and I’m showing it to you now ’cause this is the last reference we’ll make to it today.
Joel Osteen, the Bible, and the Gospel.
My wife had never heard Joel Osteen “preach” before, so we watched a little bit of his show the other day. As I watched, I was sickened.
Joel Osteen makes a big production before his sermon about the Bible being God’s Word, I am what it says I am, I can do what it says I can do, etc., ad nauseam. And who wouldn’t agree with those words at face value? I know I do…I think, I can’t remember the whole mantra, but I do believe that I am exactly what the Bible says I am (a dirty rotten sinner saved by grace), I can do what it says I can do (whatever that may be, which may be a problem, because I’m pretty sure he believes the Bible says we can do a lot more than it says that we can, to the exclusion of what the Bible actually says we can do).
But after the ‘Bible Mantra’, he really didn’t have a lot to say about the Bible, much less from the Bible. Instead, his sermon began with these words, “We are told by many psychologists…” The sermon didn’t get anymore Bible/God/Cross-centered than that. And it never will. The ‘gospel’ Joel Osteen preaches is not a gospel of the good news of sin’s penalty paid in full, it is a ‘gospel’ of self-help/fulfillment/love/esteem. And you really can’t find that kind of ‘gospel’ in the Bible.
So, what is the Gospel that we do find in the Bible? It is a Gospel of God (2 Cor. 4:1-6). You can’t help yourself, but God can, you can’t find fulfillment on your own, but God can fulfill you, you can’t love yourself enough, but God does. And this is how we know God’s love…Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died for our sin( John 3:16, 1 John 3:16). Essentially the Gospel is this, God gives us Himself. In Creation, God gave us many things, that is to say, everything that He created (Gen. 1-2). But by our sin we lost it all (Gen. 3). But the good news (Gospel) is this, by God’s redemptive acts, He has not only begun the restoration of all things to us in Christ, but He has now given us Himself (John 17:20-24).
Think of it with me. God gave us Himself when He sent His Son into the world (Matt. 1:23). He ‘pitched His tent among us’ (John 1:14). Then, when Christ ascended to His Father, He sent His Spirit to live in us (John 14:16-17). Finally, at the return of Christ, God dwells with us in the fullness of His Glory (Rev. 21:3-4). That, my friends, is the great goal of the Gospel. God in us, with us, and for us.
The Cross is the means by which God gives Himself to us. When God sent His Son into this world, it was for a specific purpose. Not only did it show God’s intent to dwell among His creatures (John 14:1-3), but He was making it possible to dwell among His creatures (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Christ died to reconcile us with God. We needed to be reconciled with God because we had rebelled against Him. Adam’s sin, and every sin we commit ourselves, is an act of treason against our Creator and Sovereign King. They are all acts intended to dethrone the King of the universe, whether or not you recognize them as such (Psalm 2). Obviously if God is truly God, these acts can never dethrone Him, but they do affect how we relate to Him. They make us God’s enemies.
God will give to His enemies what they deserve. Since their sin is a sin against the God who created them, the fitting penalty is eternal death in hell. That certainly precludes God’s intention of ‘dwelling’ with His people, doesn’t it? No, not really. That’s because God has this other thing that He is doing called ‘Redemption’. Redemption means that God is buying something back. That something He is buying back is humanity. And the price He is paying must be paid to Himself. Remember that it is God who has been sinned against. Therefore it is God who must satisfied. The payment that God pays is to Himself, by Himself, and for Himself. To pay Himself he must become man. In a mystery that we can never understand, God, who is Trinity, sends His Son to become man in order that He may pay Himself the payment He requires, eternal death.
Jesus, God’s Son, is the perfect man. He is also God. He is the God-man. The God-man pays the price for our sin. His death is of eternal value, even though He rises from the dead, because He Himself is eternal. Before Jesus died He lived a sinless life. But His life was not merely sinless, it was a life of positive righteousness. That means that He didn’t merely not sin, but that He also actively did good. That ‘good’ that He did is placed in our accounts. And then He took our sin and put it in His account and died in our place. So we are not only redeemed, but we are forgiven of our sins, and justified by Christ’s righteousness before God.
I say all of that, because Joel Osteen didn’t say it. He said something else. His ‘gospel’ didn’t involve God, the Bible, or the Cross. The ‘gospel’ he preached was, “You need to feel better about yourself and stop thinking negative thoughts.” Negative thoughts were the problem, and the good news was feel good about yourself. The solution was to think positively. That’s not the Gospel. It is in the Bible one place though…but it’s condemned (Gal. 1:6-9).