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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Evangel Lies: What the Lord Requires (The Osteen-Meyer Incident)

So there I am--

I'm flipping through the stations, when I run across an Interview with Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen. Their topic of discussion was: "What does the Lord require of us?" They pointed out the fact that most Christians do not truly understand what it is that God requires from us. This was then followed up by a "man on the street interview" segment to further drive the point home. Yes, the answers given by those being questioned were bad. But what was even more troubling were the answers given by the ones who are allegedly shepherding the flock! When asked the same question by Meyer, Osteen replied that he believed that the most important thing was for us to "love other people" and to do "kind acts for others; this is what Jesus did and we should follow his example". Meyer echoes the sentiment and then she adds that it is equally important to "know that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives". While loving others is not a bad thing, when it comes to knowing what God requires, first things must come first. Loving your neighbor is not the first priority. There is a prerequisite that must be filled:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17 (ESV)

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." - Hosea 6:6 (ESV)

"'With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness [steadfast love], and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:6-8 (ESV)

As we can see from these passages of Scripture, we must love God first. The answers in which Osteen and Meyer give twists the order and causes the Christian Faith to become man-centered (works based) instead of God-centered (gift of God). This may seem like "doctrinal nit-picking" to some on my part, but if we look closely at what the Word of God says on the matter we will see that the order is of the utmost importance:

[And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."] - Mark 12:30-33 (ESV)

Once again, Jesus (and the scribe after him) affirms that we are to love God first. The love of God cannot be accomplished by us. Unfortunately this is what the ministers left out. Even to "realize that God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life" is not true if I am not born again (John 3:3, 5 ). The Bible makes it clear that we are not in and of ourselves righteous no matter how many good deeds and charitable acts I perform toward my fellow man. Without a proper assessment of where I stand with God outside faith in the Redeeming work of Christ crucified, I am no better for these things (Rom. 3:11-18, 20).

The ultimate prerequisite is in God's divine initiative. It is God who must reach out and change our hearts in order that we are able to love him:

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 36:25-26 (ESV)

"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" - Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)

Once this has happened, it is then (and only then) that the word of God penetrates our hearts and we may repent of our sins against God as he bestows His grace upon us. After this, we will be able to walk in the commands of God. In fulfilling what the Lord requires in our steadfast love towards Him, we will then, as result of the forgiveness and compassion shown to us by God be able to properly show love towards our fellow man.

The true danger of the teaching disseminated by Osteen and Meyer is that of truth mingled with error. The doctrine is twisted and taken out of context; they can definitely show you where it says to love your fellow man in the Bible, however it will sadly not come in its proper order. This is a low-grade domesticated version of the Gospel message. If one falls into the trap of believing this way, it may set them up for a false sense of security in terms of their salvation. This is why it is important to know what God reveals about himself in Scripture, not to base it on our own whims and wishes. Loving your neighbor, apart from understanding the need to love God, only leads to self-love and doing "good" for our own glory.

"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." - Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

"Justification never results from good works; justification always results in good works." -John Blanchard

"Love God, and do what you please." - St. Augustine of Hippo

Soli Deo Gloria,

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