Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now — A Critical Review

Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now — A Critical Review


Osteen, Joel, Your Best Life Now, New York, Warner Faith Publishers, 2004. Inspirational/motivational; 310 pages.


It may seem foolish to disagree theologically with the man who pastors the largest congregation in America. Thirty-thousand adults attend Joel Osteen’s church every Sunday. Millions more tune in to his national and international television broadcasts. Certainly (one might assume) a man with this incredible following must be on the right track. Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, is even endorsed by well-known Christian leaders like Max Lucado and Pat Robertson. And if that were not enough to dissuade me from taking issue with Osteen’s teaching, who in his right mind would want to argue with karate-man Chuck Norris, who also commends Osteen’s book?

Nevertheless, here is my view in a nutshell: If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you. But if you believe, with the Apostle Paul, that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6 NKJV)1, if you desire a deeper and more biblical understanding of God and His ways, if you desire to see Jesus Christ exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, if you believe a Christian’s greatest hunger should be for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and not for money, health, or easy living, then you would do well to look elsewhere.

To be fair, I must admit that Joel Osteen does give some good counsel, particularly in the second half of the book (Parts 4-7). For instance, in Part 6 (chapters 25-29) Osteen’s instruction on giving is quite sound. He makes some excellent points about "Being a Person of Integrity" in chapter 31. In fact, if Parts 4-7 were somehow detached from Parts 1-3 and published as a separate book, it would be relatively harmless. But in Your Best Life Now, constructed as it is, the best of the worst comes first. A discerning friend of mine recently returned the book for a refund after reading just five pages.

A Doctrine of Discontentment

Joel Osteen’s primary focus throughout Parts 1-3 is on financial success and material gain. In the introduction, the reader is encouraged to dream, "Someday, I’ll earn more money, and I won’t have to worry about how to pay the bills." "God wants to increase you financially," Osteen writes on page 5. "Even if you come from an extremely successful family, God still wants you to go further" (p. 9). "Get rid of that small-minded thinking and start thinking as God thinks. Think big. Think increase. Think abundance. Think more than enough" (p. 11). "Many people settle for too little . . . ‘I’ve gone as far in my career as I can go. I’ve hit the peak. I’ll never make any more money than I’m making right now’" (p. 23).

On page 5 Osteen explains that this quest for financial and material increase is actually pleasing to God. He claims that "God wants to pour out ‘His far and beyond favor.’ God wants this to be the best time of your life" (emphasis mine). You see, according to Joel Osteen, God particularly wants you to experience His goodness, in physical, financial, and social ways, here and now. Hence, the title of the book, Your Best Life Now.

The truth, however, is that Joel Osteen wants you to be discontent. Of course he doesn’t come right out and say it like that. In fact, in chapter 30, entitled "Happiness is a Choice," in a section entitled, "Be Content Where You Are," Joel Osteen actually claims to advocate contentment. He writes:

If you don’t learn to be content where you are, you’re never going to get where you want to be. You may not have all the money you want today. Things may be tight, and you may be struggling. But as long as you complain all the time, talking about how poorly life’s treating you and how you’re never going to get ahead, your sour attitude will keep you right where you are (emphasis added).

With that, how can I claim that Joel Osteen wants you to be discontent? Notice, if you will, that even while supposedly advocating contentment, Joel Osteen promises something in return. The reward for your "contentment" is to "get where you want to be," to "have all the money you want," and to "get ahead." So Joel Osteen’s idea of contentment is not really contentment at all. The change he encourages in your attitude is actually his recommended means of satisfying your discontentment.

In the Bible, true contentment is encouraged in every area of life. Paul insisted that he was "well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake" (2 Cor. 12:10). But contentment is most strongly commanded of the Christian in relation to money and possessions. Consider Joel Osteen’s focus on financial and material gain in relation to three passages in particular:

Take heed and beware of covetousness [the natural result of discontentment], for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15 NKJV).

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim. 6:8-10 NKJV).

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have (Heb. 13:5).

No one can legitimately claim that God never blesses Christians with financial and material abundance. Even Paul wrote about Christians who were "rich in this present world" (1 Tim. 6:17). But Joel Osteen does not merely acknowledge the fact that God blesses some with wealth. His view is that God wants to bless everyone with financial and material abundance.

As I mentioned earlier, the Scripture reference Osteen uses to "prove" that God wants everyone to live in material abundance in this life is Ephesians 2:7. Osteen quotes that passage as saying, "God wants to pour out ‘His far and beyond favor.’" The endnotes affirm that his "quote" is of Ephesians 2:7, yet he never mentions the translation or paraphrase in which those words may be found. The reader is left to wonder where they are actually in print (if any place other than Osteen’s book). If they are from a published translation or paraphrase, I was unable to locate their source.

Based on numerous similar instances in the book, it seems likely that this "Scripture" reference merely represents Osteen’s version of what the passage means. If they are Osteen’s words, and not those of a published translation or paraphrase, it was highly deceptive to place them in quotes and introduce them by saying "Scripture says" or "the Bible says." On the other hand, if they are from a reputable source, we can only wonder why Joel Osteen did not give proper credit.

On an even more important note, the words represented here by Joel Osteen as "Scripture," the words that set the theme for his entire book, do not reflect the true meaning of Ephesians 2:7. Osteen interprets them to mean that God wants to do something tangible and earthly, here and now, for all people. But Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:7, when properly understood in their context, tell us plainly that God has already done what He purposed to do, for believers alone (not for all people), that the primary benefits of His work are spiritual (not physical or earthly), and that they will be experienced in their fullest measure "in the ages to come" (not here and now).

Aside from his misapplication of Ephesians 2:7, Joel Osteen’s view hits another roadblock. His focus on financial and material gain is explicitly forbidden in the Bible, not only by Jesus Christ Himself, but also by nearly every writer of the New Testament. Along with the passages already quoted, consider these:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21).

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Col. 3:2).
Note: Joel Osteen interprets "the things above" in the first part of Colossians 3:2 to mean "the higher things" in this life (i.e. success, financial increase, preferential treatment, etc.). Based on this verse, he claims that you should "expect circumstances to change in your favor . . . expect to be at the right place at the right time. . . . Expect to excel in your career" (pp. 13-14). He fails to notice, however, that the second half of the verse forbids what he claims the first half teaches.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16).

The World Will Love Its Own

It is not hard to see that Joel Osteen’s opinion about the pursuit of wealth and material success flies directly in the face of Scripture. It is even easier to find the error in his views regarding the way you can expect the world to treat you as a Christian. Osteen writes on page 38, "The Bible clearly states, ‘God has crowned us with glory and honor.’" Osteen is "quoting" Psalm 8:5 (apparently once again from his own version of the Bible) and those words provide a convenient springboard for the following display of his exegetical gymnastics. Osteen continues:

The word honor could also be translated as "favor," and favor means "to assist, to provide with special advantages and to receive preferential treatment."

Why was it so important for Joel Osteen to make the arbitrary interpretive leap from the word "honor" to "favor" (a word choice not found in any legitimate modern Bible translation), and then ultimately to "special advantages" and "preferential treatment"? He had to make this leap because he wants the reader to believe that what he says next is based on scripture. "In other words," Osteen continues, "God wants to make your life easier."

Really? Should we expect our lives as Christians to be easier? I guess I missed that portion of the New Testament. I must have been preoccupied with Jesus’ teaching about persecution, self-denial, and cross-bearing. What would Joel Osteen say about Paul’s sobering words to Timothy: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12)? And didn’t Jesus promise that the Christian life would be narrow and difficult? (cf. Matt. 7:14 NKJV).

Yet Osteen’s final conclusion, based on his creative interpretation of Psalm 8:5, is stated like this:

Consequently—and I say this humbly—I’ve come to expect to be treated differently. I’ve learned to expect people to want to help me. My attitude is: I’m a child of the Most High God. My Father created the whole universe. He has crowned me with favor, therefore, I can expect preferential treatment. I can expect people to go out of their way to want to help me.

Although Osteen assures the reader that he is speaking "humbly," his arrogance is all too evident in his bold contradiction of the New Testament, even of Jesus, who said that He did not come "to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45). And consider Osteen’s conclusion in light of a few more passages from the Bible:

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me (Matt. 5:11).

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way (Luke 6:20-26).

If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (John 15:19).

In the world you will have tribulation . . . (John 16:33 NKJV).

We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22 NKJV).

Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13).

Before going any further, I need to clarify what I am not saying here. I am not saying that the normal Christian life is necessarily one of constant persecution and deprivation. God often causes earthly circumstances to bring earthly favor to His people. He can, and often does, bless His people with comfort and ease. It is not inappropriate for the Christian to ask God to meet financial needs, or even to prosper him financially. My claim is not that God withholds these blessings from His people in order to make their lives more difficult. Christians should not be made to feel guilty if they are truly blessed by God, whether circumstantially or financially. The God of the Bible is a good and generous God, even toward His enemies (cf. Matt. 5:43-45), but especially toward those who are His children (cf. Matt. 7:11).

My complaint against Joel Osteen’s teaching, aside from his focus on material gain and his unrealistic promise that the normal Christian life is supposed to be easy, is that he promotes a very narrow understanding of what constitutes a true blessing from God.

Godliness is a Means of Gain

For Joel Osteen, blessings from God are those things which make us more healthy, wealthy, and comfortable in this life. They are the pleasant and enjoyable experiences. In chapter 23, "The Purpose of Trials," Osteen acknowledges that we often face difficulties. And he admits that "God has a divine purpose for every challenge" (p. 205). But he immediately assures the reader that God "doesn’t send the problems." In Osteen’s view, God merely allows us to go through them. In saying this, Joel Osteen contradicts Isaiah who quotes God Himself as saying, "I make peace and create calamity" (Is. 45:6-7 NKJV). He also contradicts Jeremiah who asks rhetorically, "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both woe and well-being proceed?" (Lam. 3:37, NKJV, also see Amos 3:6 and many other passages).

In denying God’s sovereignty as he does, Joel Osteen also makes it impossible to see the trial itself as a blessing from God. But consider James 1:2-3—"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." Should we not thank God for sending the very things that cause our faith to endure? Job certainly did. Not only did Job acknowledge that his "problems" were sent by God (Job 2:10), he also worshipped God because of them (Job 1:20-21). Even Job’s wife, by encouraging Job to curse God because of the trials, acknowledged that He was the One who had sent them (Job 2:9).

Not surprisingly, even in his explanation of the purpose of trials, Joel Osteen ends up focusing on financial and material blessing. On the same page he writes, "All through life, you will face various tests, and even though you may not enjoy them, God will use those trials to refine you, to cleanse and purify you. He’s trying to shape you into the person He wants you to be." I agree with Osteen that God is refining, cleansing, purifying, and shaping His people. But what comes next reveals the heart of Osteen’s teaching. And even in the following example of a trial, you will notice that Joel Osteen cannot seem to get his focus off of money and possessions:

If you have a problem with jealousy, it seems as though everybody you meet has more or better possessions than you do. You notice that your best friend wears a brand-new outfit every time you turn around. The person you work next to, who makes half as much money as you do, comes driving up in a brand new car. Your long-lost relative calls to tell you she has won the lottery! Are you going to pass the test? Are you going to keep a good attitude and rejoice with those who rejoice and be sincerely happy for them? Or are you going to get all negative and bitter and say, "God, I work harder than they do. Nothing good ever happens to me. I go to church every Sunday. Why can’t I get a new car?" That’s a test of your faith. That’s God bringing to light impurities in your character. That’s God trying to refine you.

Joel Osteen rightly says that God wants to refine you through difficulties. Everyone should agree with that. All we need to know now, in order to get the full and clear picture of Osteen’s teaching, is why God wants to refine you. As Osteen explains, "If you’ll learn to work with God, and let go of that jealously, you’ll be amazed at the blessings and favor and victory that will come into your life" (emphasis mine). You see, in Joel Osteen’s view, learning to be content with what you have is not the blessing. The refinement itself is not the blessing. The holiness that God produces in you is not the blessing. Those spiritual improvements are merely the qualities God wants to see in you before He will grant you the real blessing—victory, success, and yes,financial and material gain. Notice Osteen’s implication in the above "test" that God will give you the same things as all those other people, if you will just get a handle on your jealously.

At the very core of Joel Osteen’s teaching is the idea that godliness is a means of gain. He wants you to believe that as you grow and mature as a Christian, as you endure the trials that come into your life, as your faith is strengthened, and as you become more godly, you can expect God’s blessings to flow your way. But when Paul wrote of those "who suppose that godliness is a means of gain," he was not praising them. He was informing Timothy that such men were "deprived of the truth" and advocating "a different doctrine" (1 Tim. 6:1-5). And Paul follows his rebuke by explaining the true meaning of contentment. Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8 once again:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this life and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil . . . (emphasis added).

According to Paul, godliness itself is the great reward and the real blessing. Godliness alone is sufficient to satisfy the Christian,apart from any expectation of financial or material increase. To Paul, real gain is found in godliness without earthly reward—godliness with contentment. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8, Paul again describes godliness itself as the highest gain. He writes, "discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." Contrary to Paul, the inescapable, although unstated message of Joel Osteen’s teaching is that if all you get out of the deal is godliness, then you have not been truly blessed.

Think of the implications of Osteen’s teaching for Christians who live in places like Haiti, the Sudan, or other poverty-stricken parts of the world. Can these brothers and sisters in Christ experience God’s blessing even though they will likely never be wealthy? Should they not thankfully rejoice in their difficulties (cf. 1 Thess. 5:16-18)? Should they not be comforted by the knowledge that God in His providence is causing their affliction in order to refine them toward godliness in the midst of poverty? Or are they to believe that their third-world status is the result of having only third-rate faith?

The truth is, the focus of millions of hopelessly poor Christians around the world is much more biblical than many who live in the lap of luxury and comfort. Their focus is not on gaining wealth, but rather on remaining steadfast in their devotion to Christ despite poverty and persecution. I recently received an e-mail from a pastor in a poverty-stricken African country. He was pleading for prayer and counsel, not on how to obtain riches, but rather on how to keep from denying Christ in the face of poverty. And he told me that many other pastors were struggling in the same way. What message would I have sent to that man if I had told him that "his own thoughts and attitudes were condemning him to mediocrity," as Osteen writes about a man on page 3? In the face of the economic and political forces at work in Africa, what would it have meant to that poor brother if I had instructed him to, "Get rid of [his] small-minded thinking" and learn to "Think abundance"?

Joel Osteen’s view that God wants to bless everyone with financial and material abundance is proven false by the very fact that it only "works" in places where abundance is already common to society. And the only possible way for Joel Osteen to refute this charge would be for him to make the insulting claim that wherever there is an epidemic of poverty, there is also an epidemic of "small-minded thinking."

Relax. We All Make Mistakes

InYour Best Life Now, Joel Osteen makes no clear distinction between the saved and the lost. Instead, he assures every reader that God sees him as "a strong, courageous, successful, overcoming person" (p. 58). According to Osteen, God "believes in you even more than you believe in yourself!" (p. 58). "God sees you as a champion. . . . God sees you as a victor" (p. 59). If Osteen had clarified anywhere that he was applying these words only to Christians, I would not be as critical. But even though he hints at it several times, he never makes that distinction clearly.

As a preacher, Joel Osteen should realize that unconverted people need to hear the true gospel repeatedly and plainly spoken, beginning with their own sinfulness and alienation from God. Instead, Joel Osteen assures his readers that "God focuses on the things you’re doing right. He sees the best in you" (p. 65).

Although he refers numerous times in his book to human "imperfections," "shortcomings," "mistakes," "past mistakes," "weaknesses," "failures," "insecurities," "wrongdoing," etc., he does not use biblical language when speaking of sin or sinners. If Osteen preaches the way he writes, his preaching would convict no one, especially not the unconverted. Rather than exposing their inherent sinfulness and imploring them to repent, Osteen writes, "you can stop obsessing about all your faults and give yourselves a break. Every person has weaknesses" (p. 67). Hearing things like that, unconverted people are far more likely to be hardened in a false sense of security than to be genuinely converted.

Unless You Will, God Will Not

Before I was converted, before I read the Bible in any depth, I sincerely thought there was a verse somewhere that read, "The Lord helps those who help themselves." Although I now know that the verse does not exist, the thought behind it accurately reflects Osteen’s theology (better defined as self-help psycho-theology).

In reading Your Best Life Now, a book about obtaining blessings from God, I found it disturbing that the reader is never instructed to ask God for anything. Instead of asking, he is repeatedly told that he must "declare" what God’s "favor" is doing. He must think faith-filled thoughts and he must particularly speak faith-filled words. For example, on page 41 Osteen encourages the reader to start his day by "declaring" something like, "Father, I thank You that I have Your favor. Your favor is opening doors of opportunity. Your favor is bringing success into my life. Your favor is causing people to want to help me." In Osteen’s view, the good news is not that God grants humble requests. It is rather that "if you keep expecting it and declaring it, God’s favor will show up" (p. 51).

At one point in the book, Osteen does ask for favor (p. 51). When it seemed that a TV network would never grant a coveted time slot to the ministry, Osteen says to his staff, "Well, the Bible says, ‘We have not because we ask not.’ So let’s give it a try." So who did they go to with their request? Did they go to God in prayer? Based on the verse quoted by Osteen, his representative flew to the network headquarters and asked the executives. No mention is made of asking God.

The end result of Joel Osteen’s self-help psycho-theology is to dethrone and disempower God, portraying Him not as the One who "works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11, emphasis added), but rather as One who is obliged to perform in response to our will and our words. And Osteen’s commitment to this unbiblical teaching is so strong that he is willing to blatantly distort Scripture in order to affirm it.

In his version of the account of Jesus healing the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5), Osteen actually reverses the order of the biblical narrative in order to "prove" his point. According to Osteen, "When the man did what Jesus told him to do [that is, when he got up and walked], he was miraculously healed!" (p. 149). The point he is desperately trying to establish is that without the man’s personal resolve to be healed, apart from his self-motivated physical action, Jesus could not (or at least would not) have healed him. He confirms that this is what he meant when he addresses the reader who needs physical or emotional healing, saying, "If you’re serious about being well, if you really want to be made physically and emotionally whole, you must get up and get moving with your life. No more lying around feeling sorry for yourself."

First of all, that would be an incredibly ignorant and insensitive thing to say to a quadriplegic, a blind person, a terminal cancer patient, a person with a congenital birth defect, someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, or anyone else who is not "physically and emotionally whole." Secondly, it takes only a casual reading of John 5 to see that the healing preceded the man’s obedience and physical action. The command from Jesus, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk," was given in verse 8. Then, in verse 9 we read, in the following order: "Immediately the man became well," then he "picked up his pallet" then he "began to walk" (John 5:9). Clearly, and logically, the lame man had to be healed before he could obey Jesus’ command to get up and walk. But in order to force this passage into the distorted framework of his self-help psycho-theology, Osteen needed to tweak the order of events just a bit.

I find it interesting that neither Joel Osteen, nor any others who advocate a similar doctrine, ever seem to address the real message of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, the passage where Paul pleaded three times with the Lord, but was denied physical healing. Of course, none of them wish to claim that the apostle Paul was lacking in faith, as their own teaching would require them to claim. So they simply ignore the passage. Joel Osteen is obviously familiar with the passage. He actually quotes Paul as saying "When we are weak, He is strong" (p. 59, from 2 Cor. 12:10, Bible version not given). But he makes no attempt to explain why Paul wrote those words.

Additionally, neither Osteen nor any of the others ever seem to be able to explain why Paul left his friend Trophimus in the city of Miletus, sick (2 Timothy 4:20). If you believe Osteen concerning the lame man in John 5, you must conclude that Paul couldn’t heal Trophimus until he stopped "lying around feeling sorry for" himself. Osteen and the others love to dwell on passages where Jesus mentions personal faith in relation to physical healing. But they never seem to mention the fact that Jesus often called people to himself and healed them, even though they never asked for healing or gave any expression of faith (e.g. Mark 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-13; John 9:1-7). And they conveniently forget that the lame beggar in Acts 3 was expecting money, not physical healing, when Peter commanded him to rise up and walk.

One final example of Osteen’s reckless use of Scripture is found in chapter 9 of Your Best Life Now, a chapter entitled "Become What You Believe." When two blind men state their belief that Jesus is able to heal them, Jesus touches their eyes and says, "It shall be done to you according to your faith" (see pp. 75-76, referring to Matthew 9:29). Rather than sticking with a literal rendition of this text, however, Osteen is drawn to the wording found in The Message by Eugene Peterson. Osteen writes: "The modern-day biblical paraphrase The Message relates the story of the blind men with an interesting twist: "[Jesus] touched their eyes and said, ‘Become what you believe.’"

Having named chapter 9 in honor of Peterson’s "twist" of Scripture, Osteen clearly prefers the twisted rendition over the literal Greek text. And it soon becomes evident why he does. Osteen continues: "What a powerful statement! Become what you believe! What are you believing? Are you believing to go higher in life, to rise above your obstacles, to live in health, abundance, healing, and victory?"

A "powerful statement" indeed! Apparently even more powerful than literally-translated Scripture! And what follows is Joel Osteen’s promise to the reader. Based on his own self-help psycho-theological perspective, and affirmed by Peterson’s "powerful statement," Osteen writes: "You will become what you believe. The truth is, I am what I am today because of what I believed about myself yesterday. And I will be tomorrow what I believe about myself right now" (emphasis added).

If you do not immediately detect Joel Osteen’s man-centered arrogance here, I hope you will thoughtfully compare his words with those of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10:

For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (emphasis added).

There is something winsomely attractive about Paul’s humility, about his frank confession of sinfulness, about his plainly stated inability and unworthiness apart from the strength and grace of God. That attractiveness is conspicuously absent in Joel Osteen’s writing. What Paul attributes solely to God’s grace, Osteen attributes to human ability and God’s obligatory response.

In closing my review, I want to say . . . Oh, I nearly forgot! Joel Osteen does share the "plan of salvation" with the readers of his book. The reason I nearly forgot was because it seems Osteen nearly forgot too. His "gospel presentation" as it might be loosely defined by some, spans one half of one page, and is neatly tucked on the very last page of the book— after the endnotes! It is not even given the courtesy of a page number in the table of contents. Additionally, Osteen’s "gospel presentation" contains no Scripture references, no indication of who Jesus Christ is, no mention of His death on the cross or the necessity of His death in the place of guilty sinners, no teaching about the importance of Christ’s sinless life, nothing about His resurrection from the dead, no reference to the grace of God, and no plea for the reader to respond by trusting in Christ’s work.

I have no desire, nor the time, to review every self-help book that goes into print these days. But books like this one justify the time spent. Your Best Life Now is dangerous because in it, Joel Osteen tries to harmonize the unbiblical tenets of self-help, self-esteem psychology with the teaching of the Bible. While so many professing Christians actually believe Osteen’s message is from the Bible alone, the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data, listed on the copyright page ofYour Best Life Now, recognizes it for what it truly is: "Self-actualization (Psychology)—Religious aspects—Christianity." It is fitting, I might add, that "Christianity" was mentioned last.

Any attempt to blend biblical truth with modern psychology is doomed to failure. In the end result, as in Joel Osteen’s book, truth will always find itself excluded from the resulting doctrines. Light will not, and indeed cannot dwell with darkness.


1 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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