Give Me Sober

Lakewood Church in Houston is the nation’s largest church (43,500 members). The face, voice, and smile (literally) of the congregation are Joel and Victoria Osteen. In a recent message to the mammoth congregation, Mrs. Osteen said:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy….That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy….So, I want you to know this morning—Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy….When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?

And the thousands in attendance, reflecting the dribble they have heard for years shouted back their thunderous “Amen.” But none of this should surprise us. In fact, Mrs. Osteen has probably never been more honest. Church for them has always been about man’s happiness. And the masses like to be happy.

It’s too easy to refute their nauseous theology. You’ve heard and read enough from me on the topic. So I want to approach it differently.

Here’s a question for you. Do you find yourself more often seeking God and living in His presence when life is going well (happy) or do you find yourself more often seeking God and living in His presence when life is going poorly (sad)? If you are like me, it is the latter. It is easy to become preoccupied when living on the mountain top; for fun and ease can be distracting. Whereas when you are in the valley pelted by wind and rain, crying out to God can be as commonplace as breathing. We tend to forget Him when things are going well; we are less likely to do so when things are not.

This is another reason the “health/wealth” trash that circulates in places like the Osteen’s and the man-centered focus of so many Sunday morning worship services is counter-productive—damaging even. Instead of focusing on sin, redemption, cross, and resurrection which leads to faith, repentance, and salvation; the focus has become winning, laughing, and succeeding. It’s great to win, laugh, and succeed. But if that is Sunday’s message and focus, the Gospel is drowned out and who is ready to meet a holy God?

Rome had the dole and the Coliseum to distract and keep the masses happy. Too many churches have their own version that distracts and keeps happy.

I want a sober congregation, one that worship each Lord’s Day mindful of their sinful condition but filled with the joy of their salvation. I want a biblically-driven congregation making their way through the Wilderness not caring so much if that path takes them to mountains high or valleys low—but lives day-to-day knowing that path takes them to the Promised Land.

In short, I want a congregation who worships God not for what it brings them but because they can’t but worship Him—rejoicing in a God that saved them! I have that congregation.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

September 4, 2014

“Amending the Soil” Christian Education Conference

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