Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

Jonathan Edwards, a Congregational pastor in the 1700’s wrote; “True religion is a powerful thing.  The power of it appears, first, in the inward exercises of the heart (which is the seat of all religion).  Therefore, true religion is called ‘the power of godliness,’ in contrast to the external appearances of it,  . . . The Spirit of God is a spirit of powerful holy affection in the lives of those who have a sound and solid religion.  This is why it is written that God has given his people the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7).” (quoted in “Engagement of the Heart”, Devotional Classics, Foster and Smith eds. p. 20)

I have been wondering why we see so much lukewarm Christianity today.  Why do we see so many celebrity clerics pandering to the masses in mega churches saying and standing by the most outrageous pronouncements.  For example, Victoria Osteen statement to the Lakewood Church congregation in Houston Texas;

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—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because 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? (The congregation applauds.)  (Victoria Osteen quoted in Crosswalk.com by Alex Crain, the editor of Christianity.com )

The congregation applauds!  I can understand how a person can say something stupid – I’ve done it many times.  What is hard to grapple with is how a large group of supposed Christians could actually applaud!   What were they thinking.  We can be pretty sure poor Ms. Osteen’s brain was in neutral while her mouth was in high gear.  Are there no elders in Lakewood Church?

The Bible tells us: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)  And it is on this point that I wish to stress that false teachers would not abound were it not for the desire of many to hear their unholy doctrine!  A healthy congregation with elders strong in the Word of God with a love for holiness would not allow such statements to go unchecked.

Was there no one to lovingly confront Ms. Osteen’s gaffe?  It is true that Ms. Osteen is unrepentant; “While I admit that I could have been more articulate in my remarks, I stand by my point that when we worship God and are obedient to Him we will be better for it,” she said. “I did not mean to imply that we don’t worship God; that’s ridiculous, and only the critics and cynics are interpreting my remarks that way.”  Backpedalling isn’t repentance.  A point that is often missed is why was there no call for her repentance from the Lakewood congregation?

Daniel Wallace a Bible professor and author didn’t miss the significance of Lakewood’s applause: “One has to wonder how a mega church in the buckle of the Bible belt can go on and on without the congregants waking up and smelling what’s being shoveled in their direction. If Lakewood Church is any indication of the biblical literacy, genuine devotion to Christ, and fellowship of the saints of the American evangelical church, we are in serious trouble.”  We can bash Ms. Osteen all we like and maybe feel superior for it but the fact remains there is something very lacking in our North American brand of Christianity.

Lets look back several centuries and consider Jonathan Edwards analysis of human nature and religion;

The nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc.  These affections are the ‘spring of action’, the things that set us moving in our lives, that move us to engage in activities.  When we look at the world, we see that people are exceedingly busy.  It is their affections that keep them busy.  If we were to take away their affections, the world would be motionless and dead . . . .It is the affection we call covetousness that moves a person to seek worldly profits; it is the affection we call ambition that moves a person to pursue worldly glory; it is the affection we call lust that moves a person to sensual delights  Just as worldly affections are the spring of worldly actions, so the religious affections are the spring of religious actions.

(“Engagement of the Heart”, Devotional Classics, Foster and Smith eds. p. 20,21)

Obviously the affections of Victoria Osteen are not inclined to fidelity to Scripture. And it is just as obvious the people of  Lakewood Church care little for God’s Word when they applause such glaringly counter Biblical statements.  I’m assuming that the congregants of Lakewood Church all have Bibles.  I’ll even assume the bulk of them even read their Bibles occasionally.  It’s clear that few of them care enough about God’s Word to stand on it.  They would rather hear things that ‘tickle’ their ears.  In a very real way the Victoria and Joel Osteens of this world are accurate reflection of the predominant religious affection of North America.

How can this happen in places like Canada and America?  Again Pastor Edwards, a 17th Century Congregational Pastor nails it down; “There are thousands who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live.  The reason is this; they are not affected by what they hear.”  (Ibid p. 21)  Some might say that the people are tricked or have fallen under the spell of false teachers.  This may be true of a few unfortunate souls but when thousands of people who are not dependent in any material way upon the false teachers all applaud the poison there must be another reason for it.  They prefer lies and don’t have a heart for God’s Word.  Who wants to admit this.  Who wants to say that the entire system is rotting as we ‘speak’.

It has happened before;  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.” (Hosea 4:6-10)  And as I have said the Bible tells us it will happen again (2 Timothy 4:3). It is happening right now across our continent.

We must remember God tells us how He will build His church; “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’” (Hebrews 10:11-17)  No more seminaries,  mega churches, denominations, celebrity pastors, or doctrines – just us and God!

Come Lord Jesus!

 

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