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 choices...it'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...