“In dealing with people for several years, thousands of people, one thing I can tell you is that 99.99% of people are not bad people. They may make poor choices, but deep down, they’ve got a good heart.” Joel Osteen, message #494: “Seeing People Through The Eyes of Love” Spring 2011.
This “sermon” was preached to over 40,000 people at his stadium, and countless viewers on TV. Joel makes the declaration here that most if not all the people he encounters are good, and that in one form or another, they all have a good heart. When we analyze one of the questions from the State of Theology report, this idea has spread to the masses as well. The question is: Do you agree or disagree, that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature? 53% of professing Evangelicals answered in the positive. That means 53% of the people questioned believe people are by nature good. What’s even more shocking is that 20+% are either not sure or only slightly disagree. This is troubling considering what Scripture tells us. Romans 3:11, “No one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Paul lays it out clearly for us in verse 12, that no one does good, no not one. He is quoting Psalm 14 when he pins this letter to the Romans. The truth holds firm; no one is good. We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The unfortunate issue we run into today is that many people do think they are good. They listen to these false teachers believing that God really does think we are good, or that most people are good by nature because of their acts. Yet Isaiah has a different perspective, in Isaiah 64:6 he tells us that our works of righteous deeds are but filthy rags. Does that mean all things we do is bad? Not at all. But the tasks we associate with God are done more out of selfish reasons than they are to selflessly honor God. We want to put ourselves on the pedestal rather than God. Based on what the Bible tells us, both the quote from Osteen, and the question presented from Ligonier is alarming, that people could think that they are good in and of themselves.
Looking at the first part of the question can be a little misleading, everyone sins a little. Mind you, no sin in the eyes of God is little. We can look throughout the Bible and find verses that show God’s hatred for sin. Proverbs 6:16-19, Psalm 5:5, and Romans 6:23 just to list a few. God detests all sin, and no sin is little. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that the punishment for sin is death. Those who do not have the free gift of Christ will perish, no matter how good they thought they were. All have sinned, and all have fallen short. There is no exception to this. Many believers still don’t quite grasp the gravity of sin through, thinking they could continue to live their lives in sin.
Another popular quote from Joel, “We were old sinners-but when we came to Christ, we are not sinners anymore.” Listening to this could show why people now think they are sinless, or they downplay or tolerate the sin in their lives. John tells us in 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” John goes on to lay out in chapter 3 that a true Christian doesn’t continually practice sin, which could be where Osteen pulls his quote from. However, John isn’t claiming we’ll be perfect, just that we can acknowledge our sin and no longer live in continual sin. The life of a believer is a long road of repentance, stumbling, and of us killing our sins. We won’t be perfect this side of heaven, but we can take strides daily to put to death the sins that plague us. This is something that is absent from many churches today. The teaching that addresses sin for what it is. A plague upon the hearts of men.
With some many prominent figures in Christianity making bold statements with little context, it is easy to see how individuals can be led astray. The staggering numbers on the gravity of sin alone should be an alarm for churches to start to address the entire Bible, the state of man and the need for Christ as the Savior. With lukewarm preaching the need for Christ is downplayed, and man now becomes his own god. We must make a stance to continue to reform the Church, and not let the downward spiral continue. We must accept that we are sinners, and we are separated from God, and we can only be reconciled through Jesus Christ. His death on the cross brings us back to God. Do not fall into the trap that you are sinless; this will only lead you back away from God. You’ll discover you have made an idol of yourself by claiming to be sinless or good. Only God is good, Mark 10:18. Repent of your sins, and turn to Christ for salvation.
Written by Alex Zenk, @reformed_lifestyle