By Brannon S. Howse
The Source of the Secret offers the same message promoted by Joel Osteen. At the time this writing, Osteen is pastor of the largest church in America, with a weekly attendance of 43,000 people. Osteen’s books have sold millions of copies, and his church service is viewed by millions each week.
People have been serving up heretical ideas for centuries, of course, so in a way, Osteen’s is nothing new. But there is something new we must say about his teachings—something New Age, that is.
On January 1, 2012, I was scanning television channels only to see the smiling heretic Joel Osteen. I stopped to watch, and my wife and I, along with my parents who were visiting in our home, discussed Osteen’s totally New Age sermon, which included, as Osteen often does, his taking Scripture completely out of context. The sermon was titled “Speak Faith into Your Future.” His website summarizes the sermon as follows:
[quote] What are you saying about your life and your future? Words of faith and victory? Or words of lack and despair? In order to be all that God has created you to be, it is imperative to get into agreement with what his Word says with your words. With your words, you are either blessing or cursing your future. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” To walk in victory, you can’t talk defeat. To experience abundance, you can’t talk lack. Even during tough times, instead of using your words to describe the situation, use your words to change the situation. Joel 3:10 says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong!’” Not, let the weak talk about their weakness. If you will train yourself to only speak victory to bless your future, then God is able to release His goodness in greater ways in your life. Make sure the words you are sending out are in the direction you want your life to go! [end quote]
It is standard Word of Faith heresy to declare that our words have the power to create. While words can harm people—the Bible does speak about the power of the tongue in James 3:2-8—the Bible does not teach that our words have creative power. Only God has the power to create. Our words cannot create our futures for good or ill.
In November 2011, New Age life coach Osteen delivered a pep talk (I cannot bring myself to call it a sermon) called “The Power of I Am.” Osteen continued to spew the heresy that our words have creative power. Osteen’s website describes the talk this way:
[quote] God created our words to have creative power. What follows the two simple words, “I Am,” will determine what type of life you have and will either bring success or failure in your life. Instead of saying negative “I Ams,” “I am unfocused. I am never going to succeed,” say what God says you are. Declare “I am blessed, confident, loved, accepted.” When you change your “I Ams,” your life will change for the better. The seeds of greatness God’s placed on the inside will spring forth. [end quote]
“Whatever you conceive you can achieve.” With this favorite “karma-changing” promise, New Agers believe you need only use the “unlimited” power and consciousness of your mind to bring about all your dreams, desires, and wishes. Cloaked in a “Christian” designer suit and tie, Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, bears an uncomfortable and dangerous similarity to this most popular of New Age claims. Here are a few examples of the Osteen version:
• “You will produce what you’re continually seeing in your mind. If you foster an image of defeat and failure, then you’re going to live that kind of life. But if you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you.”
• “You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it.”
• “You must look through your ‘eyes of faith’ and start seeing yourself as happy, healthy and whole.”
• “What you will receive is directly connected to how you believe.”
• “We receive what we believe.”
• “Learn how to conceive. Keep the image of what you want to become in front of you. You’re going to become what you believe.”
Osteen now travels the country, packing out stadiums with his happy talk. But I’d like to see Osteen pay a visit to China, preach his “your best life now” drivel, and see how Christians there respond. Let Osteen look into the eyes of Pastor Lei, who has been repeatedly arrested and beaten for preaching the Word of God in his church—a church not licensed by the Chinese government. How would American’s best life work out for Pastor Lei and his congregation? Perhaps their jail time for the Gospel would give them time to assess Rev. Osteen’s claims.
Have these and countless other persecuted Christians been beaten, jailed and murdered because they “received what they believed,” or did these terrible things happen to them because they did not “develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness”? Were eleven of Jesus’ disciples martyred because, “they received what they believed”? Were the disciples living under a “curse of poverty and defeat,” as Osteen says of so many? Here’s a roll call of questions I’d like to ask Mr. Osteen. Why is it, Joel, that:
• Paul and Matthew were beheaded?
• Barnabas was burned to death?
• Mark was dragged to death?
• James, the less, was clubbed to death?
• Peter, Philip, and Andrew were crucified?
• Thomas was speared to death?
• Luke was hung by the neck until dead?
• Stephen was stoned?
How would these disciples take to the Best Life message?
Yes, I know: Joel’s promises sound so much better to American ears than all those warnings from Jesus about being hated by most people for Jesus’ sake. But it remains that, in large measure, Joel’s offering can be described as blasphemy. On page 36, he claims, “God has a big dream for your life.” On page 56: “God sees you as a champion. He believes in you even more than you believe in yourself!” And on page 110: “God has confidence in you.”
Osteen does not provide a single Bible verse to back up these statements…because there are none. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that God believes or has confidence in us. He loves us but does not believe in us. On the contrary, He knows all too well how unbelievably fickle and untrustworthy we humans actually are. The truth is not like Joel describes on page 57: “Believe it or not, that is how God sees you, too. He regards you as a strong, courageous, successful, overcoming person.”
Furthermore, God does not define our success in materialistic terms as Joel does. God is interested in our obedience above all. On page 63, Joel writes: “As long as you are pressing forward, you can hold your head up high, knowing that you are a ‘work in progress,’ and God is in the process of changing you. He’s looking at your last two good moves.”
Where in the Bible do we read that God is not looking at our last two bad moves but our last two good moves? Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags or wickedness to God because He is so holy. Even if God did look at our last two good moves, He would still see filthy rags.
Or how about this Osteen gospel gem from page 95: “Be the best you can be, then you can feel good about yourself.”
Where in the Bible do we find this teaching? What if your best is getting drunk just once a week instead of twice a week? Should you still feel good about yourself?
But wait. I’ve saved Osteen’s most outrageous statement for last (drumroll, please). On page 144, Joel elevates us to the heavenlies by pointing out that “you may even need to forgive God.”
Whoa! And exactly what would we be forgiving God for? As I recall, forgiveness is for sins—or at least mistakes. But which of those has God made? Not a one according to any Bible I’ve ever read.
Oswald Chambers offers a perspective on the kind of thing the Osteens of the world do to Christians: “Satan’s great aim is to deflect us from the center. He will allow us to be devoted to the death to any cause, any enterprise, to anything but the Lord Jesus.” Hebrews 13:9 instructs us not to be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings (deflected from the center), but sadly, that is exactly what is happening for many at the hand of Joel Osteen.
Instead of pursuing our best life now, we should pursue the things of the Lord so we can have our best life later. I fear that for many who follow Joel’s false teaching, this life is the best they will get. The false gospel proclaimed by Joel Osteen and others and accepted as truth by millions may allow many to achieve what they can conceive of the things in this world, but true to Jesus’ promise, they may lose their souls in the pursuit.
Many people over the years have told me that, while they do not believe in extra-biblical revelation, they do believe God has spoken to them. I try to clarify the claim by asking if they really mean God spoke to them through the study of the Bible or that the Holy Spirit convicted them of sin or brought Scripture they had studied to their remembrance or the Holy Spirit helped them understand what they were reading as they studied God’s Word. The answer I typically receive is that they actually heard the voice of God. If they are hearing an audible voice, whether in or outside of their minds, then we have a problem, biblically speaking, as they are now entering the realm of mysticism. Pastor Jack Hughes explains:
[quote] So when someone says “God spoke to me,” the question to ask is, “How did God speak to you?” Are you using “to speak” metaphorically? Do you mean you had an experience and you think it was from God? Do you mean that you received revelation about God, by observing creation and what has been made, or through His law written in your heart, or through your conscience, i.e., by general revelation? Was it information about God? If not, it wasn’t general revelation. If you believe you have received information about God, through general revelation, you should not live by that revelation, or act on it, since it is subjective, distorted by your sin nature, and the source of what you have experienced is unverifiable. The book Experiencing God teaches God speaks to us, but it does not qualify or meet the criteria for general revelation. Therefore, if it is not general revelation, it must qualify as special revelation.
Maybe you believe God gave you special revelation. When you say, “God spoke to me,” do you mean He literally spoke? Was it an act of “inspiration”? Did the Holy Spirit move you to receive the perfect inerrant Word of God? The problem with claiming to receive special revelation is that the Bible canon is closed and we cannot add to it (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-19; Jude 3). We must not follow the cults who claim to have revelation apart from the completed Biblical canon. The cults typically place their experiences above or on an equal plane with Scripture.
If God did not speak to you through inspiration, then the only other kind of special revelation left to consider is a direct encounter with God, i.e., a theophany or christophany. Are you saying that God appeared to you? Did you see the Shekinah glory, a burning bush, or a post-resurrection appearance of Christ and have God verbally speak to you? These questions must be answered.
Most people who claim to have had a “word from God” are not brazen enough to claim they have received special revelation in any of the ways described above. They want to claim that God “spoke to them,” but they must invent a new type of revelation that is not general, special, or orthodox. Yet, it is revelation from God that is able to guide them, give them direction and able to lead them through life. There is a term for this; it is called “mysticism.” Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God and His will are received by our spirit, through experience, apart from the Word of God. When a Christian begins to live and make decisions by intuition, hunches, feelings, perceptions, or things they “sense,” then they have become “mystics.” Mysticism is pagan. To depart from living by the objective revelation of God’s Word is to depart from God’s will (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4; II Pet. 1:2-4). [end quote]
Copyright 2012 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.