We are warned often about the dangers of preaching a gospel other than the biblical gospel as given by Jesus and his disciples. And the warnings are very strong indeed. Consider Paul’s fearful words in Galatians 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
And Paul rebuked the Corinthians for allowing this to occur: “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Cor 11:4).
Thus anyone who claims to be a preacher, a teacher, or a minister of the gospel, must be very careful here indeed. We are to preach the biblical gospel, and that alone. There are to be no additions to it, and no subtractions from it. And of course if it veers from the clear teachings of Jesus, then it is indeed another gospel – a false gospel.
Yet we see this happening all the time. We have mega-preachers from mega-churches giving us gospels which bear no semblance whatsoever to the teachings of Christ and the words of the New Testament. They are another gospel, and in Paul’s words are accursed.
To get to the heart of the gospel, simply ask yourself a few questions:
-Why did Jesus come?
-What was his fundamental purpose for being on planet earth?
-What is the paramount thing that characterises his teaching and ministry?
In the Bible this is made overwhelmingly clear: Christ came to deal with the sin problem. He came to save sinners, and make men right with God. Paul makes this absolutely plain in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
The very name Jesus testifies to this truth. Jesus in Greek, like Joshua in Hebrew, means simply, the Lord saves. The Hebrew Yehoshua means Yahweh is salvation. And that is just what we find in Matthew 1:21 for example: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
So the fundamental purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of sinners. Thus any gospel which is worth its salt is one that pre-eminently stresses salvation from sin. Indeed, around a hundred times in the gospels alone we find the word sin and related terms used.
If this concept is used so overwhelmingly – and primarily by Jesus himself – then anyone who is proclaiming the Christian gospel must also emphasise these words and concepts. So what about those who refuse to even mention the words sin, repentance and the like?
Well, they are clearly preaching another gospel. One of our prime examples of this is of course Joel Osteen. A recent interview with Osteen confirms this yet again. He once again refuses to preach like Jesus, or focus on the very things Jesus focused on.
Here is a brief segment: “[Interviewer Josh] Zepps read a piece that he liked from Osteen’s new book: ‘It doesn’t matter who likes you or doesn’t like you, all that matters is that God likes you. He accepts you, he approves of you.’ Zepps followed up by asking if that included homosexuals.
“‘Absolutely,’ Osteen insisted, ‘I believe that God breathed life into every person and that every person is made in the image of God and you have accept them as they are, on their journey. I’m not here to preach hate or push people down’.”
Now if this is all Osteen had ever said along these lines, we could all just give him the benefit of the doubt. Of course God has made us all in his image, and of course he loves us. If that were all he meant, then we would not be too concerned.
But of course this is not what he means. All his career he has made a point of underplaying, if not ignoring altogether, the very heart of the gospel, namely the truth that we all are rebellious sinners who have rejected God and are headed to eternal punishment. Osteen simply refuses to discuss this at all.
To leave this out of one’s entire life-long message is to decimate the gospel and in fact preach another gospel. And as mentioned, this is not just a once off, or a case of taking him out of context. Simply go to any of his many books and numerous sermons: it is exactly the same there.
You will almost never hear terms like the following: sin, sinners, transgression, iniquity, evil, unrighteousness, holiness, repentance, the cross, and so on. These utterly basic and constantly repeated terms and themes are almost entirely absent in the gospel according to Joel.
He seems to think he can do a better job of preaching the gospel than even Jesus himself, or the other disciples, and the entire New Testament. He seems to think he can just pick and choose the words of Jesus that he likes, and that his audience will like.
He believes he is called to just say nice things, happy things, and make people feel good about themselves. He does not think we should dwell on anything “negative”. Thus we never seem to hear him say anything about sin, the need for repentance, and warnings of future judgment – all regular and emphatic themes of Jesus and the apostles.
Never mind that he is in effect telling Jesus and the others that they were wrong. Never mind that he has decided to create his own gospel, with none of the “offence” of the gospel remaining. But the gospel is always offensive when preached in its fullness.
The desire not to offend anyone is simply another way of saying this guy is a men-pleaser. He would rather please men than God. That is a very dangerous place to be in. We need to pray that Osteen comes back to the biblical gospel, and renounces his own man-made, saccharine-sweet, humanistic gospel.
Others have also noted this worrying interview and its ramifications: “Dr. Michael Brown, host of the Line of Fire radio broadcast, and author of the forthcoming book Hyper-Grace, told Christian News Network that Osteen ‘offers affirmation for sinners–of all kinds–rather than a call for transformation.’
“‘If he meant that God accepts us the way we are and that’s it–no repentance or changed life in Jesus required, then I categorically disagree,’ he stated. ‘Paul says plainly in 2 Timothy 2:19, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity”.’ Brown said that Osteen missed an opportunity to encourage those who struggle with homosexual temptations that Christ came to free men from the power of sin.
“‘If Joel Osteen had made himself clear and given a full, biblical message, which, sadly, he often fails to do, this could have given hope to those struggling with homosexuality, as well as brought the fear of the Lord to those who believe homosexual practice and Christianity are compatible,’ he stated. ‘[I]t’s so important that we open the door wide to all those who identify as LGBT, telling them Jesus died for them just as He died for the rest of the world and there is new life and new hope in Him.’
“Brown said that he is concerned that there are those like Osteen who preach a humanistic Gospel, which ‘starts with me and tells me what God can do to please me,’ instead of a biblical Gospel, which ‘starts with God and tells me what I can do to please Him.’
“‘While I appreciate Joel Osteen bringing a personable, smiling face to the TV screen in the name of Jesus, I’m deeply grieved by the man-centered, cross-avoiding message that he preaches, and because of his great influence, he is greatly accountable,’ he stated. ‘We should pray for God to get hold of him in a radical way and raise him up to be a preacher of righteousness’.”
Yes quite so. Osteen has the biggest church in North America. And no wonder: he tells people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. And what they need to hear is that Jesus came to “save his people from their sins”. Any message which refuses to discuss sin and salvation from sin is no gospel message at all, but a damnable “another gospel”.