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Joel Osteen is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Listed by several sources as America's largest and fastest-growing congregation, Lakewood Church has approximately 30,000 adult attendees every week. Millions more watch Joel's messages as they are broadcast on national and international television networks. He resides in Houston with his wife, Victoria, and their children. (back inside dust jacket of Your Best Life Now, by Joel Osteen, copyright 2004)
Joel Osteen's book, Your Best Life Now, shows how Joel Osteen is a false teacher who speaks great-swelling words of emptiness (2 Peter 2:18). He lies, flatters, speaks falsely of God, preaches a false gospel, and brings in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1), all in this one book.
Joel's theology found in this book can be summed up in two ways:
1. It's OK to lie, as long as it is in faith.
2. Set your mind on the things of the earth.
Joel Osteen's book is about the here and now, life on this earth, and getting what you can get out of it, as the title clearly declares, "Your Best Life Now." It is very earthly minded, focused on "the good things in life" (p. 3), like financial gain which is mentioned often throughout the book, and is filled with lies. It is completely contrary to the words of God found in Colossians 3:1-7, and 9.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. . . . Do not lie to one another.
Osteen may not overtly encourage fornication, uncleanness, and passion, but he clearly encourages evil desire and covetousness, as he encourages people towards wanting financial gain (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and loving this world and the things in it (1 John 2:15-17). In this endeavor, Osteen lies to his readers as he encourages them to be enemies of God (James 4:4). For some examples of Osteen's lies, please see the following.
I. Earthly Minded (Colossians 3:1-7, 9) Lies (Revelation 21:8)
A. Nothing Good Is Going To Happen
Written in the context of prospering financially and enjoying "the good things in life" (e.g. living in a home in Hawaii), on page 3 Osteen writes,
We have to conceive it on the inside before we're ever going to receive it on the outside. If you don't think you can have something good, then you never will. (p. 3)
On page 129 he writes,
"Nothing good ever happens to me. My dreams never come to pass. I knew I wouldn't get promoted." Statements such as these will literally prevent you from moving ahead in life.
If you're in the habit of saying, "Nothing good ever happens to me," guess what? Nothing good is going to happen to you! (p. 129)
This is a lie. Scripture says,
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalm 145:9)
The Lord is good to all, and that includes those who don't think they can have something good.
B. Things Will Turn Around
An old adage purports that if you want to be successful, you must follow your dreams. While I'd never suggest that anyone should abandon his or her dreams, the truth is, your life will follow your expectations. What you expect is what you will get. (p. 13, italics in original)
Scripture says no such thing (Proverbs 30:5-6). Instead, it says,
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
Joel's own book acknowledges his words are not true. He later writes,
We all have unfair and unjust things happen to us; that's a part of life. (p. 153)
No matter how successful we are, we all face challenges, struggles, and times when things don't go our way. (p. 205)
Sometimes, no matter how hard we pray or how long we stand in faith, things don't turn out as we hope. (p. 178)
Wait a minute. Joel says, "What you expect is what you will get." Then he says, "Expect circumstances to change in your favor" (p. 13). But, yet "unfair and unjust things happen to us," and at times "things don't go our way," and "Sometimes, no matter how hard we pray or how long we stand in faith, things don't turn out as we hope." In other words, the real truth is, at times, what you expect is not what you will get.
Yet, Osteen promises,
I can guarantee you that your difficult situation will never improve as long as you stay in a negative frame of mind. But if you'll develop an attitude of faith and expect events to change positively, then at the right time, that situation will turn around. (p. 16)
So says Osteen, not God (Proverbs 30:5-6). True believers indeed have faith in God, and receive whatever they ask (1 John 3:22), that is, whatever is according to His will (1 John 5:14). If it is not His will, it doesn't matter what we expect, we are by no means guaranteed that it will be done. Joel Osteen may guarantee things will turn around, but God does not.
C. Your Best Days Are Ahead Of You.
Speaking in the context of prospering financially, Osteen writes,
Make room in your thinking for the great things God wants to do. Your best days are ahead of you. God wants to do more than you can even ask or think, but remember, it's according to the power that works in you. (p. 27-28, bold added)
Joel Osteen "does not know what will happen" (Ecclesiastes 8:7), for "No man knows what is to be" (Ecclesiastes 10:14). Thus, there is no way Osteen could know what he claims. No doubt, for some, perhaps their best days in this life are yet to be, for others, their worst. God knows such things, not man. And, for those to whom this does not come to pass, clearly Osteen has fed them a lie.
On the last page of the text of his book Osteen writes,
Remember, if you obey God and are willing to trust Him, you will have the best this life has to offer - and more!
God gives no such promise (Proverbs 30:5-6). Moreover, the wicked can get "the best this life has to offer," and they disobey God (Psalm 73:2-12). Obeying God does not guarantee "the best this life has to offer." As it is written,
There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. (Ecclesiastes 8:14)
I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness. (Ecclesiastes 7:15)
D. "Good" Lying
At the beginning of chapter 13 on page 113 the first two paragraphs read,
A little boy went out to the back yard to play with a baseball bat and a ball. He said to himself, "I'm the best hitter in the world." Then he threw the ball up in the air and took a swing at it, but he missed. Without a moment's hesitation, he picked up the ball and tossed it in the air again, saying as he swung the bat, "I'm the best hitter in all the world." He swung and missed. Strike two. He tossed the ball up again, concentrating more intensely, even more determined, saying, "I am the best hitter in all the world!" He swung the bat with all his might. Whiff! Strike three. The little boy laid down his bat and smiled real big. "What do you know?" he said. "I'm the best pitcher in all the world!"
Now that's a good attitude! Sometimes you simply have to choose to see the bright side of situations. When things don't work out as you planned, rather than complaining, look for something good in your circumstances. Fill your mind with good thoughts.
With the example given, it is evident Osteen believes the boy's thoughts were good, but they were not. They were all lies. What Osteen calls good, God calls evil (Isaiah 5:20).
II. Flattery (Romans 16:18; Jude 16)
A. That's Not Who You Are
Osteen tells an angry bitter person, who rightly acknowledges they are an angry bitter person, that they are not an angry bitter person.
Worse yet, after a while, we accept it. We make room in our hearts for that bitterness; we learn to live with it. "Well, I'm just an angry person. That's just my personality. I'm always like this. I'm always bitter. This is who I am."
No, with all due respect, that's not who you are. (p. 156)
This is an outright lie! The context in which Joel writes shows it is an outright lie. Joel writes in the context of "we learn to live with" bitterness, and then illustrates this with someone who has done so. But, then he flatters them and lies to them declaring they are not who they really are.
Immediately after the above quote, Osteen writes,
You need to get rid of the poison that is polluting your life. You were made to be a crystal-clear stream. (p. 156)
Says who? God doesn't say any such thing (Proverbs 30:5-6), and Osteen has no way of knowing what they were made for. Since this is someone who is clearly lost (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Galatians 5:19-21), Osteen has no way of knowing if they were made for "the day of doom" (Proverbs 16:4) prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22), or to be saved as a vessel of mercy (Romans 9:23).
B. God's Vision
On page 58, Osteen writes,
An angel appeared to Gideon and said, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." (The Amplified Bible says, "You mighty man of fearless courage.")
Believe it or not, that is how God sees you, too. He regards you as a strong, courageous, successful, overcoming person."
This is pure flattery, because the person to whom Osteen is speaking is none of these things. The text continues,
"Oh, Joel, He wouldn't say that about me," you may be saying. "I'm not any of those things. I'm not strong. I'm not successful. Courageous? Are you kidding? Me?
God is not blind. He sees people as they really are. If they are not courageous, as this man admits, then He does not see them as courageous. If they are not successful, as this man admits, then He does not see them as successful. He sees people as they really are (Proverbs 15:11). As it is written,
There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13).
Osteen's justification for this flattery is that the angel said, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor" (Judges 6:12), when Gideon was, according to Osteen, not a mighty man of valor. Osteen writes, "Gideon felt unqualified, full of fear, and lacking in confidence," and "Gideon felt weak;" and "Gideon felt insecure" (p. 58-59). The only truth to any of this is the first statement ("felt unqualified," see Judges 6:15). The rest is all lies, as the verses immediately after the angel's statement prove:
And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!" Gideon said to Him, "O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites." Then the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?" (Judges 6:12-14)
The Lord says, "Go in this might of yours." Gideon was not full of fear, weak, and insecure. He did have might. Osteen makes the Lord out to be a liar, calling Gideon a mighty man when supposedly (according to Osteen) he was not. Osteen is the liar, not God.
C. You're Going To Accomplish Great Things!
Osteen flatters his own children. In this book on page 8 Osteen writes,
I tell my children all the time, "You're going to go much further than Daddy. You have so much potential. You're going to accomplish great things!"
Joel speaks in the context of the here and now (this life). Osteen has no such knowledge, whether they will do anything "great" or live long enough to do so. As Ecclesiastes 9:12 says,
For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
Joel Osteen is a man, and he does not know his time nor his children's time, neither does he know anything about what they may or may not accomplish. Joel Osteen "does not know what will happen" (Ecclesiastes 8:7). As it is written, "No man knows what is to be" (Ecclesiastes 10:14), and,
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
Osteen is speaking about matters of which he is ignorant. This is not faith. It is flattery (Romans 16:18), and arrogant evil boasting (James 4:13-16, see below).
III. Evil Boasting
In the second paragraph after the above Osteen writes,
One day, I was driving through Houston with my eight-year-old son, Jonathan. As we drove down the freeway we came upon the Compaq Center, the sixteen-thousand seat arena that was the former home of the Houston Rockets professional basketball team, and soon to be the home of Lakewood Church. I slowed down and pointed. "Jonathan, look over there. One day, that's where you're going to be preaching."
He said, "Oh, no, Daddy. When I get old enough, I'm going to preach in Reliant Stadium!" (Reliant Stadium is Houston's seventy-thousand-seat home of the Houston Texans football team.)
I thought, I like the fact that he's got a big dream. (p. 8-9)
Osteen is perverted (Proverbs 14:2). He should have disliked the fact that he and his son boasted in the exact way Scripture says not to:
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;" whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
Osteen is arrogant, and he is teaching his children and others to be arrogant. Neither Osteen nor his son said anything about, "If the Lord wills," therefore, their boasts are evil and arrogant, as James clearly declares.
IV. More Earthly Mindedness Via Lies About God (Proverbs 30:5-6)
A. God Wants To Increase You Financially
Speaking to all those reading his book, Osteen writes,
God wants to increase you financially, by giving you promotions, fresh ideas, and creativity. (p. 5)
God may very well want to do that to some (Psalm 115:3), but God chooses to make some believers poor (Proverbs 22:2; James 2:5). Besides the fact that Osteen does not know who God wants to increase financially and who He doesn't, when Osteen makes this claim to all who read his book, he lies.
B. God Wants This To Be The Best Time Of Your Life
Immediately after the above quote, Osteen claims,
The Scripture says that God wants to pour out "His far and beyond favor." [Ephesians 2:7 footnoted] God wants this to be the best time of your life. (p. 5)
Again, Osteen has no such knowledge, and therefore, lies, particularly for those whom God may be presently wanting to treat them as Job (Job 1 & 2) or as Paul (Acts 9:12; 1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Moreover, he perverts Ephesians 2:7, because Joel speaks in the context of "Now," this life. Ephesians speaks regarding "the ages to come" (NKJV).
C. El Cheapo
On page 33 Osteen writes,
- "I don't really have enough money, but with a little luck, I can pay a few of these bills."
That is not the lifestyle God intends for you. God wants you to live an overcoming life of victory. He doesn't want you to barely get by. He's called El Shaddai, "the God of more than enough." He's not "El Cheapo," the God of barely enough!
This is a lie. He is both the God of more than enough, and He is the God of barely enough. He is the God of all things (Romans 11:36). He is the maker of both the rich and the poor (Proverbs 22:2).
D. God Wants To Give You Your Own House
On page 35 Osteen amazingly writes,
Many times, we pray almost as though we are inconveniencing God. We say, "God, would You please give me a bit bigger apartment? I don't want to bother You too much."
No, God wants to give you your own house. God has a big dream for your life. (p. 35)
And what chapter and verse do we find that in? Amazing! This certainly appeals to man's wicked covetous heart (Romans 8:5-6).
God wants you to be content (Hebrews 13:5) and faithful (e.g. Matthew 24:25). He never says He wants to give you your own house. Joel Osteen simply adds to the words of God, and he is and will be found to be a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6; Matthew 12:36-37).
E. God Wants To Make Your Life Easier
In the context of the various circumstances in this life (like attempting to enroll a child in school, or being pulled over by a police officer), Osteen writes,
The Bible clearly states, "God has crowned us with glory and honor." [Psalm 8:5 footnoted] The word honor could also be translated as "favor," and favor means "to assist, to provide with special advantages and to receive preferential treatment." In other words, God wants to make your life easier. He wants to assist you, to promote you, to give you advantages. He wants you to have preferential treatment. (p. 38, bold added)
In Osteen's context, that is, circumstances in this life, Scripture never teaches "God wants to make your life easier." Psalm 8:5 does not say this, nor does any other passage in holy writ (Proverbs 30:5-6).
Psalm 8:5 is speaking of all mankind, and it is clear, God has not made all men's lives easier (e.g. Psalm 60:3; Proverbs 13:15; 2 Corinthians 4:8), nor does it say anywhere that He has wanted to (Proverbs 30:5-6).
Conversely, God told Paul his life would be difficult (Acts 9:12), and indeed, it was (1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Speaking of God, Osteen writes,
He doesn't send the problems, but sometimes He allows us to go through them. (p. 205; see also p. 214)
Osteen denies Genesis to Revelation. Every problem mentioned in there was, is, and will be sent by God (see e.g. Genesis 6:13; Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:37-38; Amos 3:6; Romans 11:36; etc.). This false concept of God helps explain his words on page 105,
God is positive! There is nothing negative about Him.
Osteen does not know Him (1 John 2:4).
V. False Gospel (Galatians 1:8-9)
A. Positive Thinking
Like Robert Schuller, Joel Osteen preaches the false gospel of positive thinking.
You may be weary and tired, worn down, and ready to give up. You may be saying, "I'm never going to break this addiction. I've had it for so long. I wouldn't even know how to function with out it." Or, "My income is so low, and my debts are so high; I don't see how my financial situation will ever get better." Or, "I've been praying for years, but it doesn't look as though my children want to serve God." "I've had about as much as I can take."
Don't allow yourself to wave the white flag of surrender. You must get out of that defeated mentality and start thinking and believing positively. Your attitude should be: I'm coming out of this thing! I may have been sick for a long time, but I know this sickness didn't come to stay. It came to pass. I may have struggled with this addiction for years, but I know my day of deliverance is coming. (p. 191, italics in original)
Clearly, when addressing the issue of addictions, Osteen speaks of sin. Having an addiction is a serious lack of self-control. Those who do not have self-control, do not have the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23), and are therefore not in Christ (Romans 8:9). They do not need to think positively. They need to repent and turn to the Lord (Isaiah 55:6-7). Joel's "start thinking and believing positively" is the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 3:19-20; Colossians 2:8-10).
This worldly wisdom found in Joel's book is consistent with the folly of Lakewood Church where Osteen preaches. There they have "Recovery Classes" to deal with various sins.
Various provided courses include Addiction Recovery, Anger Management, Breaking Strongholds, Boundaries, Divorce Recovery, Fidelity, and Search for Significance, which give direction and a pathway to achieving your best life! (www.lakewood.cc/site/PageServer?pagename=cp_recovery, hard copy on file)
It is quite evident the truth is not preached in Lakewood Church, for if it was, it would set the people free (see John 8:31-36), and there would be no use for such classes.
B. Free Will
Osteen also teaches the false "free will" gospel. On page 178 he writes,
I encourage people to persevere, to continue praying, believing for good things to happen. But we must also understand that God will not change another person's will. He has given every human being free will to choose which way he or she will go, whether to do right or wrong.
If what Osteen writes were true, there would be not a single person saved ever in all eternity. Because, salvation is "not of him who wills" (Romans 9:16; see also John 1:12-13). God hardens men's hearts, and on whom He wills He has mercy (Romans 9:18). His mercy means changing man's wicked will, the will that seeks only rebellion (Proverbs 17:11), into a will that loves God. He takes the dead, and makes them alive (Ephesians 2:1-10). He most certainly will "change another person's will." This is part of the many awesome things He does (e.g. Proverbs 16:9; 20:24; 21:1; Romans 11:36).
VI. Lovers of Themselves (2 Timothy 3:1-2)
God knows we're not perfect, that we all have faults and weaknesses; that we all make mistakes. But the good news is, God loves us anyway. He created us in His image, and He is continually shaping us, conforming us to His character, helping us to become even more like the person He is. Consequently, we must learn to love ourselves, faults and all, not because we are egotists or because we want to excuse our shortcomings, but because that's how our heavenly Father loves us. (p. 57-58, bold added)
Scripture never teaches that we must learn to love ourselves, or anything like that (Proverbs 30:5-6). 2 Timothy 3:2 lists loving oneself as a vice, not a virtue, as Osteen erroneously purports. Moreover, Ephesians 5:28-29 lets us know there is no need for men to learn to love themselves. Such "love" is already well established in man.
VII. Self-esteem (Matthew 5:3)
Osteen sees low self-esteem as a problem, a bad thing (p. 34). He describes low self-esteem in this way:
Yet many people do just that. Consequently, they suffer from low self-esteem; they feel insignificant and unworthy to receive God's attention, much less His blessings. This sort of poor self-image keeps them from exercising their God-given gifts and authority, and it robs them from experiencing the abundant lives their heavenly Father wants them to have. (p. 60)
How does Osteen define low self-esteem? He defines it as feeling "insignificant and unworthy to receive God's attention." Amen, and that is good Biblical thinking. Mankind is unworthy to receive God's attention, much less His blessings. As it is written,
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales. (Isaiah 40:15)
All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. (Isaiah 40:17)
Jacob had low self-esteem and rightly said,
I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant. (Genesis 32:10)
Sadly, Osteen turns the truth of God upside down and claims this low self-esteem "robs them from experiencing the abundant lives their heavenly Father wants them to have," when in reality, it is Osteen who is robbing them of the abundant life God could give them (John 10:1, 8, 10). Only those with low self-esteem will experience the true abundant life (John 10:10). As it is written,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
In other words, blessed are those who see themselves as spiritually bankrupt. They are the ones who own ("theirs") the kingdom of heaven. King David well described this spiritual bankruptcy with these words:
My goodness is nothing apart from you. (Psalm 16:2)
Moreover, God says,
But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)
For more on self-esteem, see our report on Dobson.
VIII. Undiscerning (Romans 1:31)
On page 109 Osteen writes,
You don't have to dwell on every thought that comes to your mind. The first thing you need to do is ascertain where that thought is coming from. Is that thought from God, is it your own thought, or is it a destructive thought from the enemy?
How can you tell? Easy. If it's a negative thought, it's from the enemy.
This is amazing! No such "discernment" is found in the word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6).
God warns that "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14) and his ministers "into ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:15). How easily Osteen and his followers are, can be and will be, deceived by Satan with such "discernment."
If it's a discouraging, destructive thought; if it brings fear, worry, doubt, or unbelief; if the thought makes you feel weak, inadequate, or insecure, I can guarantee you that thought is not from God.
Osteen and his followers are wide open to the schemes of the devil (2 Corinthians 2:11), but that is par for the coarse; for he and his followers are of the devil (as in John 8:44). Keep it encouraging. Make it look good. Keep it "secure" feeling, and they'll think it's ok. What a destructive heresy (2 Peter 2:1)!
IX. Blasphemy (2 Timothy 3:2)
Finally, in 2 Timothy 3:1-2 it says in the last days men will be blasphemers. Osteen is one such man. He suggests forgiving God. On page 144 he writes,
Forgive the people who did you wrong. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made.
You may even need to forgive God.
Besides the fact that we are never instructed to forgive ourselves (Proverbs 30:5-6), we are the ones who need forgiveness, not God (Isaiah 64:5)! This is nothing but blasphemy.
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