29 July 2008

Your best life, later

by Dan Phillips

When Joel Osteen was just a little kid, there was "Reverend Ike." His sound-bite was, "Don't wait for pie-in-the-sky, by and by. Get yours now, with ice cream on top!" He was not the first to take this bold route, and he hasn't been the last.

But isn't that a violent perversion of the very heart of the Gospel? We look to a crucified Savior, not a man in a solid-gold Cadillac. We preach a crucified Savior. Crucifixion is the polar opposite of such triumphalism. Insofar as we breathe the apostle's spirit, we make a decisive determination to "know nothing ...except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

But of course, the Cross is not the end of the story. It was "for the joy that was set before him" that our Lord "endured the cross, despising the shame"; and so He now "is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

But our, our epoch is not the glory-days of triumph. That is, unless we count ourselves better than the apostles, who were put on public display "as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men" (1 Corinthians 4:9; read the following verses as well). The word to us is, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

But it isn't pie we're looking for in the sky, or from the sky; "we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). It's the hope of being rid of this body of death (Romans 7:24), being transformed (Philippians 3:20) — all "because we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).

That is the dividing-mark of genuine Christian faith. Is that enough for you, for me? Will you and I put all your eggs in that basket? Can we gladly sacrifice a comfortable now for a glorious then? Is the prospect of eternity in the awesome and resplendent presence of Christ enough, that this life is deigned a relatively small and passing thing, of significance only insofar as we can invest it for him?

Christian faith is about our "best life." That much is true: gaining life out of death, by sovereign grace; living our best for God's glory now; and enjoying God's best in glory —


Dan Phillips's signature


David said...

I used to pick up Rev. Ike on my transistor radio in the 60's. The phrase I most remember him for was, "You can't lose with the stuff I use!"

Joe Blackmon said...

It's sad that there are Christians who are so immature in their faith that they fall prey to this kind of garbage.

SKO said...

When we Christians contemplate the glorious future we have in store "over the Jordan", the things of this world will lose their luster. We have to keep living with an eternal perspective. Another solid post, DJP.

Rev. J. Theodore Helms said...

Great post. The Rev's theme was "It's not the love of money that's the root of all evil. It's the LACK of money."

Matt said...

So, the Bible doesn't teach that I'll stay 28, have good hair, white teeth, that my wife will always be 25, or that I'll always get that promotion and have plenty of money? For serious?

VcdeChagn said...

It's simple..if you have your best life now, you're going to Hell...because nothing NOW is better than Heaven, LATER.

I can't see how any discerning Christian misses the point.

Anonymous said...

"Best" is a relative term...measurable typically by human and worldly standards.

Thankfully, I am having my best life now because it is the journey God is taking me through (1 Cor. 10:13), trials and all...

Thanks for the reminder...(now to warm up my Bentley)

Phil Johnson said...

More on Rev. Ike.

St. Brianstine said...

Did you pull the title of this post from Francis Chan? In his book, he has a chapter titled, "Your best life later"

DJP said...

Noe, from my own febrile brainium.

Besides, it's totally different.

Mine has a comma.

Chris said...

"unless we count ourselves better than the apostles"
Uh, yeah...there are those who do consider themselves better than the apostles. The are in the "latter-rain" movement. Bob Jones expressed it at the Vineyard Prophecy Conference in 1989 saying,

"I have called the best of every blood line in earth unto this generation…I have elected to bring them forth in this generation…THE ELECT GENERATION…even the bloodline of Paul…of David…of Peter, James and John…They will even be superior to them in heart, stature and love for me’…Your children will possess the spirit without measure…They will move into things of the supernatural that no one has ever moved in before…coming into the DIVINE NATURE of Jesus Christ…a Church that has reached the full maturity of the GODMAN! This generation…is going to see the beginning of this WORLD WIDE NEW ORDER."

Chris said...

TIME magazine did a story on the “Your Best Life Now” phenomenon in 2006. One of the things that struck me in the article is when the writer is responding to the popular sentiment among Christians who say "Why not gain the whole world plus my soul?" is when he wrote

“One Pennsylvania Lutheran pastor even made it the basis for a sermon series for Lent, when Christians usually meditate on why Jesus was having His Worst Life Then.”


The story is here

Stefan said...

The only triumphalism that Scripture teaches is that of the glorified Christ when He returns to rule the world. His alone will be the triumph, and we will be witnesses to it and partakers in it, but only by the grace of God and the shed blood of Christ, and only after much trial and tribulation.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:14)

This is what we are to look forward to.

Andrew said...

It's easy to see, however, the appeal this kind of theology has to the poor and the oppressed, and that makes it hard to stand up against it when coming from a position of relative wealth or power. The fact that "later" kinds of theology were hijacked by white slaveowners in order to pacify their slaves is disgusting, and should be acknowledged as such. It's difficult to hear"Wait! Our hope is in something that is coming, not in what is here on earth" from someone who has all those things here on earth while you yourself have nothing.

Jugulum said...

Rom. 8:18-39

Our best life later--"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us"--with the down-payment/seal/deposit/first-fruits of the Holy Spirit now.

Not avoiding suffering, but help through them. Not being rid of sin now, but being purified and knowing that He will rescue us from this body of death. Not avoiding weakness, but knowing that the eternal God--creator of heaven and Earth--is bending history to bring us through safe to the end.

Carlos Tapia said...

I actually read the book "Your best life now", I am not sure if any of you did. I found the book helpful not because it "promised" me a perfect life now but because it showed me how God wants me to resolve past issues in my life that will definitely make my life better now. Joel also taught me thru this book to trust in God's promises of peace, joy, victory in battles and more. No where in the book says or it is implied that our best life now is better than the life we will have with Jesus when in heaven.

donsands said...

Carlos, never read his book, but I have watched him speak on TV.

He said he doesn't teach the Bible, but let's others do that, he just wants to encourage people.

All i have ever heard from Joel is empty words. It's not the deep truths of God's Word, which is what God calls His pastors to teach, preach, and exhort from.

Joel is a waste of time for the true heart that is after the Lord Jesus. He'll make you think of yourself as deserving of having things, stuff, and blessings, which is dangerous for the sinful heart.

I would look for those who love the Word of God, and are proven servants of Christ, and who preach, teach, and declare the Gospel, and the whole 66 books of the Bible.

Great post again from the "Pyro Three Amigos".

"Can we gladly sacrifice a comfortable now for a glorious then?"
I have a friend in Nepal who has it much harder than I do.
And his brother-in-law Jivan, who is a pastor, has very little to speak of, and has given up much for the call.
The true servant, and disciple of Christ will be grateful for his blessings, and will be willing to give them up for the glory of Christ if needs be. Whether he has little, or has a lot.
It's all from the Lord.

God's grace is sufficient. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, whether we are hungry, or full; have abundance, or are abased.
All our glory and boasting will be in the Cross alone.

"I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection"

Susan said...

You know, the end is steadily coming. I won't be a false prophet and guess when it's going to come, but indeed our salvation is closer now than when we first began. Just this morning I felt that 5.8 quake and thought, "Wasn't there a quake in Japan just about 1-2 weeks ago?" And who can forget the massive earthquke in China just back in May of this year? It's times like these that Mt. 24 (esp. vv. 7-8) comes to mind. Our Lord is indeed coming with his recompense--and we need to be those wise virgins who made sure they had oil in their lamps! (Certainly a wake-up call for me, even though my heart is still struggling with all sorts of things.)

trogdor said...

Prosperity gospel.
Liberation theology.
Emergent social gospel.

I've encountered all of them recently, and it's amazing how different they are superficially, but how they all have the same root problem. At the least, they have a major over-emphasis (if not a sole focus) on the here and now, attempting to claim a larger chunk of the whole world while neglecting the soul.

What a contrast between them and, say, the message of Hebrews, where faith is shown in example after example to be a surrender of attachment to the shadows of this world and embracing the reality found in Christ.

Puritan said...

Your post headline Dan sums up these wolves. It's total blasphemy for them all to suggest that here and now is a better life than with the next. Of course for them, this life will certainly be better than the next.

Michelle said...

Thanks for this post. I also enjoyed John MacArthur's sermon "Your Best Life: Now or Later?".

Strong Tower said...


Thank God your brainium has a comma and not a coma-

"He said he doesn't teach the Bible, but let's others do that, he just wants to encourage people."

Right on donsands, how can he possibly bring the promises of God to His people without the conviction of sin? If he avoids teaching Scripture, as he does, where in do those promises reside, Joel?

By the way Carlo, God does not always want you to, or give you the ability to resolve (the two go hand in hand) the past or present. See Paul's explanation of God's sufficiency of grace and the perfection of His power in your weaknesses. Paul instructs us to leave the past behind and move on. God is enough. Forget who you are, and find out who He is. "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Then these things will be accounted to you." That is why Osteen cannot deliver. Without instructing in the Scripture, which he admits that he is incompetent in doing, he cannot help you seek what Scripture commands you to.

DJP said...

We have a commentator named "Carlo," and then there's the gent on this thread, named "Carlos." Different guys.

Carlo, I would wager, is not an Osteen apologist. That would be Carlos.

(Carlo and I attend the same church.)

Strong Tower said...

My bad. Don't tell Carlo.

CR said...

Thank you, Dan, you are correct. I'm not an Osteen apologist. No worries Strong Tower. I usually have people call me Carlos. Frustrating. It's just not my name.

I was at a Best Buy Store the other day, and customer service reps were completely messing up things and what should have taken a couple of minutes, took 15 minutes at a register. So, the young cashier is asking for my name, and I tell her and she's "Carla", and I said, "Do I look like a Carla?"

I just received GTY's message on MacArthur's treatment on this book. I've only listened to part of it.

In a way, that only MacArthur could say, He did say that Having your "Best Life Now" is correct if you are not a Christian. Meaning for the person who never repents and trusts in Christ, this is the best possible life you could hope for.

But for the Christian, in this life you are guaranteed trouble, persecution, etc. etc. etc.

In fact, I think we could say, if you're not experiencing trouble in your life, something is probably wrong.

Susan said...

A friend of mine once observed that sometimes Christians are more focused on rebuilding Eden in their own lives (as opposed to looking to Christ and heavenward and building his kingdom). I think Chris's comment about "gaining the whole world plus my soul" really nails it. Not only is the priority wrong, the underlying assumption is also wrong (that "gaining the whole world" can exist harmoniously with a soul that's being sanctified). Jesus made that impossibility very clear when he asked the question in Mt. 16:26.

For a person like me who is struggling in difficult circumstances, it is very tempting for me to know how to live my "best life now". By all means, I am not opposed to bettering my circumstances, but what I really really need is to trust in the Lord's care and contentment in his present provision. To step away from that is to travel into enemy territory. (Now if I can only remember what I just wrote here on the days I feel the worst....)

Carlos Tapia said...

Donsands says: "I never read the book". Well I suggest that you read it then if you want to do a critique of the book.
Strong tower said that God does not always wants us to resolve our past or present. Neither Joel Osteen in his book or myself here have said that God ALWAYS wants us to resolve our past and present. But surely from what I read in God's word God wants to bless us in every area of our life.
vcdechagn, about your comment that "if you have your best life now, you are going to hell" I have news for you: You are not God. You don't decide who is going to hell or not. I see a complete lack of love in your comments and because "they will know we are christians by our love" I think "any discerning christian" should know better.
This is it for me in this blog. I would encourage everyone reading this to actually read Joel's book. He helped me get closer to a loving God that wants good things for me. God bless all of you.

John said...

Thank you Dan!

I have to echo John Piper: "I hate the health, wealth prosperity gospel." It is dangerous, and it's sad. Sad to see the sincere people who are duped by the wolves.

donsands said...

"..if you want to do a critique of the book."

I don't really want to read it, nor critique it.

I shared from what I have heard Joel say on TV.

he could be a false teacher, according to Scripture. He doesn't preach the simplicity of the Gospel, but speaks words that are smooth and directed to self, and how people can feel good about themselves.

Carlos, look at the Scriptures, and what they have to say about false teachers. God warns us through His Apostles, and prophets.

Susan said...


Perhaps you've never seen Joel Osteen's interview with Larry King--I have. I was curious to know about him despite doubts in my head about his theology (the little I knew of it), but my doubts turned into triple-alarms when he couldn't remember who King David's son was. (If memory serves me correctly, I think he said quizzically, "Samson?" while trying to remember.) One would think that any decent pastor should know who David's son was! If I can still find that Larry King interview on CNN, I will post that link later in this thread.

There is a grave danger in focusing on the gifts and not the gift-Giver. God does care about us and our well-being, but we are not to manipulate him with methods so that he will give us blessings. The sad thing is that there are self-styled preachers out there who mix an ounce of truth with a whole tank of error, and people unaware buy into it. May we all try to be good Bereans and read God's Word to see what it really says about our life here on this earth. (And may Osteen himself do that also!!)

CR said...

One of the things I was reminded of from reading John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation is that we have to remember the purposes of the Lord sending trials. There are several - but one that relates to this thread is He tests believers by allowing them to meet false teachers or false teaching like that of Osteen.

God tests the believer's loyalty and love for Himself in this way. (Deut 13: 1ff gives a good example of this). So, while we rightly judge Osteen as heretic with wicked teaching (I hope that is not too strong for you all), I think we can at the same give praise to God because there are believers (albeit few) who may be listening to him but are having the loyalty being tested and overcoming this ridiculous teaching and coming back to the fold.

Susan said...

Below is the link to more than one of Osteen's interviews with Larry King. (I think I saw the one titled, "What Does God Say?", but since I am having problems with the CNN video player these couple days, I haven't been able to watch it to confirm my memory.)


Michael Buckingham said...

I do think it pretty ignorant to bash a writing you've not read...I mean come on.

I don't understand what gives you all so much authority though to give so much judgment so harshly. I guess that's just how it is.

But...I've often struggled with the churches position that if they are hurting, etc. they just have to accept Christ and they will be all better.

Truth is we live in a world dirty with sin...life sucks sometimes and just because I call on the name of Christ doesn't make it all go away. In fact since I do live a life for Christ the enemies attacks are much more frequent.

But through Christ I do have strength and hope that He already has the victory.

DJP said...

MichaelI do think it pretty ignorant to bash a writing you've not read...I mean come on.

Probably would be.

Who did that?