Right after I committed my life to Jesus Christ, I became so hungry for His Word. I couldn’t wait to read my Bible each day to discover what God wanted to reveal to me. I read every book I could get hold of and listened to every preacher I ran across on the radio and TV. One day I ran across Joel Osteen on TV. That day Mr. Osteen was talking about how God wanted to bless me. He was saying that all we need to do to receive God’s blessing is have faith – believe financial security is what God wants for us all. He is just waiting for our faith to be sufficient. I thought to myself “Of course God wants to bless me. God only wants the best for me. If my faith is strong enough, I will be blessed. When I follow Christ, God wants to reward me just as any parent wants the best for their child.” Without a lot of thought to what Mr. Osteen was saying, it seemed to make perfect sense. It sure was an answer to my prayers for getting my finances in order!
One of the things that led me to God was I knew I needed to learn to trust Him to get through the difficult times I was experiencing. I wanted nothing more than to have unshakeable faith in God and, based on what Joel Osteen was saying, the proof for myself and to others was whether I would get all of the things I wanted. If I found myself still in want and suffering in some way, it was simply because my faith wasn’t what it needs to be.
2 Peter 1-3: But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.
I went right out and bought a set of Joel’s DVD’s so I could listen to him in the car. His messages were uplifting and encouraging. There was always a funny story at the beginning of each one and that helped me get the day started on a positive note. Every day I asked God for the money I needed to correct my financial situation and told myself as long as I believed it was true, eventually it would happen. I felt I was on my way to trusting God the way we are supposed to trust Him – I just needed to keep strengthening my faith. I was a big Osteen fan and felt I needed to share my discovery with my daughter. I wanted to be sure her faith was sufficient and that she was seeing life in the positive way God wants us to see it.
True to her nature, my daughter patiently listened. Then, in her simple, quiet way said: “Be careful, Mom. Joel Osteen is a prosperity preacher.” Well, my first reaction was confusion. I didn’t know what a prosperity preacher was, but I knew it couldn’t be anything good because she was definitely giving me a warning. Then I felt offended. I loved Jesus and was only trying to have the kind of faith we are supposed to have and Joel was just trying to teach me how to do that. He certainly looked very happy and I refused to believe he had anything but Christians’ best interests in mind.
Then the thought occurred to me that my daughter would not tell me something that wasn’t true; she’s not a liar and it was her quiet, strong faith that had led me to Jesus in the first place. So I began to research this prosperity preacher idea. I became more and more unsettled about Mr. Osteen and others like him. The more I read and studied, the more uneasy I felt when I listened to him. It wasn’t too long before I realized his messages weren’t giving me any peace about God – I realized I was even more anxious trying to gain the kind of faith Joel told me I needed. After studying the Scriptures Joel quoted, it was quite easy to see he took things out of context all the time. I was also beginning to realize that I was living life the same way I had been before I committed it to Jesus – under the power of me, seeking only to satisfy and serve me!
I was embarrassed at first, then disappointed that I had allowed myself to be misled so easily. The allure of getting the things that would make my life comfortable had too easily overtaken me. As I learned more theology and doctrine I was aghast at Mr. Osteen’s “interpretations.” His deception is not easily seen by those of us sincerely seeking God because he is subtle; my problem was that I wasn’t doing my homework. I came to understand that Mr. Osteen is abusing the concept of faith, hiding behind it to create a false sense of guilt in people who were not experiencing the worldly success he promises we are entitled to. According to him, the only thing holding me back from wealth and health was my own failure to have enough faith in God. That’s what Mr. Osteen wanted me to believe, but my experience told me something different. I was learning that I can count on God to get me through the rough times and, even after only a few months, He had already proven this to me. No, faith wasn’t my problem – false teaching was my problem!
2 Peter 2:18, 19 – “For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
The bottom line was that I finally understood what Joel Osteen was really saying: his message wasn’t to have faith in God. Joel Osteen’s message is that I must have faith in me: my words, my attitude, and my thoughts. His message doesn’t match up with the Bible. I’m not a negative person – I have always been overly optimistic, a bit of a dreamer. As I recalled the book I read at the time of my conversion (Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom), I realized that the inner city preacher in that book had more peace and faith than any wealthy person I had ever known about. I knew that being successful according to the world wasn’t how I would “prove” my faith. I wanted the kind of faith that inner-city preacher had – to be able to live in any situation knowing God was taking care of me.
I try to lead others away from the health, wealth and prosperity preachers. More often than not, their reaction is anger. I’ve been accused of creating drama when I point out the errors in his teaching, of not being a true Christian because I don’t agree with Joel Osteen. I have been told that they follow Joel because they are tired of hearing all the “fire and brimstone,” the negative stuff other preachers want to harp on! And my only reaction is to tell them to do their homework. No matter who I listen to – including the preachers and teachers I know to be Biblically sound – I listen to what they say then go straight to my Bible and read the Scripture to see if it all matches up with the basic tenets of Christianity that we MUST hold fast to. There are peripheral things that I don’t like to listen to but I understand those are things we can respectfully debate (like the rapture). But when someone tries to tell me I am a little god, that my words have power, that I can speak anything into reality, I am left cold with the arrogance it takes to profane the Word of God in this way. If you believe Mr. Osteen’s teachings to be Biblically sound then it is your responsibility to tell the paralyzed person that it is due to their lack of faith that they do not walk. You must tell the dead child’s parent that their child died because of their lack of faith. That is what the faith teachers teach and if you support them, you are telling the world that you believe these things to be the Truth.
Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Anyone who studies or teaches God’s Word should welcome scrutinty and invite challenges. This spurs us to action and makes all of us accountable. Don’t ever allow others to do the work – you must take it on yourself. If you struggle to know whether you rightly understand Scripture, go to a trusted Christian and ask them for help. And even with them, if you feel uneasy with their answer, keep digging. The Holy Spirit will cause you to be disquieted with a lie – it’s always been true in my life. Begin your study/reading time in prayer, asking God to open your eyes, your ears and your heart to hear what He wants you to know and to discern Truth from lies.
(From “The Osteenification of American Christianity” by Hank Hanegraaff): “Take, for example Osteen’s parody of Philemon 1:6 as a pretext for making positive self-affirmations. …Osteen writes “The Scripture says, ‘Our faith is made effectual when we acknowledge everything good in us.’” Conversely, he says, “our faith is not effective when we acknowledge all our hurts and pains. It’s not effective when we stay focused on our shortcomings or our weaknesses.” …In reality, Philemon 1:6 has nothing whatsoever to do with making positive self-affirmations. Nor does the text suggest that our faith is made effectual when we acknowledge all that is good within. Indeed, Paul says quite the opposite. Rather than having confidence in positive confessions, he prays that Philemon would have “a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” …Far from making self-affirmations, Scripture exhorts us to affirm our weaknesses and as such our utter dependence on Christ. To boast in the flesh has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with foolishness. The great apostle to the Gentiles, and an exemplar to us all, [Paul] was reduced to an utter state of weakness so that he would no longer glory in himself.
…Consider [Osteen’s] rendering of Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Adam’s offense, according to Osteen, was not rebellion against God but rather believing Satan’s suggestion that there might be something wrong with him. …From Genesis to Revelation, Osteen simply uses Scripture to communicate whatever he wants. …[Osteenfication] is conforming Scripture to cultural norms as opposed to allowing the plain reading of the text to transform. It is the recitals of mantras rather than the renewal of our minds. The glory of the cross exchanged for the paltry glory of consumerism. Psychobabble over precept. In short, a rebranding of the faith once for all delivered to the saints and the gospel of the kingdom traded for empty baubles of health and wealth…”
It’s Joel or Jesus. Who do you want to please? I cannot imagine holding so tightly to anyone proclaiming to be a follower of Christ that I will not hold them accountable. My own preacher, my relatives, and especially celebrity preachers – they all must be tested and researched to insure their words match God’s Word. I don’t care how popular they are or how maligned I am for speaking out against them – I’m choosing Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. Cross references: 2 Corinthians 11:3 : Ge 3:1-6, 13; 1Ti 2:14; Rev 12:9
It’s Joel or Jesus. Joel Osteen cannot save you from eternal separation from God. I truly wish Mr. Osteen would get out of the charade of being a man of God and just call himself what he really is – a motivational speaker. One of the sure evidences that Joel is not a committed follower of Christ is his fear of losing his material possessions. Paul is very clear in telling us that he learned to be content in any circumstance and we must learn to do so also. Jesus did not have a place to lay His head. If these two were not “blessed” with worldly comfort, why does Joel tell his followers that worldly comfort is a true test of our faith? Osteen is not alone – TD Jakes, Prince, Joyce Meyer, Hagee; watch them all. They are perverters of the truth and we must hold them accountable.
Don’t put anyone above Jesus.