Tonight, while flipping channels during commercial breaks for Monk and Psych, I came across one of the hottest things going in “Christian” television: Joel Osteen.
He was talking about (I can’t bring myself to call it preaching) fulfilling your dreams/desires. As I watched, I realized I could have been watching any late-night infomercial trying to convince me to buy into their pyramid scheme. This man, who shepherds a church of over 20,000 souls, was telling people that their desires are God-given, and that if they have a dream, it’s God’s will that they pursue and attain it.
He then proceeded to use Scripture to “back up” his premise. He used part of James 2:26, “faith without works is dead,” to explain his point that, if you have a dream, you must have a plan and work for it.
And then he used Habakkuk 2:2 “Write the vision and make it plain” to make the point that you must write out your goals in order for them to come to fruition.
Why does this matter? Because the man is proof texting. He has a thesis, and he’s taking bits and pieces of Scripture, out of context, to prove his thesis. Why does it matter? Because I don’t believe either James nor Habakkuk had Osteen’s “dream” sermon in mind when they wrote.
Read those two passages in the Bible. See what they mean in context. Habakkuk’s vision is one given to him by the Lord about the coming of the Gospel. The verse Osteen uses is the prelude to the verse that birthed the Reformation “The just shall live by his faith.” It is not talking about realizing our dreams. It’s talking about the fact that we are save by grace, through faith. It’s talking about the fact that we are saved from our sins by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. It’s not talking about realizing your full potential in the workplace.
And the verse from James is talking about how, once we’ve put that faith in Christ, our lives should bear out the fruit of faith. Our works don’t save us, but they are evidence OF our salvation. And the works James is talking about is not following our dreams, but rather a life lived for the Lord in humble thanks for all He’s done for us.
I don’t know Joel Osteen. I don’t know the man’s heart. All I know is this: the Bible says that in the last days, men will seek for themselves teachers who will “tickle their ears” (2 Tim. 4:3), meaning that they will look for teachers that make them feel good.
The Gospel is not about us “reaching our full potential”, or about having a nice house and a nice car. The Gospel is about a sinless Savior taking the full punishment of our sins that we might have life in Him.
I do not write this in anger. I write with a sad heart at the fact that this type of message is becoming more and more prevalent, and the message of the cross less and less.