He is our life, He is our everything. Without Him, we have no life, we have no power, and we certainly have no standing to be heard by God the Father.
Pastor Joel Olsteen has attracted a number of attackers, a number of detractors, many of whom target his toothy smile, his open personality, his brandished warmth to the crowds who visit his church every Sunday. Others have maligned his gospel of prosperity, even though God the Father through Moses, the prophets, and through Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul witness that God is interested in meeting our needs. There is no prosperity gospel, there is not grace gospel, the gospel is grace, the gospel accords that all of our needs will be met in Christ Jesus – but the eternal sticking point is the Man and the Glory Jesus Christ.
And this Beloved Person, the Second of the Trinity, the Lamb who takes away the Sin of the World – This central person in all Scripture, is not preached at length in Pastor Joel’s church or from his pulpit. The scandal of Lakewood Church is not the emphasis on needs being met, but on the greatest need not being met, our dead state in our trespasses without the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit living an dwelling in us. Christ and Him crucified, that’s what Paul the Apostle preached, and he would permit nothing else to be declared out of his mouth.
Olsteen’s sermons emphasize life-skills and psychological niceties, liking staying positive in the face of disappointment, seeing the best in people. Yet because Olsteen does not magnify the only Person who can do these things, the One who wants to live within us, the Lakewood Pastor is inadvertently putting his people under law, under greater demand. None of us can live the Christian life in our own strength. None of us can live out the Sermon on the Mount in our own efforts. It takes the gracious goodness of God’s Son living through us, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, in order for us to reign in life.
God did not send His Son to grant us better job opportunities, to elevate our moods, to give us tips for interacting with difficult people, but to give us LIFE, and ETERNAL LIFE at that! To save us from condemnation, to set us free from the trespasses which have alienated us from our God and Father, to reconcile us to our Creator-Lover, in the midst of a fallen world. Christ came that we would be One with Him, and thus one with the Father, that we would become partakers of the divine nature, that we would be more than conquerors in this world. When believers realize who they are, that all the promises in Chirst indeed are yea and amen, then the shocks and upsets and daily inconveniences which we experience in this fallen world will fall away like dead leaves off a living tree.
If nothing else, Olsteen’s preaching is too weak, not powerful enough! For to the extent that a preacher does not magnify the impossible yet righteous demands of God’s law, to the extent that the Bible is treated merely as a self-help book for people who want to get ahead in this life, to the extent that Jesus is treated as a means to an end, to the extent that Christ is our servant for our own empty needs, then is the Word of God made of no effect. Then do men and women find that they have no power to live out the gentle demands of a smiling preacher, who uses scripture as footnotes to Americana common sense.
Of course, Olsteen’s interview with Larry King is themost damning indictment of this preacher’s hollow teachings. When he refused to assert that apart from Christ, we are all lost, he acquiesced to market and public pressures rather than sharing the gospel in its fullness. Olsteen’s flippant answer regarding those who do not believe on Christ, that they would go to hell, his response was, “That’s up to God.” Only Pastor Benny Hinn, a controversial creature to say the least, had the courage to calumniate the Texas preacher’s cowardice. “Who else died on that Cross?!” Hinn yelled. Who indeed?
But to listen to Olsteen’s weekly sermons, one has yet to hear about this Blessed Person who died for us, who loved us enough to give himself, and because of whom we are certain to receive all else needed for life and godliness.
This populist pandering is impoverishing our people. I run into more people who find the preaching of this charming minister very limiting and under greater scrutiny. American believers are becoming more literate, more discerning, and many of them recognize that these preachers, who in offering a host of feel-good sermonizing, actually bring their hearers into greater bondage and frustration.