Doin’ It for Your Own Self
There is a video of Victoria Osteen currently making the rounds. Perhaps you’ve seen it; maybe you even saw the original broadcast. In the video, Osteen makes some outrageous claims. It’s so outrageous, you really need to hear it for yourself (click on video below).
Yes, you heard that right: when we obey God, we are not doing it for God; we are doing it for ourselves. God takes pleasure when we are happy. Do good “for your own self”. God wants us to be happy. When we worship God we are not doing it for God, we are doing it for ourselves, because that makes God happy.
Really? Like the Bereans, let’s search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.
Someone may say, Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” Doesn’t this validate what Osteen says? No, because happiness is a result of obedience, but, as we’ll see below, it is not the motivation to be obedient.
First, what does Scripture say about our obeying God? Sometimes, obedience is tied to a conditional covenant, as in the Mosaic covenant. For example, Exodus 19 says, “3 Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” Did God require obedience so the Israelites could be “happy”? Did He tell Moses to tell the Israelites to obey for themselves, so He could be happy? Not at all. Obedience meant Israel would be blessed in that they would be God’s own possession among all the peoples. This is the positive side of obedience. Now, they would surely be happy as a result of their obedience (as stated above), but God did not tell them to “do it for your own self.” Nothing about being happy here.
There’s also a negative side to disobedience. That is, there is typically punishment or discipline for not obeying. Continuing with the Mosaic covenant, God says this is what will happen if Israel does not obey His commandments: “15 But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…” (Deuteronomy 28) If God just wants us to be happy, why punish or discipline us? We are to obey Him because He commands us to obey, and there are consequences for disobedience. No mention of being happy here, either. In fact, we are to be happy at such discipline: “Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17)
We see a similar pattern in John 3: “36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Here, obedience is equated with belief, while unbelief is disobedience. There is blessing (eternal life) for belief, and a curse (God’s wrath) for unbelief. Again, nothing about being happy.
Scripture equates obedience with love of God, not love of self. This is demonstrated in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old, the Mosaic covenant, the Law, is said to hang on two commandments, which Jesus explains in Matthew 22. “36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Obedience, then, would be due to love of God and neighbor, not self. When we love God, we seek to obey and glorify Him. Indeed, Scripture says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Thus our motivation to obey is out of love for God and a desire for Him to be glorified.
Jesus echoes this same thing in John 14: “15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Ultimately, obedience is done out of love for God. Therefore, it stands to reason that when we obey Him, we actually are doing it for God, and not for ourselves. Therefore, Scripture completely contradicts Osteen’s false teaching.
Second, what does Scripture say about our worshiping God? Do we also worship Him for our own self?
To “worship” means to bow down, revere someone, prostrate oneself, obey someone, with the idea that the someone is greater than you. For example, Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Similarly, Psalm 99:9 says, “Exalt the Lord our God And worship at His holy hill, For holy is the Lord our God.” We worship the Lord our God because He is holy, He is much, much greater than us, who are not holy (apart from Christ). Therefore, we give worship to God because He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship. Indeed, our Lord rebuked Satan by saying, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” (Matthew 4:10) Never do we do it for our own self.
In fact, we are to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Often, that means doing things we’d rather not do, instead of doing it for our own self. That’s what is meant by “sacrifice”. We are to live for God, not for ourselves. Notice that we do this on His terms (“acceptable to God”), not on our own terms. Moreover, our service for God is actually a form of worship. To worship, as we saw earlier, is by definition putting someone above us, which means we do this for God, not for ourselves.
Beloved, Joel and Victoria Osteen are false teachers. They are not teaching the doctrines of God. Rather, they teach the doctrines of men. Isaiah prophesied about the Israelites teaching doctrines of men, as Jesus told the Pharisees: “7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” If you obey God for yourself, if you worship Him for yourself, you are following the precepts of men. Your heart is far from God, and your worship is in vain.
The Osteens preach doctrines of demons. They preach what people want to hear, not what they need to hear. Scripture warns of such teachers in 2 Timothy 4: “3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” The Osteens are such teachers. They will tickle your ears, and will turn you from the truth of Scripture to myths. They will teach you to follow the desires of your flesh rather than to obey and worship God out of love for Him, even if that means we suffer in this life.
Paul suffered, and he was a living sacrifice for God. “6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy) He did this out of love for God, for what Christ did for Him, and for us. May the Lord work in us to pour out our lives for Him out of love for Him, to fight the good fight and finish the course, and not live for ourselves. Do not listen to the Osteen’s teaching, but let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, knowing there is a crown of righteousness laid up for us in heaven.