Moralism or Christ crucified?

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

The late John Osteen was a popular word-faith pastor along the lines of Ken Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Rod Parsley. His stagecraft was amusing. When a low camera off to the side of the stage would take over, Osteen would turn, walk over to it, and peer intently into the camera to make a point.

Today, his son Joel Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX, and has far surpassed his father’s fame. His church draws 28,000+ weekly attendees, and it is not hard to guess why. Its service is slick and nearly devoid of content. Out are the old word-faith oddities focused on healing, in is the thin gruel of Oprah and Robert Schuller. “Be glad your spouse is the way they are… We’ve gotta put on love. Choose love over having our own way…” While this critique of Osteen’s latest book calls his message the “gospel of self-esteem,” there is an even better term for his deficient, “Ten Tips for a Better Marriage” style of preaching: Moralism.

There is another way. As the great Anglican, JC Ryle, once said:

The doctrine of Christ crucified is the foundation of a Church’s prosperity. No Church will ever be honoured in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the want of the cross… Dark hearts will not be enlightened, proud hearts will not be humbled, mourning hearts will not be comforted, fainting hearts will not be cheered.

P.S. You may have heard news reports about how Osteen’s wife, Victoria, apparently got them thrown off a plane earlier this week. Many will no doubt use it as another opportunity to harden their own hearts, as in “I may not be perfect, but at least I’m not a [fill in blank] like Victoria Osteen.” Unfortunately, God grades us based on His holiness and our own record, not on a curve compared to others. We all must flee to Christ’s perfect righteousness.

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