Daily Archives: January 28, 2011

The Second Deepest Truth About You, Me, and Joel Osteen

by Michael J Klassen

Two nights ago, mega-mega church pastor Joel Osteen, from Houston Texas was interviewed on Piers Morgan’s new television show on CNN.

I’ve been pretty open about my criticisms of Joel on this blog. Osteen preaches a gospel that is decidedly too American and simplistic, and he’s a lousy theologian, but I digress…nevertheless, I was proud of Joel for standing for something on the program.

Morgan commented to Osteen that he had offered different opinions about homosexuality in various interviews. Once and for all, Piers Morgan wanted the viewers to know if, in his view, homosexuality is a sin.

I’m amazed that neither Joel nor his wife Victoria show any sign of flinching as the question is asked. I’d bet the family farm that inside, both were thinking, Don’t cringe, don’t cringe, don’t cringe!

“I’ve always believed the Scriptures show that it’s a sin,” he answered.

Wow! Joel Osteen finally stood for something other than the prosperity gospel! As the discussion ensues, Osteen explains that his intent is not to judge homosexuals.

I applaud Osteen for finally taking a stand on something, but he failed to point out the second deepest truth about all followers of Christ.

“You don’t normally talk about sin,” Morgan replies. Then, referring to Elton John (an avowed gay), he asks, “Why are they sinners?”

This is where Joel misses the mark. If I had been sitting next to Joel during Piers Morgan’s interview, I would have whispered, “Hey Joel—remember? We’re all sinners.”

In Jesus’ day, religious leaders tended to divide Jews into two camps—sinners and righteous people. I’m sure you can guess which camp the leaders placed themselves in.

So in Matthew 5, Jesus challenged the religious leaders.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not murder…But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment” (5:21-22).

But he didn’t stop there. Jesus continued…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ” (5:27–28).

Wait a minute?!? Everybody gets angry and everyone has lusted more times than they can count (if they’re honest). That makes all of us are adulterers and murderers.


And with one comment, Jesus leveled the playing field for all of us. Theologians call this “total depravity.” It means given our choice, we’ll choose sin and hell every time without the Holy Spirit’s help. We’re unable to find Jesus on our own. I’ll give Joel a little credit here, too, because he defines sin literally as “missing the mark.” Sin means missing the mark–falling short–of God’s perfection and holiness (see Romans 3:23).

And really, total depravity isn’t that hard to prove. Just look around. The effects of sin surround us—not only on a national level but on a personal level. We live in a broken world full of broken people.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, for years I convinced myself that I was a pretty good person. When faced with my shortcomings, I would get defensive or point my finger at people with greater sins than me. But after messing things up pretty badly in a church I pastored, I couldn’t talk myself out of the “I’m a pretty good person” argument. I was finally forced to face the facts: I’m a sinner.

Now, you’d think it would make me feel worse, but in reality, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of relief. Here were the immediate benefits of acknowledging my total depravity:

  • I no longer felt the pressure to be perfect. Perfection is a physical and spiritual impossibility.
  • With this in mind, I no longer felt the pressure to fool people into thinking I had it all together.
  • Forgiveness came much easier because I suddenly realized that I need forgiveness, too. How can I withhold from others what I need for myself?
  • Most importantly, by acknowledging that I’m a sinner, I saw my deep need for Jesus. I cannot save myself.

The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote:

“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).

Think about it: Paul was second only to Jesus in importance to the New Testament church (if we’re just talking about humans, of course). He was an amazing leader, apostle, and theologian who has left an indelible imprint on every church over the last 2,000 years.

Yet he said he was the worst of all sinners.

Yeah right, you might be thinking to yourself. You’re just saying that. You don’t really mean it… But I‘d be willing to bet my firstborn son that he would interrupt you.

And if Paul was the worst of all sinners, what does that make you? What does that make me?

And with that, I want to open up the conversation to all of you. How does knowing that you’re a sinner positively affect the way you look at yourself and your life?

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, this is the second deepest truth about you and me. Next Friday, we’ll look at the deepest truth about you.


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