Monday, April 07, 2008

Ears to Hear

Late last night, while flipping through the T.V. channels, I turned to The Family Channel to watch Joel Osteen's program for a few minutes.

What a crowd he draws! He was on stage, with a huge globe of the world in the background. His podium has the emblem of what looks like a candle and flame. The audience was extremely large. Row upon row of seats completely filled with people. The balconies, seen occasionally through the cameras set up behind Joel, appeared to be far back yet completely filled with people.

What is this man preaching that brings so many people to his shows? Is it the prosperity gospel? Is it religious pluralism? Is it purpose-driven drivel? Is it a new-age kind of "Christianity?" Is it the motivational speaker-preacher type of ministry that "tickles the ears" of the listeners?

Probably all of the above.

The Bible speaks about the importance of having "ears to hear" sixteen times in sixteen verses.

Also, the book of Revelation contains 7 verses that tell the churches to listen to what the Spirit is saying to them!

Through careful study of the Bible, with guidance from the Holy Spirit of God, Christians gain a listening ear to discern whether or not what is being preached in the world today is truly Scripturally sound, or whether it is not Scripturally sound. In this day and age it is imperative to be able to determine the difference between the various false gospels out there and the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ! It is the only way to be certain that we "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

Although I only watched Osteen's show for about 10 minutes, I heard several things that were subtly being proposed to the audience, but were nonetheless disturbing.

He spoke of "imagining" a sum of money being given to his "ministry," and the "miracle" that soon followed was a donor who gave that exact amount of money - "right down to the penny" - as Osteen had put it.

Now, to most people, this would probably not be very alarming or significant. Maybe it really isn't. Who knows? Perhaps the donor already told a ministry worker what he/she was going to donate and Osteen then used that information in his stage show, claiming to have "imagined" it to get his audience excited about his "knowing" powers. But guess what? The Lord God was never mentioned in this effort. It was all Joel's "power of thinking" that brought the "donation" to fruition.

This is a form of new age "channeling." It is a form of sorcery. The Bible condemns any type of witchcraft or sorcery.

Even though Osteen's message was very subtle, he is still guilty of utilizing a method that the Bible warns us never to ever delve into!

Next, Osteen recited a Bible verse from Matthew 17:20. The NLT version of the verse appeared on the T.V. screen.

"You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."

Footnote:Some manuscripts add verse 21, But this kind of demon won't leave unless you have prayed and fasted.

New Living Translation © 1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust

It is important to note several things about this particular verse.

First, let's look at the progression of the meaning from the original KJV, to the NKJV, to the NLT translation.

KJV version:

Mat 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

King James Version 1611, 1769

NKJV version:

So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

NU-Text reads little faith.
New King James Version © 1982 Thomas Nelson

NLT version:

"You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."

Some manuscripts add verse 21, But this kind of demon won't leave unless you have prayed and fasted.
New Living Translation © 1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust

There are several things to notice as the translation goes from the KJV to the NLT.

Notice that the term "unbelief" is changed to "you didn't have enough faith." Therefore, the NLT version is highly inaccurate when compared to the two most trusted versions of the Bible.

When Jesus speaks of "moving mountains," he is using a literary device called "hyperbole" in order to get his point across to the disciples.

It also helps to read the Blue Letter Bible's Scripture Knowledge page.

At that page, you will notice three corresponding verses that give further explanation to the reason why Jesus used hyperbole (i.e. tell the mountain to move and it will move) to get his point across. Also, notice that it is not faith in the person's ability to move that mountain, it is the faith in God - when we pray in His will - that moves the "mountains" in our lives!

Mar 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.

Luk 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luk 18:27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Second, it is important to understand what was happening at the time Jesus said these words. The disciples were attempting to drive out the demons from people afflicted by them. We must consider, were the men trying to do this within their own, human strength and abilities? Or, were they obedient to God, praying and fasting, and having faith in God to do the miracle?

Even the miracle of someone coming to saving faith does not belong to the person(s) who have shared the Gospel with them. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that converts the willing soul to faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians emphasizes this fact:

Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:

Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

When Joel Osteen takes a verse like Matthew 17:20 out of context and uses it to promote his "prosperity gospel," he is guilty of preaching "another gospel." The book of Jude warns us against following anyone who does not "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."

Matthew Henry's Commentary:

2. Christ gives them two reasons why they failed.

(1.) It was because of their unbelief, v. 20. When he spake to the father of the child and to the people, he charged it upon their unbelief; when he spake to his disciples, he charged it upon theirs; for the truth was, there were faults on both sides; but we are more concerned to hear of our own faults than of other people’s, and to impute what is amiss to ourselves than to others. When the preaching of the word seems not to be so successful as sometimes it has been, the people are apt to lay all the fault upon the ministers, and the ministers upon the people; whereas, it is more becoming for each to own his own faultiness, and to say, "It is owing to me.’’ Ministers, in reproving, must learn thus to give to each his portion of the word; and to take people off from judging others, by teaching all to judge themselves; It is because of your unbelief. Though they had faith, yet that faith was weak and ineffectual. Note, [1.] As far as faith falls short of its due strength, vigour, and activity, it may truly be said, "There is unbelief.’’ Many are chargeable with unbelief, who yet are not to be called unbelievers. [2.] It is because of our unbelief, that we bring so little to pass in religion, and so often miscarry, and come short, in that which is good.

Our Lord Jesus takes this occasion to show them the power of faith, that they might not be defective in that, another time, as they were now; If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall do wonders, v. 20. Some make the comparison to refer to the quality of the mustard-seed, which is, when bruised, sharp and penetrating; "If you have an active growing faith, not dead, flat, or insipid, you will not be baffled thus.’’ But it rather refers to the quantity; "If you had but a grain of true faith, though so little that it were like that which is the least of all seeds, you would do wonders.’’ Faith in general is a firm assent to, a compliance with, and a confidence in, all divine revelation. The faith here required, is that which had for its object that particular revelation by which Christ gave his disciples power to work miracles in his name, for the confirmation of the doctrine they preached. It was a faith in this revelation that they were defective in; either doubting the validity of their commission, or fearing that it expired with their first mission, and was not to continue when they were returning to their Master; or that it was some way or other forfeited or withdrawn. Perhaps their Master’s absence with the three chief of his disciples, with a charge to the rest not to follow them, might occasion some doubts concerning their power, or rather the power of the Lord with them, to do this; however, there were not, at present, such a strong actual dependence upon, and confidence in, the promise of Christ’s presence with them, as there should have been. It is good for us to be diffident of ourselves and of our own strength; but it is displeasing to Christ, when we distrust any power derived from him or granted by him.

If ye have ever so little of this faith in sincerity, if ye truly rely upon the powers committed to you, ye shall say to this mountain, Remove. This is a proverbial expression, denoting that which follows, and no more, Nothing shall be impossible to you. They had a full commission, among other things, to cast out devils without exception; but, this devil being more than ordinarily malicious and inveterate, they distrusted the power they had received, and so failed. To convince them of this, Christ shows them what they might have done. Note, An active faith can remove mountains, not of itself, but in the virtue of a divine power engaged by a divine promise, both which faith fastens upon.

Similar to the time when Jesus walked the earth during his three year ministry, this generation could also be rebuked for being a "faithless and perverse generation."

Mat 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

Mat 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Matthew Henry' Commentary:

See here an emblem of Christ’s undertaking as our Redeemer.

(1.) He breaks the power of Satan (v. 18); Jesus rebuked the devil, as one having authority, who could back with force his word of command. Note, Christ’s victories over Satan are obtained by the power of his word, the sword that comes out of his mouth, Rev. 19:21. Satan cannot stand before the rebukes of Christ, though his possession has been ever so long. It is comfortable to those who are wrestling with principalities and powers, that Christ hath spoiled them, Colos. 2:15. The lion of the tribe of Judah will be too hard for the roaring lion that seeks to devour.

(2.) He redresses the grievances of the children of men; The child was cured from that very hour. It was an immediate cure, and a perfect one. This is an encouragement to parents to bring their children to Christ, whose souls are under Satan’s power; he is able to heal them, and as willing as he is able. Not only bring them to Christ by prayer, but bring them to the word of Christ, the ordinary means by which Satan’s strongholds are demolished in the soul. Christ’s rebukes, brought home to the heart, will ruin Satan’s power there.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Joel Osteen is important enough to waste a blog post on. He represents a "fad" religion. If we ignore him, he will go away.

Christinewjc said...

Thousands and thousands of people are not ignoring him! That is the point!

As long as people can be fooled into believing his false gospel, he will make lots of money and have much more time (and venues) to preach his heresy.

The Bible instructs us:

Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

People need to be told the truth when they are steeped in error:

Gal 1:6 ¶ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Gal 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Gal 1:11 ¶ But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

Gal 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Arlen said...

Osteen is dangerous because he’s so personable. But he reminds me of Rev. Ike of the “you can’t lose with the stuff I use” refrain from the 70s.

Amazing to see all those people there, almost like some form of mind control. However, when you see crowds like that it’s easier to understand how a Nazi Germany could result or the scenarios of Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Warren Jeffs or Davis Koresh. Perhaps the only real difference is Osteen’s ability to be mainstream while the others were somewhat “out there.”

I find it interesting that people are so concerned with blatant materialism, giving to get, and amassing wealth. Jesus was arguably the richest person who ever lived (how could He not be – He is God) and He never portrayed the image because He knew it was ultimately unimportant, unlike the question of what will you do with the person of Jesus Christ in your own life?

Your post was very thought provoking and out of those thoughts came this question: A very prominent Baptist Church in the metro-Atlanta area has recently constructed a state of the art sanctuary to the cost of $60,000,000. This “mega-church” seats 7500, has video screens, audio systems, Internet broadcasting capability, and all the bells and whistles for which you could ask, all in the name of providing a “worship experience.” Obviously, the message of giving to help construct the sanctuary was positioned in a thought such as “give and you will be blessed,” which is not exactly like prosperity gospel (you could be blessed in many different forms other than money). Where do you make the distinction between prosperity and being blessed? And at what dollar amount can the construction of such a “house of worship” be construed as excessive?

Thank you Christine,

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Christine, I hardly think listening to Bro. Osteen (and he is a brother) for 10 minutes qualifies you as an expert on what he teaches. Poor research.

I'm not going to begin to write a long defense, but suggest you do your homework before lambasting a brother in Christ. Not one of us will agree on every aspect of the Bible, but to make such a huge leap that he engages in sorcery on the basis of a 10-minute soundbite doesn't cut it.

Christinewjc said...


Are you the "Susan" who has posted here before or a new commenter?

Anyway, I didn't say I was an "expert" about Osteen. However, I have done my own research on him and there are, apparently, many Christian believers who call him a false prophet/teacher.

Perhaps that search engine list of links is too much to look through. If so, then I might recommend Apprising Ministries Archives.

Christinewjc said...


You ask a great questions!

Where do you make the distinction between prosperity and being blessed? And at what dollar amount can the construction of such a “house of worship” be construed as excessive?

I'm not sure if I can adequately answer your first question; but at the end of this comment, I will try to do so.

The "prosperity" charlatans may be "reaping their rewards [here on earth] now" but when they face Christ in eternity it might be a totally different story.

Perhaps the difference depends upon the heart of the believer/teacher/preacher - as perceived by God.

The church that we are currently attending recently moved into a new facility that sounds a lot like the Baptist church you described.

For our family, the fact that Pastor Miles McPherson has - as his goal for his congregation - to share the gospel with the lost and hurting people - and the fact that he does not compromise the Bible and preaches the cross of Christ for salvation; made us feel led to contribute to the fund for the new building.

Here is a link to a video that shows The Rock Church history. (Click on the Arrow where it says "Watch History of The Rock.")

The goal of the church:

The Rock Church is here to lead you into a life-changing and productive relationship with Jesus Christ. We want to equip you to spread God's love, forgiveness, and compassion to the lost and hurting people in San Dego and the rest of the world!

The Mission:

The Rock Church exists to save, equip, and send out soul-winners for Jesus Christ.

The Vision:

The vision of the Rock Church is to be a powerful evangelistic force that engages every segment of society as a motivated army of believers in Jesus Christ. We are wholeheartedly committed to using our gifts anywhere at any time to share the gospel while influencing and transforming our culture. This force will evangelize San Diego and empower other churches to use this ministry model around the world.

Sounds like The Great Commission commandment of Jesus Christ!

This is where the line between the goal of "prosperity" vs. being blessed is drawn - IMHO.

Brad Saunders said...

Hi Christine. I just stumbled across your blog for the first time. I appreciate your comments about Joel Osteen and others who are distorting the Biblical perpective of faith.

That being said, your call for Christian Culture Warriors concerns me greatly. Yes, we need to be aware of false teaching but we are also called to be servants. The last thing this world needs is more warriors. It needs more people who model the servant life of Christ. I encourage you in your study of the scriptures, but do give some consideration before becoming just another voice trying to holler above the rest of the crowd.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Brad,

Thanks for "stumbling" by. It is good that you recognize that Joel Osteen (and others, as you admitted) are distorting the "biblical perspective of faith."

I would go even further.

They are, in fact, keeping people from salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ and thus, out of the kingdom of God. I do not think that this is a minor issue.

I think that Christians can be both culture warriors and servants. IMO, the world desperately NEEDS more warriors for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We aren't called to only serve other people. We are called to serve the Lord - in whatever capacity He calls us to serve Him.

He has given me this opportunity to share the Good News - which also includes first sharing the bad news that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

The first words spoken by Jesus when he started his earthly ministry are recorded in these verses:

Mat 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Should we not model Jesus with respect to that message too?

Mark said...

Osteen teaches the exact opposite of what the gospels teach:

-Success over repentance
-The best is here and now over the best is yet to come
-Blessings await you for coming to Christ over you will be persecuted coming to Christ

thus he is anti-Christ, not a brother.

Mark said...

ya know, think of it this way - if your message cannot be given to a person in chains, starving to death, days from death - it is not God's message. I hardly think Your Best Life Now! message preaches to the hurting world, no?