Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2007 Vol. 12 Issue 11 – 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day
by Rev. Robert S. Liichow
When Larry King mentions me as a “critic” of Joel Osteen our web site went down for 2 days due to excessive band-width use which told me that a lot of people were downloading my initial article concerning Joel. Next more negative e-mails berating me for simply pointing out the errors Joel had made in his interview began to flow in. I knew it would only be a matter of time before a Osteenite asked me “well have you even read Pastor Osteen’s book?” I can honestly answer in the affirmative and tell them “yes I have and here is the problem I have with it.”
Joel’s latest book is the largest printing ever published at one time by A Free Press, the publishers of his materials. They’ve printed an initial 3 million copies of his latest book based on how well his former book Your Best Life Now performed.
This book could easily be entitled “The Little Engine that Could” or possibly “Fake It Till You Make It,” and anyone who has been involved with the charismatic movement will be disappointed in the contents because it says absolutely nothing new. The entire premise of the book can be boiled down to the old aphorism “God helps those who help themselves.”
In the DMI archive we have several bookcases filled with titles such as: Super Brain Power: 6 keys to Unlocking Your Hidden Genius; God is My CEO: Following God’s Principles in a Bottom-Line World; Prayer, Power, and Prosperity: Three Keys to a Move of God; Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity; seven Facts About Prevailing Prayer (John Osteen), You Can Change Your Destiny (another John Osteen)…and the list could go on.
Now just when we thought we might have gotten past the formulaic approach of laws, principles, and rules for spiritual development we are offered another set of 7 keys to self-improvement! Here is Joel’s list: 1). Keep pressing forward. 2) Be positive toward yourself, 3) Develop better relationships, 4). Form better habits 5). Embrace the place where you are 6). Develop your inner life and 7). Stay passionate about life!
Obviously, the book is divided into these 7 sections and we’ll take a quick trip through each (it will save you the price of buying the book)! The first chapter urges the reader to never be content with where they are in life. “He’s a progressive God and He wants every generation to be increasing in happiness, success and significances. (1)
The Apostle Paul said this about Contentment:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13
Paul’s source of contentment was found in Christ Jesus not in any material sources. Whether he had “plenty” or whether he was in need Paul was content because he had the correct focus knowing who was his source of strength.
Where does the Bible ever say that one of God’s purposes is for us to be happy? I’d be willing to grant He does not want us to be depressed or despondent but where does the Scripture teach that God wants each succeeding generation to increase in happiness, success and significance? I’ll give you a hint, the Bible never teaches such things.
In Joel’s reality our only limits are self-imposed. It does not matter if you live in the poorest ghetto in Haiti, or if you are horribly handicapped the only limits to life are those you place upon yourself. “If your thinking is limited, then your life is going to be limited.” (2) If that sounds like the old Norman Vincent Peale “power of positive thinking” you are correct!
At the start of each new day, remind yourself, ‘I am talented. I am creative. I am greatly favored by God. I am equipped. I am well able, I will see my dreams come to pass.’ Declare those statements by faith and before long, you will begin to see them in reality. (3)
Let me just briefly unpack this common thread through the entire book. This is also basic Word of Faith (WOF) cult doctrine “101.” It’s called “calling those things that be not as though they are, i.e. “fake it till you make it.” Hagin, Copeland, Capps, Savelle, Duplantis, Price and pappy Osteen all have taught this same error.
WOF dogma teaches that this world is ruled by spiritual laws and these laws will work for whoever will work them, child of God or child of the devil. Furthermore, the WOF cult teaches that faith is a force that we use to create our own reality. Understand — it is not faith in Jesus, it is faith in a spiritual force we wield and release by our words.
Joel is after all his father’s son, and all he has ever learned about the Bible has come through the lens of a Word of Faith heretic (John Osteen) which explains why his books are nothing more than warmed-over WOF dogma.
How can I say that? Simple! Joel begins with encouraging the readers to think positive thoughts. From here he will go in a few chapters to the next building- block of WOF error…positive confession. Once you have the image of what you want in your mind then you confess “faith-filled” words out of your mouth continually until you change your reality by the power of these faith-filled words. However, before getting to speaking the right words he has to deal with an uncomfortable fact, i.e. why does your life stink now? In Chapter 4 Joel teaches another bizarre WOF concept, that of generational curses. Again this a teaching I heard Marilyn Hickey teach at Robert Tilton’s church over 20 years ago, but Joel is reaching many folks who probably don’t know about generational curses.
This is the false teaching: that some believers problems stem from their family line passing a “curse” through the generations. Joel says” many times, you can look back and see the results of those choices somewhere in your family line.” (4) The proof texts these false teachers use are Ex. 20:5; 34:7 Num. 14:8; Deut. 5:9 and these texts basically say that God will curse the generation that hates Him to the third or fourth generation But let’s consider the rest of the context of these passages.
Notice that the curses are on those who hate God. It is not for those who love God, but make some mistakes in life. One might argue, however, that their father or grandfather might have hated God. This is irrelevant, but brings up the next point. Using a hyper-literalistic interpretation of this passage, if the Lord shows mercy for 1000’s of generations on the fathers who loved God, then all that would be necessary for us to be in the “mercy” rather than “cursed” category is to find one relative in the past thousand or so generations that loved and obeyed the Lord. Is it not probable that we have at least one distant relative in the last 1000 generations who loved the Lord and kept His commandments? The statistical probability is that we most certainly do. And if we do, then we are part of the 1000 generations the Lord promised to show mercy to, not curse. This notion is pure WOF heresy which Joel follows up by teaching in the next chapter on “Generational Blessing.” Joel says that we are to think of our good works in this fashion.
Think of it like this: Each of us has a spiritual bank account. By the way we live, we’re either storing up equity or storing up iniquity. Equity would be anything good: our integrity, our determination, our godliness. That’s storing up blessings…You have more of God’s favor, more of His blessing because of what they have done. (5)
Its almost like a Roman Catholic belief (Joel does not know that of course) of the storing up of meritorious favor by the saints that can be drawn upon by those on earth! If you come from godly parents and grandparents then they have been putting spiritual ducats into the family account, or as Oral Roberts might say “they’ve sown seeds and you’re reaping the harvest.” My father was a godly man but I doubt I can tap into some heavenly bank account and draw from his good work! Naturally Joel offers no contextual biblical proof for such a doctrine, but who cares, right? It sounds good and who doesn’t want a spiritual piggybank to draw upon?
In part two of the book Joel, having liberated the reader from negative self-talk marches on to encourage them to stop listening to accusing voices (negative words spoken to the reader). He says that it is imperative that you “learn to feel good about yourself.” (6) Anytime a criticism comes to you (or from your conscience) you are to cast it down immediately!
Don’t make the mistake of dwelling on that rubbish, not for a moment. Sometimes when I walk off the platform having spoken at Lakewood and around the world by means of television, the first thought that comes to my mind is, Joel that message just wasn’t good today. Nobody got anything out of that. You practically put them to sleep. I learned to shake that off. I turn it around and say, ‘No I believe it was good! I did my best…I thought it was good. (7)
Brothers and sisters one of the ways we grow is by receiving correction, by useful criticism. When we reject rebuke and correction then our spiritual growth is stunted. Proverbs clearly says:
Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. Prov. 1:30
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. Prov. 15:31
A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool. Prov. 17:10
Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge. Prov. 19:25
Personally I want someone I respect and trust to tell me the truth when I have finished teaching or preaching. Maybe my message fell way short of the mark. Maybe I didn’t properly distinguish between Law & Gospel or took certain passages out of context. If I immediately reject any “negative” input then I will not grow and worse yet may lead those who hear farther from Jesus and not closer to Him. Joel’s guidance in this chapter is simply “if it seems remotely negative don’t listen to it!”
Chapter 8 entitled “Learning to Like Yourself” is more nauseating pabulum. Joel does not seem to get a fundamental message in the New Testament — the problem is not that people do not love themselves or like themselves, just the opposite, we love ourselves far too much!
Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 1 Cor. 10:24
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil 2:4
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Heb. 13:16
All of this psycho-babble about people not loving themselves is recent nonsense which the Bible does not even address…because 99.9% of humanity has no problem loving numero uno.
Another one of Joel‘s glaring theological inadequacies is his lack of any real sense of our sinful fallen nature.
Shake off guilt, condemnation, inadequacies, and a sense that you can’t measure up, and start feeling good about who you are. ‘Well Joel, I don’t know if I believe that,’ a dear, well-meaning man told me. ‘We’re just poor old sinners.’ No, we used to be poor old sinners, but when we came to Christ, He washed away our sins. He made us new creatures. Now, we are no longer poor old sinners. (8)
This too is a WOF cult and general charismatic extremist point of view. They teach that we were sinners prior to salvation. Now in Christ we are the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) and no longer sinners. They have no concept of the reality of being simil Justus et peccator which means we are simultaneously justified, and yet sinners. Both conditions are always true of us. We will fight against sinful inclinations our entire lives and by the means of grace God will be working in us progressive sanctification in this life. Joel is dangerously misleading his readers to encourage them to think they are no longer sinful.
Chapter 9 – is classic WOF/Positive Confession dogma and Joel has very subtly brought the reader from a place of thinking positive thoughts to now confessing these thoughts. What he says in this chapter is regularly proclaimed in any Ken Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Jesse Duplantis or Fred Price meeting.
As long as we have that poor self-image, we’re not going to experience God’s best. You will never rise above the image that you have of yourself. (9)
He restates the problem of humanity as he sees it but he fails to recognize one very salient point — God blesses us APART from what we do virtually all of the time! Grace, is the undeserved gift from God. We experienced God’s best (which by the way, Joel, is salvation by JESUS CHRIST alone) when we were haters of God.
For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Rom. 5:10
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, Col. 1:21-23a
In Joel’s warped view how are we supposed to overcome this self-image problem in order to experience God’s best? Simple! We speak positive words about ourselves!
One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. Every day, we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, ‘I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.’ When we do that, we are building up our self-image. As those words permeate your heart and mind, and especially your subconscious mind, eventually they will begin to change that way you see yourself. (10)
Our words do not have creative power. We cannot change reality by what we say. To believe such things is simply occultism and not Christianity. I’ve buried folks who died from AIDS confessing they were totally healed by the stripes of Jesus.
Positively or negatively, creative power resides in your words because you believe your words more than you believe anybody else’s. (11)
The WOF/extremist universe words are the most powerful things in the universe. They teach that God Himself created the universe not out of “nothing” (ex nihilo) but out of words that contained the force of faith to bring to pass whatever He said. They teach that since we are in His image we too have been given this same power. Negative words will produce bad results in our lives, they carry a sort of negative-faith. Positive words carry the force of faith in a fruitful direction creating whatever the wizard wielding the magic wand desires.
The sad thing is that Joel probably has not thought it through enough to realize what bondage such a belief system puts people under. If Joel is correct, then humanity is in the condition it is in simply because of not speaking the right words necessary to create a better life. All of his congregation’s problems fall squarely on their shoulders. Whatever their situation it is their fault. The only way out is to begin to confess positive “faith-filled” words until your situation changes, which may take years…Remember just a few negative statements can dig up years of positive confessions and then the poor soul, like Sisyphus, is back at the beginning. What a horrific weight to place on the shoulders of God’s people.
No matter how impossible something looks, no matter how you feel, start boldly declaring, ‘I am strong in the Lord. I can do all things through Christ. I am well able to fulfill my destiny. Call in what God has promised you…Don’t merely use your words to describe your situation; use your words to change your situation….With our words, we can prophesy our own future. (12)
Notice God active in any of this? Who is the agent of change? Who determines your situation? Who is in control of your future? Obviously, you are! God set these so-called spiritual “laws” in place and now we eat the good or bitter fruit from them apart from God.
I think you can see why Joel’s book is so immensely popular. It is all about self and works righteousness. Which all people love (yes even Christians). People love spiritual legalism in all its varied forms and dislike the orthodox biblical view of sola Christus, by Christ alone and looking to Him to do what we cannot do. That is too easy, we want to know “where’s my part in the play?” The point is this — salvation and all its benefits are monergistic, which means that God did all the work and we passively receive what He has done on our behalf. We add nothing to our salvation but thanksgiving to God for His great grace and mercy which He richly pours out on us through the sacrifice of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
The genius behind Joel’s writing is that he has encapsulated the basic tenets of WOF heresy into a format which does not come across as either charismatic in nature nor as something that has been taught by WOF heretics for over fifty years now. He has “spun” old false doctrines a new set of “Dr. Phil” clothing and is marketing it as a self-help book. The problem is that people will not genuinely be helped, in fact, many may end up in some serious bondage due to his lightweight version leading some readers to seek heavier teachings on the same concepts.
In closing, I will leave you with some simple biblical texts that will show you how to truly become a better you.
And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matt. 10:38,39
Then he said to them all; “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? Luke 9:23-25
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25
You want to be a “better you” then take up your cross, follow Jesus (where) to Calvary and DIE to yourself. This dying (reckoning ourselves dead Rom. 6:11) is a daily process/struggle (we Lutherans like to urge one another to “remember your baptism”) that is how we become “better people” we become less SELF-INVOLVED and thus with ourselves off our hands we are freed up to love God and our neighbor more perfectly Jesus said seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and ALL the things the Gentiles seek after will be added to you (Matt. 6:33), something Joel does not mention. Instead of seeking the sphere of God’s rule he has his readers trying to conjure up a better self-image instead of one buried in the waters of baptism. He has people confessing how good they are as opposed to saying “God have mercy on me a poor miserable sinner.” He inflates human pride by a system of works-righteousness to our account. Frankly, Joel is fundamentally wrong regarding the major premises of each of his chapters. His biblical/doctrinal ignorance is truly appalling and I sincerely urge all of us to pray for him (and I will be writing and sending him a registered letter soon, I’ll let you know if he responds) and more importantly the 100,000’s of people who watch him on television and buy his books. Lord have mercy upon us! ♦
Copyright © Robert S. Liichow
1. Osteen Joel, Become a Better You New York: A Free Press, 2007, p. 3
2. Ibid. p.21
3. Ibid pp. 22 -22
4. Ibid. p. 49
5. Ibid. pp.56,66
6. Ibid. p. 85
7. Ibid. p.86
8. Ibid. pp. 101-102
9. Ibid p. 109
10. Ibid pp. 109-110 underlining and bolding added for emphasis.
11. Ibid. p. 11
12. Ibid pp. 113-114 underlining and bolding added.
Anyone else notice a “theme”? 7 steps to living at your full potential & now 7 keys to improving your life every day. Is it possible that Joel is using a ghost writer to pen these novels? If I was already achieving my full potential why should I read his latest book? It simply does not make sense to me?