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Heavenly Father, Mighty God, Creator of all Heaven and Earth, We come before your throne room this morning to seek your wisdom, and to praise your name. Guide and direct our study in your word and speak to our hearts. If anyone is present who does not know you as Lord, may they find you this morning. In Jesus name, Aman
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Joel Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in the United States, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. His wife, Victoria, is co-pastor. The Osteens teach a message of “hope, healing, and forgiveness” (from the official Lakewood Church website).
Osteen’s television program is viewed by 20 million people each month in almost 100 countries around the world. In 2004, Joel published the best-selling book Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Joel Osteen’s parents, John and Dodie Osteen, founded Lakewood Church in 1959 and promoted the ministry through a television broadcast.
Joel got involved in media production, overseeing the church’s broadcasts starting in 1982, but, when John died in 1999, Joel accepted the position of senior pastor of Lakewood.
The basic doctrine of Joel Osteen, as summarized on his church’s website, is orthodox enough: the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible, the triune nature of God, and salvation by faith in Christ are all affirmed. The doctrinal problems come in other areas.
Although Lakewood Church is non-denominational, Osteen’s teaching is rooted in Pentecostalism, and he teaches that physical healing and wellness were provided in Christ’s atonement. “Jesus came that we might have a more abundant life. He came to carry our weaknesses, our sickness, our pain, so that we can walk in total freedom, peace, power and purpose” (from Lakewood Church’s official website).
Overarching all that Joel and Victoria Osteen teach is the prosperity gospel: God’s will is that we be blessed with material things, a view that contradicts 1 Timothy 6:6.
As the Lakewood Church’s website says, “To be successful in your walk with God, commit to honor God with your finances. When you commit to give the Lord the first 10% of your income, God promises He will pour out blessings you cannot contain. Tithing is the first key to financial prosperity.”
Lakewood’s website then quotes the favorite proof-text for this teaching, Malachi 3:10. It is a prime example of taking Old Covenant promises to Israel out of context to apply them to New Covenant believers.
Another problem in Osteen’s message is his promotion of name-it-claim-it or word-faith theology: “We have to conceive it on the inside before we’re ever going to receive it on the outside,” Osteen writes. “If you don’t think you can have something good, then you never will.
The barrier is in your mind. . . . Your own wrong thinking can keep you from God’s best. . . . To experience [God’s] immeasurable favor, you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass” (from Your Best Life Now, chapter 1). There is nothing biblical about such teaching.
There is no power inherent in positive thinking, and we do not create our own realities. God is not our servant, standing by and waiting for us to fire up our imaginations so He can lavish us with material goods. Jesus told His followers to “give up everything you have” (Luke 14:33), not to seek to get more.
More often than not, Osteen sounds like an inspirational life-coach, instead of a herald of the gospel. He often preaches about how people can improve their lives, be prosperous, and experience happiness. Noticeably absent in Osteen’s optimistic message is any mention of sin or repentance.
The atonement of Christ provides us with healing and the abundant life, according to Osteen, but apparently receiving forgiveness from a holy God is not necessary.
In numerous interviews and writings, Osteen has failed to proclaim that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He has repeatedly refused to agree with the teachings of the Bible that certain behaviors are sinful. This is not a new convert being interviewed; it’s the leader of a church of tens of thousands. Osteen can’t bring himself to support fundamental doctrines of the faith he claims to preach. His words communicate relativism and demonstrate a profoundly poor understanding of the Bible.
When you don’t talk about sin—and Osteen purposefully does not—you’re not preaching the whole gospel. When you barely, if ever, call sin what it is, you’re not helping anyone, least of all the sinner who is enslaved to sin (John 8:34; 2 Corinthians 4:3).
Joel Osteen teaches that we are being saved from unhappiness and failure in life, not from sin and God’s wrath. Osteen does not teach that we need a divine rescue from judgment, but rather simply a self-improvement plan.
Listening to Osteen, a person would think God primarily wants to make poor people wealthy, sad people happy, and insecure people self-confident. But, according to the Bible, God primarily wants to make dead people live (John 5:24), wicked people righteous (Matthew 9:13), and His enemies His friends (Romans 5:10).
Happiness, self-assurance, and eternal prosperity, according to the Bible, come as a result of submission to God’s will, starting with salvation (Matthew 6:33), and always in the context of His will (Hebrews 10:36).
New Testament believers are never promised health and wealth in the here-and-now. Our inheritance “is kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4). Preaching a gospel of self-motivation and financial gain is short-sighted in that its focus is on this world, which is passing away (1 John 2:17). Better to preach the need for repentance and faith and leave the rest to God (Mark 1:15).
Osteen’s message is sweet, attractive, and pretty. It comes with the million-dollar smile, a heaping helping of the feel-goods, and all of the motivation of the best self-help gurus. That message is also hollow, weak, and devoid of any real value.
The most important parts of the gospel are left out, supposedly to broaden his ministry’s appeal. Anyone depending on that message, without recognizing what’s missing, is going to find himself spiritually hungry, frustrated, and in dire straits when a real disaster strikes.
What Joel Osteen pushes is a shell of legitimate biblical Christianity, at best, and a dangerous counterfeit at worst. When all you have to offer is materialism and emotion, you’re not an evangelist. You’re a motivational speaker who borrows religious terminology.
Nothing Osteen says is going to help a person with legitimate questions about faith and salvation. His message won’t build real disciples; there’s no more substance for the believer than for the unbeliever. Nor is his message going to sustain faith in a crisis. When things go bad, people quickly realize God’s blessings don’t come merely because they think happy thoughts. And if personal prosperity is the measure of their success as a Christian, then Osteen’s teaching has merely set them up for a fall.
A true preacher of the gospel does not avoid any topic, especially crucial ones such as sin and morality, simply because some people don’t like to hear it. And true men of God don’t emphasize material success and positive emotions over the truth. Sincere or not, honest or not, well-intended or not, Joel and Victoria Osteen are not preaching the gospel, and neither are other prosperity teachers. Osteen and his ilk should not be supported by those with a love for spiritual truth and a concern for the lost.
Word of Faith teaching is decidedly unbiblical. It is not a denomination and does not have a formal organization or hierarchy. Instead, it is a movement that is heavily influenced by a number of high-profile pastors and teachers such as Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, and Fred Price.
he Word of Faith movement grew out of the Pentecostal movement in the late 20th century. Its founder was E. W. Kenyon, who studied the metaphysical New Thought teachings of Phineas Quimby. Mind science (where "name it and claim it" originated) was combined with Pentecostalism, resulting in a peculiar mix of orthodox Christianity and mysticism.
Kenneth Hagin, in turn, studied under E. W. Kenyon and made the Word of Faith movement what it is today. Although individual teachings range from completely heretical to completely ridiculous, what follows is the basic theology most Word of Faith teachers align themselves with.
At the heart of the Word of Faith movement is the belief in the "force of faith." It is believed words can be used to manipulate the faith-force, and thus actually create what they believe Scripture promises (health and wealth). Laws supposedly governing the faith-force are said to operate independently of God's sovereign will and that God Himself is subject to these laws. This is nothing short of idolatry, turning our faith—and by extension ourselves—into god.
From here, its theology just strays further and further from Scripture: it claims that God created human beings in His literal, physical image as little gods. Before the fall, humans had the potential to call things into existence by using the faith-force.
After the fall, humans took on Satan's nature and lost the ability to call things into existence. In order to correct this situation, Jesus Christ gave up His divinity and became a man, died spiritually, took Satan's nature upon Himself, went to hell, was born again, and rose from the dead with God's nature. After this, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to replicate the Incarnation in believers so they could become little gods as God had originally intended.
Following the natural progression of these teachings, as little gods we again have the ability to manipulate the faith-force and become prosperous in all areas of life. Illness, sin, and failure are the result of a lack of faith, and are remedied by confession—claiming God's promises for oneself into existence. Simply put, the Word of Faith movement exalts man to god-status and reduces God to man-status. Needless to say, this is a false representation of what Christianity is all about. Obviously, Word of Faith teaching does not take into account what is found in Scripture. Personal revelation, not Scripture, is highly relied upon in order to come up with such absurd beliefs, which is just one more proof of its heretical nature.
Countering Word of Faith teaching is a simple matter of reading the Bible. God alone is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe (Genesis 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:15) and does not need faith—He is the object of faith (Mark 11:22; Hebrews 11:3).
God is spirit and does not have a physical body (John 4:24). Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27; 9:6), but this does not make him a little god or divine. Only God has a divine nature (Galatians 4:8; Isaiah 1:6-11, 43:10, 44:6; Ezekiel 28:2; Psalm 8:6-8). Christ is Eternal, the Only Begotten Son, and the only incarnation of God (John 1:1, 2, 14, 15, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:1). In Him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
By becoming a man, Jesus gave up the glory of heaven but not His divinity (Philippians 2:6-7), though He did choose to withhold His power while walking the earth as man.
The Word of Faith movement is deceiving countless people, causing them to grasp after a way of life and faith that is not biblical. At its core is the same lie Satan has been telling since the Garden: “You shall be as God” (Genesis 3:5).
Sadly, those who buy into the Word of Faith movement are still listening to him. Our hope is in the Lord, not in our own words, not even in our own faith (Psalm 33:20-22).
Our faith comes from God in the first place (Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2) and is not something we create for ourselves. So, be wary of the Word of Faith movement and any church that aligns itself with Word of Faith teachings.
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