Did you read part one? I encourage you to do so. In part two, I will share specific biblical concerns with the book.
1.) The title of the book, in and of itself, is problematic. It is about the power of affirmative statements about our self.
As Christians, our God is the great “I AM.” This is the name God gave to himself and revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. Furthermore, Jesus equates himself with the I AM of Exodus 3. This angered the pharisees and they considered it blasphemous. In Jesus, the I AM of the Old Testament stepped into our world and lived a human life. Jesus also proclaimed 7 “I am…” statements about himself in the book John. For example, in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Osteen does not mention these things.
In addition, power in the Bible is linked with God, the gospel, or Jesus Christ: Romans 1:16; 2 Peter 1:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24; 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Romans 1:16 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” The gospel is that Jesus died for our sin, was buried, and rose again – conquering death – and bringing us salvation.
Power is not found in great thoughts about our self, but in great thoughts about God – and trusting in all that Jesus accomplished for us in his life, death, and resurrection.
Osteen talks about many biblical characters (such as Sarah and David), but Jesus? Not so much. It wasn’t until page 83, that I finally found a sentence about Jesus and his work for us: “When Jesus died and rose again, He made a way for all people to come to Him.” (pg 83)
On page 100 (chapter 7), Osteen states: “Your value is not based on your performance. You don’t have to be good enough and then maybe God will approve you. God has already approved you.” There is truth here! Grace is the undeserved favor of God. Do you think Osteen is going to share the gospel now? Wrong. There is NO GOSPEL. In fact, the section heading that directly follows this is: “Dare to believe you are excellent.”
This is a reproach to our Savior!
We are accepted because of what Jesus did for us.
We need a Savior because we are sinful and not-so-excellent.
In a later chapter (17), Osteen does focus on Jesus. It is entitled “I am forgiven, God loves imperfect people.” I liked some observations Osteen had about Thomas and Jesus. But besides this solitary chapter, Jesus is neglected.
2.) In part one, I explained how Osteen emphasizes the power of our words. Does he offer scriptural support? At least twice, Osteen references a phrase from Romans 4, “call the things that are not as though they were.” This phrase is taken completely out of context. It is ludicrous to pull out an isolated phrase and use it how you like.
Romans 4 is about justification by faith, and how Abraham, even in the Old Testament, was counted righteous because of his belief. Verse 17 is about Abraham believing in God and it is “God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” Uh, this is about God’s power! This is not, by any stretch, about the power of our words. The verses that follow direct us towards Jesus. Verses 24 and 25 speak of God’s power raising Jesus from the dead and that “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.“
3.) There is a pronounced temporal, here-and-now focus in this book. An eternal and spiritual perspective is sorely lacking.
For example, the blessings and success that Osteen talk about are things like: health, career success, moving to a nicer house, being vindicated in front of your enemies, and other opportunities or breakthroughs in life. (While a word like breakthrough could refer to the spiritual, that is not the insinuation in context.)
Yet the New Testament of the Bible has a pronounced spiritual and eternal perspective. For example, the blessings we posses are spiritual and linked to Christ (Ephesians 1 and 2). It was an eternal perspective that got Paul through difficulties in life (2 Corinthians 4). The famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 stands in conflict with the tenets of Osteen’s book.
4.) Something I consider shocking is…the power Osteen gives to humanity -and- the limits he places on God. Osteen out rightly states that God is limited by our thinking!
“God is not limited by your education, by your nationality, or by your background. But he is limited by your thinking.” (pg 64)
An entire section in chapter 2 is entitled: “Negative words stop God’s promises.” (pg 22)
The reason Osteen offers as to why God made Zachariah mute (Luke 1), is that “God knows the power of our words. He knew that if Zachariah went around speaking defeat, it would stop his plan.” (pg 24)
Do you grasp the implications here?
The omnipotent God of the universe is limited by…our thoughts?
The sovereign God of history could have his plan stopped by…our words?
If a promise of God can be stopped by our words, then it is not a promise. God is faithful and keeps his promises! I’m thankful that if I am faithless, God remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). While in my heart I may plan my course, it is ultimately the LORD who establishes my steps (Prov 16:9).
From time to time, Osteen would make an isolated statement that was biblically accurate. However, that truth was drowned in all the surrounding inaccuracies and would be easy to miss.
I noticed contradictions. With all the talk of our power and the power of our words to limit God, on page 133 Osteen says “God has all the power.” In chapter 7 it says our value is not based on our behavior, but other parts of the book emphasize we must do things to gain God’s favor. Which is it?
This is what happens when you mix Christianity with a non-Christian belief system (see part one). It does not work. You end up with a distorted Christianity, with tenets that clash and contradict.
Some people defend Osteen as being an encourager, but when that encouragement diverts us from Christ and feeds our innate self-absorption, something is wrong. Howard Hendricks said:
“My fear is not that you would fail, but that you would succeed in doing the wrong thing.”
Osteen may want us to succeed, but offers little guidance for deciding what matters, and even distracts us from what really matters.