Joel Osteen recently tweeted:
Translation: when life’s hard, look to yourself and not to God.
What Gospel is He Preaching?
What a thing for a preacher of the gospel to tweet. Then again, I guess it all depends on what gospel you preach. The one in the Bible is about Jesus, not about us and our accomplishments. I tweeted Mr. Osteen:
Focus on my accomplishments? No, Joel, I’d rather focus on Christ. That’s what the Bible says to do, you know.
He never got back to me, although he did interact with others who responded to his tweet after I did. But just in case he makes his way to my little blog, let me explain about the gospel that puts our focus on Jesus.
- Jesus is the one who created and completes our faith, and we get out from under our sins and burdens by turning our eyes upon him. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)
- Jesus is the one who rescues us from our troubles and it is for his own glory, not ours. (Jude 24-25.)
- Jesus is the one who is to receive glory in all we do, including our good times. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)
- Jesus is the one who said focusing on our own accomplishments is foolishness. (Luke 12:16-21.)
In these passages and throughout the Bible, no one ever tells God’s people that the way to feel better about yourself is to focus on your own accomplishments. We are always told to focus on God, even when times are hard:
My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. (Psalm 24:15.)
You’ll never find a Bible passage saying that when times are hard you should keep your eyes “ever on yourself” in order to release yourself from any snares.
So in telling you to focus on your own accomplishments, Mr. Osteen preaches something that not only is not in the Bible but directly opposes the word of God.
The Idolatry of the Feel-Good Gospel
Focusing on your own accomplishments is idolatry because it replaces Jesus with yourself. It’s actually a type of greed, a greed for accomplishments that will help us feel emotionally secure, a greed that is just as harmful as greed for material possessions in pursuit of physical security.
Such greed is idolatry, of course, and I would have thought Mr. Osteen knew this already. (Colossians 3:5.) But perhaps he doesn’t, and in his ignorance he writes nonsense like the tweet I quoted above.
So if Mr. Osteen or anyone else tells you the way to feel better about yourself is to look at your own accomplishments, you can introduce them to the gospel of Jesus Christ and assure them that there is something better than teaching idolatry to their followers: they can teach Christ instead.
I hope Mr. Osteen starts doing so. For his sake and for the sake of the 2.44 million people that follow him on Twitter.
And even more so, I hope he does it for the sake of Jesus.