Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti

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I saw a Facebook post this morning that contained a short video clip, apparently taken from a Joel Osteen sermon, advertising Joel’s Podcast (available from iTunes). The above quotation is what he told anyone listening to the clip.

“On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good. Not some things, the good breaks, the promotion, but even the loss, the disappointment. The person that walked away, it wasn’t random, it was ordained by God.” – Joel Osteen

Although he didn’t quote any actual scripture passage, the obvious reference is to Romans 8:28, which claim that “all things work together for good.” Joel would have you believe that “If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.”  Now that’s a nice thought, and a positive attitude (what Joel is teaching) helps, but is that what is actually taught in the Roman text? Let’s take a look, shall we?

 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

Joel maintains that:

1.  ALL things will work for your good and “the next level of your destiny” is the “good” (goal) for which all things work.

2.  All things are ordained by God, even the bad things.

What is true in the above? That all things work together for good and that God ordains all things.

What is NOT true? Well, just a couple of things.

1.  Joel is speaking to a very large audience, to every individual sitting in the former basketball arena turned into a ‘church’ (I use the term loosely), outlying ‘campuses’, as well as television/digital media viewers. The author of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, was speaking to a particular group of people, the Christians in Rome. He also spoke about a specific group of people, those who “love God and are the called according to His purpose.”  2. Joel defined the “good” in the “all things that work together for good”, as the next level of your destiny, even implying that since God ordains all things, He has ordained for you some sort of divine destiny, a concept NOWHERE taught in scripture.

He has a lot of company in that regard. There are countless faux preachers and teachers who make the Christian life all about us, and our personal aspirations and dreams for life in the here and now.

Scripture, however, tells us it is those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35), that the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20), and that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must DIE to self (Luke 14:27). Dear friends, these passages teach the exact opposite of searching for some personal ‘divine destiny’!

Sadly, the ‘divine destiny’ lie might be the most dangerous cancer eating away at today’s church. And it’s really not a new teaching at all. I think the journey to where we are now on began over 15 years ago with a book by a portly West Coast Pastor that was about finding your unique purpose in the world. That book began by saying “It’s not all about you,” but then talked ALL about you for the rest of the book! The mantra for much of American evangelicalism.

So what’s Romans 8:28-30 really about? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at it again.

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

These passages are about God’s eternal purpose, NOT our temporal destinies! And anyone who teaches or preaches this dream destiny lie turns God’s eternal purpose on its head and has tricked thousands, if not millions of professing believers into dedicating their lives as Christians to pursuing their earthly ‘destinies’, and remaining trapped in this world, even as they are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom and recipients of countless heavenly blessings!

Pray for all those who have been deceived. Prey also for Joel Osteen and all prosperity gospel preachers. They WILL be held accountable.

One response to “Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti

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