In a society that is increasingly secular, there is pressure on Christendom to take the focus away from sin (the most pressing human problem) and salvation from sin (the most pressing human need), and instead focus on merely helping people feel better about themselves and about worldly gain. Secular people want either to be entertained or taught that they are basically good and that their only real problem is that they haven’t unlocked all of their potential. They have “itching ears” that need to be tickled by a pleasant message (2 Timothy 4:3).
For example, Joel Osteen’s television broadcast begins with the sung phrase “Discover the champion in you.” Here are excerpts from very recent sermon synopses posted on his Web site, www.joelosteen.com:
- No More Excuses: God wants to do a new thing in your life. He wants to bring you into a new level of your destiny. But, are you letting excuses hold you back?
- Redeem The Time: You’re a person of destiny. God is counting on you to make a difference in this world and fulfill your purpose. With this gift of life comes a responsibility to develop your talents, pursue your dreams, and become what God has created you to be.
- It’s Your Due Season: Right now, there are blessings that have your name on them. There is promotion, healing, vindication, restored relationships and so much more. God has already destined them to be yours.
- Invisible but Invaluable: Sometimes we are needed in other people’s lives to help them, to be their arms and feet, to lift up their faith when they can’t go on, and help them walk into greatness.
There is little that is inherently unscriptural in many statements like these. But the Bible student can tell that Osteen is not providing his audience with the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). In particular, there is precious little about sin and the need to repent of sin. Jesus said that we will go to hell unless we are willing to repent of our sins (Luke 13:3), and yet this message is tragically absent from much preaching in our age, which is labeled frighteningly by many as the post-Christian era (e.g., Thomas Merton, Peace in the Post-Christian Era).
Admittedly, it is difficult to repent and become a living sacrifice for God, and yet this theme is prevalent throughout the Bible. Our brother, the great scholar J.W. McGarvey, once pointed out 37 biblical truths about repentance (Sacred Didactics, 64-66). Included among them are these important facts: (1) There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7-10); (2) Men must repent and turn in order to have pardon from God (Acts 3:19); (3) Godly sorrow facilitates repentance leading to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
Have you repented of your sins and rendered obedience to the Gospel (Acts 2:38)?