10 January 2014

Guest Post: Who Declares?

I'm happy to welcome back Hariton "Harry" Deligiannides as a guest blogger here at Do Not Be Surprised. Harry serves as an elder at Bethlehem Bible Church in West Boylston, MA. He already has blessed us with the articles, "Bible Study in a Morgue?", "Whispers and Campaigns Do Not Preach the Word," "Apostasy and the Perseverance of the Saints," and "Genuine vs. False Assurance." In this latest post, Harry tackles some of the foolishness that is found in Joel Osteen's book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life.

Have you ever had the, ahem, 'privileged' opportunity to have more than one member of your family sick at the same time? Well, the most recent bout in our family came in early December this past year. Our youngest daughter and I both were stricken with a stomach bug. While I didn’t miss work, I was nevertheless nauseated. The cause of this was not merely a simple virus, however. No, it was due to Joel Osteen’s book, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, released August 2013. Ever since its publication, this book has been making the rounds in the “lack of discernment, grab whatever comes down the pike that sounds religious, or even evangelical, crowd.”

Several years ago I was invited to visit and preach at another church. During the message I exposed Joel Osteen for not meeting the criteria for what a pastor ought to be doing. This conclusion was based upon my text, which was 2 Timothy 4:1-5. At the end of the service the pastor of the church told me that one of the men sitting in the front row was not very happy because he is a big Osteen fan. My response? "Good, because he needed to hear what was said."

Here are a few samples from Osteen’s book I Declare, as well as my responses:

Day 1 - “I declare God’s blessings over my life.”

God sovereignly chooses to bless whom He wills. After all, that is the whole point of Jesus’ parable of the generous landowner (Matthew 20:1-16).

The master of the vineyard hired laborers early in the morning who agreed for a denarius a day. Then the master hired more laborers at the 3rd hour (9am), at the 6th hour (12pm), at the 9th hour (3pm) and at the 11th hour (5pm). At the end of the day, when the master payed the laborers their wages, they each received a denarius. Those hired first complained because they received the same amount as those hired last at the 11th hour (5pm).
And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ (Matthew 20:11-12)
What was the master’s response?
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew 20:13-15, emphasis added)
Day 8 - “I declare God’s dream for my life is coming to pass.”

Question: Have God’s dreams for your life come to pass? If not, why not? Did you not read Osteen's book? Did you skip over Day 8? Let us think seriously about this for a moment.

About this point, one may argue, "they are not 'my' dreams, but 'God’s' dreams for me." Do you really want to abase and dethrone and degrade and strip the Almighty of His supreme and divine essence to nothing more than a puppet in the hands of His earthly puppet master?

Let me cut to the chase and burst your bubble. God does not have a dream for your life. If you can extract that God has a dream for your life from studying the Scripture, then you may need some more help in hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation).

Rather, the Bible testifies to this: God is perfectly, eternally and infinitely holy, righteous and just. And our sin, which originates in our heart, is so putrid to Him, that He cannot stand the smell of it. So much so that He will punish and execute His judgment on sinners like you and me. The good news, the Gospel, is that Jesus Christ died for sins to appease the wrath of God and rose on the third day to declare His Deity. Those who put their trust and confidence in Jesus Christ by abandoning any and all self-righteousness and embracing Christ for all that He is, namely Savior, King, Lord and Sovereign, will escape the wrath of God and enjoy peace with their heavenly Father.

Day 19 - “I declare there is an anointing of ease on my life.”

I guess it is safe to assume that Job had not declared this particular anointing on his life. Imagine what Job could have been spared if he had not bypassed this day 19 declaration!

We know of course from the Biblical account that it was within God’s sovereign purposes for Job to go through the sufferings he experienced.
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:3-6)
I wonder what some of the churches of the epistles would have thought of the "anointing of ease" on their lives? For example, the church in Thessalonica was birthed in adversity.
But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. (Acts 17:5-9 )
And that is why Paul in his epistle to them said,
...for you received the word in much affliction...”(1 Thessalonians 1:6, emphasis added)
“..we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” (1 Thessalonians 2:2, emphasis added) 
“that no one be moved by these afflictions.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3, emphasis added)
In writing to the church in Philippi, Paul said,
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake. (Phil. 1:29)
Faith and Suffering. All one Package. And this granted by God’s sovereign grace!

Consider Peter’s first epistle as he wrote to suffering Christians:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Finally, in the last letter penned before his death, Paul reminded Timothy of the suffering he was to endure as a pastor.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3) 
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12, emphasis added)
Godliness, however, does not appear to be at the top of Osteen’s list. Instead it is traded in for a so-called "anointing of ease."

Furthermore, the early church never asked the Lord to remove suffering so as to have an anointing of ease on their lives, but rather prayed for boldness in opposition to the gospel and rejoiced in suffering for the gospel.
And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness. (Acts 4:29)
and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:40-41)
If Job, the church epistles, the pastoral epistles, and the early church have not yet convinced you that Osteen’s declaration of an anointing of ease on your life is nothing more than nonsense, then the Lord Jesus’ words must.
In the world you will have tribulation. (John 16:33, emphasis added)
So, having said all that, here is the crucial question: Who declares, God or man?

According to Joel Osteen, man declares. By inviting people to make declarations in their lives, Osteen is telling them to speak things into existence. Yet this is something that God alone can do. In doing this, then, Osteen is degrading God and elevating man as sovereign. That is nothing short of idolatry. But what does it matter if it makes people feel good about themselves? This is today’s man-centered theology rather than the Bible’s God-centered theology.
It will come as no surprise to hear that a recent Barna article titled, “U.S. Lacks Notable Christian Leaders”, claims that one of 20 U.S. adults think that Joel Osteen is the most significant Christian leader in America. (The Conference Chronicle, Volume 9, Number 1, Wednesday, March 7, 2012, The Shepherds Conference)
In direct opposition to Osteen, the Bible teaches that God alone, as the one and only Sovereign, is the One who declares.
Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:8-11, emphasis added)
Note that God declares “things not yet done” because in His Sovereignty He “will accomplish all His purpose” and He “will bring it to pass” and He “will do it”. There is no doubt or ambiguity. God does not say that He “might accomplish His purpose,” or that He “might bring it to pass,” or that He “might do it.”

To ask 'who declares' is equivalent to asking 'who is sovereign?' Who declares? God declares. He declares the end from the beginning and things not yet done. Man simply observes as God’s sovereign and eternal purposes and plans come to pass. Who is sovereign? God is sovereign over all, including circumstances and rulers. Man is simply His subject.
The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:24, 27)
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35)
If Joel Osteen says that man can declare God’s blessings over his own life, and that man can declare God’s dream for his own life and that man can declare an anointing of ease on his own life, then the god of Joel Osteen is not sovereign and therefore is not the God of the Bible! The God who has revealed Himself in Scripture, though, is a far greater God than any concoction of man. Come to this God, come to Christ, today.

Further Reading
Does Joel Osteen Consider Himself a Prosperity Preacher?
Genuine vs. False Assurance
Joel Osteen and a Tale of Two Hoaxes

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