of the Word of God.

 

Wolf Spotting
So, we have seen that there is a biblical responsibility to guard the church from heresy. We have also seen that heretics are not always as easy to spot as we might think – they are clever in their disguises. So, how are we to determine if people are truly false teachers? We have a few answers. First, referring back to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7, Jesus continues his teaching on false prophets by explaining how we will be able to see through the sheep disguise to the wolf underneath. He says, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16). Fruit here is, of course, figurative and draws our attention to what comes out of a person and what they are producing with their lives. A Christian teacher ought to teach things that are Christian just as an apple tree ought to produce apples.

 

Now, even though your Bible may add a new heading in front of Matthew 7:21, the thought process is not broken. Remember that Jesus is preaching a sermon here – it is building. And after he levies the warnings concerning false teachers, he goes on to say these words:

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt, 7:21-22, ESV). 

 

This passage is vital to our understanding of false teachers. Jesus is explaining the we will meet people who claim their allegiance to Jesus as ‘Lord’ and who can even back up their claims with impressive spiritual work (fruit?). However, this does not seem to be enough! Claiming allegiance to Jesus and even doing some spiritual things does not make one a follower of Christ. To these people he says, “I never knew you.” He goes on to dismiss their claims and actions as nothing more than deeds of lawlessness.

 

Hence, we know what “good fruit” is not. Claiming a belief in Jesus and even doing spiritual and/or miraculous things are not enough to be considered good fruit. In the final few verses of this chapter Jesus concludes the argument by pointing us to what kind of fruit he is looking for, namely, to hear his words and do them – obedience! Those who are obedient to the teachings of Jesus have a firm foundation that will stand in the midst of trials. Therefore, based on Jesus’ argument here we can conclude that the way in which we can spot wolves is whether or not they are submitting themselves to God’s Word and being obedient to it. There is, of course, room for mistakes. However, a continued desire to obey God and allow the Bible to dictate how we ought to live is the main goal. Additionally, it follows that  pastors should teach and preach the whole message of the Bible accurately in order to call others to obedience to Christ as well.

 

Joel Osteen – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Based on the points that I have argued above, I am confident that it is my pastoral and Christian responsibility to guard those in my care from false teachers and heresies.  It is also true that false teachers can be difficult to spot and that they will come disguised as sheep and angels of light. They may even be people who claim allegiance to Jesus. Furthermore, I have shown from the teaching of Jesus that we will be able to determine if they are false teachers by their obedience to the Word of God. I do not personally have access to the daily life of Joel Osteen. I am not privy to his quiet time, the conversations that he has in hospital rooms with dying congregants, or his prayer life. However, by way of the internet, radio, print, and television, I have access to the theological distinctives of Joel Osteen. My main concern is that Joel Osteen has access to the people to whom God has charged me and my fellow pastors of CVC to protect from false teaching. It is from those resources, which make up the vast majority of his ministry, that I will make severel observations that have caused me to conclude that Joel Osteen is a dangerous false teacher who’s teaching and counsel ought to be vehemently avoided.

 

I am by no means an Osteen follower. I do not have the time to listen to all of his sermons nor the money to pay for all of his expensive books. I have however, followed his publishing career as well as his life in the media primarily due to the fact that I find it necessary in my shepherd role. I’ve listened to a handful of sermons and have read portions from multiple books. I will admit that there are some things that Osteen and his wife say that are true and from the Bible. He is careful and it can be hard to pinpoint direct heresy in everything that he says. However, let us remember the teaching from above – false teachers will come in sheep’s clothing. They will use smooth talk and flattery – twisting the word of God. Remember those descriptors and use them as a grid to consider the things that I will point out here. For the purposes of this letter I will use several examples from Osteen’s most recent release, The Power of I Am, along with references to a few other recent resources. I believe that these represent his current theology, but honestly not much has changed over his career. I will address three main areas of concern: (1) the false power of positive thinking (New Thought), (2) Osteen’s New Thought and the biblical expectation of trials and suffering, and (43) Osteen’s twisting of the Bible.

 

Osteen and New Thought
 
If you have ever listened to or read anything by Joel Osteen you have surely been exposed to his positive thinking, self-proclaiming mantras. His most recent book, The Power of I Am, is not focused on the power of Yahweh (Ex. 3:14), but on the ability of the mind to overcome reality. He claims that the problems that each of us face are a result of faulty “I am” statements. He says, “whatever follows those two simple words will determine what kind of life you live”(pg. 1). He goes on to say that when we talk positively, “talent gets summoned by Almighty God” (pg. 2). At CVC we believe that the foundation of all of our Christian living is the truth that through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (and his life, death, and resurrection) we have been brought into the family of God. We are beloved children! Or, we might say, I am a beloved child! How is it that we can make that statement and yet disagree with the main premise of Osteen’s teaching?

 

The main difference is found in the who. Who provides or creates reality? Or, said another way, whose words have the power of creating reality? At CVC we believe that God’s words have the ability to create reality and that it is the work of Jesus Christ, our faith in him, and obedience to him that make us beloved children. Merely saying, “I am a beloved child” is of no effect in and of itself. Osteen’s belief system, however, is rooted in Christian Science and New Thought. To be brief, New Thought came to prominence at the turn of the 19th century. At the core of this system of belief is the conviction that people share in God’s power to create reality by using mind power and word power – positive thoughts yield positive outcomes and vice versa. New Thought views salvation, “not as an act imposed from above by God, but rather an act of drawing out humanity’s potential.5 Professor Kate Bowler explains that New Thought holds to a very high anthropology – a belief that humans have a high capacity to create their own reality with mind over matter.6 New Thought materialized out of a human frustration over their inability to compel God to answer all of their prayers in a timely and acceptable fashion. Prayer forces us to realize our weak position and the supremacy of God’s sovereignty. New Thought and the positive thinking movement have, in effect, offered a way to allegedly usurp the practice of prayer and the need for mercy by claiming that our positive thinking can create the reality that we desire.

 

Osteen and other prominent preachers of the prosperity gospel promote positive thinking and tie it to faith claiming that if you have enough faith that you can claim whatever you wish and it will be provided. These claims, in effect, alter the biblical definition of faith and turn God into a vending machine that is poised to give people whatever they desire if they simply have enough faith. In the final paragraph of the first chapter of The Power of I Am, Osteen says, “Let me give you some ‘I am’s’ to speak over your life.” Some of the “I am” statements that follow are, I am prosperous, I am successful, I am in shape, I am wise, I am disciplined, I am excellent, and I am forgiven. He explains to his readers that, “They might not be true right now, but as you continue to speak them, they will become a reality”(pg. 13).

 

Osteen, Pain, and Suffering
There are many discrepancies between the Bible and the views mentioned above and I do not have time to deal with all of them in this letter (it has gotten much longer than I had planned already). But I believe that we can deal with several of the problems as we consider pain and the biblical expectation that Christians ought to suffer. In Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, Osteen says,  “To live your best life now, you must learn to trust God’s timing, you may not think He’s working, but you can be sure that right now, behind the scenes, God is arranging all the pieces to come together to work out His plan for your life.” Yes – this is true. But, here is my question: What if God’s plan is not what you have planned? What if, like Paul, the plan includes torment, pain, and rejection? In one of his most recent blog posts Osteen says that when things aren’t going your way, don’t get negative – think, “God, I may not like it; I may be uncomfortable; these people aren’t treating me right, but God I know it’s just a matter of time before You release me and launch me our further than I ever dreamed!”7 I have a little more trouble swallowing that statement, but there is some truth in there as well. But the question is – what is God launching you into? What if he is not launching you into a new, prosperous job? What if he is not launching you into a new house? What if he’s launching you into cancer? Will you still trust him? Is He enough? Is Christ your treasure no matter the circumstances?

 

In 1 Peter 4, we see a brief but robust theology of suffering. When we suffer as Christians we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.” Peter continues, “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God.” Now, notice the final statement of the chapter, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” I love this passage because it accomplishes a lot of us in just a few short verses.

 

First of all, let us notice that suffering is not only to be expected, but welcomed! We should not see our suffering as Christians as something to speak away. “I am suffering” is not a bad statement! In fact, Peter says that it is cause for rejoicing! Moreover, it fuels our worship – “let him glorify God.” Secondly, we see that suffering in the cause of Christ is God-ordained. We suffer, “according to God’s will.” Nothing is hidden from God. Many of you who have been at CVC for many years have heard pastor Rick remind us that nothing comes to us that is not Father filtered. Sometimes it is suffering, sometimes it is pain, sometimes it is sickness, and sometimes it is death – and none of it is ever meaningless! Finally, I love that this passage on suffering reminds us of who has the power in his words to create! We entrust our souls to a faithful Creator. Our words are not ultimate. We do not have power to create our own realities. There is only one who, when he speaks, the stars fly into their rightful place. There is only one who’s word created the confines of the seas when he said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job:38:11).

 

Believing that is where the rubber meets the road. Finding joy in trials is the test of authentic faith. This long passage will take up a lot of space in this “short” (ahem…sorry) letter to you all. Nonetheless, it is worth reading. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthian church in light of Osteen’s passion for you to live your best life now and live as if every day is a Friday.

 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raised us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, ESV)

 

President of Southern Seminary, Albert Mohler, adds these thoughts:

“Just consider the fact that most Christians throughout the history of the church have been poor, and often desperately poor. They were not hoping to move into a suburban mini-mansion, they hoped to be able to feed their children one more day. That picture is still true for millions upon millions of Christians around the world today.

And that is just the start of it. What about all those who are even now suffering persecution for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about the loved ones of the martyrs in Mosul? What about the Christians forced out of their homes and threatened with genocide? What about the children of Christians slain in Iraq and Syria just in recent weeks, or those martyred by Boko Haram in Africa? How does Prosperity Theology work for them? Can anyone look them in the eye and say that God’s plan for believers in this life is to know Your Best Life Now?”

 

Surely not friends. Surely not.

 

Osteen and Scripture
All of my concerns and cautions in relation to Joel Osteen and his ministry are rooted in this one – his consistently poor, out of context, and inaccurate interpretation of Scripture. He twists texts to meet his needs. I will give two examples from recent work. In The Power of I Am, he tells the story of Sarai – Abram’s wife. You can follow the story in Genesis chapters 16 – 21. Osteen begins with some truth – Sarai has not borne Abram any children, this was a shameful thing in ancient near eastern culture, and that she, perhaps, had some low-self esteem due to her barrenness. He also goes on to explain how God promises Abram and Sarai a child in their old age and that Sarai does not believe God. But here is where things get goofy. Here is what follows:

 

“God knew that it would never come to pass (Sarai having a child) unless He could convince Sarai to change her “I am’s.” It was so imperative that she have this new mindset that God actually changed her name from Sarai to Sarah, which means princess.”

 

He goes on to explain that every time she heard her new name it changed her self-image and attitude. But is this what the Bible tells us? Is that even the main point of the text? Let’s begin in Genesis 17. God is speaking with Abram and detailing the covenant between them. He changes Abram’s name first. Why? Because he will be a father to many nations (v. 5). God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. While Osteen is right that Sarah does mean princess, her previous name did as well. Sarai is a variant of the same name and the name change brings no change in meaning with it.8 Nevertheless, there are bigger concerns here. Notice here that even in the midst of Abraham’s laughter (v. 17) God is adamant that Sarah is going to have a son. He even has a name for the child and plans in place for him (vv. 19-22). Now, compare this scene in Genesis 17 to Osteen’s statement mentioned above – “God knew that it would never come to pass unless He could convince Sarai to change her “I am’s”. Does that sound right to you? Does Sarah’s opinion of herself have any bearing on what is about to come to pass? Of course not! Furthermore, the text gives us not even a shred of evidence that God is at all concerned about Sarai’s self-confidence. But let’s see how the story unfolds.

 

Sarah’s name has been changed in 17:15. Let’s see if her attitude and self-image change. God appears to Abraham later (we’re not sure how long) as recorded in chapter 18. Again, let’s be reminded that Sarah’s name has been changed and hopefully her “I am’s” have started to change and she’s feeling really good about herself! God again says to Abraham that Sarah is going to have a son. Sarah happens to be listening at the door and scoffs at God – laughing and denying that this will happen. Has Sarah’s attitude changed? Does she believe God? No. Have God’s plans, therefore, been foiled? No. In fact, Sarah’s opinion of herself has absolutely nothing to do with this story. This story is all about God, his faithfulness, and his power. But let’s continue just to make sure.

 

Our story of Sarah and Isaac picks back up in Genesis 21. Sarah conceives and has a son – go figure. But, has her self-image changed? Is she now so confident in herself that she is no longer jealous of Hagar, the mother of Abraham’s other son? Nope we see in verse 9-10 that Sarah is still pretty uncomfortable and jealous. Clearly, her self-esteem and attitude have not changed all that much. Does this matter? No, it doesn’t because again, this story is not about Sarah’s self-esteem but about a faithful and sovereign God.

 

The Power of I Am is chalk full of more examples. Perhaps I’ll deal with them at a later time.

 

Interestingly enough we are studying through the book of Hebrews in Impact – the high school ministry at CVC. Kyle Gustafson, one of our leaders, did an excellent job of exploring the Old Testament references and tying them into the authors arguments in Hebrews 3 and the beginning of 4. There are many views on the ways to interpret Hebrews. It is one of the most hotly debated books in Christianity. There are a few views on the “rest” that is described in this section. Some believe the rest to be eternal rest – heaven. Others understand the rest to be found in the presence of God, both now and in eternity. Regardless of where you land, the interpretation is hard work!

 

Interestingly, Joel Osteen’s text for his sermon this past weekend was Hebrews 4. I would encourage you to open your Bible and read Hebrews 3-4:13 to get a clear picture of the depth and complexity of the text. He began his sermon thanking his congregation for the 3 million dollar offering from the previous week reminding everyone of the goal to pay off the 120 million dollar price tag on their sports arena turned church. I’m not necessarily knocking it, just recounting what happened in the service. He asked everyone to open their Bible to Hebrews 4:11.

 

He explains rest as living life from a place of peace – not stressed out and worried. Okay – close. He continues to explain that Hebrews 4 tells us to enter the rest of a God – a place where we know God is in control. Okay – I’m still on board. But the next sentence begins to derail the whole thing. He begins to detail how staying in the rest is difficult because life is full of “peace-stealers”. He notes that one of those peace-stealers, or things that pull us out of God’s rest, is the troubling things that we see on the news. He warns people to be careful “what you feed your inner person” so that you can stay, “positive and inspired.”
His next obstacle to staying at rest is comparing ourselves to other people. He explains that you can, “miss your destiny” by being caught up in someone else’s life. He continues, “successful people are too focused on their own race to look around to see what other people are doing.” Next are high-maintenance people who steal our peace and pull us out of rest. We need to protect our emotional energy so that we are not dealing with too much drama. He says that when relatives are not happy with us that we should not let them keep us from being happy – turn it over to God and enjoy your life.

 

It goes on and on like this. The goal is happiness and the way to get happiness is to eliminate the things that do not make us happy. There is no mention of selfless living, sacrifice, humility, or the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.9 There is also no other mention of Scripture until he misuses it again later in the sermon. He begins to explain the circumstances of the Israelites when they come to the Red Sea. He goes onto explain that Moses knew that, “if they would have stayed upset, fearful, and worried that this would have stopped God from working.” Do you see this subtle, poor explanation of Scripture? The attitudes and mindsets of people have the ability to paralyze God. This is dangerous theology friends! If God’s abilities are impacted by our behavior then we are in big, big trouble! I’ll make two final observations from the sermon and conclude.

 

He continues in the story of the Israelites at the Red Sea. As with the rest of the story, he attempts to paraphrase and says, “Moses said, do not be afraid. The Lord will fight for you if you hold your peace and remain at rest.”  The paraphrase is actually pretty close, but as his comments continue he altogether misses the point of the passage. Osteen says, “Notice there was a condition: God will fight your battles if you’ll stay at rest.” He goes on to note that in order for God to fight our battles, we need to stop worrying and stop being stressed. Do you see how this is altogether backwards? This is not what the text reads. Here is the full quote from Moses in Exodus 14:13-14: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” There are several important things here, but of most importance is that the work of God is not conditional – “see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today!” The salvific work of the Lord is not dependent on whether or not they choose to “fear not” and/or “stand firm.” Those are encouragements that they can hold onto because God IS GOING TO WORK. Though the Israelites did not know this, we do because of the first nine verses of chapter 14. God had already detailed his plan and it was in no way based on the response of the Israelites. They needn’t do anything in that moment accept be quiet and watch God be awesome! There is no condition!

 

In the conclusion Osteen asks people to pinpoint the peace-stealers in their lives. He asks them to determine the things that are pulling them out of rest. He says, “life is too short to let peace-stealers determine our destiny.” Here is one of the final statements and I believe it to be a perfect summative view of Osteen’s theology. “If you’ll make this decision with me, that you’re going to live at rest, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, but I believe and declare God will do for you what he did for the Israelites – he’ll part Red Seas, he’ll restore your health, he’ll bring vindication, promotion, the fullness of your destiny in Jesus name.” Again, do you see how he continues to say that our living at rest is the impetus for God to work? Nevermind the empty promises of health and wealth – the process is completely backwards. Romans 5 reminds us that Jesus offered his life up for us while we were still his enemies!

 

Living in the rest that God promises in Hebrews 4 is not about eliminating stress, it is about belief and obedience. The people at the edge of the promised land do not enter the rest God had promised because of their lack of faith in what God had said. And, God punishes them for it – they wander in the wilderness until every last one of them dies because of their unbelief. That’s the truth, and the consequences for not entering that rest are never mentioned.

 

Conclusion

 

While this letter has not been short, neither has it been comprehensive. Below I have offered some trusted sources that may be a help to you as you seek to determine truth. There are also a few videos that may be helpful as well. John MacArthur is harder on Osteen than I am! All of these sources, however, are only true in as much as they point us to the Bible. I want to challenge all of you to be students of the whole Bible. Do not merely use proof texts to make your points – seek to know it all. Dive deep into the riches of His Word and what you will find there will be something far more than a stress free, worry free, best life now. You will find a God who, because of his great love for you, has provided all that you need in Jesus before you did anything to deserve it. You will find out that you and I are terrible people, that our minds are broken because of sin, and that we have absolutely zero power within us to change anything about our future or our “destiny”. Left to ourselves, we would all die and spend eternity in hell. But, thanks be to God, you will also find that He has always had a perfect plan and that the plan involved Jesus taking the penalty for the sins of disgusting and broken people so that we might be restored to relationship with God and enjoy Him forever. I love you CVC and I want the best for you all – I just don’t believe that the best is going to happen here on earth. This life, though it has it’s blessings, is only a shadow of what God has in store for those who love and obey him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

 

Joe Valenti
3/3/2016

 Suggested Resources

Books
For a detailed and deeply biblical view of how Christians ought to interacts with the pleasures of this world:

 

For a detailed history and theology of the prosperity gospel in America:
Articles

 

Videos

  1. I am not going to go into detail concerning the issues of the prosperity gospel and the atonement. That is another blog post altogether. Good thing for us, someone has already posed a blog on the subject, and I recommend it to you http://9marks.org/article/journalerrors-prosperity-gospel/
  2. I would go a step further and say that every member of CVC has the responsibility to guard one another and challenge one another in areas of doctrine and belief in order to maintain the gospel purity in our church. For a detailed and biblical treatment of this see Jonathan Leeman, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: the Case for Congregationalism (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016), 33-59
  3. Some were bothered by the tone of my voice and the harshness of my words. I want to draw your attention to Matthew 23 and the example of Jesus. Sometimes false teaching necessitates strong words
  4. John MacArthur gives an excellent explanation of why Osteen’s message sells.  Because, he says, “health, wealth, prosperity, the fulfillment of all your dreams and desires – that’s what Satan always offers. That’s called temptation.” https://youtu.be/jDuDN2FtrIo
  5. Kate Bowler, Blessed: a History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 13
  6. Ibid., 13.
  7. (https://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/Blog.aspx?blogid=10891)
  8.  Gordon John Wenham, Genesis 16-50, Volume 2 (Word Biblical Commentary) (New York: Zondervan, 2015), 30.
  9. I would challenge you to listen to any Joel Osteen sermon or read any book and compare his conclusions with the heart attitude that Jesus describes in the Beatitudes

Comments

  1. Thank you thank you I read this knowing osteen was a false teacher,but God ministered to me in an amazing way through the truths you reiterated.Glory to God.Jesus plus nothing…..Jesus is everything.

  2. Hi! I’m not from CVC but did visit there years ago. It is so refreshing to see and hear that you and the other pastors are standing firm on God’s Word and not buying into the deceptions of the prosperity gospel and other deceptive teachings going on in the churches today. Are you familiar with lighthousetrailsresearch.com? There is a lot of information and resources to help combat these deceptions. If interested there was a conference regarding the emerging church on YouTube. There were various speakers including Warren B. Smith (a former New Ager who came to salvation in Christ and is exposing the New Age infiltration of the church). He has written books on the purpose driven movement (Deceived on Purpose and A Wonderful Deception) as well as exposing the New Age Jesus of the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (this is a very dangerous book and the publishers have changed the original to cover up the errors pointed out in Warren’s book Another Jesus Calling. You can find the video by searching YouTube for Emerging Church Conference 2016. There are videos for each session. Thank you for your courage to stand up for God’s truth in this day where everyone wants to have their ears tickled and adapt to the culture of today. Praying for you all.

  3. Thank you for taking your pastoral role so seriously and passionately. I felt like your boldness in this sermon and in this blog is simply the Holy Spirit boldly speaking through you. This topic has certainly come up in my family and while I believed Joel’s theology to being dangerous, I had a hard time expressing it as eloquently as you just did. Praising God for using His word to boldly teach and refine our church!

  4. Thank you for taking time to bring in these truth. We need to be like people of Berea who did not just believe what they heard but they went back home to search the scripture daily to check if those words are true, according to the scripture – Acts 17: 11.

  5. Joe, I appreciate your boldness in speaking the truth. Your influence on Anthony is so clear to me as I read your writings, he is firm in the foundation of the gospel in large part because of you and Rick. I’m thankful that you took the time to write this. I believe a big difference between Joel Osteen and you and other pastors Willi g to say “no, no, no the gospel is about Jesus Christ not us!” is that you know people’s eternal lives are at stake. Praying God’s blessing on you and your family!

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