For a minute I thought Joe Biden (our gaffe-famous VP) was impersonating Victoria Osteen (wife of Joel, prosperity gospel-pusher). But no. It was indeed Mrs. Osteen. Take a look . . .
Truth vs. the Dumbest. Is that the dumbest thing you ever heard? Why? Because Mrs. Osteen creates a false opposition. One or the other. Here’s the truth: when we worship God, we give God glory (first) and we receive joy in the process (second). That’s what the Westminster Shorter Catechism claims in its first question and answer: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” So our highest purpose is to glorify God. And as we fulfill that purpose, we receive joy.
Getting the Order Right. The order is important. If we praise God so that we will be happy, we make God merely the means to our end–namely, our happiness. That makes happiness our idol and the LORD will not ultimately give his glory to idols (Isaiah 42:8). But if we praise God because God deserves our praise as God, happiness comes as a necessary by-product. As Ligon Duncan, Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and former pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi , wrote: ” Our highest end cannot be experienced without our highest joy.”
Whole-Soul Worship. I’m not talking about worshiping God as if you were singing from the phone book. I’m talking about worship informed by who the Scriptures tell us God is and what they tell us he has done and will yet do in Christ Jesus. I’m talking about worship that is affectionate and emotional (not “emotionalism”). How can we be truly informed of who God is and what God has done and not have tears fall or hands raise or knees bow or hands clap? Informed worship in which we are engaged glorifies God first and fills us with joy second.
Contrary Gospel. The Osteens, though, have a bigger problem than Victoria’s “call to worship.” They preach “a different gospel–not that there is another one” (Galatians 1:6,7). Therefore, paste Paul’s warning on their foreheads: ” . . . even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
Theirs is a “contrary” gospel–a gospel without sin, without repentance, without Christ’s imputed righteousness and wrath-absorbing substitutionary death and death-conquering resurrection. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes what we’d rather not hear . . .
“America deserves the Osteens. The consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse, and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity probably made the Osteens inevitable. The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave — reassurance delivered with a smile.”
Prosperity Theology–the promise that God rewards faith with health and wealth–is The American Heresy. Now it’s spreading around the world, deceiving not only middle-class Americans, but the nations’ poorest, assuring them they can walk out of their cardboard shacks free from disease if they only believe. It’s a lie from hell presented with a wide smile, gleaming teeth and well-coiffed hair.
And it sneaks in the back door of our brain while our Bible is closed and our body longs for better health and our mind wishes for more money.
Warning. Cosby is right. “We worship God for ourselves” is the dumbest thing we’ve ever heard. I think “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). But when “dumb” comes slickly to hurting, God-believing people, it can sound reasonable. Slowly, almost unknowingly, we can start believing the lie–or at least hoping it’s true. Better to listen to what the LORD says: “Stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiahs 6:16). The historic church–the church from the Reformation on–forged the “ancient paths.” Best to stick to the Gospel of Jesus and Paul. Because after the LORD laughs at those who foolishly speak against his Anointed One, “Then he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury” (Psalm 2:5).
Promise. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).