Monday, September 03, 2007

Habits resulting in death?

We all have habits both good, bad and indifferent. One of my habits that may fit into any of those catergories on any given night is that while channel surfing I see someone like Joel Osteen "preaching" so I stop and listen. I did this last night and just in time to h ear Joel's "This is my Bible.." confession. So I got to hear about how people are basically good and it's just our bad habits that we need to change.

Osteen mentioned a list of "habits" that most Christians would normally understand to be "sins" as my wife reminded me as she said as much while rolling her eyes at the TV. Osteen stated that people are basically good, but that our habits can ruin our lives. He even stated that "habits determine your destiny". If we take a look at a small section of Romans 6 and think of "habits" instead of sin it just doesn't fit.

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NASB]

So how about we say that the wages of bad habits is death, but the changing of those habits is to change your destiny (eternal life)? To be fair, Osteen didn't specifically speak in terms of eternal life, but that is certainly the allusion given the overall context. He even told the old grandfather - grandson story about feeding the good and bad wolves. It's all about us and our habits and choices that guide everything...the ultimate religion of self and morality. I'm thankful in some ways though.

I am thankful that Joel Osteen is so clear in what he teaches. He doesn't hide his teaching at all and comes right out and tells you that it's all about you and your decisions. You don't have to peel anything back to understand where he is really coming from. It's about what you do as an individual and not about what Christ has done. I wish more preachers were as clear. I say this because there doesn't really seem to be that much difference between modern evangelicalism and Osteen's position. Some may even say that he is modern evangelicalism.

Whether you're asked to change your bad habits or make the right decisions in relation to the Christian life aren't these one in the same? Look to yourself and your habits and's the Theology of Glory. My proposal is that we make life changes and can only do so because of what Christ as done for us. The example of the Apostle Paul rings through when he looks at himself as the worst undeserving sinner only to be changed because of Christ. Paul looks back to the cross not to self.

How about to the observing unbelievers that may be present during said type of worship service? If the Gospel message that the unbeliever gets is that he must "make Jesus Lord and Savior" or "just ask Jesus into his heart" is the extent with no further application then what good is it really? As I see it in these terms the Christian life is reduced to: here is your Gospel card, carry it and be a good person. What message is that sending? The message of just make the right decisions and you'll be okay.

I'm going to close by putting today's altar call in a different in a different presentation instead of "asking Jesus into your heart" and simply making right decisions. How about telling the unbeliever that he doesn't doesn't deserve to walk the aisle and come forward. Just like the Christians in the surrounding pews don't deserve Christ as they are no better than he is. See, it's not about the decisions you make, but the one Christ made to die for sin on the cross for sinners like you and me and to rise again on the third day defeating death that those who trust in Him may live. If you walked through these doors today as an unbeliever and you now trust in Christ and His work on the cross then come forward. Understand that you are not coming forward to get saved, but because of the grace of God opening your eyes to believe so come forward so we all may humbling rejoice together.

One man's observations for now...



L P Cruz said...

Sadly too, Osteen's wares are being marketed in Latin American, Asian and African countries. Since it is so seductive, it has the pull to attract the undiscerning.


James Swan said...

I sometimes put Osteen on before church. Funny, every so often he says something that is helpful in terms of daily Christian life [i.e. loving our neighbor's, trustung in God], only to follow it up with the motivation for such behavior to be getting what we want from God [i.e. sucsess, personal gain, health, prosperity].

This is indeed a theology of glory- "doing" in order to "get". The motivation of being conformed to the image of Christ was not Osteen's goal. Indeed, if Osteen ever was explained what the theology of the cross means, it would horrify him.

James-the-less said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James-the-less said...

Indeed, if Osteen ever was explained what the theology of the cross means, it would horrify him.

I get the same feeling. I don't think I've ever heard Joel Osteen mention anyting regarding the cross of Christ. Unfortunately, I know a few people who think he is simply wonderful.

GeneMBridges said...

I think Michael Spencer wrote something on him a couple of years ago too like this. Or was it Tim Chailles? I can't remember. Anyhoo, I seem to recall something about baptism @ Osteen's church. Let's just say the baptismal pool is a tad on the shallow side.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with everything Osteen says, but I do think he is sincere, especially compared to other's like Binny Hinn and the folks on tbn network. And I agree that Joel doesn't focus on things like the cross of Christ and other central truths too much. He teaches mostly the precepts and principles found in the Bible, like selflessness, charity, kindness, discipline, family values, hospitality, prayer etc. He does qoute passages from the Bible's just he is not a theologian. Also I noticed he like to tell stories to get his points across, which is nice because you can read tell someone something all day long but great teacher tell it in a way that the listener can relate with stories.

Ken Temple said...

John Piper has coined a concept which he calls, "Christian Hedonism" (using that desire for happiness and pleasure to motivate seeking God and finding Him as our pleasure and treasure) in his books and sermons, especially, "Desiring God" and "Brothers, we are not Professionals" and "Future Grace". Piper helps us see, in quoting Edwards, Paschal, and C. S. Lewis that "all men seek happiness without exception", but we are too easily satisfied with these secondary pleasures. "Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied but that they are far too easily satisfied." (p. 51, "Brothers, we are not Professionals")

"By Christian Hedonism I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end." (p. 46, ibid)

Piper exhorts us constantly to see our happiness and joy and satisfaction in God Himself, not the things or blessings He can give; but He does motivate us in the Scriptures by telling us we will be rewarded by faith and obedience.

He reminds us that the Bible does not teach what Kant taught, that the highest good is when you do something out of duty and are cold and disinterested in any reward or pleasure that you may get out of it.

"God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him." Piper

I am trying to articulate how to tap into that universal desire for happiness and pleasure, but show how the TV prosperity preachers fall short of the true pleasure of God Himself; the Trinity; Father, Son, and Spirit. The Son's part includes the cross and suffering and everything else He did and taught.

Seems that the modern TV preachers, Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, Kenneth Copeland, etc. are missing the ultimate pleasure of God and Christ Himself (and all the other hard doctrines of discipleship, suffering, the cross, judgment, hell, sin); but motivating people by all the other secondary pleasures of success in business, money, a good marriage, health, healing, etc.

I am still trying to put all this together and express it. The Corinthians were guilty of "the theology of glory" -- we already have everything right now, money, riches, blessings, victory, we just have to claim it. As you said, they teach that "it all depends on us and our free will, our own will power to choose to believe and by beleiving it and saying it, we can bring it into existence, just like God, becasue we are little gods; God, who calls into being what which does not exist." Romans 4:17

Corinthians theology of glory -- in I Cor. 4:8, see also the Laodiceans had that same attitude, Rev. 3:17.

How to put all this together, is what I struggle with; because I used to think and believe that "it is wrong to seek happiness and pleasure; rather we should seek God and holiness; God Himself, and happiness and pleasure are the results of faith and obedience to God; it is up to Him to give the rewards." Piper came along and put a hole in that thinking; but I struggle with how to put it all together. "Duty is good, but Desire and Delight is much better" Piper

There is great potential to help those thousands and thousands who are in those audiences of Osteen, Meyers and Dollar; with the truth of Piper's emphasis on "Christian Hedonism" and "Delighting in God".

That is the amazing thing to me, those thousands that listen and enjoy Osteen; and seeing the camera pan over those thousands! Amazing to me. What happens when they are alone and they accidentally read Romans 9 or Job or Ephesians 1-2 ?

It must be his appeal to the Pelagian nature of man. "You can do it" (by your choices and discipline and forming habits)

That is also the appeal of Islam. They go to the jails and target African Americans and say, "the white man told you are a sinner and must be weak and realize your utter sinfulness and come to the cross and trust Christ for your righteousness". They tell them, " no Islam says "you can do it by discipline. You can clean yourself up and get off of drugs. You are good and dignified. Islam lifts you up and upholds your dignity as a black man; you are not a sinner", etc.

Thos said...

My wife rolls her eyes at my habit of stopping to watch Olsteen, or the guy on Channel 99 prophesying that once all the Jews are in Israel the world will end, or listening to Mr. Camping on Family Radio explain that the church age has ended and its each man for himself (armed, of course, with his radio and his bible)... It's like some sick porn addiction, I think. Better change that habit! Thanks.

Eric said...

I don't know Ken, I heard Osteen say that God knows everything in our lives and everything in our future and that by His grace we are to align ourselves to God's will for us. I don't think Osteen is exactly like the "you can do it by habits or a choice" anthony robbins type. I think he is saying that we can have happiness because Jesus is who he says he is and he died for us.

Ken Temple said...

he may say that 10% of the time, but it seems like his emphasis 90% of the time is on us and our choices and claiming things and positive attitudes. Of course he would have to throw that in to make the heresy go down easier into the esophagus and stomach.

That is what most all the TV preachers seem to do, mix lots of good statements and a few biblical texts, but lacking exegesis and context. And obscuring the good with lots of bad doctrines and bad emphases.

theo said...

The so-called prosperity doctrine itself appears to be quite damaging to the body of Christ, as it (as so many have noted) seems virtually oblivious to the basic Christian tenet as proclaimed by Jesus Himself: "Pick up your cross and follow me."

Back in the late seventies I had a conversation with a Bible school student of the "Tulsa / Rhema" school of thought. I was concerned that his theology seemed to amount to "Give in order to get more."

His reply was (and I directly quote),
"I would not serve God if I didn't think He would make me rich."
This, he claimed, was part of his message of faith.

Contrast that with Job's statement of faith and trust: Even if He slay me, yet will I serve Him.

May we all look to lay up treasures in Heaven through humble imitation of Jesus. May we ever encourage one another to daily pick up our crosses and follow Him who is our model, example and desire.