Blogging is a funny thing. You can opt to write about safe things like cookie recipes and football games and cat videos. Or you can even write about safe Christian things like discipleship and your favorite Bible verses. But what about the things people are trying to figure out? What about the things that require a tension and a balance? The things that aren’t black and white, but somewhere in between–yet you see people constantly going to one extreme or another on, unnecessarily and incorrectly.
When you try to live in this middle area, and when you try to blog in this middle area, it is both rewarding as well as humbling. The thing about the middle area is you don’t always know that you are right. When you’re at one of the extremes, you’ve got to be right and you’ll hold your ground with machine gun in hand at all costs.
The middle is much more humbling.
I did a couple of blog posts on Joel and Victoria Osteen a month ago or so after a video clip of Victoria Osteen was making its rounds on the Internet. In the clip, the line that most got people’s heads turning was when Victoria stated during their church service, “When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really, you’re doing it for yourself.” I felt this line needed a response. In my response, I call the Osteen’s “false teachers”, a word the Bible uses to warn Christians of people who will change the gospel.
A very good friend of mine contacted me privately and confronted me on how I called out the Osteen’s in such a public manor. I greatly appreciate this friend and it’s really made me think. This friend encouraged me to talk to a mutual pastor friend of ours whom I respect greatly; this friend has benefited from the Osteen’s ministry and has a lot of respect for the Osteen’s.
I always think one of the best ways to learn is to hear from the other side and to gain a different perspective. Even if you don’t end up agreeing, you typically end up in a much more loving, humble position.
Like most things in the middle, the conversation with my pastor friend ended up being very beneficial and also muddied up the waters quite well for me.
Why does it really matter what I or you think of Joel Osteen and his teaching?
It matters because this guy’s teaching is going out to millions, probably billions of people. If something unbiblical is being said that is leading people astray, it should be brought up. The Bible tells us to do this in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. And also in Titus 1:9 when speaking of elders, He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (which has dual meanings in this conversation: Is Joel holding to what he was taught from the Bible? And as an elder, the Bible tells me to encourage people with sound doctrine and to refute those who opposed it, which could be Osteen in this case)
It matters because 37 of my Facebook friends, some who attend my church, like Joel Osteen Ministries’ Facebook page, along with 9 million other people.
It also matters because Joel is an easy target. His ministry is huge, it rakes in the dough, people adore him, he has a huge smile that is easy to label as “cheesy” to go along with a soft southern drawl. It matters because it’s not right to take shots at brothers and sisters in Christ and create disunity in the Church.
My pastor friend reminded me of 1 John 4:1-3 on how to distinguish a false prophet: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist
He reminded me that Joel definitely preaches that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, has died on the cross for sins, has resurrected from the dead, and is the only way to salvation. He also told me about counter-cultural stances Joel has taken on controversial issues, something that takes a lot of spine and a lot of Scriptural backbone. Being grilled about homosexuality on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show, Osteen replied by saying, “Well Piers, I believe what the Bible says about that. I am not here to judge any body but I am a Christian and I believe the Bible.” It can be hard enough to respond like this to some Christians in today’s cultural milieu, let alone Piers Morgan on national television.
Which is what makes Joel such a tough person to figure out. It’s what makes even his teaching so hard to figure out. There is most definitely a “tickling of the ears” theme to his teachings, his books and his Facebook page soundbites. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 really does seem to typify him in many ways: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
The tickling of the ears that I see is a consistent theme that if you trust in God, the specific struggle you are going through will change, it’s just a matter of time, so keep hoping in that. And the interpretation of what that change will look like and be is left completely to the individual doing the hoping. Which biblically is holding God to promises he never made and is turning the gospel into something self-centered rather than God-centered.
But within the same Facebook page, and I assume in his sermons and books, there’s also Bible verses or quotes from Osteen that talk about how God’s mercy is enough for us, or how our trials are there for us to learn.
Part of me says, “So which one is it Joel?”
Part of me knows the people he has helped by giving them some hope when they had none. By opening the door and how God has used that door to reveal his true self to someone (maybe in spite of what Osteen taught them?). Or even the people who hoped it and it did happen just like they wanted.
Part of me says, “Yeah but if you mix good water with drops of cyanide, you still end up with poison.” Or how that’s exactly how Satan works: taking something true, then adding a lie on top of it. That way the lie is swallowed without people even realizing it’s there.
So I don’t really know honestly.
I’m not Joel or Victoria’s judge.
I am called to read and study Scripture as well as to steer people toward its truth.
Joel is a very very popular personality with tons of people listening to his advice. My goal with this blog post and ones in the future is not to trash him. In some ways, I want to be a student of him. Not a student of his, but a student of him (more accurately, of his ministry and message). What is this guy actually teaching? What are the good things? What are the things that need to be corrected? Not from me; but from the Bible. I honestly hope people would do the same for me. If I’m teaching things that are unbiblical, or I’m adding unbiblical things to them to make them palatable, I’d certainly like to know so I can hopefully stop doing those things.
If you have advice for me as I attempt to do this, please send it my way. I’m very grateful for my two brothers in Christ who already did this for me. What I plan to do is take the posts from Joel Osteen Ministries’ Facebook page and analyze them in 3 ways: *Is this from the Bible (If so, where? If not, what part of the Bible contradicts it? *What was Joel (possibly) intending to communicate with this? *What is a listener (likely) going to interpret this as?
And from there, my hope is to provide some biblical guardrails for those who listen to Joel’s teachings and read his books. I doubt I’ll get 9 million people to read what I’m writing, but if some of my 37 friends do, I truly hope it will be helpful in your walks with Christ as you discern and test the prophecies coming your way.
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I think that’s a problem with alot of Christians – they just listen and take things as truth. They just assume that it’s scriptural and don’t check it out for themselves. Pastors, teachers, leaders will be accountable before God with what they have taught – now that’s biblical!
You’re definitely right. It’s scary the things people believe just because they heard it from their pastor. This is how the Catholic Church got in the mess it did prior to the Reformation. Or also how the Old Testament Israelites got in the mess they did prior to King Josiah finding the long lost Bible during a temple renovation. (READ YOUR BIBLES PEOPLE!)
Expose Evolution says
Exactly why we must expose them. Many Christians are sleeping while the war rages around them. Wake up Christians .. all hands on deck! . https://youtu.be/wP4buPmOcNM
We cannot take the words from pastors at face value….Must be like the Bereans…search Scriptures daily to examine whether Truth is preached and taught! Acts 17:11
Be well grounded in God’s Word and Truth!
Be Diligent to study and meditate on God’s Word day and night ! Psalm 1:1~3
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith …Hebrews 12:2
wade batteson says
I remember the interview on Larry King with Joel where he refused to claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven in spite of Larry giving him numerous opportunities to give a simple yes or no. I’ve considered him a false prophet ever since.
oh wow, i didn’t hear about that. I saw an interview on 60 Minutes where he said he didn’t talk about sin because it wasn’t positive and people didn’t want to hear about that, which I thought to be pretty ridiculous. You are right though, I just found that clip from Larry King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKF_QgNezBY –It’s interesting how he’s trying so hard to ride both sides of the fence. He’s trying to say he believes what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way, but in practice he doesn’t actually believe that. Very interesting–sounds like a new blog post! Thanks Wade. I’ll try to find the 60 minutes clip as well.
minute 1:44 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxf6U2lPfv4 Joel’s response on why he doesn’t talk about what people do wrong (a.k.a. sin)
bro… If he isn’t a false teacher… he is definitely missing extreme marks theologically seeming to be beneficial to being liked… and should not be in a position of elder imo…
You can look at the life of Paul, Peter, James… pick an early church leader… then match his messages of “if you have faith… then…” to their lives… it won’t match.
His definition of what it means to prosper… is very different than that of the early church…
Anyway I could go all day. In my scriptural opinion… does he say some things right? For sure…
In my scriptural opinion is his theology accurate? No…
Ya that’s a great point. It’s hard to argue against that.
Noah I’m glad you realize that. But honestly most of what the every church does and thinks today is very different from the early church!
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Steve, that’s not the context of what the anonymous post I was replying to was saying. The point they were making, that I was agreeing with, is that if God meant each Christian to “prosper” the way Osteen explains it (material wealth, health, etc.), then the early Church did a terrible job of prospering in this way. They were killed, scattered, and tortured for their faith. 11 of the 12 disciples were tortured to death because of their faith. So there’s no way what Osteen is teaching can be a true model for what happens when you follow Christ, the way he talks about it being.
Hello Noah, I will begin by saying that your blog was well written and thought provoking. To respond to some things, when it comes to the Larry King scenario, could it have been that Joel was practing habits from the books of wisdom? Such as silence is showing wisdom and self control along with guarding ones heart? Paul does teach for us to have peace, and perhaps that is why Joel didn’t want to add coal to the fire when dealing with Larry King. Next thing to this reply of yours, Paul also states that he and the other apostles were essentially meant to go through those terrible trials so that we would live as kings, for the first will be last, and the last will be first. Paul knew from the Holy Spirit that the letters he would write was meant for people after his death. Throughout the epistles you have the apostles stating to study the books of the prophets, and at one point the apostles also said that the physical takes place first before the spirit grows and replaces it when they compared man with actual seeds of plants. Just as with the prophecies physically happening back in history already, they are occurring now literally but in the spiritual manner. The prophets were told that they prophecies were meant for us living in the end of days, likewise as with the apostles and their teachings. For the seals are all breaking that were placed by God. Last, Joel Osteen is following both the apostles and the prophets where God says multiple times to change the way we “think” and “act. Notice that about every time this is said, think or the mind comes first before the action. Joel is focusing on telling people to chang the way they think, in order for the physical change can take place. Now I am not saying Joel Osteen is authentic and believe all at face value. I am doing as you said and testing him as I am testing you as well by bringing up what other parts of the word need to be brought into making a final decision. Which is also why I am not stating exact versus to back myself up. The apostles didn’t cite perfectly quotes from the Old Testament. One can argue saying that there were no instilled versus as the Bible is structured now days. In fact if you lead someone down the path verse by verse to prove your point, you are leading them, and not the Holy Spirit. I am also responding because as you said, do not disbelieve or scatter discourse among fellow Christians. Another thing also taught by the apostles is to not to slander, which is to bring a bad name to anyone whether it be true or not. An example is how before the angel came to Joseph about the virgin birth of Mary, he was going to end the engagement in secret so she wouldn’t receive a bad name publicly for he was a righteous man. That’s all I’m feeling from the Spirit to mention, and to end with one warning. Be aware of your own heart and mind. Be aware of your own thoughts for the human heart and mind are the most decietful things ever conceived. Which Jeremiah wrote. Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord, may the Holy Spirt be with you all, and that we all keep learning from one another, placing God and His Holy Word first and foremost in our every lives.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi there Anonymous, I appreciate your comment, thank you. I’m going to respond with Scripture and I hope it doesn’t come across as prideful or argumentative. I can tell you respect Scripture, so my prayer is that you can take a humble, honest look at these texts.
With Joel on Larry King, I think it’s a thin argument to say “Paul does teach for us to have peace” and that he was trying to keep peace, using wisdom. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” With the context being that believing in Jesus was going to bring rejection, even to the point that it divided up families. Believing that Jesus is the only way was such an audacious claim back then, and still is today. I believe Matthew 10 is clear that Jesus wasn’t bringing the type of peace you are referring to with Joel in that situation.
You then said, “Paul also states that he and the other apostles were essentially meant to go through those terrible trials so that we would live as kings,” – With all due love and respect, that is not in the Bible. I need you to quote that for me. When you next said, “for the first will be last, and the last will be first” – that is not a quote from Paul, that is something Jesus said often. He was actually making the opposite point of what you are trying to make. Jesus was saying that those on earth who have it all will be last, and those who have nothing will be first in the Kingdom. I am glad to give you lots of Jesus references that show that, if that’s helpful.
You’ll have to elaborate on what you mean with “Joel Osteen is following both the apostles and the prophets where God says multiple times to change the way we “think” and “act. Notice that about every time this is said, think or the mind comes first before the action.” I’d need to see the Scripture references you’re talking about because I have not heard of this in Scripture. Or at least, more context on what you mean.
I’m not following your argument to not use verse references. The things I’ve asked about above are things you said are in the Bible, but aren’t actually in the Bible. This is dangerous and scary. Now, it’s also a great opportunity of growth for you to study the Scriptures and learn them. Using references gives accuracy and shows that what you are saying is actually in the Bible. The New Testament authors did this often when quoting the Old Testament. They didn’t have chapters and verse in existing, but they quoted verses verbatim, already having memorized where they were in the Old Testament.
Kim Klepper says
Thanks for writing this, Noah. I’ve long felt suspicious about Osteen’s ministry; too much syrup, too little challenge. I worked in politics a while back, and he impresses me the same as some lobbyists did – they sincerely believed the position they were promoting, but they were smarmy about it.
This question of false teaching is why it’s so terribly important that we all read our Bibles, ask questions – of God and of each other – and not accept everything blindly. I especially appreciated your point about a lie being swallowed along with truth. After a while, the lies get to be just as easily believed and followed as the truth, maybe even more so because they’re often more palatable. And it gets to be very difficult to tease apart the lies from the truth.
As to publicly calling out a fellow member of the clergy – well, yes, how else would it be done? It’s not like he’d respond to your polite, privately made inquiry. And considering how public his ministry is, he puts himself out there with a church that’s beyond “mega” and on interview shows, and so he should expect others to pick apart what he says.
Thanks Kim. I will need to listen to a sermon or two of Osteen’s, but so far it seems like he takes a verse or two out of context then gives the same repetitive message that you need to keep hoping and that good things will happen to you. Which sounds a lot like Oprah and “The Secret” book she’s so big on.
The times I’ve heard his messages, or portions of them, have found them to be positive and affirming and nonoffensive, like listening to good advice. They always appeal to the soul but my spirit’s never touched or moved. . . and that’s probably the main issue. If you go to his website and use the search, and look for “deny yourself” or “take up the cross”, there’s no results. You’ll search in vain for the persecuted church. . . there’s no mention of brothers and sisters who are persecuted and risk all for their faith (but his church is not alone in that). His message would be of little comfort to brothers and sisters in Iraq or Somalia or North Korea who need the living presence of Christ to be faithful in all they face.
His messages point to many good things and encourage you to feel good about them but have little of spiritual value. What of Christ is offered or found that give spiritual power or life to listeners? Are the words spirit and life, or merely pleasant and encouraging? Is there any increase of the measure of Christ within for those under his ministry?
What I find frustrating about a Joel Osteen is he seems like a very honest and genuine man with a good heart. He never comes across as manipulative and greedy like many prosperity preachers who use the gospel for profit. His facts/doctrine concerning Jesus isn’t necessarily wrong. I don’t think he’s intentionally withholding Jesus’ invitation to deny yourself and take up the cross, it just seems like he is blind to the value of it, that it’s possible to follow and be faithful to Jesus without that.
Is it good that Joel offers a life preserver when my ship’s going down in the middle of the ocean? I guess so, but I’d rather hear from the guy who knows the Coast Guard. . . plus I’m thinking that his life preserver has some holes in it.
Yeah it is seeming like Joel’s gospel is an incomplete gospel. There are some things he says that are true, but he leaves so much out.
Sometimes listening to Joel Osteen is like watching the Noah movie. . . there’s just this mix of things. His message to find your best life now seems so removed from Jesus’ reason for following him – that you only find your life by losing it. But you know what, if Paul can rejoice when Christ is proclaimed even when not fully in truth and for bad motives, then I’m glad for the Jesus that comes through Joel Osteen. He is my/our brother. . . when drawn to say, “Lord, what about this man?”, find the answer to be, “…what is that to you? You follow me.”
You’re way too generous. He is a false teacher. YOU, ME, MY, are central to his Caspar Milquetoast message. Listen to one sermon of Erwin Lutzer, read Spurgron, then Osteen. There’s no comparison whatsoever. Osteen is an “angel of light” who is teaching how to extract blessings, wealth, and present day happiness in exchange for your soul. Friendship with the world us enmity towards God!
Hey man, not sure if you meant this for me or Noah but I got an email notice. This post/comment was from a long time ago, back when the blog was doing email notices. No argument from me about Joel Osteen. He may even be more dangerous than the over-the-top guys who sell miracle water and snot rags.
Having said that, seems like Christians give in too quickly to judging other Christians and separating all based on their views of biblical truth. Without truth we have no basis, but truth isn’t merely doctrines but it’s living and encountered in Jesus. I may be off, but people’s hearts seem more dedicated to their views of doctrinal purity than to the call to strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. The reality of what God’s done in giving life and a place in the body of Christ should mean more to us than our personal views of doctrine. Having said that, living truth is the starting point.
Cannot have it both ways ? The Lord says that anyone who becomes a friend of this world : is An enemy unto God; that’s a high bar jesus has raised ; if you choose to be a Christian then THIER must be fruit seen ; not materialistic and wealth but knowing the truth and reaching out to seek and save souls ; no one is getting saved in an ear tickling sugar coated gospel ; CHRIST CRUXIFIED SHOULD BE PREACHED : HE THAT SUFFERS FOR ME ( Jesus ) SHALL REIGN WITH ME ( Jesus )!!! Satan has thousands of year to put together what we see now to his perfection !! Many are traveling down the wide path and broad way that leads to destruction these days !!
Hey Davey, I agree the prosperity gospel is no gospel at all. Our brothers and sisters in North Korea or Pakistan or Iraq or Somalia and 50+ other countries who are faithful thru the worst this world has to offer and in Christ show everyone what Jesus looks like, their very presence and testimony demonstrate the lie of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity preachers preach love of this world disguised as the good news of Jesus and lead many astray.
My point was that we as Christians are often too quick to judge and condemn and exclude other brothers who may hold doctrines that differ from our own. The clearest example to me are those who hold to KJV only and believe those hold read the NASB or ESV or NIV are not just misguided but damned, as if the power of living Truth comes from the translation rather than the Spirit. The starting point looking at brothers and sisters shouldn’t be their doctrine or even behavior but God’s: “You are in the Spirit if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” from Romans 8.
Truth is everything, but the problem of men relying on doctrine to determine the reality of what God’s done is men, and has led to what we have today: men not God dividing Christ’s body into over 30,000 denominations. Living faith will bear fruit in a believer’s life but the problem with men relying on someone’s behavior to determine spiritual reality is that learning Christ, even in a local fellowship, does not mean everyone will be at the same place in the race that God has set before each of us. My point was that church here seems too often to have a heart ready to condemn those whom God has made our brothers and sisters because of our views of their doctrine and behavior. Our views can never change the reality of what God has accomplished in anyone’s life, no matter how right we think our own views are. The problem with the judgment that may condemn true brothers as non-believers is that we exclude them when we could be helping and encouraging in the race God has set before them too. Rather than err on the side of exclusion based on our views, why not trust that fellow sinners who are following Jesus however unevenly are really in the hands of God, and that He is able to lead all such ones into true and correct doctrine and behavior? Why not rather believe that it is before God that such ones stand or fall, and that the Lord is able to make them stand?
Hi I was reading all the negative things being said today about Pastor Osteen (over Houston flooding issues), and came across this post. I have felt God randomly lead me to be uplifted several times by Joel Osteen sermons. I think God is using him to open doors of people’s hearts. He is what I’d call a Seeker church. I feel God led this exCatholic to Willowcreek in Illinois in much the same, then lead me to find a good Bible teaching smaller local church/pastor for me to get personal spiritual guidance from. People seem to be condemning Pastor Osteen most for speaking condemnation Bible verses in gentle terms, and for preaching about blessings that can be spoken into existence. I think God has a purpose for that because there are verses about not speaking harshly over our different opinions, but to led them to read God’s Word and then pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them to truth and repentance. And I’m conflicted about the whole arguments on speaking the desires of our hearts (that align with God’s will) into existence. This too is in the Bible. Judi
I too started watching him. I watched him for years and was not saved. Every sermon he preached I told myself “I’m already like that” so I wasn’t growing. Finally, I was introduced to another tv preacher who taught about all Jesus all the time and I learned and am still learning. I’m also torn as to wether he is a false teacher or not as he does not teach sound doctrine but does not produce bad fruit, that I can see. He also televised Wednesday night service and bible studies that teach better sound doctrine. I’ve also seen guest preachers that teach better. He could use prayers that the Holy Spirit teach him what he’s doing is not completely accurate. Those are my thoughts on the matter anyway.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Judi, thanks for weighing in. I know I need to be more gentle in the way I critique Joel, but he does need to be critiqued. I think the difference between Osteen and Willow Creek is that while they are both large churches and seeker friendly, Willow is sound in preaching the gospel and I don’t think Joel is. By ‘the gospel’, I mean the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus to pay for our sins, saving us from hell and allowing us to enter a relationship with Jesus today that will continue into heaven. From what I’ve gathered, (he admitted this in a 60 Minutes a few years ago when pressed on it) Joel doesn’t preach about sin or about hell. The sin one is especially troublesome because we need to acknowledge our sin so that we know what we need to be saved from. His response in that 60 Minutes video was that people didn’t like to hear about sin, so he talked about positive things. To me that’s not a sound gospel, but is more the “itching of ears” telling people what they want to hear that 2 Timothy 4:3 is talking about.
YES ! You hit the nail on the head…..how many of us enjoy having our ears scratched….Joel follows his god very well…just like in the garden of Eden….
Brian Victor says
Just a word of encouragement Noah: you’re right to hold fellow preachers up to sound teaching. I hope you continue to do so.
Thanks Brian, I appreciate that.
I read his book Your Best Life Now and have seen his talks and websites. Personally I don’t like his style at all. There is some part of me that likes his way of improving self esteem, but he has never said anything that I haven’t already heard before. He also misses so many other aspects of christianity that I find fundamental to my beliefs. I won’t list them but I think that the chickens will come home to roost. In other words, his superficial, egocentric, greedy ways will come back to haunt him one day as they do for everyone else living similar lives. Is he a false prophet? I can’t say, but definitely corrupted and mislead in many ways.
Hi John, yeah I think a key point of what you said, that I”m hearing in others’ comments as well is:
I just re-listened to a 2007 60 Minutes interview with Joel ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxf6U2lPfv4 ) where when he’s pressed about the incomplete message he gives people he answers (And concludes the interview with)…
This is a pretty huge problem is you are the lead teaching pastor of any church, let alone possibly the largest ministry (if you include books sales etc) in the United States. Let alone how this would automatically disqualify Joel for the biblical qualifications of eldership listed out in Titus 1:5-9, specifically verse 9
I think the main charge brought against teachers like Joel is he is “tickling ears”. But could it be we’ve misinterpreted, by religious deception, what was meant by tickling ears as well as what is “sound doctrine”?
Can we agree the soundest doctrine there is is “justification by faith”? (In Jesus)
Many times Jesus mentioned “those who have ears to hear.” Hear what? Hear about HIM vs. hear about rules to follow. Ones who couldn’t hear were self-focused, religious, and by their understanding, obedient. Yet, they missed the true: they weren’t obedient.
Jesus didn’t take issue with sinners, but with religious folks who disqualified the people Jesus came to qualify…those who believe on Him. Those who see His goodness which leads to repentance (change of mind).
So, I agree the tickling of the ears is saying what people want to hear. But, that could well be the instructions to holy law and forbidding-doctrines of today. People want to hear what to do (self-help). Not so much WHO to believe in. True humility is thinking nothing of self and all of Christ. While pastors preaching “holiness” may be well-meaning, they actually strengthen the power of sin. The law is the strength of sin. If could be tickling ears, is appealing to the flesh-nature. The “we can do it, God” spirit. Saying “You must be more perfect, as God is perfect.” or “Practice your disciplines.” and “Take this VERY serious.” It’s threatening and misrepresents Jesus as He is in the word. He reserved his harshest criticisms mostly to those who preached this way! The same charge of “false teacher” could be on the ones actually tossing the claim around.
I for one am impressed to not hear guys like Joel bashing other preachers as being “heathen” even. That’s bold.
And true obedience is believing on the One whom God has sent. And Him as your holiness. Grace which empowers you to “sin no more.” While focusing on your sin and confession of sin which is already forgiven can just make you more guilt-conscious. 1 John 1:9 was written to the Jew, can we agree? John was an apostle to the Jews while Paul was to the gentiles. Can we benefit from John’s gospel? Yes. But is he saying we NEED to confess sins as believers in Christ? I don’t think so. I believe we must have done this to be saved, but if you want to believe forgiveness only comes by confession, than you will be confessing 24 hours a day. What is not the faith OF Christ, is sin. Unless you are justified solely by Christ and His obedience, you will be in sin.
So you are free to do sin. You are no longer a prisoner of sin. But as Paul was forced to say to those in the mind of the flesh “should we sin, that grace abound?” No! How can you? The truth is, you are not IN sin anymore. You can sin, but you’re no longer its prisoner. You say, how can that be true? How could Christ be killed with sin He didn’t commit? How can you say you are not in sin anymore even if you slip up and show yourself to be sinning? JESUS!
Also, I see a false teacher could be one saying to the unbelieving world, you are all these blessed things Joel suggests, but without Christ. That is also bad. You are only qualified by Christ’s work. To not acknowledge Christ is surely to be a false teacher as well.
I trust God will make everything clear. When I look at Joel I am reminded of the verse in the Bible where the following is said of Jesus and His followers “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
Hi Eric, I agree that there are multiple types of tickling of the ears, but I don’t think that gets Joel off the hook for doing one such type. His biggest issue is he replaces Jesus as a person with “good things” Jesus can give you. The parent is replaced by the Christmas presents the parent gives. This is a huge issue. I also wouldn’t lean on that Scripture about if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them in regarding Joel and other health and wealthers. Reason being, the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are doing quite well, not looking to be ‘overthrown’ any time soon, yet we can say definitely their teaching is not of God. That statement had specifically to do with if Jesus was the Messiah or not, not about what a teacher was saying about Jesus. Titus 1:9 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 are more appropriate here, as they were written for this exact purpose.
All the promises of God find their yes and amen in Jesus Christ. That sounds like great Christmas presents. Again, a good Father gives His children good gifts. If they ask for bread, fish, eggs, He doesn’t give them stones, snakes or scorpions. I don’t hear them asking for “God” but for His provision. Yes, Jesus is the source. How can you disagree? He gets all the glory. Was Abraham wealthy? Was Soloman wealthy? Was Abraham healthy? Was Soloman healthy? Will we see them in the kingdom? Why does John pray, “above all I pray you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers” if that’s false doctrine? I don’t think we need to let Joel off of any hook. Jesus set him free from hooks…and same goes for me. All the hooks aimed at Jesus didn’t stick and they sure won’t to His faithful ones. I guess if you want to argue context look at how Jesus read Isaiah 62 in the synagogue. You might say of Him…he left out the context and didn’t even finish the sentence, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” I pray we get the Law of liberty in our hearts and stop relying on the futility of the mind…and to Jesus be all the glory…not our precious studiousness. I thank God for Joel’s gift of encouragement, it’s of far more value to us than the gift to spot errors in preachers who aim to empower a worn out generation with GOOD NEWS!
And before we go gripping stones to throw…it was Isaiah 61.
Hi Eric, I hear your heart and I’m not trying to turn this into an internet fight. My hope in all of this is to teach the Bible. I will try to construct this reply in that way. First off, I never said it was sinful to be rich. It seems you are hinting at that. I never said that and the Bible never says that. Biblically, don’t look to Solomon as an example for new covenant Christians. Solomon was under the old covenant, which was an agreement with God that if Israel obeyed, God would give them big crops, wealth, etc. Joel Osteen’s teaching would have fit in perfectly under that covenant (Read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 to see full list of blessings and curses — which is the back drop of the entire Old Testament story). But we aren’t under that covenant. There’s no more promised land that was to be center of God’s light to the world, which was the plan under the old covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us a new and better covenant is coming, which is in Jesus. Jesus is the blessing now, not the land. Can someone still be rich in this new covenant, sure. But that’s negligible, it’s not the point and you won’t find any New Testament reference where that is the point. I have several blogs on new covenant / old covenant that might be helpful here: http://www.atacrossroads.net/why-the-old-testament-promises-and-laws-dont-apply-to-us/
It’s very important to point out that the “good gift” Jesus promises in Luke 11 is the Holy Spirit, not the fish or the egg:
Luke 11:11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
there are tooons of Christians who have no fish and no egg, does this mean God doesn’t love them or has been unfaithful to his promises? Of course not. He never promised us those things under the New Covenant. But the person with the Holy Spirit is the richest person in the universe! This is the type of encouragement we need to be giving, the kind with God’s promise behind it. To say God has promised something that He hasn’t actually promised is scary and destructive.
“All the hooks aimed at Jesus didn’t stick and they sure won’t to His faithful ones. I guess if you want to argue context look at how Jesus read Isaiah 62 in the synagogue. You might say of Him…he left out the context and didn’t even finish the sentence, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” I pray we get the Law of liberty in our hearts and stop relying on the futility of the mind…and to Jesus be all the glory…not our precious studiousness. I thank God for Joel’s gift of encouragement, it’s of far more value to us than the gift to spot errors in preachers who aim to empower a worn out generation with GOOD NEWS!” WELL SAID!
Noah Filipiak says
There are lots of encouragers who aren’t even Christians. Encouraging is great and I’m glad Joel encourages people, but that’s different than preaching the biblical gospel.
Goodwill towards men says
Great breakdown and you really touch on something that most critics of Joel tend to ignore or overlook: The biggest enemy that Jesus took off on and against were the religious folks that had hardened their hearts against people in need.
Noah Filipiak says
great point GTM
Barb Tuttle says
G.K. Chesterton wrote a book called “Orthodoxy,” which speaks explicitly to the issues raised in this blog. It is a thought provoking book perhaps not familiar to many modern day Christians. I wanted to study Chesterton when I learned that he was so influential for C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancy, and other modern Christian apologists. Don’t let the title fool you into thinking it not relevant-as Chesterton says, “there was never anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy.” To pull one more thought from a book that is well worth the reading- “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”
Thank you for the book recommendation Barb. And that’s a very helpful quote!
The other Brian says
“a sign that something great is coming”, but it would be just like God if that “something” is just like you might not think. God tends to do things His way, not my way. “There is a way that seems right to man (me), but….”
great point Brian. We get ourselves in so much trouble and inner turmoil when we come up with our own expectations, then demand / expect that God meet them. Gods ways are so counter-intuitive to ours. Plus his agenda is his huge Kingdom’s agenda (where he is on the throne), not our individual mini kingdoms (where we are on our own tiny little throne).
Rev. Zachary Bartels says
He’s absolutely a false teacher.
Noah Filipiak says
I called him out pretty strong in my sermon on false teachers on Sunday, will be posting that soon. (Told people in my church who like his Facebook page they need to unlike it — gotta love FB)
He is a false teacher. I just don’t blame Oval teen. Lol… I blame the weak minded idiots that follow him. I’ve never heard Osteen preach on SIN!!. Not one time. It’s always a feel good message. Same slop different sermon. His wife is just as bad. He reminds me of Matthew 7.21. Read it. It’s him.
My advice would be,be very careful of calling people false prophets,in the end you will be judged for that,the same measure in which you judged,am not saying his not a false prophet,all am saying is be ready for judgement too,yours will defintely come.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Anonymous, ultimately God is the judge of someone’s personal salvation. I’m not saying Joel Osteen is going to hell. But I am obeying the Bible’s command to me as a church elder:
Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Mario T. Lanza says
If you watch enough of Osteen and compare what he says to scripture, you’ll realize that his gospel message is lacking. He doesn’t teach doctrine. He tickles ears. That’s a scary place to be before God. The Word tells us of our total depravity and would have us come broken before God. When a man tells you God loves you and wants to prosper you and fills your hopes with the good God has in store for you, it doesn’t match the gospel.
Of course some false teacher will be personable and charismatic.
Noah Filipiak says
great points Mario. We’ve got to always go back to Scripture and go back to what is the main draw of someone’s message: is it Jesus and the surrender he requires and is worthy of, or is it something else?
why are you all being so judgemental? Not sure that is the right path to follow either. So do any of you know him on a daily basis well enough to declare the level of his love for our Lord, Jesus Christ? How do you know his simple messages are not bring people to want to know Christ?
I wonder if Joel Osteen was not that famous you all would call him false teacher. Every church leader should take care of his own seeps.They are called and gifted to care for the spiritual well-being of a local body of God’s people. For what I can see this man has a gift of encouragement, I never met him and I don’t know him personal and never been in his church.One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. If we understand that then we also understand the diversity in the Body of Christ. The lord will not asked: “Ivy what has Joel Osteen done? Oh he smiled all the time and encouraged the people all the time, but never speak about hell”. Was you there when he spoke about hell and the altar calls? No eternal security for envy, self-righteousness, gossip,rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice and evil speaking. When we judge do it in love and always personal! ( Gal. 6:1)
Pamela Sandberg says
I grew up unchurched. In my 40’s I found someone, a Priest in the Episcopal Church. He introduced me to God. I’ve had a personal relationship since then. I’m 64. I watch and read Joel Osteen.
I’m not interested in a biblical degree..I’m not needing anyone to help me see the error of my ways, what I need and get from Joel is a deeper understanding of my God’s love for me. Joel reminds me that Jesus died for my sins…Who could love me more?
Not everyone gets bogged down in exactness or looking at life through a magnifying glass. It’s too stressful. I want to live in joy and being reminded what God did, dies, and will do. That’s what I hear from Joel.
By the way, having money isn’t a sin. What you do with money can be sinful.
Natalie Hidalgo says
I was skeptical but one day he was on TV and what he said was what I needed to hear. So many I know don’t like him just because of his smile, or how he blinks, or his voice. Those who go on and on about what he doesn’t say are the ones who never listen long enough to know what he does say. No one would hate on a nurse who is encouraging a sick person because they are not the one who will do the surgery. I don’t need a salvation message. I know who my savior is. I am blessed by hearing that there is hope. And, for those who say he is living high on people’s tithes, he doesn’t take a wage from the church. His wealth is from his books.
Noah Filipiak says
Thanks for the comment Natalie. I hear your point about the nurse who is encouraging a sick person. I think the rub with Joel is that he has positioned himself as a pastor, not as a nurse or motivational speaker. So when he preaches or writes books and only is consistently talking about 10% of Scripture, the criticism is that this is not what a biblical elder / overseer / pastor should be doing. There are lots of great motivational speakers out there and lots of very encouraging people, many of who aren’t even Christians, and they do a lot of good in the world. But we don’t hold them to the standard we are holding Joel because they have not put themselves in the position of biblical authority that Joel has.
I also know people who like him. Personally I find him “creepy”.
I was an atheist for years and preachers on tv were such a turnoff. They repulsed me. People like Bartels, Noah, Mario, Wade, Alan on this blog would repulse me even more so because they come across as holier than thou and bring the letter of the law and are devoid of love. They conveniently ignore that commandment Jesus gave. People like this is why I felt so justified about not believing in God. But thank you God r miraculously bringing Joel Osteen into my life and causing me to start believing in you, being saved, giving me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, for healing me, for causing me to love your word, for living the personal relationship I now have with you and for having a deep compassion for others who know you and don’t know you. Thank you God for using and continuing to use Joel Osteen in such powerful way in my life. For this I am eternally grateful.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Jen, I have a sincere question for you to think about. Is your statement about me and the others you listed holier than thou and devoid of love?
Is it holier than thou, letter of the law, or devoid of love for me to point out when Jesus and the gospel is being misrepresented? I’m not saying God can’t use someone who is misrepresenting the gospel and Scripture, but just because some fruit still comes of it, doesn’t change that Jesus and the Bible are being misrepresented. I don’t think it’s holier than though, letter of the law, or devoid of love to point this out.
Can’t agree more. His followers are worshiping money ,wealth etc. while Christ teaching us not to serve two gods.
Diana Chophy says
This is all very interesting, I like pastor Joel Osteen, but I’m not blind loyalist. Hugely grateful to all you mature believers and true followers of Jesus, you are keeping watch for false teachers, doctrine etc, only Time and Jesus will reveal it all. Until then, let us continue to grow in love until He returns. Shalom and Praise the Lord!
Hi Noah, thank you for your humility as you thoughtfully assess Joel Osteen’s teachings. I too am very interested in evaluating teachers who either teach heresy or flirt with it. I just want to comment that just because a person or a church state doctrine correctly doesn’t mean that they aren’t ultimately still heretics. The stated correct beliefs are what draw in mainstream Christians. What I have a problem with is when teachers don’t teach the whole pie – they either leave out some crucial pieces (in Joel’s case he leaves out the sin/repentance piece) or focus too much on only one piece- such as blessing or prosperity. The heresy is subtle because of the overall path and the destination it leads the listener. What I mean by that is that the individual words taught might sound OK but if listeners miss the Gospel, repentance, and ultimately, salvation, then heresy did its job… and people who don’t love God’s truth missed eternal life. Personally I believe that the popularity of false teachers is because the general public doesn’t have a strong, loyal love of God’s Word. One more thing- just because people are blessed by this ministry doesn’t validate it or mean that there is no heresy.
Paul ran his race but said that he wanted to make sure that in helping others that he himself would not become disqualified. I’m afraid some of the current day Bible teachers will do just that.
Noah Filipiak says
Those are great points Laurie. 2 Timothy 4:3 is describing the selectivity of Scripture as false teaching. And I often hear people defending false teachers by saying to look at how they help people in life, in their marriages, etc. And I celebrate those things, but it doesn’t make them a faithful teacher of the Word. My non-Christian psychologist helps a lot of people’s marriages, depression, etc., but that doesn’t mean they believe in sound biblical theology.
Karen Osterblom says
Well I guess I’m going to be the black sheep in the crowd. First, I’d like to thank you for sharing your friends advice about Joel Osteen. I loved his dad and his mother, both were as humble as humble pie and Joel is too. Joel’s always been upfront about not wanting to be a ‘preacher.’ He was the guy behind the scene in his fathers ministry and preferred it that way. I remember when Joel shared a vision God gave him with his dad…a worldwide satellite outreach (Joel was a techie…his father was not), he was ecstatic about the vision God revealed to him and expected his father to share in his excitement…WRONG! Like most preacher dad’s who tend to believe, ‘father’s know best’…John Osteen was no different. John being an old fashion kinda guy and looking to lessen his work load not increase it in his elder years, he didn’t share Joels enthusiasm. Out of obedience and respect for his father and God, Joel tucked the vision God gave him away in his ♡ knowing that ‘Gods timing’ isn’t always ours. What Joel didn’t know at that time, was Gods entire plan, if he did, he probably would’ve run 😉
Fast forward to today, the vision God gave Joel came to fruition, the satellite outreach progran is worldwide and by faith, he was able to step out from his ‘safe place’ (his behind the scene comfort zone) and fulfill God’s calling on his life. Unfortunately, many Pastors and Christians choose to criticise, judge and label (‘false prophet’) a man they’ve never met or sat through an entire church service or bible study. They seem to have a preconceived idea that Joel does his ‘thing’ on TV and then sails off into the sunset aboard a 100 ft yacht. Sadly, Joel Osteen haters (pc term, dislikers) only fan the fire for liberal fake news to run with. If TRUTH be told, Joel has brought a multitude of lost souls to Christ by loving them not judging them. His ministry financially blesses missions, the poor, communities, churches and pastors worldwide and yet the self righteous continue to cast stones.
Noah Filipiak says
Hi Karen, I would caution against calling people like myself or others who critique Joel’s theology “self righteous.” As a sincere concern, it makes you sound self-righteous when you call someone that. I’m not judging Joel as a person and I’m sure his church does many amazing things. But we can look at if someone is faithfully preaching all of Scripture, or if they are intentionally only preaching the parts they select or that people want to hear. The Bible commands us not to do that, but it also commands people like myself to say something about it. We are just trying to be faithful to Scripture. 2 Timothy 4:3 and Titus 1:9, among others.
samuel rothkopf says
I had a little debate and discussion last night from a friend who is a Joel fan and listening to him try and justify Joels wealth and practice made it more clear to me. I referred to the parables of Jesus where he said its easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And you have to ask yourself if hes teaching that everyone can be wealthy like him and have a million dollar home and drive cars worth more then most peoples houses is he really teaching the right things? My friend said that Joel gives 10% of his income to God so that means the rest is his to do what he wants but doesnt the bible teach that God owns all things? Also I referred to Jesus teaching when poor woman gave everything she had in the temple and the pharisees gave their 10% and made a show of it. Jesus said blessed are those that have little and give much. Giving 10% of millions is great but when you are a leader of one of the biggest churches in the US wouldn’t a simple lifestyle for Christ be an even bigger example. my friend said i was just being jealous and sinful for saying that but i really feel that for a Christian to be taken serious in this day and age you need to lead by example and living a life of the rich and famous is not how I would be lead to God and learn what God is really about. Jesus lived his life on the road with nothing more then the cloths on his back spreading the good news he didnt hunker down in a stadium collecting money and living like a king. Jesus could have lived like a king if he wanted to but he choose the greater path. Jesus rebuked the pharisees many times for their arrogant ways. Preaching only love, peace and prosperity is not what Jesus was about. Jesus knew the world would turn into what we live in now and his disciples didnt teach others about prosperity. In fact Jesus throughout his life taught against the evil of money and the love of it. Being prosperous is not a bad thing but when you get to the level Joel is at you start to love it and need it and not want to give it up. I am not trying to sound like a left wing democrat and say he needs to give up his money to the poor but I see way to many “preachers” of God out there living lives of lap and luxury when they could be out using their status and celebrity to travel the world and do more. Sitting in Texas and driving fancy cars and wearing expensive cloths to your big church every week does not present the teachings of Jesus. Just my opinion
Noah Filipiak says
It’s a valid opinion Samuel, thank you. It is hard to visualize Jesus living that sort of lavish life. I think a bigger question is raises with Joel and other pastors who live that lifestyle is around how that would mess with your motives for doing ministry.
Well, I had heard it too many times to count…all about how bad Joel Osteen is. Every judgment from A to Z for so many years. I’ve never attended his church or purchased his books still to this day, but 5 years ago I just had to watch him on TV to see this false prophet whom the entire Christian community, especially multitudes of pastors were criticizing & warning everyone about. What a surprise I got!!! Ironically, I got blessed, so blessed. My husband & I were going through some trials at the time & we actually received Hope from listening to Joel Osteen, because his calling is obviously to be a messenger of hope. We had begun to feel hopeless weighted down by family loss, discouragements & disappointments at the time. Listening so intently, carefully tuning our ears to fine the fault with Osteen; scriptural error & the typical TV money begging seed routine… well, we found none. So we watched him again & again & again waiting for the false messages. But, to our amazement we both started smiling again, regaining our hope & our faith was strengthened. Still to this day 5 years later, we find no error in Joel Osteen’s teaching. We are not Osteen followers, but we listen when we catch him on Christian TV channels. What did we accidentally discover in our search of the big “false prophet” Joel?? The realization of much too many jealous pastors that are walking in their own sin breaking Jesus’ commandment in Matthew 7- “Do not judge..” Most are theologically trained in seminary which we have actually found things taught to them here & there that are contrary to the Word of God. Honestly, we feel LOVE in Joel Osteen’s messages when he’s giving others hope & he’s actually the only TV preacher we’ve ever seen tear up when doing so. The biggest irony? Well that Joel Osteen is a prosperity preacher. In 5 years, not even one time have we heard him ask for $$ on TV. It’s been our experience with prosperity preachers that they’re always asking for $$. In fact, every Osteen accuser we’ve heard are preacher that DO ask for $$. Now I know what many of these self-righteous preachers are thinking when they read my words. Well they’re easily fooled. Well no. I come out of a generational occult background that used deception tactics & mind control to extremes & if there’s anyone who knows a trickster fake lying deceiver, it’s me! cause I have firsthand experience with their subtle tactics & false teachings. The problem is that many of the Christian leaders of today are no different than the actual Pharisees of Jesus’ day. So religious from training that without even realizing it they’re full of pride thinking they can see better than anyone else, when actually they’re spiritually blind & in error themselves. This is only an observation revealed to me by the Holy Spirit for we have no right to judge anyone if we obey Jesus. The Pharisees *falsely* accused Jesus back then too as a blasphemer; of not being the Son of God & then killed him! Joel Osteen is more like Jesus to us than all of his accusers; which appear to be only modern day Pharisees. All these preachers talking smack about Joel & warning others like all the Pharisees did about Jesus, seem to be in direct disobedience to Jesus’ teaching. Why? He doesn’t want us judging others at all, especially our fellow brothers & sisters in Christ as if we are perfect cause it’s not our place to do so, as God is the only true & righteous judge.
Boy, when his wife comes on I get the heck out of there! Joel…hm. He’s redundantly predictable and staged. False? As in Biblically or personally? I believe in his heart he sincere as to what he’s broadcasting but again he scripted and managed. Dr Graham was predictable as to how his programs went, but he wasn’t showtime sensationalism. Osteen is motivating but crash and burn- he can be a quick fix for an uplift (and who knows it may outlast the week) but there’s only a monochrome non variation of…his, yes, act. Some say his motivational shouldn’t include religion at all. But i guess God is easily brought in when we encourage on the heels of man’s creation and zero limits “anything is possible.” Let’s not negatively judge. But one should filter, test and not swallow just any pudding pie.