Sep 042014
 
unicorn

God just wants you to be happy. Did you ever hear that before? God just wants your life to be roses, ribbons, strawberry ice cream, puppies, and kittens. And a Mercedes. And a mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut’s Golden Triangle. Oh, and if you’re not moving rapidly ahead in acquiring those material “blessings,” it’s because you don’t have enough faith or because you haven’t sent in enough “seed money” to certain ministries. Yes, my friends, God’s sole reason for being is to make your life all unicorns and rainbows. If God could borrow a phrase from Chris Matthews, he might say “I feel this thrill going up my leg every time I see a happy person. If I had a leg.”

The latest absurdity coming out of Christianity’s “Prosperity Central” was Victoria Osteen’s commentary on what brings pleasure to God.

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God; we’re not doing it for God. I mean, that’s one way to look at it, but we’re doing it for ourselves because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning. I want you to know this morning, just do good for your own self. Do good ‘cos God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God—really; you’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?[1]

The Bible tells a different story about what gives God joy. It tells of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the diseased, and there is a thread running through the lives of all these people and through the Biblical narrative as well. It’s that God delights in our obedience. He takes pleasure in sinners who repent and turn to Him. God’s divine purpose isn’t to make us happy and comfortable in worldly pursuits; rather, it’s to shape (conform) us to the image of his Son who submitted to the Father in all things. Let’s address four points brought up in Osteen’s remarks.

Obedience

What is the reason for obedience to Torah (God’s teachings, his instruction)? Do we obey to please God or to please ourselves? Should our motive for obedience be God-centered or self-centered? Does God want us to fill ourselves with worldly gratifications or empty ourselves of our fleshly desires?

Do nothing out of rivalry or vanity; but, in humility, regard each other as better than yourselves – look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own. Let your attitude toward one another be governed by your being in union with the Messiah Yeshua: Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force. On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are. And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death… (Philippians 2:3-8, CJB).

Does ADONAI take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what ADONAI says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22, CJB).

ADONAI takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who wait for his grace. (Psalm 147:4, CJB)

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, CJB)

Can obedience to God’s commandments bring us happiness? It brings something that transcends happiness. It brings us a peace—a “Shalom”—that is different from the peace offered by the world. Worldly peace is merely an absence of conflict. A person can live without external conflict and yet be in turmoil on the inside. The peace that God gives is far greater! It brings a sense of well-being and feeling God’s very presence even in the midst of external turmoil. Obedience to God should be born out of love for him; not a duty to fulfill out of expectation of reward.

Doing Good

What does Victoria Osteen mean by “just do good for your own self?” Does she mean we should treat ourselves well because we deserve it? To be fair, her husband Joel posted an article on his website about finding “somebody to be good to everyday.” He wrote, “Friend, you are never more like God than when you give. You’re never more like God than when you take time for people, than when you do something to bless someone else.”[2] Not everything that comes out of the mouths of the Osteen’s is bad or crazy or false. But usually when they do say something that goes against Biblical teachings it’s a whopper, as in the case of Victoria’s comments about doing good for self, obeying God for self, and worshiping for self. It’s a rather hedonistic approach to “living for God.”

Why should we do good deeds? Because we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). The purpose isn’t give-something-to-get-something. We are to do good deeds for the purpose of being light to a world darkened by sin, so that eyes and hearts will turn to God and give him praise (Matthew 5:16).

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 NASB)

For he will pay back each one according to his deeds. To those who seek glory, honor and immortality by perseverance in doing good, he will pay back eternal life. But to those who are self-seeking, who disobey the truth and obey evil, he will pay back wrath and anger. (Romans 2:6-8)

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)

Worship

God doesn’t need our worship. He is totally sufficient, secure, and fulfilled without it. That being said, true worship changes us. It changes us because it draws our hearts and thoughts toward God. It cultivates a spirit of gratitude. It venerates the One who has given us so much. Worship is a proper response to the God who sustains our every breath.

Give ADONAI his due, you who are godly; give ADONAI his due of glory and strength; give ADONAI the glory due his name; worship ADONAI in holy splendor. (Psalm 29:1-2)

A psalm of thanksgiving: Shout for joy to ADONAI, all the earth! Serve ADONAI with gladness. Enter his presence with joyful songs. Be aware that ADONAI is God; it is he who made us; and we are his, his people, the flock in his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, enter his courtyards with praise; give thanks to him, and bless his name. For ADONAI is good, his grace continues forever, and his faithfulness lasts through all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5, CJB)

Happiness

What makes God happy? One sinner that repents. Keeping his commandments. Loving justice. Showing mercy.

ADONAI takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who wait for his grace. (Psalm 147:4, CJB)

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, CJB)

Far more blessed (happy) are those who hear the word of God and obey it! (Luke 11:28)

The prosperity gospel—preached by many within Western Christianity—isn’t the “Good News” at all. It centers on self. It exalts humans by giving their words mystical power to create forces of good and evil. It feeds the lust of the eyes and pride of life by promising materialistic blessings. It induces a hunger that is never satisfied for an accumulation of wealth. It makes us slaves to our appetites.

No, God’s goal isn’t to make us happy. It’s to make us like Jesus, who set aside his own desires for that of his Father’s. He lived a life of self-sacrifice to meet the needs of others. Eventually, God will indeed bless us with everlasting happiness—his gift to those who repent and believe. But this life is one of struggle and testing, not unicorns and rainbows with pots of gold at the ends. If we don’t understand that and come to terms with it, inner peace and joy will elude us.

 

CJB= Complete Jewish Bible, translator David H. Stern

NASB= New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation

References:

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koIBkYl0cHk

[2] Osteen, J. (n.d.) The gift everybody needs. Joel Osteen Ministries. https://www.joelosteen.com/Pages/Article.aspx?articleid=6526

photo credit: scorpiorules58 via photopin cc

  3 Responses to “The Egocentric Gospel Run Amok”

  1. Where is the Like button?

  2. Also, sweet unicorn rainbow pic.

  3. EXCELLENT points! Keep up the Good work!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: