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Gamaliel's Desk
Monday, November 20, 2006
Positive Negativism
The broad success of Joel Osteen’s ministry is proof that he can’t possibly be teaching the truth. His phenomenal success (by worldly standards) at building a church in excess of 30,000 members, founding a broadcasting empire and the release of his latest best-selling book are proof that he has abandoned the truth once delivered to the saints. Everyone knows that the mass of humanity (as well as the bulk of casual Christianity) doesn't love the truth, aren’t seeking after it and try to avoid it when they can. We know that the natural man does not receive the things of God and that these things are revealed only to the few, the faithful remnant, the elect, the Chosen of God.

So what makes Joel Osteen and his ministry so dangerous? It is the allure of his message of optimistic positivism. The very title of his book, Your Best Life Now, speaks to a gospel of instant gratification. Every true Christian knows that the Christian life is one of constant suffering, turmoil, tribulation and woe. God is not interested in giving us happiness in the here and now but only in the hereafter. Anyone who tries to persuade people that this life is anything more than a vale of tears and constant sorrow is proclaiming damnable heresy.

Osteen is dedicated to preaching a version of Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking. This is the very message that Satan would like to fill the minds and hearts of gullible people. The idea that a positive, feel good message has any place in the Gospel of Jesus Christ threatens to undermine the very Good News that we have been called to proclaim. There is no place for positive optimism in the preaching of the truth. In its place I would like to offer the Truth of a negative, feel-bad gospel in line with the message of the Bible.

Some negatives of the gospel:

· We are all worthless scum in the eyes of God (We are straying sheep, filthy rags, and generally unfit for any godly endeavor)

· Denial of all worldly pleasures (Any worldly pleasure we may hope to enjoy is merely an occasion for us to satisfy the flesh, something we should avoid at all costs)

· Emphasis on sin and condemnation (Since sin is our biggest problem, it should receive our greatest emphasis. Those who would preach grace to the exclusion of sin, miss out on why we need grace in the first place. A strong emphasis on sin means we need to spend less time on grace because people will be more prepared to receive it.)

· Emphasis on hell and the hereafter (Any pleasures we may aspire to are all in the hereafter. There is nothing in this life for us now other than suffering and woe. To teach otherwise is to lead people to perdition before their time.)

· Preaching against false teachers and other purveyors of positivism

§ False messages

§ False methods

§ False minions

We need to be positive about the negatives because the Bible places so much emphasis on them.

· Weeds out the wannabes - Matthew 23:4 "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers," teaches us that our role is to burden those who would enter the kingdom so they know how hard the Christian life is.

· Concentrates our efforts - the apostle Paul teaches us the we need to deny ourselves in Colossians 2:23 "Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."

· Creates satisfaction - Jesus expressed his great love for the Rich Young Ruler but pointed out that despite all the good he had done, his unwillingness to eschew wealth in the cause of Christ made him unfit for the Kingdom. Thankfully, I am a poor, humble preacher of the gospel, so I am guaranteed an entrance into heavenly bliss and I am not going to jeopardize it by having any bliss in this life.

I would like to conclude by saying that it is about time we had more negative messages so we don’t end up falling for Your Best Life Now or even the heresy of so-called Christian hedonism from such liberal libertines like John Piper.

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