This is the most fundamental of questions I can ask myself because the answer to it tells me so much about my identity, my purpose and my destiny.
And I’m not talking about my age, job, race, gender, etc. I’m talking about things that are eternal. Not defined by any genetic trait or man-given responsibility.
My identity: child of God, co-heir with Christ, beloved by God, brother to my fellow believers, forgiven of all sin past, present and future.
My purpose: make disciples, give glory in all things to God, follow God’s commands, live by grace.
My destiny: perfect sanctification, eternity with Christ.
It seems to me, however, that I disqualify myself from all of that every day. Why?
I sin. I disobey. Deliberately. I ignore the roadblocks to sin that God has put in my life and, like King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16, choose the one who is my enemy to give me peace and victory.
It may, for a minute, give me that “peace” and “victory.” However, it is short-lived, as the conviction of the Holy Spirit, acting like the seer Hanani, reminds me that God is looking out for me always. When I ignore Him, I am shunning His help.
I could respond as Asa, mocking the Holy Spirit, saying, “You are of no help to me. Go away!” But, by God’s grace, hopefully every time, I respond, as the tax collector Jesus spoke of in Luke 18, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
And only in that response is my already-earned justification proved! It is not a response I make on my own. It is a response that the Holy Spirit plucks out of the depths of my sinful ignorance and brings to the light as a repeated phrase.
But the guilt still weighs down! The guilt is heavy, Lord! What must I do in this moment of grief?
I remember my identity. Who am I?
Child of God. Called to make disciples. Forgiven of all sins, past, present and future. Destined for heaven. Regardless of what I do. Regardless of how many times I fail.
Why? Because it’s not an identity I gave myself. It comes from God, and therefore only God can change it. I can’t change it. You can’t change it. The world can’t change it.
So with the answer to that question, I’m left with one query.
These are things that should be written, and I commend both Dr. Mohler and Walsh’s blogs as must-read if you have any confusion about the theology behind it. But as I pondered these responses and thought about my own reaction, I had to stop and think about myself for a minute.
How many times have I approached God this way? How many times have I spoken false doctrine to others or to myself because it “felt good” to me or would “feel good” to others? When we see false teachers, we should call them out, we should point out the flaws in their teachings. But we must not do it out of self-righteousness, but in love and dedication to the truth.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I have long fought a battle with self-righteousness. I grew up in a Christian family and managed to stay out of trouble for most of my school career – with just the odd silent lunch or reprimanding word here and there. I also attended church regularly and regularly spoke out in youth group. I knew a lot. I knew the answers.
When I went to college, I saw a lot more sin than I did before in high school. Just part of the gig of being a college student. And my freshman year, it manifested itself in self-righteousness. I would look around and see others and, I confess, judged them. Hardcore. I would self-righteously look at them and shake my head (sometimes visibly), astonished by their sinful ways.
But in the last couple years, I’ve noticed one thing: I’m not much different than they are.
If it weren’t for Christ in my life, I’d be right there with them. I’d be in the same boat. I’d be sinning just like them.
Also, fun fact: I am sinning like them. Maybe it displays itself in different ways, but I’m a sinner just like those kids I went to school with are. Just like the Osteens are.
Just like you are, Christian. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Pharisees loved to do what we’re doing to the Osteens. They loved to look at sinners and condemn them. I notice that sometimes we in the church love to do the same, especially when it comes to false preachers.
Let me go ahead and say again that I don’t approve of what Victoria Osteen said, or what Joel Osteen has said. It’s a horrible misinterpretation of Scripture, to put it mildly.
But before we get to crucifying them, remember that they need Jesus just as much as we do. Remember that Jesus died so that the pastors who misinterpret His Word might have a chance to learn differently, receive grace and spend eternity with Him in heaven. I want them to preach truth.
I also don’t want to give an affirmative answer the Osteens’ salvation, because that’s not my job. If they’re Christians who are just missing something big, pray for them. If they’re not Christians, pray for them.
I don’t want to be the prideful Pharisee that looks down on the repentant tax collector and says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12). Or in this case, “false teachers, liars, misinterpreters of Scripture, or even like this Victoria Osteen.”
Truth is, I’m a lot like them.
I want to be the Christian that sees the flaws in others and responds in three ways:
Pray that they know and love Jesus.
Examine my own heart for sin.
Pray that I would know Jesus more.
We shouldn’t be comparing one to another; we all fall short in comparison to the glory of God (Romans 3:23). He just wants us – you, me, the Osteens, the kids I knew in college – to be His.
So please, Christians, let’s be in prayer for the Osteens, not just blast them all over social media and in conversations at church. We must stand for truth, yes, but not at the expense of loving others.