Biblical Gospel vs Fake Gospel

The world is awash with fake news, and sadly this is just as true in so many of our churches. Instead of hearing biblical truth, we are getting fake news preached from too many of our pulpits. Indeed, the biggest churches in the West are often guilty of this.

We get feel-good pop sermons about how wonderful we are, how amazing we are, and how terrific we are. Not exactly what Scripture says, but this is now the most popular message heard from so many churches. At such churches one would not think that the Bible ever spoke of sin and the need of a Saviour.

One year ago the Christian satire site Babylon Bee perfectly captured this reality. The article, with this title, “Woman Unsure Why She Needs Jesus After Preacher Spends 30 Minutes Telling Her How Amazing She Is” is a satire piece, but so often satire is a perfect means to convey truth. The article says this:

TWIN OAKS, AZ—According to reports coming out of Hope Community Church, first-time visitor Brittany Wilson remains unsure about why she needed “this Jesus guy” in her life after the pastor spent the entire Sunday sermon reiterating how awesome, amazing, unique, and special she is.
“The message was super-encouraging. It was all about how I need to let the goodness within me shine and ‘just do me,’ without worrying about all the haters,” Wilson said after the service.
“But then the pastor said I needed Jesus, out of the blue. Like, what? It made no sense. I’m not sure what He has to offer that I don’t, based on how wonderful the pastor said I am.”
Wilson, who hasn’t attended church since she was a child, further reported she was “a little hurt” that the pastor would segue into an invitation to add Jesus to her life.
“It really undermined my confidence in myself,” she said, adding she wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

Some will say, “Yeah, but this is just satire. I am not aware of any churches or preachers teaching this.” If so, you are clearly out of touch. Sadly, many are running with this, and as a supreme example, the biggest church in North America specialises in this.

Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, pastored by Joel Osteen, offers exactly this sort of message week in and week out. He packs the place out each Sunday, and his books have become best sellers. It is all about feeling good about yourself, having your best life now, and thinking happy thoughts. That is his gospel, full stop.

I have often documented this in previous articles. Consider just one of his recent books. In 2015 Joel Osteen released The Power of I Am: Two Words That Will Change Your Life Today. It is simply more of his tried and ‘true’ formula. It is all about feeling good about yourself and being upbeat and positive. That’s it. That is the substance of this book, and all his books. Here are some quotes from the book:

“I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am successful.”
“I am victorious. I am talented. I am creative.”
“I am wise. I am healthy. I am in shape.”
“I am energetic. I am happy. I am positive.”
“I am passionate. I am strong. I am confident.”
“I am secure. I am beautiful. I am attractive.”
“I am valuable. I am free. I am redeemed.”
“I am forgiven. I am anointed. I am accepted.”
“I am approved. I am prepared. I am qualified.”
“I am motivated. I am focused. I am disciplined.”
“I am determined. I am patient. I am kind.”
“I am generous. I am excellent. I am equipped.”
“I am empowered. I am well able.”
“I am a child of the Most High God.”

Um, this is not quite what the Word of God offers us. Far from it. It gives us a much more realistic – and worrying – assessment of who we are. Simply reading the Bible will show us who we really are: we are not wonderful folks who are just peachy, but depraved rebels headed to hell who need to be delivered from our sin and depravity.

Consider what the Bible says about us as sinners. We are:

-spiritually sick (Luke 5:31-32)
-rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32)
-lost (Luke 19:10)
-in darkness (Acts 20:18)
-under the power of Satan (Acts 20:18)
-slaves to sin (Romans 6:22)
-influenced and led astray to mute idols (1 Corinthians 12:2)
-spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
-God’s enemies (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
-slaves to those who by nature are not gods (Galatians 4:8)
-dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)
-objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
-dead in transgressions (Ephesians 2:5)
-darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18)
-separated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18)
-darkness (Ephesians 5:8)
-in the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13)
-alienated from God (Colossians 1:21)
-his enemies (Colossians 1:21)
-idol worshippers (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
-held in slavery (Hebrews 2:15)
-not a people; who had not received mercy (1 Peter 2:10)
-sheep going astray (1 Peter 2:25)

Hmm, not a very flattering portrait of who we are. Indeed, it is a pretty shocking and wretched picture actually. But of course some will protest and say that this book by Osteen is meant just for Christians. But both he and his fans will insist that all of his books, sermons and messages are for everyone.

And even if this was just a feel-good, self-help pep-talk for believers only, again we find the biblical version of events a far cry from this pap. Just consider what the Apostle Paul said of himself. Did he relish in the positive thinking spiel, and adhere to the “every day and in every way I am getting better and better” mantra?

Not at all. Consider these passages in which he describes his spiritual condition. The older he got, the longer he walked with Christ, the more he became aware of his fallen and depraved condition, and the more he needed to cling to the mercy and grace of God:

-“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9 – written in mid-50s.)
-“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8 – written in early 60s.)
-“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:15 – written in mid-60s.)

Perhaps even more worrying than Osteen and his message are the zillions of folks who lap up every word he utters. Just consider some of the comments under the book’s amazon page. I looked through many of the 854 “reviews” and it was scary stuff. Usually one or two word comments like “awesome” and “so positive” and “really uplifting” are found. Here are some of the more substantial ones:

“I am not a Christian but the message of this book is for all people. I bought it for me and some of my non Christian friends. It has changed my life. I highly recommend it to anyone.”

“I am not a particularly religious person and I enjoy Joel and his messages.”

“I know Joel is a man of religion but that isn’t why I bought the book. The positive messages we need to send to ourselves eventually spread out far and wide, even in places the good book doesn’t reach.”

“I gave it a 5 stars it speak life. I would recommend this book to everybody and the unbelievers also.”

“I love the positive and no gloom and doom that most preachers give us. Grew up Catholic and no matter what we were going to Hell, so why bother… We can make our own futures and be happy and have plenty and do good.”

And one reviewer nails it:

“The trouble with Joel, and I am not knocking him, cause I actually like him, but his trouble is that if you have read one of his books, you might as well say you have read them all, because his basic premise, and unfortunately writings and stories are truly all the same.”

Notice how plenty of non-Christians just love his stuff. That is most telling. When Jesus and the disciples preached the gospel, they were hated, attacked, abused and killed. The same when the prophets spoke in the name of the Lord. The only popular prophets in the Old Testament were the false prophets.

If Jesus had preached the message that so many of our megachurch pastors are preaching today, he never would have been crucified. Everyone would have loved him. ‘Oh I feel so much better. Thank you. Life is so much rosier now. You are so uplifting and upbeat. I feel so much happier. Thanks Jesus.’

By the way, if you go to see the reviews of a book like The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. or even the best-selling New Age books by folks like Oprah Winfrey (a good buddy of Osteen’s), you will find identical comments: “inspiring,” “uplifting,” “awesome,” ‘encouraging,” “so positive,” etc.

These authors all get identical positive reactions because they all preach identical gospels – and they happen to be false gospels. The good news of the gospel is certainly good news. But it means absolutely nothing until we first hear and digest the bad news of the gospel, that we are damnable sinners heading to a lost eternity, and unless we turn to Christ in faith and repentance, we are all lost.

That is one message you will NOT find in the books and sermons by folks like Osteen. As such, they are presenting fake news. And as Scripture makes so clear, such fake news does not give life – certainly not everlasting life. It brings death.

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14 Replies to “Biblical Gospel vs Fake Gospel”

  1. Paul, a true apostle, explains discipleship through example;

    1Co 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

    1Co 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

    Php 3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

    2Co 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
    2Co 6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
    2Co 6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;

    2Co 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
    2Co 11:24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
    2Co 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;
    2Co 11:26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;
    2Co 11:27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
    2Co 11:30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

    Php 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
    Php 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
    Php 3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
    Php 3:6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
    Php 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
    Php 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
    Php 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
    Php 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

  2. another interesting comment by Paul

    Gal 6:17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

  3. When I was in my teens I read Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” and gained a lot from it, not because it was of Christian substance, but because it spoke to me in view of my state of self confidence at the time.

    Over the years I came to understand that Positive Thinking, while useful, is not Salvation. While relying on ones Self is important and practical, it does not provide Life in Salvation. Relying on ones Self leads to the very doom we fear.

    When in New York a few years ago we walked by the Marble Collegiate Church, which had emblazoned on its reader board a positive message concerning the gay community. I am not sure even Peale would have embraced the idea, but it defines where his philosophical theology leads.

    Joel Osteen, Hillsong and many other church leaders and churches are a long way down the same path.

    As a pastor I never had a large, “popular” church. I often had more people angry with me than happy with me – and I am convinced it is because I preached a combination of the Law and Gospel, that we are sinners before a righteous and just God in need of a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ. That message is not a “populist” one.

  4. When Moses heard the voice of God coming from the burning bush that was not consumed by the flames, telling him to deliver the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, he was overwhelmed and asked who should he say sent him. The answer was “I AM THAT I AM. Say to them I AM sent me to you”.
    In Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives Jesus lists qualities of blessedness in a person, one of which was “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
    I would think anyone bible literate person would wince at the narcissistic list of repetitions aggrandising oneself suggested by Joel Osteen.

  5. Hi Bill, unfortunately we can say the same about Rick Warren. Lots of years ago I made a comment to a christian friend that the real Gospel was not clearly defined in that there was no mention of the sin question. Her response in support of Warren was that ‘Oh, the book is meant for Christians’ (the church was studying the book at the time). Basically she was saying that there are no unbelievers in the pews. How unrealistic was that?

  6. Bill I have been supporting LIGHT FM but I get concerned when I hear the advertisement for the ONE MINUTE COACH come on air as it is an Australian version of what Joel Osteen preaches – moralistic therapeutic deism. However they also have CHUCK SWINDOLL on air at 5am and I wonder why this time of preaching the Gospel is not broadcast at a time when there are more people able to hear it, instead of the continual emphasis upon what the BREAKFAST TIME duo of Lucy and Kel are up to.

  7. Here is some more wisdom from Paul James and Peter to meditate on;

    2Cor 5:15 and Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

    1Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.

    James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your pleasures.
    Jas 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

  8. Be careful of Olsteen, John Haggee, Benny Hinn, Jerry Fallwell, Joyce Meyers, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Kenneth Copland, Rick Warren etc, they don’t know Scripture, they do not quote God’s Word, they are false teachers and live a dangerous lifestyle. Stay away from such, Read the truth in God’s Word.

  9. Although Osteen and Warren are the main ‘heretics’, and plenty of others with major flaws. Jimmy Swaggart seems to be on the crest of a christian wave with his 24 hour 7 day SBN. Sonlife broadcasting network. Many Christians have commented on the high quality and true Gospel teaching. He also goes into areas other Christians will not mention, eg islam, jws, freemasons, mormons, homosexual marriage. I was very surprised by this phenomenen and believe it to be God driven.

  10. When I cautioned my relative (the one who unleashed the torrent of insults against me) against reading Joel Osteen, she got upset with me, saying “I didn’t like Osteen,”, no that’s not what I meant, as what I meant was that I didn’t like his teaching, as I was cautioning her against it, as it’s “pop psychology”, not the Gospel Of Jesus Christ.

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