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.

WE’RE ALL SINNERS!

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.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Second Deepest Truth About You, Me, and Joel Osteen

  1. elna

    I once read the following: ‘ the only reason the one you are angry with is still alive is because God is not finished them and still believes there is chance for them to improve; and the reason why you are still alive is because God isn’t finished with you and knows there is loads of space for you to improve!!’

  2. Isn’t it encouraging to know that God never gives up on us?

    • elna

      Yes! it totally annihilates that argument : God made me this way and He left me this way….so accept my (temper/arrogance/ whatever sin we don’t want to deal with)

  3. carri

    I really have no opinion either way about Joel Osteen. I do know some friends who know an evangelist who used to work with Joel’s dad years ago and was in fact on staff at Joel’s dad’s church. According to him, Joel’s dad was an amazing man of faith and preached the gospel faithfully. I think we are all called in different ways to proclaim the gospel. Years ago I would’ve totally roasted Joel (I’m embarrassed to admit this but I used to be a huge fan of the ‘Bible Answer Man’-I cringe about that now) but over the years God has really humbled me and shown me that He will often speak and use even those who abuse the gospel message. But I digress as you stated in your post.

    The real reason I am posting is the hypocrisy I feel that still exists within many churches when it comes to the issue of homosexuality versus divorce. Divorce has become so common within the church that I feel as if we barely wince about it but for some reason we apply a different standard to the sin of homosexuality. I’m not talking about those divorced due to infidelity of their spouses but of those who divorced for reasons that are not biblical but end up remarrying. According to Jesus, those individuals are committing adultery. In our haste to take a stand when it comes to homosexuality I would like to see a similar stance taken when it comes to remarriage of those who are comitting adultery by doing so. Just a thought…….

    • Carri,
      My roommate from college knew Joel Osteen’s dad. Although John Osteen preached the prosperity gospel, from what I understand, he preached against lavish living–which Joel embodies. Normally, I avoid taking jabs at other people in ministry. In fact, in my book Strange Fire, I only criticize proponents of prosperity theology, because it’s out-and-out heresy, rooted in gnosticism. Having graduated from the university that made prosperity theology famous, and having drank kool-aid earlier in my life, I feel the responsibility of warning people about it. Nevertheless, I believe Joel is well-intentioned follower of Christ and probably a warm person. And, I must compliment him on taking a stand.
      As far as the double-standard in our society regarding homosexuality and divorce , I can’t disagree with you. I think it goes back to the fact that we’re all screwed up–not just the people who aren’t like us.

  4. Barry

    Mike,
    I used to project my own tendency toward perfectionism onto God. When I truly understood that God knows I am human and a sinner, with nothing to recommend me other than His forgiveness and Grace, the act of following Jesus became a joy and not a burden.

    Silly, isn’t it?

  5. elna

    I have been divorced,without adultery as reason, and am remarried. I had to sort this out for myself…am I totally lost? Well I found my answer with that old stalwart of all sinners, good ole king David. Him being an adulterer and murderer. Yes I am condemned…but through the grace of God I can declare that I am a sinner and that I am saved through the blood of Jesus on the cross…and that I will not divorce again, but try my utmost to built a healthy marriage. ..as in 1 cor 6:9-11. I don’t believe the sin is in remarrying but in divorcing!!
    Despite millions of dollars being spend on research, scientist still don’t know what ’causes’ homosexuality. Last year research identified the ‘homosexual gene’ but the conclusion of the research was rarely mentioned. They could not prove that the gene was the reason for homosexuality because “how you act changes your DNA” Therefor if you act in a homosexual way it encourages the ‘homosexual gene’ to be more dominant. Amazing how science proves the bible correct, ie that when you are a new-born christian you become a new person…even as far as your DNA!!
    The one fact that does occur with most homosexual persons is the fact that there was sexual abuse at a stage…even though some homosexual will totally repress any memory of such an event. How awesome sad, then, that there is still men that believe that a lesbian only needs to be raped to turn her heterosexual. You can’t rape a raped victim right!!
    So often critics of the church says that people who are ‘losers’ turn to the church, but then that is right, because Jesus came for the sick , the mad, the deaf, dumb and blind, the beggars,…the social outcasts! The church needs to have empathy for the lost, by understanding their hurt but showing them the true way of walking in God’s way, by living according to God’s rules.
    With regards to divorced ladies…1Tim5:3 the term ‘widow’ ‘chera’ in Greek means any woman ‘bereft, robbed, left alone through death, desertion, divorce or imprisonment.’
    Jesus send us out to the lost sheep..

  6. Pingback: The Deepest Truth About You | The Neighborhood Café

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