I’m reading Joel Osteen’s newest book Every Day a Friday. I’ve seen Joel’s TV sermons here and there, but I’d never sat down to read what he says until now. Here’s a sample:
“My purpose in writing this book is to help you arrange your mind so that you choose happiness each and every day.” (p. 4)
Joel Osteen teaches that man’s will is free, and in fact more than free; man’s will is creative. With positive thoughts, correct choices, good decisions we can make good things happen to us.
“I do have a smile. I do have joy. I do have God’s favor. I do have victory.” (p. 5)
In fact, our will is so strong and powerful that God Himself is wait on us to act; our will enables God to work. This is stunning.
“You have the seeds of greatness on the inside.” (p. 72)
“When you begin each day in faith, anticipating something good, God tells the angels to go to work and to arrange things in your favor. He gives you breaks, lines up the right people, and opens the right doors. That’s what allows God to show up and do amazing things.” (p. 7, emphasis added)
“When your faith is released, God’s power is activated.” (p. 65)
“If you’re to be restored, if you’re to fulfill your destiny, it’s not up to God. It’s up to you.” (p. 91)
This is what Joel teaches. He exalts us, our human nature, our will.
“Don’t be a beggar. Be a believer.” (p. 91)
Compare this to Luther. When Martin Luther died on February 18th, 1546. He had travelled to Eislaben (the city of his birth) to settle a dispute between two brothers. His last written words were found on a scrap of paper in his pocket, “We are beggars; that is true.”
This what what Luther taught; man is nothing, God is everything.
“With might of our may naught be done” (A Mighty Fortress).
“I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him” (The Small Catechism)
“This hereditary sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it” (Smalcald Articles).
“We are beggars; this is true.”
This are fundamentally different teachings, about man, about God, about Jesus. Joel teaches us that we are good, powerful, great. Luther teaches that we are sinners, dust, nothing. Which is true?
Luther agrees with the Bible.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:4-6)
The Bible teaches us to despair of ourselves, of our own works, of our own goodness, and come to Jesus for mercy. “Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy!” That is the cry of a beggar, of a person who has no riches, no works, no wealth, who’s only hope is in the Master’s mercy. Our only hope is in the Lord, in His generosity. “Kyrie eleison,” that is our cry, and Jesus hears our cry, and answers it.
He, in fact, answers our prayer even before we pray. He came into our world, our flesh, our sin and death two thousand years ago. He took our place under God’s wrath on the cross so that we would be forgiven and cleansed of our sin and adopted into His family and called His own. He did it. He sent this word of forgiveness to you by the Holy Spirit in the Word, the Word at your baptism, the Word of the Gospel, the Word of promise at His Communion Supper. He does it. He calls you, enlightens you, forgives you, adopts you, saves you, helps you, keeps you, rescues you, upholds you, defends you, calls you by name. He has mercy on you.
So, dear sinners, do not despair. Life might not be all that you expect. Every day may not be a Friday. But you always have Good Friday, the day that Jesus died for you, and that means that the life you live now, full of temptation and sickness and sin and death, this life is a forgiven life, a life blessed by Jesus.
We are beggars; this is true. But our Lord is rich in love and mercy for you. Amen.
Lord’s Blessings in Christ,