Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sin, Sin, Sin, and a little God on the Side

Apparently Joel Osteen has just released a new book and the parts of the church and blogosphere are up in arms.(Thanks to Jesse over at Resurgence for making me aware.) To be frank, I don't care that much about Mr. Osteen apart from hoping he meets God one day and experiences the amazing grace that is available through Jesus' finished work on the cross. I say that assuming from watching him on T.V that he doesn't understand the gospel, because if he does why is he keeping it a secret from his huge audience?

But my problem with his teaching would basically be that he doesn't teach God's Word but picks and chooses nice sounding principles to apply and use as needed to improve your life. It's giving people candied law, sweet and tasty on the outside, but death and hopelessness on the inside. We can't change by following certain principles whether they come from the Bible or the Quran or the Book of Mormon. And yes, I agree with his many critics that his teaching is self-centered; man centered.

That's why I'm so surprised that so many think the answer to the problem is to talk about sin more! I agree that if you try to ignore the fact that sin is real, that the entire human race is born into the slavery of sin and death and destined for hell apart from God's saving intervention, then you are in trouble. Apart from this understanding you can't be saved because you don't know you need to be saved. We clearly must teach the law to unbelievers so they will see their sin so that the Holy Spirit can come in and convict them of their sin and draw them to Jesus. But this just doesn't apply to believers. To continually focus on sin is to continually focus our attention on entirely the wrong thing. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We are not to live with a consciousness of sin (though we should acknowledge when we do sin and move on in grace) but an ever growing awareness of God's grace. In fact, the more we experience God in is his glory the more we are changed and the less we think about our sin--we're too busy basking in his wonderful presence, adoring him.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that those who preach sin, sin, sin, and a little God on the side are generally man-centered as well. It goes without saying that if your eyes are on sin, they aren't on Jesus...

8 comments:

Joel Brueseke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lydia joy said...

Amen, Amen, Amen, and God's Grace is Awesome!!

Grace said...

Preach it sister.

janelle said...

I agree with you...partly:-) I think that focusing on sin FIRST, and then the Cross is certainly a good idea when preaching to unbelievers. But, for Christians who obviously still struggle with sin, how much would you suggest talking about sin? Not at all? A little bit? How much is too much? Maybe I am not understanding where you think the line is?

Dan Bowen said...

I think your question is a good one Janelle but some years of experience have taught me that any focus on sin when helping Christians who struggle with it isn't a good idea and doesn't work - to be frank. I've been part of endless "accountability" groups which to me were short hand for depressing, condemnation groups where we all sat around as men and weren't very honest with each other but confessed "acceptable" sins and all rubbed each others backs about how hard life was and how good it was to be honest. I've heard "indwelling sin" teaching a lot and haven't heard many joyous testimonies about freedom from sin as a result of focusing on what dismal sinners we are.

BUT!! I happen to be in Hong Kong this week at Rob Rufus's conference and he has been sharing countless actual testimonies of people addicted to pornography, drugs etc who came and listened to the grace sermons on the website and have been totally set free of them!

I too in my own life can testify to glorious freedom from sin by focusing on grace. I was struggling with some pretty dark stuff some years ago and the church responded to it by imposing works - things I MUST do to see change. The works didn't work and I had to leave that church, but then came into a full revelation of the grace of God in one sermon by Terry Virgo and saw instant freedom from all of the dark stuff I was struggling with!

I still remember the line that Terry Virgo quoted that broke me completely - he quoted from a song that said: "And the greatest thing Oh Lord I see - is that You delight in me!".

There wasn't any mention of sin at all - just an amazing, incredible, awesome, breathtaking (and many many more adjectives) portrait of God's passionate love for His people because of Jesus declaration - "It is finished!!".

Where do we draw the line? The Bible of course says "If we walk in the Spirit, we won't fulfill the lusts of the flesh". That's pretty straightfoward to me. Could it be that our churches are having to spend so much time talking about sin and focusing on it and "get-free" techniques because we have forgotten what it means to truly allow the Holy Spirit to do exactly what He wants in our churches?

Now ... the Bible of course talks about how to behave if we have an un-repentant sinner in our ranks and I appreciate that and agree with it (how could I not!?) - but what worries me is that many churches are treating honest, desperate Christians struggling with sin as though they were unrepentant sinners simply because they aren't seeing the freedom from the "get-free" techniques but are missing the point about freedom - true freedom - coming from an understanding of the New Covenant.

So I guess I've answered my own question. Where do we draw the line in talking about sin? I think the majority should be on Jesus Christ and His finished triumphant work and His present victorious place at the right hand of the Father and the outpoured Holy Spirit who UNDERSTANDS our weaknesses and EMPOWERS us to not have to sin - "Grace teaches us to say NO!". Once we're done talking about that - and what a lot there is to talk about - then I guess we could talk about sin as being defeated in the context of Calvary and the empty grave!!

Steve & Katie LaBs said...

Amen Dan! Well said and encouraging to me. Thanks for taking the time to tell of your experience and the revelation of God's grace to you.

dogimo said...

>dan bowen wrote:
"The Bible of course says 'If we walk in the Spirit, we won't fulfill the lusts of the flesh'."

And the problem with the legalists is, they take that statement and they reverse the cause and effect.

Beth Young said...

This has been so uplifting for me you just have no idea...