- Joel Osteen doesn’t believe in defending himself against accusations but embraces the preaching of the Apostle Paul who focused on grace rather than damnation.
- If you have a problem with Joel, you also then have a problem with Billy and Franklin Graham, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyers and other mainstream Christian leaders not only embrace the Osteens, but teach at Lakewood and partner with his ministry.
- Joel not only leads new believers in the sinner’s prayer in every service, he demands they stand publicly “or Jesus won’t acknowledge them to the Father.”
- There isn’t a single tenant of mainstream Christianity that Osteen disavows.
- The “gospel” of prosperity and grace are actually the very foundation of what the Apostle Paul claims gives the New Testament it’s meaning.
I addressed the false notion that Joel Osteen either got rich from – or “fleeces” his flock in my last post. The other attack by his accusers is that he doesn’t preach the ‘real’ bible, that he’s a false prophet or teacher, or that he doesn’t really lead people to Jesus. As someone who not only has attended Lakewood for over 7 years, but who has written numerous (albeit poor and not well known) books on issues of theology, I find it laughable. And infuriating. Here is what you need to know about what goes on in his church that sees 30,000 attendees a week among 50,000 who call it their church home.
Most of these attacks come from other Christians who have not only never attended – or even watched – a single entire church service at Lakewood, but who seem to be oblivious to the admonition of Jesus himself in Luke 9:49-50. The disciples got their panties in a twist because some other leader began driving out demons in Jesus name but they accused that he “was not one of us.” This is the very charge by nearly every Christian who decided it was now their responsibility to “accuse the brethren.” (They may want to look up whose job they are performing.) Jesus however was quite clear admonishing the disciples, “DO NOT STOP HIM.” Apparently, they somehow feel that although Jesus himself made the standard to “stop” or confront others ONLY “if they are against you,” – these Christians want to extend it to every political, theological and biblical argument of another leader who doesn’t agree with them. Joel Osteen is not “against” any other Christian or brand or denomination. In fact some Christians want to attack him BECAUSE he isn’t “against” other Christians. They strive for divisiveness and argumentativeness as if that was a godly virtue. Osteen instead stays in his own lane, preaching what he believes God has told him to preach and leaving judgment up to God.
I wish I could be so kind and defenseless as he is. I often want to point to these detractors – who claim you HAVE TO tell people they are sinning and going to hell – that it’s odd that there isn’t a SINGLE story of Jesus actually telling someone they won’t make it into heaven unless they feel bad for their sins and promise to lead a good life. To the thief on the cross he didn’t even ask him to “repent” for stealing and freely told the thief they’d be hanging out in heaven ONLY because the thief acknowledged – and believed – Jesus as Lord. Same for the adulteress. He said, “..I do not condemn you,” and the ONLY thing she did – was acknowledge Him not just as a great teacher – but as her Lord. Her Master.
Only AFTER he gave her the gift of not being condemned did He inform her that she now had the power to “go and sin no more.” In the Greek text this isn’t a command as much as it is declaration of a new status. Jesus DID present the “law” to those that demanded they be justified by it like the rich young ruler who was bragging about how many commandments he kept. Jesus lovingly gave him a commandment he couldn’t keep so that he’d understand you CAN’T ever be perfect by keeping commandments. In the very next chapter Zacchaeus freely gave away half of his wealth just by believing in Jesus and Jesus’ acceptance of him imperfect as he was. Jesus never said a word to him about money or demanded anything from him.
This is what Joel teaches. What Jesus and Paul did. Your goodness or “righteousness” has NOTHING to do with how many good things you do or how many bad things you don’t do. It comes from UNMERITED FAVOR (aka “grace”) that is ONLY obtained by faith, belief and trust in Jesus. So why do so many Christians want the public face of their Savior to be one of condemnation, hellfire and brimstone? Why do they feel it’s up to them to set the world straight about what they are doing (right and wrong) rather than just pointing them to the free gift of salvation and acceptance of God by trusting in Jesus as Lord? Don’t they know Paul said the world would know we are Christians BY OUR LOVE – ONE FOR ANOTHER and not by our infighting or internal criticism of who is right or wrong?
In fact, the only other direct biblical reference for one’s responsibility to point out another Christian’s “error” where they are NOT directly a part of their authority chain (either under their authority, over authority of them or directly in relationship with that Christian) is in 1 Timothy 4 that says you are a “good minister of Jesus Christ” by calling out those WHO MAKE PEOPLE ABIDE BY RULES rather than by the grace and love of Jesus!
Isn’t it odd how many Christians seem to think that God – who prohibited man from eating of the tree of “knowing rules of right and wrong” – now feel like it’s their responsibility to force feed even non-Christians what is right and wrong?
Andrew Womack – a preacher in Colorado – puts it elegantly:
Telling people they are going to hell if they don’t repent is true, but it’s NOT the Gospel. Even telling people that Jesus provided an escape is not the Gospel if we tell them they have to live holy lives in order to obtain that salvation. Putting any stipulations on what we have to do to acquire God’s provision denies grace and, therefore, is not the Gospel.
Christian filmmaker Darren Wilson experienced this with other Christians who began to picket his films. They discuss this divide of preaching Christ’s love versus Old Testament condemnation here:
Joel has gotten himself into trouble with some on the evangelical right by NOT thrusting himself into political opinions and refusing to openly condemn lifestyles of gays. Osteen attended the inauguration of Houston’s first openly gay mayor. Osteen refused to be baited by news anchors from MSNBCABCBSCNN into saying gays are going to hell during the gay marriage debates. It is Osteen – not his detractors – who are theologically correct.
Focusing ONLY on the sin of homosexuality provides an unspoken acceptance that it is somehow “worse” than lying, lusting or cheating or that God judges us on the list of our sins rather than our acceptances of Jesus’ blood for all of them. It also assumes people already don’t know they are sinning, which is stunning in itself. Paul taught that the knowledge of sin BRINGS DEATH and in fact he wouldn’t have even been tempted if not for the rules (the law) itself.
It is true that there are a very few religious leaders that literally almost condone – even celebrate – sin. Osteen has never done this – nor could he – if you understood his devotion to his father’s legacy and his own circle of advisers and influencer’s. National leaders Billy and Franklin Graham, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyers and many others not only are close friends with Joel and Victoria, but are partners with Lakewood Church and exchange pulpits at least a few times a year.
If you are attacking Joel Osteen’s theology you are attacking Franklin Graham’s.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I sit next to people whose lives have been changed through his ministry every week. Drug dealers who are now married with kids and leading bible studies. Adulterers who reconciled with their spouses after giving their lives to Christ. Still others who never would allow God to love on them because His people did nothing but belittle and condemn them, but now are in a position to reach others who will NEVER go to church.
Like the Apostle Paul, Joel Osteen focuses on God’s love, mercy and favor WHICH BRINGS ABOUT REPENTANCE (as the bible and the above video remind us), but that doesn’t mean Osteen doesn’t challenge his congregation to do virtuous things.
Watch below the sample sermon on STAYING COMMITTED. Watch ALL THE WAY to the end where you see what an altar call looks like. If you think this is some New Age wacko instead of a mainstream biblical preacher, my guess is most of us think you’re a legalist wacko who has no clue what the “Good News” or Gospel is about.
Do you really not understand the reason Jesus was so hated by the religious was EXACTLY because He stopped the focus on sin, and told people they merely had to receive all of God’s blessing through belief in Him?
The same spiritual struggle is evident today.
Osteen ain’t perfect by a long shot, but if you are a Christian who AT LEAST will listen to your Lord, then DO NOT STOP HIM. Especially lest you find yourself umwittingly working for the other side.
Tell me exactly how this daily devotional sample is in ANY way, not in the mainstream of Evangelical Christian belief.