This week, over 10 million people from around the world will sit under the ministry of Joel Osteen. Thousands will be in attendance in Houston, Texas during one of their weekend services. Millions will watch through Internet and television broadcasts. Recently, Joel Osteen appeared on the Stephen Colbert show to promote his latest book titled, The Power of I Am where he basically points people to the power of positive thinking rather than the power of God. You can view the short interview below.
In the interview with Colbert, Osteen was asked if he has any desire to form a religious denomination. He denied any desire to form an official denomination, but if the truth were known, more people watch Osteen each weekend than are professing members of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC). In 2014, the membership of the TEC was 1,504,273 communicant members and 1,956,042 baptized members.
In this interview with Colbert, Osteen was handed another opportunity to speak for God and to articulate the gospel, and he fumbled the ball – again. If this were a game, Joel Osteen would need to be planted on the bench long before now. However, this is by no means a game. This is much more serious, and souls are at stake.
In this short clip from The Late Show, Joel Osteen misinterpreted the I AM statement of God from Exodus 3:14. Osteen claimed that the statement means that God is everything, completely missing the point of God’s name. Beyond that, Osteen went on to describe his “Word of Faith” theology on how he believes that there is actual power in the words that we speak. What he means by this is far more than the impact the words may have upon a person (good or bad). He embraces a specific theological position known as the Word of Faith movement whereby spoken words have creative power. Every word is a pronouncement of blessing or curse.
If there was a group known as Osteenians, their belief system would be centered on the power of positive thinking, speaking, and pronouncing. This theological system is filled with many classic errors dating back to Balaam in Numbers 22. There have been different feathers of this type of prosperity teacher surface through time, such as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8) and other false teachers of the New Testament. The Word of Faith theology of Joel Osteen is heretical because it misses the gospel. It under values the good news of salvation. The Word of Faith movement reduces the work of Jesus on the cross down to a prosperity ticket whereby the chief end of man is to glorify self and enjoy our toys for a temporary life.
Really, this is nothing new from Joel Osteen. He isn’t charting new territory in his spiritual journey. He said very similar things in his book titled, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day where he writes the following:
One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. It says in Isaiah that “We will eat the fruit of our words.” That’s amazing when you stop to consider that truth: Our words tend to produce what we’re saying…Every day we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.” When we do that, we are building up our self-image. As those words permeate your heart and mind, and especially your subconscious mind, eventually they will begin to change the way you see yourself. The Scripture says “With our tongue, we can either bless our life or we can curse our life.” Some individuals curse their own future by saying things such as “I don’t have what it takes. I’m so clumsy I can’t get anything right. I’m so undisciplined. I’ll probably never lose this weight.” We must be extremely careful what we allow out of our mouth. Our words set the direction for our lives. 
Joel Osteen would fit much better within the realm of secular self-esteem and self-help psychology, rather than masquerading as a pastor who shepherds souls for the glory of God. I realize that many Osteen fans become angry with statements like that, but time and again Joel Osteen blows it when it comes to theology. How many times will you take your car to a mechanic who consistently makes errors in repairs? As a skill and profession, the mechanic should take seriously his ability to diagnose and repair your automobile. What about heart surgery? How many times will you allow an incompetent heart surgeon to repair heart valves in your aging parent or spouse? Why should we give pastors a free pass when it comes to incompetence in the study of God’s Word? Souls are at stake.
As Joel Osteen states in his interview with Colbert, his message is “a little bit different.” At this point, Joel Osteen speaks the truth. But, in his attempt to state the truth, he understates it. His message is far from the biblical teachings of Christianity. He doesn’t want to focus on the negative. Instead, he wants to tell people that “God is for you.” Should pastors consistently tell every person that God is for them? How will a person be brought to repentance without first hearing that God is their enemy (James 4:4)? Was God for Pharaoh? Was God for the Ninevites? Was God for Goliath? What about Saul of Tarsus? Was God for Saul or in opposition to Saul as he made his way toward Damascus (Acts 9)?
In short, Joel Osteen is a heretic. He is a wolf who comes with a smile, but behind that smile and southern accent lurks a deadly bite of soul damning heresy. Joel Osteen has been afforded many different platforms to preach the truth, but he consistently demonstrates a woefully deficient knowledge of theology, sin, salvation, and God’s purpose in redemption. At the end of each interview I watch with Osteen, I end by asking myself all over again – does Joel Osteen know the gospel? A.W. Pink wrote the following about false teachers:
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. 
If you know people who are consistently sitting under the teaching ministry of Joel Osteen (on campus, online, or through his books), you must sound the warning. Many have debated whether or not Osteen is a wolf or merely a confused megachurch pastor and successful author. I think by now we can accurately say that Joel Osteen is no accident. His success is calculated and his message is heretical.
Beware of Joel Osteen.
Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, (Brentwood, TN: Howard Books, 2009), 109-110.
Arthur Waddington Pink, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 344.
Yesterday morning, I preached from Mark 10:46-52, a text that covers the healing miracle of blind Bartimaeus. If we’re not careful, we will read too swiftly through the text and miss the greater miracle. Not only did Bartimaeus receive physical sight, he likewise received spiritual sight. If you read the story, it’s apparent that before Bartimaeus could see with his physical eyes, he was already able to see with his spiritual eyes. This is indeed the greater miracle in the story.
Imagine Bartimaeus’ life challenges. As a blind man in Jericho in Jesus’ day, he would not have had the technology, education, tools, and other helps that seeing impaired persons enjoy in our present culture. Therefore, he was relegated to the roadside where he was forced to live as a beggar. With no ability to provide for himself and to hold down a job, Bartimaeus was a poor man who had no choice but to cry out for the mercy of people who passed by.
Socially, Bartimaeus would have been an outcast. He would have been considered unclean and unable to worship and socialize with people in his town. Consider the immense challenges facing Bartimaeus physically, and then on top of that, consider the fact that he was also spiritually blind. This is a doubly blind man sitting on the side of the road in Jericho who needed more than mercy from those who passed by on the roads of Jericho, he needed the mercy of God.
At some point, Bartimaeus must have heard the story of Jesus’ healing power. Perhaps as he sat on the roadside, like sitting in a barber shop or beauty salon, he picked up pieces of information about this man named Jesus from Nazareth who performed great miracles. Nearby in Bethany, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Imagine as people passed through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem bubbling over with excitement about what had just occurred. Over time, Bartimaeus perhaps would hear people discussing Jesus’ theology and claim to be the Messiah. Bartimaeus perhaps was building his knowledge base and theology of Jesus while picking up pieces of information day by day.
One day, Bartimaeus and his blind friend went to sit at their typical spot to plead for money. It seemed like a normal day to these men, but then suddenly the streets filled with excitement. They could hear people rushing by with a fast pace. They could hear people calling out to one another. We aren’t told how he came to know, but perhaps someone told Bartimaeus that the excitement was because Jesus of Nazareth was passing through Jericho.
At this moment, Bartimaeus was determined to gain Jesus’ attention. He called out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was shocking to say the least. Bartimaeus didn’t refer to Jesus as the man from Nazareth. He called out to Jesus by giving Him a Messianic title – “Son of David.” In other words, Bartimaeus was saying that Jesus is the promised Son of David from 2 Samuel 7. The people rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be silent, but his cry out to Jesus became more intense. Matthew recalls Bartimaeus as saying, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The point was clear – Bartimaeus was blind physically, but he had better spiritual sight than many on the road that day.
At once, Jesus stopped and called for Bartimaeus and asked what he wanted. The blind beggar requested to have his eyesight restored. Jesus responded and said, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” This phrase is packed with theology. First, Jesus emphasizes the man’s faith. How did Bartimaeus receive faith? It was a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Apparently while sitting on the roadside he was regenerated by God and given faith to believe. The word Jesus used for “made well” is a Greek word, “σῴζω” – literally – saved. The point is clear – by faith Bartimaeus received the miracle of grace and physical eyesight.
The entire story is a fitting picture of the new birth. Consider John Newton’s words in his famous hymn, Amazing Grace, describing the story of salvation, he writes:
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
How do we know that Bartimaeus was saved? Jesus tells us. However, we see the evidence in Mark 10:52. After he received his sight, he didn’t go off to do his own thing. The text tells us that he immediately started following Jesus. In Luke’s account of this event, we have a better picture of Bartimaeus following Jesus and glorifying God (Luke 18:43).
Do you recall the day Jesus changed your life?
Do people see you following Christ and glorifying God today?
Consider the fact that our salvation is truly amazing grace.
The ditches of doubt are often deep and painful. When a person falls into one of those ditches, it often takes a great deal of time and work to climb back out onto the road of peace. How does one fall into the these troublesome ditches? Sometimes it happens as a result of open and rebellious sin and guilt that follows. At other times it comes as a surprise, much like a sudden automobile accident. Perhaps it’s the result of dwelling on past sins. Below are several things to consider when you find yourself in the deep ditch of doubt.
Remember: The Devil Enjoys Leading People Into Doubt
In Revelation 12:10, we see that Satan is referred to as the “accuser of our brothers.” He is the one who enjoys making accusations against you and his primary target is centered upon the children of God. According to John 8:44, Satan is not trustworthy. This verse states, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Have you found yourself discouraged as you slipped down into the bowels of doubt? As you doubt the genuineness of your salvation, you drop lower and deeper into doubt. Perhaps you doubt that God cares for you as you go through difficult circumstances in your life. In the midst of your despair, you question the ability of God to forgive you and restore you. In such moments of grief, you’re left exposed to the attacks of Satan who is a master deceiver and discourager.
Remember: God is Faithful
Examining yourself to see if you’re in the faith is not a bad thing, but to constantly doubt your salvation is not what God intends for His children. In moments of deep doubt, think upon the goodness and faithfulness of God. Is God faithful? Has God ever failed – even one time? Consider David as he was running from Saul in the mountains. Was God faithful to him? Did God keep His promise? Deuteronomy 7:9 states, “Know therefore that the Lord your GodisGod, the faithfulGod who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”
Remember: You Must Draw Near to God
When you find yourself in a ditch of doubt, you must try to consider what caused you to fall into that deep and painful ditch. Was it a sinful mistake that caused you to fall prey to the schemes and attacks of Satan? In your post-sin state, do you feel exposed, sinful, and cut off from God? You must remember that God is faithful. According to Romans 5:20, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
As you recall the promises of God, you can draw near to God and He will draw near to you. If sin was the cause of your doubts, you need to repent as you draw near to God. God is faithful to forgive you, but you must take action regarding your sin. As God draws near to us – He provides us that peace and assurance that’s necessary to be productive Christians in this world of darkness.
In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a scene in that story is always a great encouragement to me. It’s where Hopeful and Christian walked off of the path and found themselves captured by the Giant Despair. They were imprisoned in the Dungeon of Doubting Castle. In this dungeon, they experienced great beatings and near death circumstances. They were discouraged. And then, suddenly, a great discovery was made by Christian:
What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and hopeful immediately came out.
We must remember to hide God’s promises in our hearts so that if we find ourselves in a deep ditch of doubt, or as in Bunyan’s story, the Dungeon of Doubting Castle, we will have a key to the door and it will allow us to escape.
Don’t remain in the ditches of doubt. God is faithful. God is enough.
Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
“At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution.” – R.C. Sproul
“Is the Reformation Over?” September 2009, Tabletalk, p. 7.
Should I talk to my dead relative? This is a common question that I hear as a pastor. Death is often a very difficult finality in this life. We’re faced with the reality that we will not see our loved one again on this side of eternity. The moment of last words, good-byes, and that final embrace is often extremely painful. As a pastor, I’ve stood beside many caskets as family and friends passed by the body of their loved one for the final time. I’ve watched Christians endure their final moments with great assurance. I have also watched unbelievers lunge into the casket and pull the body upwards in one last outburst of grief. Death is a painful enemy to endure.
After the funeral ends and you return to your loved one’s grave site, should you talk to your dead relative? Will your father or mother hear you when you speak to them? Is it possible to consult with the dead who are already in eternity? While it may be tempting to try to reconcile with a relative or pay respect to a close friend by communicating with him, it’s actually unbiblical and a practice that you should refrain from engaging in. Consider the following reasons why you should not talk to the dead.
People are not Omnipresent
God is able to hear the prayers of the entire world’s population at once. How is this possible? God is not limited by geographic location. In fact, God is not limited by anything. God is in the presence of people in Zambia and Iowa at the same exact time. That same attribute of God is not transferable to people. When people die, they still retain certain limitations. In other words, a person cannot be on earth and in heaven at the same time. When a person dies and goes to heaven, they are unable to hear conversations that you may desire for them to hear as you stand over their grave or lie in your bed in the late hours of the night.
Demons are Deceitful
As a boy, I recall going to a friend’s home where he had a ouija board. I had never had any exposure to something like this, so naturally I was skeptical and intrigued at the same time. My friend made several attempts to get a response from a dead relative. When I told my father about this, he schooled me on how this was not unbiblical. I still recall him saying that it’s possible to get a response, but it wouldn’t be from his relative – it would be from a demon.
As we know, the devil is called the father of lies (John 8:44). As the deceiver of this world, we can rest assured that when people seek to channel spirits and communicate with the dead, a response will often come, but it will not be from their friend or relative. Demonic spirits are alive and have a strong presence in this world. It would be wise to refrain from such practices.
God’s Word Forbids the Practice of Talking to the Dead
All throughout the Bible, we see clear warnings issued to God’s people about consulting mediums and talking to the dead. Consider Leviticus 20:5-7, the Law of God opposed such practices and clearly warned the people to pursue holiness. God’s people were to be set apart from the rest of the world. Once again, in Deuteronomy 18:10-14, the people of God were commanded to abstain from sorcery and all such practices.
In the New Testament, we are encouraged to test the spirits because not every spirit is from God (1 John 4:1). We must be alert and on guard when it comes to the spirit realm. God desires for His people to pray and communicate with Him, but to pray to a dead relative, friend, or as some suggest – a saint – is forbidden in Scripture. No person has greater access to God than Jesus Christ and He alone is our mediator between us and God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5).
Although death may seem overwhelming and can create great loneliness, we are encouraged to seek comfort and peace in God alone. We should direct our prayers and concerns to Him. If you are tempted to talk to your dead relative or friend, just remember, if your loved one was a Christian, you will see this person again if you too are a child of God. Death will not separate God’s children. Death has been defeated. Find your hope and your ultimate healing by communicating with God rather than your loved one who has passed away.
Isaiah 8:19-20 – And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.