by Brannon Howse
"Whatever you conceive you can achieve."
With this favorite karma-changing promise, New Agers believe you need only use the "unlimited" power and consciousness of your mind to bring about all your dreams, desires and wishes.
Cloaked in a "Christian" package, Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now, bears an uncomfortable and dangerous similarity to this most popular of New Age claims. Sample a few of the Osteen versions:
• "You will produce what you're continually seeing in your mind. If you foster an image of defeat and failure, then you're going to live that kind of life. But if you develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you." (page 5)
• "You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it." (page 6)
• "You must look through your 'eyes of faith' and start seeing yourself as happy, healthy and whole." (page 15)
• "What you will receive is directly connected to how you believe." (page 22)
• "We receive what we believe." (page 72)
• "Learn how to conceive. Keep the image of what you want to become in front of you. You're going to become what you believe." (page 81)
Osteen now travels the country, packing out stadiums with his happy-talk. But I'd like to see Osteen pay a visit to China, preach his "your best life now" drivel, and see how Christians there respond. Let Osteen look into the eyes of Pastor Lei who has been repeatedly arrested and beaten for preaching the Word of God in his church-a church not licensed by the Chinese government. How would the American's best life work out for Pastor Lei and his congregation? Perhaps their jail time for the Gospel would give them time to assess Rev. Osteen's claims.
Have these and countless other persecuted Christians been beaten, jailed and murdered because they "received what they believed," or did these terrible things happen to them because they did not "develop an image of victory, success, health, abundance, joy, peace, and happiness"?
Were eleven of Jesus' disciples martyred because, "they received what they believed"? Were the disciples living under a "curse of poverty and defeat" as Osteen says of so many? Here's a role call of questions I'd like to ask Mr. Osteen. Why is it, Joel, that:
• Paul and Matthew were beheaded?
• Barnabas was burned to death?
• Mark was dragged to death?
• James, the less, was clubbed to death?
• Peter, Philip, and Andrew were crucified?
• Thomas was speared to death?
• Luke was hung by the neck until dead?
• Stephen was stoned?
How would these disciples take to the best-life message?
Yes, I know. Joel's promises sound so much better to American ears than all those warnings of Jesus about being hated by most people for His sake. But it remains that in large measure, Joel's offering can be described as nothing less than blasphemy. On page 36, he claims, "God has a big dream for your life." On page 56: "God sees you as a champion. He believes in you even more than you believe in yourself!" And on page 110: "God has confidence in you."
Osteen does not provide a single Bible verse to back up these statements…because there are none. Nowhere in the Bible do we read that God believes or has confidence in us. He loves us, but does not believe in us. On the contrary, He knows all too well how unbelievably fickle and untrustworthy we humans actually are. It's not like Joel describes on page 57: "Believe it or not, that is how God sees you, too. He regards you as a strong, courageous, successful, overcoming person."
Furthermore, God does not define our success in materialistic terms as Joel does. God is interested in our obedience above all. On page 63, Joel writes:
As long as you are pressing forward, you can hold your head up high, knowing that you are a "work in progress," and God is in the process of changing you. He's looking at your last two good moves.
Joel, where in the Bible do you read that God is not looking at our last two bad moves but our last two good moves? Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags or wickedness to God because He is so holy. Even if God did look at our last two good moves, He would still see filthy rags.
Or how about this Osteen gospel gem from page 95:
"Be the best you can be, then you can feel good about yourself."
Where in the Bible do we find this teaching? What if your best is getting drunk just once a week instead of twice a week? Should you still feel good about yourself?
But wait. I've saved Joel's most outrageous statement for last (drum roll please). On page 144, Joel elevates us to the heavenlies by pointing out that "You may even need to forgive God."
Whoa! And exactly what would we be forgiving God for? As I recall, forgiveness is for sins-or at least mistakes. But which of those has God made? Not a one according to any Bible I've ever read.
Oswald Chambers offers a perspective on the kind of thing the Osteens of the world do to Christians: "Satan's great aim is to deflect us from the center. He will allow us to be devoted to the death to any cause, any enterprise, to anything but the Lord Jesus." Hebrews 13:9 instructs us to not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings (deflected from the center) but sadly, that is exactly what is happening for many at the hand of Joel Osteen.
Instead of pursuing our best life now, we should pursue the things of the Lord so we can have our best life later. I fear that for many who follow Joel's false teaching, this life is the best they will get. The false gospel proclaimed by Joel Osteen and accepted as truth by millions may allow many to achieve what they can conceive of the things in this world, but true to Jesus' promise, they may lose their souls in the pursuit.