Cyperspace has recently been filled with reaction to a comment by Victoria Osteen: “When we obey God … we’re doing it for ourself.” Most of the reaction among the rest of the Christian community has been strongly negative. Facebook posts have lampooned her. Other YouTube videos have been created expressing disgust. Victoria and Joel Osteen are no strangers to controversy, but this recent barrage has been particularly nasty.
I have never been to Lakewood. I do not watch Joel Osteen on TV. My comments are strictly theological. I am not defending Victoria. I disagree with several aspects of their ministry. But I would like to offer an alternative way to think about this controversy.
Jesus said, “Follow Me. Keep My commandments.” (Matt. 16:24, John 14:15) There’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
However, Jesus understood motivation. He certainly promised good things to His followers.
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:28-30
So here’s the thought. The important thing is that we obey God and follow Jesus. Period.
Do we do that because God has changed our inner being and we are drawn to follow Him? God hopes so.
Do we do that first because of some of the good things He has promised? For some people, Yes. And hopefully the heart change will follow.
What does that look like?
- If a pregnant teenager becomes a Christian because a kind Christian person provides support and help at a critical time, that’s good.
- If a Wall Street banker finds the heart to do the right thing because it’s the best way to keep the SEC from coming down on him, that’s good.
- If an Iraqi Christian follows Jesus even in the face of death, with no hope except for heaven, that’s good.
- If a retired worker keeps coming to church because that’s where she gets companionship and social support, that’s good.
- If a recovering addict learns to trust God out of his desperate helplessness, that’s good.
The BEST good is doing what God asks of us out of a worshipful, grateful, and loving heart.
But whatever the reason, God can take someone who is following Him in any way and continue the transformation.
P.S. For those Christians spewing hatred at other Christians – wouldn’t the Kingdom of God be better served by speaking more constructively? Non-Christians look at us with disdain when we shoot friendly fire or kill our wounded. Debate theologically. But is the name-calling necessary? “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:18
[reminder]Why do YOU follow Jesus? What do you think about those who follow Him first because of some good things they hear that He has promised?[/reminder]
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