Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the gentle…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers…those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…those who are insulted, persecuted, and falsely accused because of Christ…” (Matthew 5:3-7). One of the most popular books of late is one entitled, Your Best Life Now, by “Pastor” Joel Osteen. In this book, Osteen offers seven “keys” to improving your life everyday. It is written, he says, “to help you fulfill the potential for your life. This book will help you live your best life now.” He goes on to say, “The good news is that your dreams, goals, and aspirations do not have to stay on tomorrow’s to do list, rather, through applying seven steps you can begin to live at your full potential.” I have a better title in mind for this book: Your Most Self-Centered Life Now.
I will be the first to admit, my assessment of “Pastor” Osteen’s book does sound a bit harsh. But think about it. Here is a guy who suggests the way to experience your best life now is by enlarging your vision, developing a healthy self-image, discovering the power of your thoughts and words, letting go of the past, finding strength through adversity, living to give, and choosing to be happy. I cannot think of a better way to describe those who are traveling down the broad way which leads to destruction that Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Osteen’s seven “keys” go against everything Jesus taught in the Scriptures. If Jesus was writing a similar book, I’m sure it would be entitled, The Sermon on the Mount – The Key to Your Best Life Now and Forever. Notice I said, key. I believe the principles contained within that famous sermon are the singular key to experiencing your best life now and forever!
The world says enlarge your vision, develop a healthy self-image and discover the power of your thoughts and words. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). He was also, "well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake" (2 Cor. 12:10). The world says let go of the past (unless it benefits you to hold on), find strength through adversity (prove to yourself that you are somebody), live to give (because it’ll make you feel good), and choose to be happy (don’t buy into this you are a sinner bit). But what does God’s word say? It certainly says to forget the past, particularly your successes (Phil. 3:6-8), which I am sure Osteen would encourage you to remember. It most definitely admonishes us to give, but not in order that we might feel good about ourselves, but so that we might be demonstrations of God’s gracious provision in our own lives (2 Cor. 9:6-8). Finally, rather than pursuing happiness, God’s word encourages us to, above all else, pursue Christ, even to the point of death. It’s an ironic thing indeed. When we choose death to self and pursuit of Christ, we find joy that goes deeper and farther than any choice of happiness could ever provide (Psalm 43:4; Phil. 2:17).
It may seem foolish to disagree theologically with a man who “pastors” the largest congregation in the country. Nevertheless, if you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, one that shows God to be powerless apart from your positive-filled thoughts and words, where sin is minimized (this is my favorite) and renamed in every possible way, and one that gives only a passing mention to Jesus Christ, then Your Best Life Now is for you. However, if being blessed (Matt. 5:3-7) with Christ is your goal, if knowing Him through the pains and trials of life is something you desire above all else, if seeing Him exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, and if you believe a Christian’s greatest hunger and desire should be for righteousness (not for money, health or easy living), then you would do well to look elsewhere—the Bible is a good place to start! When we experience the struggles of life and we choose to deny self and believe and pursue Christ, He says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (Matt. 5:12). In other words, it’s not your life now that is so much the focus, but your life in eternity.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it”(Matthew 7:13-14). Why is the Gospel so hard to believe? There are probably a myriad of answers to that question. However, the truth of the matter is, it is probably human pride and spiritual blindness that prevent most people from believing the true Gospel. Jesus said it plainly: “The gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” His point was that when it comes down to believing the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, far more people will reject it than believe and far more people will believe they have believed it when in reality they have not. They have been spoon fed the devil’s disinformation which leads to false assurance, and unless they truly believe, will one day lead to empty words.
Disinformation: it is the deliberate dissemination of false information in order to mislead. False assurance: it is believing you have something when in reality you do not. Empty words: they are just that, empty words. So the question is do you want to be forgiven of your sins, given the gift of eternal life, and have the settled and sure hope of glory when you die? Do you want to be freed from the power of sin and blessed with every spiritual blessing Christ has to offer? Most people would answer yes! However, know this: Many people who say yes will never realize salvation. Jesus made this clear. You can want all the blessings salvation offers and never receive a single one. How so? It’s simple, really. Most have believed a lie, which has led to false assurance and will one day result in empty words…unless they fix it this side of eternity.
I have absolutely no use for the so called “seeker-sensitive movement” that seems to be sweeping the land these days. There are several reasons why, but two are always at the forefront. First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one seeker and His name is Jesus. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear no one seeks after God: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11). Secondly, the seeker-sensitive movement is nothing but a watered down, let’s all get happy and feel good about ourselves, version of the Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all. For the most part, I believe it is the devil’s disinformation program. It sounds good. It looks good. But it’s not good! It’s no wonder, when speaking of salvation, Jesus said, “There are few who find it.” This movement, I believe, has given false assurance to hundreds of thousands of people. They think they are on their way to heaven, when in reality; they are traveling fast down the wide and broad way that leads to destruction. And one day, they will utter empty words, the words, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (Matthew 7:22). Tragedy of tragedies, Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).
There are a lot of things in this life we can get wrong, but not this. Either we get it right in this life or we miss out on the eternal blessings of eternal life with Christ. The alternative is eternal separation from God and everything that is good. The Bible further describes the alternative as eternal torment from which there is no escape. So there are no second chances after death. We get it right this side of eternity, or we do not get it right at all. The true Gospel is a call to self-denial. It is not a call to self-fulfillment or higher self-esteem. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). That’s pretty clear cut. If you want to be a follower of Jesus and enter the kingdom of God—if you want to be a Christian—then you must face three commands: You must deny yourself, take up your cross daily (death to self), and follow Christ. This does not sound too seeker-sensitive to me. However, it is the truth that Jesus taught consistently and repeatedly.
So who then is saved? Who will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven? The answer is obvious: only those who have believed the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible gives us markers that help identify who these people are. First of all, check the list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. If you are on it, you are not saved and will not be spending eternity with Jesus, unless you are willing to repent and believe the Gospel. A second marker that is used to identify those who are truly saved, is found in Matthew 7:21: “He who does the will of My Father in heaven,” will enter the kingdom. This is the Word of the Lord! Therefore, these are true words. But most will not believe. Perhaps it is because most people “loved the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). Therefore, they readily grasp onto disinformation, they cling to false assurance, and will one day utter empty words.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). I had a couple visitors over the weekend. Two ladies were making their way door-to-door, inviting all to come to a Bible study in the area. Lucky me, I just happened to be at home.
The conversation began innocently enough. They were talking about “the fellowship,” and how I could come be a part of their new Bible study. I finally asked what this so called “fellowship” was. One lady answered, “The Way International.” She then proceeded to talk about knowing God. So I asked her, “How do you know God?” Five minutes later, when she finished answering my question, I still had no idea how to know God. If I had 60 seconds to live and this lady had to tell me how to get ready to meet God, I would have entered into eternity totally unprepared. So I asked another question, “What happens when you die?” Her response almost brought me to tears: “You go into the ground and your soul sleeps until God comes again.” I asked both of them about Paul’s words, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” and “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ for that is far better,” to which they responded, “I’m not real sure what he meant there.” I asked them who Jesus was, and they responded, “God’s son.” But they would not say He was God the Son, that is, He was God who had come in human flesh to save sinners. And herein lay the crux of the matter: Who is Jesus?
The Bible tells us that Jesus is God. “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father,” Jesus said. He also said, “I and the Father are One.” It was for this reason the Pharisees wanted to kill Him: He was claiming to be God and in their minds, that was tantamount to blasphemy. And this truth is that which separates true believers from false believers and others who are lost. Their minds have been blinded by the devil so that they cannot see the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” When our eyes are opened and we see this truth for the very first time, everything changes. His Light shines in our hearts, which in turn, opens our eyes to the “Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” These two ladies had obviously not seen this Light. In their hearts, they remained “blinded”, so that they “might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
I left them with this “thought to ponder.” I asked them if we all agreed that God created everything in the heavens and on earth. They agreed He did. I told them that chapter one of both Colossians and Hebrews clearly says Jesus did it. Therefore, if Jesus created all there is, He has to be God. There is no other possible conclusion. Both agreed they would read those chapters. It is my prayer that God will open their eyes to the truth of who Jesus Christ is before it is too late. And that is my prayer for you as well, that you would see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God! To God be the glory!
You are welcome to leave comments and you don't have to necessarily agree with me. However, I expect a civil tone and charitable spirit. We can disagree with one another without being disagreeable. "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6)
Striving to glorify God by becoming more like Jesus.
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