This is a testimony to the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said He would keep and protect His sheep, and He has done so with me.
He imparts spiritual life to the person who has faith in Jesus (2 Timothy 3:5; Ephesians 2:1; I John 5:11-12). He is the very Spirit of Truth,
that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:17)
The Holy Spirit teaches us, and He has taught me faithfully since the moment of my conversion.
“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:25-26).
I was saved at age 42. I lived in New England. I had gone though several years of a trial, and I reached my wit’s end. Never had I not been able to figure things out myself, teach myself, handle things myself. But at rock bottom, I came to the realization that I couldn’t. This was the Holy Spirit convicting me, and through His work, I realized I was a sinner. I had always thought I was a good person, but now I knew I was not good. All those Christians talking about Jesus were right! Only He could make me ‘good’ as I clumsily called my sin. I cried out to Jesus and I was saved.
New England is the most godless place in America.
A 2012 Gallup Poll found that the five least religious states in the country, based on the percentage of self-identified “very religious” Americans living there, are all in New England. Vermont is the least religious, followed immediately by New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. At number 11, Connecticut might as well be New England’s shining beacon of faith. (source)
The landing place of the Puritans has been ceded to the devil. What is it like to grow up in a place like that? It means a person can live and work and never see a bible. Never see someone reading it. Never hear the name “Jesus.” Never go to a church. Never even have it cross your mind.
Oh, there were moments when I was stuffed into a Methodist church basement and given a workbook and gone through the motions in some weak accession to a pale and long evaporated cultural vapor. I remember guitars and sitting in a circle in a Unitarian church. One or two Catholic visits. But church, bible, religion was never part of a strong upbringing. It was decades-long self-glorification-fest punctuated by occasional spots of “religion.” Sundays were for Sunday car rides to Newport, picnics, and be quiet because Dad was napping.
So when the conversion happened (2004) it was a few months before it even occurred to me to get a bible. I’d never even seen a bible store. A male friend had suggested “You ought to think about getting a bible.” I was stumped. I didn’t have a clue even to where to get one. I called a female friend, and 20 minutes later she arrived at my office door with one to give me. [Lesson for me: Always respond immediately to anyone asking about anything related to Jesus.]
I wasn’t in a church yet. I thought it was just as good to watch Joel Osteen. He was on TV during Sunday mornings at that time, in my area. 2004 was a big year for Osteen and Lakewood. I remember Joel speaking about how God was moving in their lives because after many bumps in the road, they had acquired the Compaq Center. I thought he must be a good preacher because of the size of the Lakewood’s growing congregation and how much money was pouring in.
I remember settling in on my big couch, with a notebook, an unopened bible on the coffee table in
front of me. I felt very good that I never missed Joel. For the next 6 months, every Sunday, unopened bible, listening to speeches that made me feel very self-satisfied. The rest of the week I went on as before my conversion. Yet I felt I was now a religious person.
I’d scribble down the biblical addresses as Joel spoke, and after a few months I began a pattern of scanning back over what notes I’d written. I frowned, because they were scanty. Not just the notes, but I noticed that there weren’t many biblical addresses jotted down. There is nothing like quantitative evidence staring you in the face.
So for the next few months I’d settle on the couch, still with a notebook, but this time with open bible, and listen religiously to Joel. Things went by too fast for me to both write and read the bible while he was speaking, so I’d jot down the main concepts in his speech. I had been an academic researcher and writer, and was at that time a journalist. I could grasp the main thought, and I paired it with every biblical address and reference Joel mentioned. I began to notice he mentioned people or events in the bible a lot, but not the address.
|Screen capture from Osteen sermon,
audience repeating Osteen bible mantra
I began looking up the people and events he was mentioning in order to get a wider perspective. I used the internet for this, to Google names and events like this- “David, Saul, on the run.” Remember, I was coming from a completely godless society, tabula rasa, babe in Christ by a few months. ALL this was new to me. I did not have a discipler and I was not in a church.
After some months, almost a year now, I noticed a distinct pattern in Joel’s speeches. First, on the practical level, they were some of the best speeches I’d ever heard. The academic in me was interested in the high quality of their structure, the speech’s cadence, and their obvious intent: to make you feel good. I was amazed Joel had the ability to sustain this same rhythm and cadence every week. When it came time for the inevitable moment of climax, I always knew at least 30 seconds prior. You can see it coming. You know what he is going to say at minute 15, minute 22. It was spell-binding. Emphasis on spell. The academic in me liked this. The growing Christian in me was put off by this. It was confusing.
I began to get a kind of mental queasy feeling. Things weren’t adding up. Biblically, I mean. Rather than be carried along by the spell, it helped to have the notes, main ideas, and biblical addresses written down. This anchored me and kept me from being swept.
Meanwhile, the Spirit was doing a mighty work inside me. As He came to indwell my flesh, glimmers of holiness were growing. Tendrils of Holy Ghost smoke were encircling my mind, pushing away the pollution and giving it clearing from a lifetime of corruption.
After a while the Spirit had given me enough of a footing to be able to think about the verses as Joel was speaking. I distinctly remember the day that the Spirit’s sun broke through my mind. I was listening to Joel, open bible on my lap, knowing by now thanks to the Spirit to read above and below the mentioned verse. Joel ramped up to one of his main points, mentioned the verse, and as I looked at the bible and then looked back up at Joel, I shouted out loud, “THAT’S NOT WHAT IT MEANS!”
Eleven years later I still remember how deeply betrayed I’d felt when that moment came. It was as if I was looking at the great gulf fixed itself. On the one hand I was looking at my bible and what it was saying, and on the other hand looking at Joel across the room in the TV saying what he says the bible says. The two didn’t match up. I was shocked to the core and thoroughly horrified.
I remember muttering, “What a gyp.” It was exactly like the scene in Wizard of Oz when the curtain was drawn back to reveal not a powerful being but a crumbly old man with a squeaky voice. What a gyp.
It was exactly like the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie eagerly used the secret decoder ring to decode the secret message from the Radio program and it turned out to be an ad for Ovaltine. Ralphie said, “A crummy commercial?” The moment on the couch was my Ovaltine moment.
It had never once occurred to me that a famous preacher, such a capable speaker, would not be able or willing to present biblical verses simply and with conviction, explaining what they meant. It wasn’t a matter of his ignorance. No one can write such deft speeches week after week who didn’t have some mental chops. The man is obviously intelligent. That he used his intelligence to obfuscate the Word rather than illuminate it was devastating to me. I felt unhinged. I was angry and felt personally betrayed.
The precious and wonderful Holy Spirit kept me growing from there. He grew me rapidly. The entire period was about a year and a half. A year of watching naively and a half year of growing discernment. I never looked back. I moved to the Bible Belt and got into a Baptist church. A good solid, little rural church that sings hymns and meets on Wednesday nights for supper, and who prays together and who really care.
I personally believe that not only did the Spirit hold me but He allowed this to happen in order to teach me discernment. I lived the entire discernment process from my conversion to the eventual epiphany. There were many lessons. This is all to God’s glory and His Spirit who keeps us in His hand.
#5: False teachers obscure their false doctrine behind eloquent speech and what appears to be impressive logic. Just as a prostitute paints and perfumes herself to appear more attractive and more alluring, the false teacher hides his blasphemies and dangerous doctrine behind powerful arguments and eloquent use of language. He offers to his listeners the spiritual equivalent of a poisonous pill coated in gold; though it may appear beautiful and valuable, it is still deadly. Tim Challies, 7 Marks of a False Teacher
That thing Joel does at the beginning of each speech, where he holds the bible aloft and says the mantra “This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be taught the Word of God. I boldly confess, my mind is alert, my heart is receptive. I will never be the same, in Jesus’ name.” It’s brainwashing.
Of course he has to brainwash us in saying ‘we will be taught the word of God.’ Because he doesn’t. What he says and what he does doesn’t match up. Lesson learned.
There are preachers out there who give speeches that they call sermons and say they’re giving the truth but it’s lies. That liars existed within a place they call the church was new news to me.
Large congregations and money pouring in and smooth talkers and popularity don’t equate to meaningful biblical exposition. Lesson learned. Don’t forget how easy it is for the babes in Christ to believe these things. Often, they don’t talk about them but they believe them nonetheless. I was so naive.
For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:18)
The key was, the absolute key, was that nothing happened to break me of Joel’s spell until I opened the bible for myself.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
What a wonderful lessons the Spirit gave me. The lesson was that there is nothing like the bible to explain the bible, that there is nothing more precious than the Word of God. However, as precious as it is, the Word of God does no Christian any good if it stays unopened on the coffee table.
Discipling: it’s critical. I was already older when I came to Christ, and then I went ahead and spent another year failing to glorify Him. I know that Jesus is in complete control and He allowed this for His reasons, but I still feel terrible of the wasted time.
Though this experience was ten and eleven years ago, I still remember the sense of personal betrayal and my spiritual horror when the scales fell from my eyes. The revulsion I felt was seeing that a person could use the bible for personal gain. This may seem a obvious conclusion to some people, but to a babe in Christ, this was a new thought. Oh, I knew there were religious charlatans out there, I saw their empires crumble all through the 1980s and ’90s with the successive televangelist scandals. I thought Joel was good because no such scandal had happened and after all, he held up his bible.
I have a sense of righteous anger over Osteen, a feeling of repugnance and hatred for what he does in God’s name. I feel the same about Beth Moore and what she does to women in God’s name. I agonize in white-hot fervency when I see those two do what they do to pollute, cast mud on Jesus’ name, draw away the babes, use God’s word for personal gain. I also feel a sense of relief and gratitude to the Holy Spirit, my Savior and Holy Father for allowing me that season of following a false teacher so I could repent and love Him even more. I went through a season of undiscernment-to-discernment very quickly. I still stand amazed at the power of the Spirit to clear my mind and illuminate the Word so clearly and powerfully. I am in awe of His power. I am eternally grateful for His ministry.
Now you know why I always urge prayer. Now you know why I always urge us to stay in the Word. I’m not immune to life’s distractions. I include myself in that urging.
In Galatians 5:12 Paul was urging the people in the Galatian church to beware of the circumcision group, who said one must be circumcised to be fully in the faith. Paul said,
“I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!”
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains,
“were even cut off—even as they desire your foreskin to be cut off and cast away by circumcision, so would that they were even cut off from your communion, being worthless as a castaway foreskin (Ga 1:7, 8; compare Php 3:2). … if circumcision be not enough for them, then let them have excision also; an outburst hardly suitable to the gravity of an apostle. But Ga 5:9, 10 plainly point to excommunication as the judgment threatened against the troublers: and danger of the bad “leaven” spreading, as the reason for it.”
Rough speech about these usurpers? Pitched holy anger? Yes. Just as it should be.
In Titus 1:11, we read of false teachers,
They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
The Commentary again, explains that silencing them means “mouths … stopped—literally, “muzzled,” “bridled” as an unruly beast (compare Ps 32:9).”
Alternately, seeing the purity of the Holy Spirit and His gentle leading me away from such unruly beasts, these dogs who must be muzzled, is so awe-inspiring. The Light the Spirit brings to the Word, His answer to prayer for discernment, His keeping us in Jesus hand, pointing to Jesus always, oh, what glory and blessing.
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14)
He does, dear brethren, He does. This is my testimony of discernment.
What is the Role of the Holy Spirit Today?
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
January 2014: Watch Joel Osteen on ‘Larry King Now’ to Learn Why Megachurch Pastor Attracts Muslim and Atheist Followers
Larry King: Osteen has largest church, 10 million people see Osteen on TV every week, his broadcast is in 100 countries, 10.5 million people download the podcast every week, the arena itself has 16,000 seats.