This piece is purely an opinion on my part about why I hate Joel Osteen’s preaching. You say “Whoa, hate is a little harsh isn’t it?” No, I do not believe it is because Joel Osteen is a false preacher and his preaching has the dangerous potential of leading people away from the God of the Bible. PLEASE don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I do NOT hate Joel Osteen. That is not what I said. I said I hate his preaching. Now let me explain my point.
It is our responsibility to spread the gospel that Jesus Christ is the only way to true salvation, that we are all dead in sin. Salvation is about the glory of God. Joel Osteen doesn’t preach this. In my opinion, the thing that makes Joel Osteen a false preacher is the fact that he does not preach the true gospel – or I should say he does not preach the true purpose of the gospel.
According to Tim Challies, life is meant to glorify God, not to bring blessing and ease to the individual. I would agree with this statement. Osteen’s book, “Become a Better You” seems to emphasize bringing blessing and ease to the individual.
In case you haven’t read the book, it is divided into seven areas: 1) Keep pressing forward, 2) Be positive toward yourself, 3) Develop better relationships, 4) Form better habits, 5) Embrace the place where you are, 6) Develop your inner life, and 7) Stay passionate about life.
This is pretty much like all of the other “self-help” books out there, except for one glaring difference. This one is supposed to be built upon the Bible and it is publicized as such, and that is very dangerous.
Here is what Osteen is teaching in this book: “We’ve all sinned, failed, and made mistakes,” he says, “But many people don’t know they can receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.” That sounds reasonable right? Sure. But, he goes on to say, “As long as you’re doing your best and desire to do what’s right according to God’s Word, you can be assured God is pleased with you.” Now I ask, is it enough to just desire to do right? Is God really pleased with those who sin, but desire to do right? I would submit to you that He is not pleased with just that. God is so holy that He cannot even look upon a sin. I got this question from Paul Washer and it stands up to the Bible: How many times did Adam and Eve sin before they were cast out of the presence of God? The answer is once.
Wow, I kind of got off track a little bit there. Back to my original question: What makes Osteen’s preaching wrong?
Here is the question: what is the purpose of the Bible? The Bible is the inspired word of God, it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be equipped for every good work (based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The reason for our existence is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Osteen says that the Bible is full of common sense that can help us in our every day lives. Yes, this is true I believe, but that is not the purpose! The Bible is theology and doctrine. It is an instruction manual so people can learn who God is, what He has done, who we are and what we must do to be saved so that He can be glorified.
According to Osteen, the gospel is letting people know that God loves them, that Jesus came, that we can overcome any obstacle, and that we can be forgiven for our mistakes. This is a huge watering down of language. What Osteen says is not the gospel. The gospel is the good news of the forgiveness of sins. Osteen needs to realize that mistakes are not the same as sin.
Osteen says that he doesn’t see how beating people down can help them grow closer to God. In my opinion, this is a “straw man.” The gospel does not beat people down, we are already down. The gospel exposes our position and shows how God will lift us from that.
Osteen says that he believes hell is a real place and that it is separation from God. This is true, it is a real place and it is separation from God. So why doesn’t he warn people of this? Osteen is not taking into consideration what the separation from God really is. It is only by God’s general grace and goodness that I am able to use my hands to type right now; that I am even able to breathe is by God’s general grace. When His general grace is gone, that is separation from God. Even our ability to have light to see right now is by the grace of God. That light will be gone when God’s grace is gone. It will be utter darkness in hell. Separation from God is the worst possible thing that can happen to a human and Osteen needs to realize this.
Osteen preaches the American dream. He preaches that God wants us to be blessed, to increase and to be successful in our career. While this may be partly true, the American dream is not God’s plan. He wants us to take the gospel and preach it to the uttermost parts of the earth. He wants us to be salt and light in our career. The purpose of the gospel is that we can be Godly in Christ Jesus so that He may be glorified.
There is a difference in the way that Osteen preaches and the way that historical Christianity has been preached. The difference is called expository preaching, taking a verse (or series of verses) and explaining and going deeper on the meaning; verses: here is what the Bible says and here is how it applies to your life. It is a different approach to Scripture and it is a different approach to God.
In an interview, Osteen used the example of Abraham saying that he was the wealthiest man in the east. This is true, but this is Old Testament. God did bless people in the Old Testament, under that old covenant, with physical wealth. In Ephesians 1, under the new covenant, we see spiritual blessings which are far superior, in my opinion.
Is providing for our family important? Yes, it is. Am I saying that we should not advance in our careers? No, but that is not the emphasis or the purpose of the gospel. I believe the purpose of the gospel is to get us saved, to glorify God, to grow in the process of sanctification, and to share the gospel with others in order that God can be glorified.
What Osteen preaches is so far from the real good news, that it isn’t good at all. It is man centered and built around men. The gospel does not center around men; the gospel centers around God.
Osteen’s preaching is what Tim Challies (I think) calls skyscraper preaching, because it is constructed building one story on top of another.
When you are evaluating Osteen or any other preacher for that matter, you should ask three questions. First, how often is Jesus mentioned? For this purpose, a simple tally will suffice; second, is Jesus the subject of the verbs? Is Jesus the one who acts, or are you? Third, what are the verbs? What has Jesus done and what is He doing?
To sum it up, I believe that Joel Osteen is a false preacher. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Does he realize it? I don’t know. But while some of what he says is not necessarily false (a lot of it is heresy, and possibly blasphemy), he does not preach the true purpose of the gospel, and that is why I hate his preaching.
Finally, it seems to me that Osteen’s preaching is good advice rather than good news. What makes him different from Dr. Phil? Well, nothing except that he (Osteen) operates under the premise that what he preaches will get you saved. I would disagree, but ultimately it is up to God how people hear Mr. Osteen’s message. There is a part of me that feels sorry for Mr. Osteen. I believe that he was under his father for so long, that he doesn’t know what true, Biblical, expository preaching is. He has never been to college, much less seminary, and so he has not had a chance to experience great men of faith who preach and teach the true purpose of the gospel. If you follow Joel Osteen, take some time and examine the true purpose of the gospel based on historic Christianity.
Joel Osteen is the poster boy for shallow, feel-good, meaningless, powerless, gospel-free Christianity.
To see a sample of some of what Joel Osteen preaches, download the document below. It is a partial sermon from Joel Osteen with my response to it: Osteen Response
- Adam Smith