A few weeks ago, there was an event here at Dodger Stadium with Joel Osteen, thirty-five thousand people at Dodger Stadium, something like that. He is now the largest quote/unquote church - I’m using the word loosely - in America down in Houston. You need to understand that he is a pagan religionist in every sense. He’s a quasi-pantheist. Jesus is a footnote that satisfies his critics and deceives his followers.
The idea of his whole thing is that men have the power in themselves to change their lives. In his definitive book, Your Best Life Now, he says - and that ought to be a dead giveaway since the only way this could be your best life is if you’re going to hell - he says that anyone can create by faith and words the dreams he desires. Health, wealth, happiness, success - the list is always the same. Here are some quotes from his book, Your Best Life Now. “If you develop an image of success, health, abundance, joy, peace, happiness, nothing on earth will be able to hold those things from you,” end quote. See, that’s the law of attraction that’s a part of this kind of system.
Here’s another quote. “All of us are born for earthly greatness. You were born to win.” Win what? “God wants you to live in abundance. You were born to be a champion. He wants to give you the desires of your heart. Before we were formed, He prepared us to live abundant lives, to be happy, healthy and whole. But when our thinking becomes contaminated, it’s no longer in line with God’s Word,” end quote. By the way, God’s Word is not the Bible, God’s Word is that word that comes to us mystically, spiritually, that tells us what we should want.
Here’s another quote. “Get your thinking positive and He will bring your desires to pass. He regards you as a strong, courageous, successful person. You’re on your way to a new level of glory.” Hmph. How do you get there? “Believe,” - he says - visualize, and speak out loud.” Same exact approach. Words release your power. Words give life to your dreams. Here’s another quote. “Friend, there’s a miracle in your mouth.” I think Isaiah might object to that. He said, “I’m a man of unclean lips and I dwell amidst a people of unclean lips.”
Here’s Joel Osteen’s prayer. “I thank you, Father, that I have your favor.” Wow. Did he meet the Pharisee in Luke 18 or what? “I thank you that I’m not like other people.” Here’s another quote. “I know these principles are true because they work for me and my wife.” Oh, so that’s the test of truth. Are you kidding? I know these things are true because they work for me and my wife? Sure, you’re at the top of the Ponzi scheme. And then he said, “Even finding a perfect parking spot at the mall.” And I ask, “What about the little old lady you cut off to get into that parking - what about her dreams?” Maybe she was born to lose. I mean, it’s so silly, so bizarre.
He says, “God has already done everything He’s going to do, the ball’s in your court. You have to take that part of God which exists in you and create your own reality.” What is the source of this? Where does this come from? Answer: Satan. This is satanic - this is satanic. This is not just off-centered, this is satanic. Why do I say that? Because health, wealth, prosperity, the fulfillment of all your dreams and your desires, that’s what Satan always offers. That’s called temptation, based on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s exactly what corrupt, fallen, unregenerate people want.
That’s why it works so well, right? You can go right into Satan’s system, make everybody feel religious, and turn their desires, their temptations, into somehow honorable desires. I mean what did Satan say to Jesus? “Grab some satisfaction. Why are you hungry? You need to eat. You need to be healthy, whole. Why would you let yourself be unpopular? Dive off the temple corner - hoo, everybody’ll be wowed. You’ll be the winner, you’ll be the champion. You’ll be the Messiah. They’ll hail you. And by the way, if you just look over the kingdoms of the world, I’ll give those to you, too.”
That’s satanic. It’s the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, 1 John 2:15 to 17. It’s all a part of the world and it’s all passing away. And why are these false teachers so successful at what they do? Because they’re in cahoots with the devil. Why is Satan successful? Because his temptations, although they might appear noble on the outside, are in perfect accord with all the fallen, corrupt, selfish, proud, evil desires of sinners. This is a false kind of Christianity and a false view of God.
God is the one who reserves the right to make you well (“Have not I made the blind and the lame and the halt? He says) or to allow you to be sick? God has the right to make you prosperous or to give you little. God reserves the right to control the circumstances and events and experiences of your life for His own ends and His own purpose.
False religion is the most heinous of all sins because it’s a violation of the great commandment, “Love the Lord your God, the true One, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and false religion that borrows His name but creates a false God and borrows the name of Christ but creates a false Christ is the worst kind of blasphemy.
And by the way, I’ve said these things in a letter to the people at TBN because I know that they would hear this, and I put it in a letter. They weren’t too happy about it. But I need to say that. Do you understand this is a burden for me? And I think preachers like this who preach this stuff hate the true God. I really believe that. I believe they hate the true God and they’re afraid to death that somebody might find out who He really is, that He’s a God of absolute sovereignty, that He’s a God of absolute knowledge, He is a God of perfect wisdom, He is a God of perfect holiness, He is in perfect control of everything - absolutely sovereign over everything.
That kind of God terrifies these kinds of people. And He is a God who is concerned about fulfilling things in a spiritual level whether you ever receive anything on a temporal level. I think they have hatred for the true God. They hide the true God from the eyes of their followers and they put in His place an idol of their own making with the same God.
Do you remember in Exodus when they made the golden calf? Did you know that when the Israelites made the golden calf, that was their representation of Jehovah? That was their representation of Jehovah. We have it again today. We have even in the church the unknown God invented by man and worshiped. The comfortable God, the God who can’t be responsible for everything, the God who can’t be absolutely just, absolutely sovereign.
The God who is to be honored in everything, the God who is the very source of our existence in whom we live and move and have our being, the God who sets the boundaries of all nations; therefore, the God who is, believe me, in control of every nation’s history and every nation’s place in history. We don’t like that God. And even preachers use the name of God and the name of Christ to propagate blasphemously a false God.
There’s nothing that has a greater effect on your life than your view of God. Okay? You live your view of God. It affects everything you do - everything I do. In John 17 - we love to go back to the marvelous high priestly prayer of our Savior and kind of camp on the fact that He prayed that we would be one, pray for unity, which He did pray, but that was a spiritual unity, not a superficial kind of unity. But what is the first thing that comes out of the lips of Jesus? The first request?
John 17, as He speaks to the Father, it’s in verse 3, “This is eternal life” - this is eternal life, this is what He prays. You want eternal life? Here’s how - “that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you’ve sent.” What is the prayer of Christ? For a true knowledge of the true God. Do you know that God? Do you understand the fullness of His nature? That’s why we’re going to do this series. That’s our Lord’s prayer, “that they may know you.”
And isn’t it wonderful that He has revealed Himself on the pages of Scripture? That’s why the Bible is called (in Psalm 19) the testimony of the Lord. It is the Lord’s personal self-disclosure. In Jeremiah, we are told that we have a right to boast. But if you’re going to boast, Jeremiah 9:23, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom. Let not a mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches.” Then verse 24 of Jeremiah 9, “But let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows me.”
Hmm. “That he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things.” God delights in a true knowledge of Him. That’s why Jesus prayed, “that they may know you, the only true God.”
Hosea 6, verse 6, the prophet (speaking for God) says, “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice” - and listen - “and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” There was a place for sacrifice, there was a place for burnt offerings. But what God really wanted was that we would know Him - that we would know Him. Why? Because He seeks our worship, right? John 4, “The Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in Spirit and in truth.”
He must be known to be truly worshiped. There’s nothing more important than this, folks. There’s nothing more important than knowing who God is, worshiping the true God, the one true God, the true and living God. We have one purpose in the world and that is to know God and to make our boast in the fact that we understand and know Him.
Well, let’s go back to Acts 17. This is on Paul’s heart. You’ll have to forgive me, folks. I know I’m talking about very specific things today, and some of you think maybe I’ve gone too far. Listen, I’ve suppressed this as long as I can and it is not easy. I have a hard time coping with the dishonoring of God in His name and in the name of Jesus Christ. And I do my best to keep a lid on it. It helps to be going through the exposition of Scripture because I have to stay in the text. But just give me a Sunday when I can do something else and this is liable to happen, as you know.
And I want you to know that I’m in good company - my hero, Paul. Verse 16, Acts 17, “Now, while Paul was waiting for them at Athens” - now, get the picture for just a minute. Second tour from the church in Antioch of Syria, missionary tour, he comes to Macedonia, he founds churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and everywhere he went, he planted a church, but he generated a lot of hostility and opposition and persecution, so he had to flee for his safety. Well, he finally has come to kind of be lost in the crowd at Athens.
He’s gotten away from the last stop, which was Berea, and the Bereans escorted him to Athens to give him some rest from the trauma that he was suffering in these towns where he had such a large exposure. He’s now just sitting in Athens and ,he’s waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him. But I understand. He’s waiting there, this is a time for rest, this is a time to recover from the arduous second missionary journey, all on foot, the threats (that he talks about in 2 Corinthians) of robbers and all these kinds of things that he endured, and hunger and thirst. Now he’s getting a little bit of a break and he’s resting in Athens.
However, he didn’t rest well. Verse 16, “His spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.” His spirit was being provoked within him because he was observing the city full of idols - he didn’t find any real rest in this city.
Athens was a great city. If you were an architect, you’d be in architect heaven in ancient Athens. It’s even remarkable to see what’s left of it now. If you were an architect, you’d see the buildings. If you were a stone mason, you’d see how the bricks were laid. If you were a street cleaner, you’d see how clean the streets were. If you were a clothier, you’d be looking at the wardrobe of everybody. But if you’re a preacher of the gospel, all you can see is the spiritual realities. That’s how you view the world. That’s how I view the world. The rest escapes me, like it escaped Paul.
It’s very hard to take a tour. I can promise you, I’ve been in a lot of places in the world and have seen a lot of things in the world, but when I come away from all those things, what dominates my mind is nothing physical that I saw but it’s the overwhelming sense of the spiritual emptiness and the horrors of not knowing Christ and not knowing the gospel. Friday, I did a seminar in Amman, Jordan, by video. Saturday, I did a seminar in Beirut, Lebanon, by video. My only interest in Amman, Jordan, and Beirut, Lebanon, is to get the gospel of Jesus Christ into those places.
I have a passion that the Word of God would get everywhere in the world where it needs to be heard. Paul only viewed the world from the spiritual perspective. Remember what he says in writing to the Corinthians: “Since I’ve come to Christ, I know no man according to the flesh.” I don’t see people superficially anymore. There he is in the great city. He doesn’t say, “Wow, this is a very religious city. That’s good.” That’s not good. He was impressed that it was full of idols. Then he goes to the Areopagus, where the Supreme Court of Athens met, the very court where Socrates, by the way, was tried and condemned.
Now, four centuries later, the apostle Paul is there. And Athens offered a home to almost every imaginable god in the vast pantheon of paganism. Even if you go to Athens today, you see that massive temple up on the Acropolis. It was a temple to myriad gods. Nearly every public building in Athens was at the same time a shrine to a god. The recording house where documents were recorded was a temple to the mother of all gods. The council house where the council met was a temple to Apollo and Jupiter. The theater was consecrated to Bacchus, the god of orgies and drunkenness. In the Acropolis, as I said, was a collection of the sculptures of all the primary gods.
The importance of Athens could hardly be exaggerated. It was the city of Socrates, the city of Plato, the adopted city of Aristotle and Epicurus, who started Epicureanism, and Zeno, who started Stoicism. Sculptures were everywhere. Philosophies were everywhere - religious philosophies because all their philosophies were connected to gods. Athens was a breathtaking city, a blend of amazing architectural design, natural spectacle Greece, amazing mountains and sea, artistic genius, a vision of splendor in marble and gold. It was the epitome of human achievement, epitome of religion.
But all Paul could see was all the false gods. That’s all he could see. And his spirit was provoked within him, it says. His spirit was provoked. He was severely agitated. I understand that. Stirred up his emotions.
One of my favorite missionaries is Henry Martyn, who went to India, and he kept a journal - and it’s so beneficial to have some of these journals from these great men of the past - and after exiting an early visit to a Hindu Temple, he wrote this: “This excited more horror in me than I can well express. I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy. I couldn’t endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if He were to be always thus dishonored.” When asked why, he replied with these words: “If anyone pluck out your eyes, there’s no saying why there is pain, it’s feeling. It’s because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.”
Do we understand that? And that was Paul and that was any man who looks at corrupt religion. Oh, they had a place for God, an unknown God whom they worshiped in ignorance. But Paul’s pain was over the fact that with all that religion, there was not a true understanding of the true God.
So he put an end to his little vacation. Verse 17, “He took off and began to minister everywhere he could, with Jews and Gentiles, and ended up on a mountain with the philosophers. His pain drove him into public discourse. His pain drove him to proclaim the truth and to tell people the identity of the unknown God, the only true and living God.
I understand that pain, I understand that drive because I think we live in a time, even in America, where there’s a whole lot of confusion about who God really is. And we have a God that has been made, developed, concocted. Satan’s happy with Him. If you want to worship that God who is not the true and living God, he’s okay with that. He’s very religious; he’s disguised as an angel of light, along with his messengers. But we cannot allow the God of human invention and the God of satanic partnership to be the God that we worship. You need to know more about God. You need to plumb the depths of the nature of God.
I found a quote from Spurgeon. He said, “Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself into the Godhead’s deepest sea and be lost in its immensity.” That’s what we want you to do. And I hope that I’ve been able to stimulate you as to the importance of this. You need to be a part of the solution and not be caught up in the false worship of the unknown God in our day.
Father, a lot ahead of us and we’re grateful for it. We’re so thankful, so grateful that you have loved us enough to make us your own. You’ve given us the knowledge of yourself by the work of your Holy Spirit. You’ve brought us to truth and life. You have made us your sons and daughters, adopted us into your family, made us joint heirs with Christ, where we will forever reign as citizens of heaven.
We want to proclaim the true God, we want to worship Him in truth. We want to rescue people from the idols that bear the name of the true God. How horrible that your name would be blasphemed by being given to an idol of man’s making and Satan’s commiseration.
And give us a clear understanding of who you are in all your glory as revealed on the pages of Scripture, and make the days ahead as we learn all these things, days of great enrichment and blessing for your glory - all of it for your glory and your honor because unto you are all things, for you are all things. All the glory belongs to you. Amen.