So, what about Joel Osteen? Better question to ask is why are people and specifically Christians so quick to attack? Why do people run to social media to put their two cents in, bashing a person they do not know personally, nor do they know what is going on inside his church organization? Simply put, why are we so full of self-righteousness? Do we not see that it is a cancer destroying us spiritually as individuals but also destroying the effectiveness of the church in having the influence we are supposedly to have? Are we that immature, spiritually undiscerning and shallow to see what is really going on? As I laid in bed trying to fall asleep last night, these words repeated in my heart regarding it all. “To whom much is forgiven, loves much.” These are the words of Jesus; they are the reason why we attack and within them is the answer for the cure to end our self-righteous attacks.
To understand these words, we must understand the context Jesus spoke them in. In Luke 7, Jesus is invited to have dinner at an influential leader’s home. He was a leader of the Pharisees (Jewish teacher of the law). As Jesus sat and visited with this Pharisee, named Simon, Luke tells us that a woman who was known all over the city to be a great sinner sat at the feet of Jesus and anointed his feet with an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. The scripture gives us a very descriptive scene telling us that she literally washes His feet with her tears, and wipes them with the hair of her head. It is easy to see that this woman, who is known as a “great sinner” is a very broken person. This situation bothers Simon the Pharisee, as he says under his breath, “This Man (Jesus) if He was a prophet, would know who and what matter of woman this is who is touching Him for she is a great sinner.” Simon, not only judged this broken woman but also Jesus for not rejecting her. Look at what happens next, within these next few words are a perfect image of most of the church and even those outside the church.
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ So he said, “teacher say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He (Jesus) said, “You have rightly judged,” then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I have entered your house: you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with the fragrant oil. Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (See Luke 7:36-48)
Within this story is the exact image of what our problem is today. The leadership of the church in general (not all) has passed down and taught what has been traditionally accepted as truth. A brand of Christianity that is focused on what we must do to earn God’s favor to make sure we are accepted in the eyes of God. We have rejected grace, depending on ourselves and our own self-righteousness over God’s unconditional love, forgiveness towards us and the gift of righteousness. We are self-dependent instead of being God-dependent. We celebrate our ability to keep the rules, do our Christian works and our own personal goodness so much so that we are no longer aware of God’s goodness and grace. Many Christians believe we must work so hard. It is as if they forgot forgiveness was free. It is a brand of religion that is no different than any other world religion, we focus on making and keeping ourselves right through some form of works system. If we fail to do everything correctly, we believe God is holding it against us.
As a result, we are disconnected from God’s love. When we take on this religious belief that we are earning God’s love and forgiveness we become so impressed with ourselves that we think we do not need that much forgiveness, just like Simon the Pharisee was. After all, we are not as bad as someone else, right? We are not like the woman who was known as a great sinner?
I want to be clear, if you do not realize how sinful your sin is, and how it took the life of Jesus to remove it, you will not be connected to how much God loves you but instead become a self-righteous, judgmental modern-day Pharisee who does not love others but instead looks to find fault in everyone else.
My heart goes out to people who are caught in this religious trap. Why? Because really, they do not like themselves or even believe God really likes them. They know what is in their closet, the thoughts they have, the fears they deal with, the hidden struggles they fight every day. But because of a religious, self-righteous system, they cannot remove the religious mask, get real and learn how much God loves and forgives them even in their mess. They are trapped in a self-righteous cycle, pointing fingers at everyone else to avoid themselves being found out. As a result, they become less and less aware of how forgiven they are, enslaving themselves into performance base relationship with God. They are the first to criticize others for not giving, doing more to help, yet they themselves not moving a finger or opening their wallet to do anything. We might say to ourselves, “that’s not me, I know how forgiven I am.” But do we really? Let me ask all of us a question. How critical are we of others, not only believers but unbelievers?
A critical, judgmental spirit is evidence that someone does not like themselves. It is proof that someone does not realize how much God loves them, as they are, faults and all. It is fruit in a person’s life that they are yet to understand how forgiven they really are. When we begin to realize how sinful our sin was, and the extreme act God took through the finished work of Jesus on the cross to remove it once and for all, then we will begin to understand how forgiven we are and start loving much.
Because we do not accept His grace, some leaders in the Body of Christ even labeling it “sloppy” or “greasy” grace, it has kept us from understanding how extreme God’s love is for us. The result is we love little in return and instead judge great. We cannot give what we do not have. If we don’t experience God’s love because of our accepted religious beliefs, we have little love to give. Because we accept the religious beliefs that short-circuit the power of God’s forgiveness and grace, what we have to give is full of judgment. “To whom much is forgiven, loves much.” Why are so many Christians attacking Joel Osteen, others and one another, because they don’t yet themselves understand how forgiven they are. Once they do, they too will begin to love like the woman who was known as a great sinner.
Changing the way the world views God,
Pastor Brian Essary
Are you looking for a Gospel of grace church that preaches the finished work of Jesus? Do you enjoy ministries like Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack and Lynn Hiles? If so, Reveal Church might be the perfect fit for you. Come join us Sunday mornings at 10 am. We meet at Copper Stone Executive Business Center at 3632 Land O Lakes Blvd. Land O Lakes, FL. 34639. Children’s church is provided for all ages. Pastor Brian has been ministering the gospel of grace message since 1999, with powerful truths that will continue to empower you to walk out God’s best for your life as you stay at a place of rest in Christ. Come be a part of this powerful start up gospel of grace church and help us reach the Tampa Bay area with the message of the finished work of Christ. We look forward to seeing you this Sunday!