‘Do Good for Your Own Self’: Osteen Says Obedience, Worship ‘Not for God’ [Video]

joelandvictoriaosteenA recently recorded video is circulating online of Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch speaker and author Joel Osteen, calling on congregants at Lakewood Church to ‘do good for your own self’ because obedience, the church and worship are not for God as much as for self-happiness.

“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy,” she declares in the undated 36-second clip with her husband standing by her side and nodding. “That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…”

“So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy,” Osteen continues. “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

Osteen is the author of the book Love Your Life, and is “co-pastor” of Lakewood in Houston, Texas. Her husband Joel is known for his motivational speeches and his books Your Best Life Now and It’s Your Time.

Steve Camp, pastor of The Cross Church in Palm City, Florida and former singer/songwriter, told Christian News Network that he viewed the video on Wednesday, and while saddened, he was not surprised at her remarks. He stated that Osteen’s statements were humanistic in nature and antithetical to Scripture.

“It’s the age old sin of idolatry—that it’s not about God, it’s about us,” he explained. “True worship for the humanist is about how we feel at the end of the day and what gives us meaning, as opposed to what gives God glory.”

“When we come to see men happy rather than God glorified, it’s not worship, it’s idolatry,” Camp stated, reading from Psalm 115:1, which states, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”

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He said that Osteen’s words were essentially blasphemous because they disregard God’s holiness and the way that He is to be worshiped.

“She honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy,” Camp lamented. “She honestly believes that worship is about our fulfillment rather than His glory. That’s the bottom issue here.”

But he outlined that Scripture commands man to be selflessly abandon themselves to Christ and to not worry about their own lives.

“1 Corinthians so clearly says that whether we eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God. It’s not just self,” Camp stated. “Jesus said … in Matthew 16, ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.'”


He also pointed to Acts 20:24, which reads, “[N]either count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

“The Osteens have just inverted that. They think it’s not the denial of self, but the exaltation of self,” Camp lamented. “They’re not trying to pursue a cross; they’re trying to pursue prosperity. And they’re certainly not following the biblical Jesus; they’re following whatever brings happiness and contentment.”

When asked about the dangers of “me-centered” church, Camp outlined numerous concerns. He explained that besides such congregations not being a real church to begin with, “me-centered” churches are based on pragmatism over Scripture, the pleasure of men over the glory of God, and are more concerned with being liked than being truthful. In doing so, such assemblies thrust the Lord of the Church outside of the Church as in Laodicea, as  Christ declared, “[T]hou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,’ and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

“The gospel is always counter-cultural. It always runs against that with which man wants to be satisfied and pleased with,” Camp explained. “The me-centered church is about what’s temporal rather than eternal. … The end of worship in a me-centered church has to be money, has to be fame, has to be the pragmatics of temporal culture. Therefore, it won’t do anything to offend a culture.”

“What’s the chief end of man? To bring glory to God and enjoy him forever,” he stated, quoting from Thomas Watson. “I think that’s the thing that’s been lost in our culture.”

Camp, who has spoken with Joel Osteen in the past, and has urged him to speak boldly about Christ instead of worrying about public opinion, said that if he were to encourage Victoria—whom he noted should not be serving as “co-pastor” in the first place—he would call upon her to repent.

“Repent of this self-oriented, feel good gospel you’ve embraced, and don’t let your life be of any value to you or precious to yourself,” he said. “The chief concern in this life is not us. The chief concern is that we bring glory to God, that we further His gospel, and that we testify of His grace. We’re here to do his bidding.”

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  • https://www.facebook.com/ItsMeAgainLord Carolyn Longhenry Cochrun

    I have always been against the feel good prosperity gospel that so many preach today. If we are wealthy we are to give it all to the poor and follow Jesus not keep it and live like kings and queens. These preachers that don’t want to offend anyone are making a huge mistake by being this way. They will be the ones He says “depart from me I never knew you” in the end. They can’t see that this world is where we get ready for eternity. If we can give up ourselves here and now we can have peace and be with Jesus for ever. I don’t understand why they want to do it opposite of what God tells us in His word. I pray for these preachers to repent and do it God’s way. That’s the only way that will take you to heaven. The people that sit in these churches week after week must never read their bibles or they’d know this is wrong. Read for yourself what God’s word says and don’t count on another human to take you to heaven. Doing it God’s way is the only way to get to heaven. Wake up people before it’s too late for you.

    • Janice Goering

      Amen you nailed it!

  • Nancy Jo

    Victoria Osteen needs to sit down and let the pastor preach.

    • Jason

      The “pastor” in this case isn’t much better. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read of the Osteen’s they both need to sit down and be discipled by someone who puts Christ first. By someone who takes the full message of the Bible seriously. By someone who isn’t trying to make themselves happy – but are trying to make Jesus smile.

  • Rob

    We’re not doing it for God, she says?

    1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

    And women are not supposed to be pastors.

    1 Corinthians 14:34-35 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

    And in case someone think’s that means they are to be doormats to their husbands:

    Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”

    • Susan Novak

      Rob, go back read again Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In it, he lists many women who were leaders (deacons, teachers, and, gasp, even preachers of the Word) in the early church. Do you honestly mean that God would gift me with ability to teach and preach if He didn’t want me to use those gifts simply because I’m a woman? What glory would that bring Him? God gives us all the gifts and talents we need to fulfill the purpose He has for us while we here on Earth, regardless of our gender.

      • PuritanD71

        Susan, you may need to reread Ephesians again. God may gift you as He desires. Yet, He wants you to use those gifts within the boundaries that He has clearly delineated in Scripture.

      • Mike

        You are sadly mistaken…Paul does no such thing…God will not “call you” to do anything that contradicts His word which prohibits women from being in positions of authority over a man…Victoria Osteen is exhibit A of why women should not try to usurp authority where God said NO!

      • Nieman

        While I understand your sincere desire to defend women in using their talents and spiritual gifts in Christian ministry and I appreciate your noting the fact that many women in the early Church played very prominent roles, including prophecy; yet, God is a God of decency and order and while there are many, many places for Christian service by women and I dare say they are by numbers often more faithful and obedient to God than a majority of men, it is a matter of them not having spiritual authority over men in matters of the Word, knowing God has set men over the family and that they must have His authority there to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and to provide for and protect their wives. The last very offensive to women in our modern post feminist age.

        Let us look to the Spirit in such matters, knowing that those vessels that seem to have the least honor, will have greater honor before God in time and eternity and the greatest gift to women is serve humbly now, to be elevated by the Lord in due time. It does not dishonor women to say they may not be pastors or to have spiritual authority over men, nor does it make men superior to them, each serves in their own place, each answering to God when they err and fall short of His glory and each receiving His blessings for honorable service.

  • Loretta

    “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Heb. 13:15.
    Praising and worshiping God has nothing to do with ourselves. It is totally and completely meant to be sacrificial. We are to offer up our sacrifices, which is praise and worship, and let it be a sweet aroma that is pleasing to the Lord. The Bible doesn’t say anything about God’s goal being to make us happy. If you are reading these comments and are tempted to fall into the “feel good church”, please please don’t. Following the Lord does bring happiness, and joy, and peace, and a completely changed life, but happiness is not his goal for you, He loves you way too much to only want happiness for you. However, He also requires obedience and sacrifice and a relationship. It’s a two way street with Him. So please steer clear of the leaders who encourage you to think of ways to make yourself happy, rather than ways to please the Lord!

  • Nieman

    I am among the first to condemn the prosperity Gospel preached by people like Osteen and I believe he is a very dangerous man, a false prophet leading people astray. Like so many he tickles the ears of his followers, he offers no condemnation of sin which separate souls from God and while he may gain many followers and riches, are they converted by his teachings, or actually led away from Christ?

    However, think about this for a moment, is God incomplete and has He a frail ego that needs stroking by worship? The truth is IMO, from decades of Biblical study that, thanksgiving, praise and worship was designed by God not to salve his short comings, He is perfect and as a Divine Trinity, he is complete in Himself. No, when we thank God, we are reminded of His loving kindness and tender mercies in our lives and our faith is increased thereby, drawing us closer to Himself. In Worship we are drawn into deep intimate communion with God, seeing His wondrous glory inhabiting our praises, we rise above the things of this world and thereby we walk in heavenly realms.

    No, worship is not designed to elevate us as being gods, it is not designed for temporal gain, in fact true worship draws us away from things/self and into the Spirit of God. So, if worship displaces the concerns of this world, if it make us acutely aware of our short comings, of how small we are in comparison to God, of how little we deserve His Love and Grace and it gets our souls to focus upon Him, taking us out of this world into the Spirit, please tell me why it is so hard to believe and understand that indeed God did design worship for our blessing, that we might thereby have more and more intimate communion with Him; and if we realize He does not need our praise, but such praise blesses us in the Spirit, why is that an evil thing?

    • http://primordialslack.com Joan of Argghh!

      Moreover, unless she made other remarks than the ones printed above, I see no gross heresy, no elevating of man to worship himself, no call to self-gratification in a fleshly fashion, no call to prosperity except of the soul and spirit. Perhaps if she admonished, “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly” we would disdain the precursor to that scripture because it speaks of what is good for us?

      Why do we bite and devour and pull down our childish brethren as heretics? The Osteens are another Man’s servant. They are nothing to me, I follow Christ. And Christ won’t snuff a smoldering wick. Think about that! How useless is a smoldering candle? It gives no light and merely fogs the room. Which may or may not describe the Osteen ministry.

      Be careful, oh brethren, to be brethren and not enemies.

  • tara

    They are more motivational speakers than anything else..I went to their church once and other than the singing not much was even actually spoken about God

    • Janice

      I believe this more than 100% They only are capable of talking pretty talk & nothing more & so many fall at their lying feet & how dumb & blind can they be ? Take away their MILLIONS (green paper stuff) & they will RUN for the hills !

  • http://christiannews.net Tammy

    I realize we are all human and have needs. But there is no Greater need in life than God. I know that Victoria needs to praise God for what she has. and yes I agree with the other person. she needs to repent. Christ will come back and take all the believers with him. I will Pray for her and her family

  • http://primordialslack.com Joan of Argghh!

    I’m no fan of the Osteens and I do think the so-called “prosperity Gospel” only has traction in a prosperous, free nation…which should alert the believer to the fact that Truth has to be True wherever it is preached.

    However, her comments are milquetoast pabulum, for babies, sure, but not heretical. She’s in the same ballpark as God when He says He doesn’t need our burnt offerings or fastings. He declares that if He were hungry He wouldn’t tell us. We, however, do NEED to worship God, for all kinds of reasons, and chiefly because He is God. Nothing does our soul more good than to keep our eyes on Him.

    Why do we tout the Scripture that exhorts, “give and it shall be given back to you” if we don’t believe that God intends to reinforce in us the idea that the good we do ultimately benefits us, as well those to whom we render it?

    Steve Camp needs a bit of restraint, lest he cause little ones to stumble in their fledgling faith. Is it ridiculously shallow? Yes. He would do well not to despise it, but invite others further into the conversation about growing up into the full stature of Christ.

  • Maria

    It’s all in the interpretation. What she may be saying is that God is self sufficient and doesn’t necessarily “need” us to do His bidding or His will and that when we do obey Him, we are blessed. Obedience brings the greatest blessing to the one who obeys. God is awesome and doesn’t need anything or anyone – we need Him. I’m not defending her and I still disagree with how she presented it since it does lead those who’s hearts haven’t grasped that yet to erroneously believe that God’s primary concern is our happiness.

    • http://christiannews.net/2014/08/28/do-good-for-your-own-self-osteen-says-obedience-worship-not-for-god-video/ ma aniceta manette reinoso

      i agree maria.see my similar comment

  • Bruce

    I think the first step for most of you, according to your posts, is to go back to your Bible and study. You are calling this man a false profit and he is not a profit to begin with. He is a Pastor. Pretty hard to be a “false” anything if you are not one to begin with. Second, to sit in judgement of someone else without knowing the heart of these pastors is pretty dangerous. You could sit in any church on any given day and hear something you may or may not agree with. You could sit in any church on any given day and hear something that may not be supported, in your opinion, by scripture. There are clear steps outlined in Gods word to identify a false Profit. If this Pastor was claiming to be a Profit, I don’t think any of you had the time to go through those 4 steps before condemning these Pastors.

    • Nieman

      The word is prophet, not profit.

      Every minister of the Gospel, every Christian is a prophet in the sense of declaring forth God’s Word and each can be false when suffering error.

      Be careful in defending the Osteen’s, only defend His Word, all else is error and dangerous.

      Lastly, we are all to judge the Word correctly by the Spirit and if any man distorts or errs in the Word, in love we are to bring correction.

    • Tim Horton

      Jesus warned us to beware of false prophets and priests. If any man preaches or teaches His word in error, he or she is a liar and there is “NO” truth in them. This is how I understand we are to judge and determine who is teaching and preaching the truth. Judging does not mean implementing penalty or condemnation. God and god alone implements His Judgement from the beginning until the last day.

      Jeremiah 5:31
      The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

  • Not A Sheep


  • Vonnie

    Wow, Steve Camp! That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time! I think I still have a cassette of his music from the 80s somewhere. Anyway.

    I first learned about this video on YouTube where someone had added an old Cosby Show clip where Bill says “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!” I agree. I posted a reply that said I would like to see Queen Victoria go to Iraq and say those exact same words to Christians hiding in the desert from ISIS who have seen them behead their family members. Tell THEM that serving God is all about doing it for yourself. Tell THEM God is happy when we’re happy because those people aren’t doing a very good job of making God happy right now what with all their mourning and dying of thirst and hunger in the desert.

    Literally, I want to see her go to Iraq (or Syria or North Korea) and say this stuff.

  • Pertrisia

    I agree with the pastor of The Cross Church in Palm City, FL. 100 percent! How can one worship God if they’re in it for SELF and what SELF wants. They both best wake up and smell the roses! before it’s TOO LATE!

  • larry jacobskind

    For anyone to like or agree with the original poster is simply ridiculous. These people are not profits, they are pastors, and while she may have misspoke, I have been following them for years, and they always encourage people to get into a bible based church. All of negative comments, who are you to judge or falsify their convictions? your without sin? I laugh. I see many of these folks following catholic, christian leaders that have committed adultry, stole money from the poor, oh, and that’s better becuase they preach bible based church. Get a life people, organized religion in and of itself is a farse, it takes two to share the word, not millions.

  • Lisa

    The narrow road for all christians is “Love” and some of these comments are not loving.
    A 36 second clip can’t prove that what she said and meant is “false teaching”. It is like taking one scripture out of context and not reading the verses before or after the one verse. Guys, read the bible and you will see God wants you blessed and prosperous so you can pay your bills AND have left over to give to others! This “poor christian” mentality is not biblical. It is like “us four and no more” That is the selfish gospel. Having just your needs met, but not enough to help others. Stop judging, and worry about your own lives and walk with God.

  • http://christiannews.net/2014/08/28/do-good-for-your-own-self-osteen-says-obedience-worship-not-for-god-video/ ma aniceta manette reinoso

    what she meant i believe is in this context: the only way we can please GOD is by way of faith in the SON of GOD. when we obey GOD, it redounds to many people benefiting from our obedience, thus causing many hearts to be happy, including us. because if we obey GOD from a motive of works, it really does not please GOD. JESUS finished that on calvary. we cant go back to works where now we have obtained grace

  • AP

    What they and the people that support them most is our prayer and not criticism. The same as we would for anyone that is lost

  • Steve

    He who is without sin, cast the first stone. Give the lady a break she’s trying to lift people out of the dumps. Go heckle the ones that are chopping of heads and hanging kids on crosses!
    For real, get a life!

  • Think for yourself!

    God is everywhere right? Therefore God is everything correct? If these two statements are considered truth then are we God too? So if we try to make ourselfs happy are we not making God happy?

    The ONLY way to God is by accepting Jesus Christ as our savior? Really? So all the people that don’t accept Jesus or even know who the guy was will never experience God? Well that’s what the book and my grandma said so it must be true right?

    Think and FEEL for yourself! Don’t let anyone tell you what to believe in even if it’s been said for thousands of years.

  • Nicholas

    It is true that God wants us to be happy, however we do things to glorify God, not ourselves, we should do everything we do for God, and make God the centre of our life.

    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3 vs’s 23-24

    It is the Lord that you need to be doing good works for, however it is faith by which you will be saved! They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Acts 16 vs 31

  • amy franks

    I believe that our father God takes great pride in us (his children) when we worship and obey him. Obedience is most definetely for our own good. What better testimony than that of a Christian who has a happy and fulfilled life as a result of continued obedience to Christ’s teaching. God is glorified when we are blessed.

  • naldz

    Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life John 12:25

  • daniel macaray jr

    Stop argument, we have singular enemy the devil, our duty is to preach the gospel. Do not hit our co pastor! Let us support him “joel”.

  • Tim Horton

    Victoria Osteen states she is standing by her point! I am glad to hear that because her point tells me that she has never studied nor understands the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible provides rock solid prophecy and historical proof that the Bible was all about salvation and our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ. I will also take it twenty steps further to state that Joel Osteen may know one or two more scriptures than His wife but even at that 99.9% of his so called knowledge of scripture is wrong and in error. Now, this is speculation but I would assume that since Mr. Osteen very seldom sticks with anything in scripture that might expose him for his lack of knowledge of scripture, he most likely has ghost writers for his positive thinking and prosperity writings then hires more to review and edit out anything of real scriptural meaning in his books. So for the Osteens and any other self proclaimed Ministers, Pastors, Prophets or Prosperity Preachers here are some words and verses for you from the only reliable source Christians should ever trust: The Holy Bible;
    “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.” Jeremiah 23:30
    Jeremiah 5:30-31
    King James Version (KJV)
    30 A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;
    31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
    Romans 14:12
    King James Version (KJV)
    12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
    1 Peter 4:4-5
    King James Version (KJV)
    4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
    5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
    1 Peter 5:1-4
    King James Version (KJV)
    5 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
    2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
    4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    Matthew 12:36
    King James Version
    (KJV)36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment

    If you are a Bible believing Christian get out of those houses of Babylon and Wo to those that teach and preach error as God’s Holy Word! If anyone doesn’t like what I have written here please don’t get angry with me. Take it up with Jesus! My responsibility is to share the truth until He returns. Like it or not, the truth us the truth, He is the Living Word…Amen

  • Jane Fairchild

    Then give this message out to our fellow Christian Believers living in areas / nations as Iraq… This is NOT OF GOD at all but is SELF MESSAGE TALK to feel good and tickle us behind the ears… So very wrong ….. This is WHY – I do not watch TV EVANGELISTS at all… as they often will come on the air and say things as ‘Send me $1000 and be blessed of God today’… CHEAP MESSAGE with no value of GOD at all…

  • livefreeordie4

    The Osteen’s preaching frequently run counter to what Jesus taught. They are just a slicker version of Tammy Fae and Jim. That makes them far more deceptive to a crowd of notoriously naive thinkers. One should not use Christianity to describe them. Just as Mormons believing in more than one god even if they say they worship only the Christian god should be described as Christians.

  • Adele Roberson

    A neighbor of mine asked me to accompany her to hear the Osteens brainwashing “sermons” a short time after they took over the very large Compact Center in Houston. When Barbie Doll Victoria Osteen spoke she talked to the “ladies” ….most of her speech was telling them “how to keep their husbands happy”. She obviously plagiarized most of the 1950’s. Good Housekeeping magazines. She then told “the ladies” they needed always to keep active their Victoria Secret account. Then she continued for a half hour telling them why. Talk about bizarre!

  • Daisy

    Unfortunately the “Me Church” model is being copied by many Christian churches these days. I belong to a charismatic church where the pastor does preach the gospel and espouses sound doctrine. The “weakness” comes from the pastor’s wife who is now our Music Director and Women’s Ministry Director. She is a very talented musician and she has a decent voice. The problem is that she only lets other people in her praise band that compliment HER VOICE! Then, they are seldom given their own solo, but are expected to serve as a back-up singer. The music is also very loud (insert Rock concert) and foam earplugs are available to those of us who protest too much. We have no choir, except for the “occasional” holiday performance where one is formed to sing 2-3 special songs.

    The other disappointing aspect about my Church is the lack of “truth-telling,” My husband and I both served on an “Advisory Board” where being liked was more important than telling your honest opinion on matters. A few of us DID give our honest opinions, only to be rebuffed publicly during the meetings. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. I did hear from one elder that he liked my candidness and felt that I made VALID points.

    The Osteens represent a “dangerous” brand of Christianity. They are young; slick; attractive; influential; and rich. Churches look to them to get pointers on how to “grow their church.” Attendance; giving; and branding are more important than “un-popular topics” or mentoring/maturing the Church. Too many pastors and their families want to live like King Solomon and FORGET that they should model Jesus’ SERVANTITUDE!!!

    • Boompa2

      May I suggest looking for a new church to worship at ASAP.

      • Daisy

        Thanks Boompa2 for your suggestion. Believe me, I wanted to find a different Church many times, but my husband has resisted. He feels that there are enough positives to unweigh the negatives. I agree, but I still would like to see some improvements during our worship. I love most of the songs and I keep praying for others to see what I have seen. I know a few have, because we have talked about it. You will never find a “perfect” Church…..only in heaven!

  • Nora Shaw

    How can people stand and swallow this junk is beyond me!

  • samfromhernando

    If other churches are indeed making this one their “model’, they are truly missing Jesus’ point completely. The only way we can show our love for God is for us to love others – not ourselves – and that means doing good for God’s Sake and not for ourselves, not for a huge audience to rave over, not for “goodness” sake and most certainly not just to attain a huge crowd. There is no place in God’s Word where this type of “worship” is defined. Do good, love God and serve others for God’s sake – nor our own is HIs “point”!

  • Justin Roby

    Joel Osteen has turned many followers away from God, and toward money. He doesn’t preach against sin at all, he is full of hot air. He has become a nicolaitan, worshipping money and vain progress.

  • bravobevo

    Our enemy (Satan) is “the father of lies.” A believable lie is an exaggeration, incompletion, misrepresentation or other distortion of truth. If a lie had no resemblance at all to truth, then the lie would not be believable; it wouldn’t be deceptive because no one would pay attention to it. But a half-truth or partial-truth can be a convincing lie.

    In the Garden of Eden, God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8). Then God instructed Adam “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Out of the hundreds or thousands of trees in the garden (including the tree of life), God forbid Adam from eating the fruit of one single tree only.

    Look at how the cunning deceiver Satan subtly asks Eve “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” The answer to Satan’s question is “yes, technically correct,” but instead of recognizing the countless permissible trees, our enemy refocuses attention on the lone forbidden tree. “Isn’t it true that God restricts you from eating from every tree in the garden?”

    There is a truth that God wants man’s happiness, but God’s desire on this issue is for man to receive a permanent, everlasting beneficial joy (or happiness) that is eternal. A drug addict will find happiness in a toke or a snort but it wears off quickly. An alcoholic finds happiness in a bottle but that happiness is short-lived. A workaholic might find happiness in the accumulation of things or the praise of men, but things rust, break apart and grow obsolete. And the praise of men is fickle and will change as soon as the praisers realize that you don’t share every idea and value that they hold dear (case in point is last year’s sudden rejection of NFL superstar running back Adrian Peterson). Parents often find happiness in rearing children during their youth only to see their adult children living independently and pursuing life choices that the parents would discourage. All of these things: the quick fix, the lifelong work, the family, etc. might bring temporal pleasures, but they are not assured of eternal significance.

    So then, what kind of happiness does God want for you and me? God wants us to pursue ultimate happiness, not temporal ones. Ultimate happiness or joy has a view of things with God always in mind. If there is one supremely majestic sovereign Creator of the cosmos, who exists before time and who will continue long after the extinction of Planet Earth, then there is real value in seeking out that Creator, aligning with the purpose of that Creator, and living in accordance to, and in harmony with, the Creator’s master plan. If everything the Creator does is for the purpose of displaying (pointing to) His glory, then we (human beings) find our ultimate purpose and fulfillment when we also point to the Creator’s glory. That is what it means to be made in the image of God, and one current-day preacher distills this truth to an essential point when he says, “God is most glorified in you and me, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

    To say that “God wants us to be happy” is true but it is misleading because it isn’t the entire truth. The implication of that sound bite is that God condones everything you and I do to achieve any happiness, even temporal or fleeting highs. This cannot be true. The Bible teaches us that God honors people who live with an everlasting perspective, an eye fixed beyond the here and now, an eternal viewpoint. “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).”

    Our pursuit of immediate gratification does not produce lasting happiness. Often our quick fixes form the very root and foundation of sorrows. White-hot affection (that is set on fire by clear, compelling, biblical truth) for God should be our goal in life, because it is the goal of God throughout the universe. The 18th century American pastor Jonathan Edwards wrote: “The hypocrite rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy. The true saint rejoices in God. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. But the dependence of the affection of hypocrites is in a contrary order: the hypocrites first rejoice that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, he seems in a sort, lovely to them.”

    Every joy or happiness is idolatrous if it is not ultimately a joy in God. In the 4th century, the early church theologian St. Augustine prayed, “He loves Thee too little, Father, who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.”
    Please let me know if you have questions or if you’d like to discuss this more.