The Test of Success

“But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” (II Chronicles 32: 31)

We know as believers that God has promised to never leave or forsake us. I mean, his very Spirit indwells us, so we should realize he is with us always. However, I wonder if sometimes, like he did with Hezekiah, God doesn’t “leave us to ourselves” so that we might be tested, refined, and so that what is truly in our hearts might be revealed.

There are times when we are enjoying such intimate fellowship with the Lord that we feel as if we could almost reach out and touch him. Our prayer lives are kicking, and I mean we hit the hallway on our knees and slide into our prayer closet, right on up into the presence of the Lord with no problem. Everyday Holy Spirit shows us something awesome from the Bible, and we are experiencing victory after victory.

That’s how it had been for Hezekiah. He had been a good King, and had experienced God’s blessings. The Lord had healed him of a life threatening illness and his fame had spread far and wide. Then, right there in the midst of all the great things going on; a situation arose that revealed that there were still some things in Hezekiah’s heart that were not pleasing to the Lord. The thing I want you to see is that the Lord didn’t test Hezekiah during the hard times. It wasn’t during his sickness or when invading armies were threatening Israel, but rather right after he had been healed and news of the miracle had spread.

We tend to equate God’s testing and refining with suffering, valleys, and dark times; however, there are times when the Lord may use success to reveal what is in our hearts. What is in your heart when you hear people say, “Man, the Lord sure is using you.”? Are you still giving God all the glory for his presence in your life or have you come to think that somehow you deserve it all? Sometimes, in the midst of all that God does in our lives, we assume that we must have “arrived.” We forget that we are only men, who but for the grace of God are capable of the most horrendous sin. Like Hezekiah, it may be success and not hardship that reveals what is truly in our hearts. I am reminded of the words of Paul found in the book of Galatians, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Gettin’ Your Mind Right

“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalms 73:2, 3)

The guy who wrote Psalms 73 was named Asaph. He was what you might call the first worship leader. He came into leadership as David came to power as Israel’s king. We know that Asaph was the author of a number of the Psalms, as well as being a prophet, and a skilled musician. He saw Israel’s golden years under David, and then later witnessed the deterioration of the kingdom as Solomon turned from following after the Lord. Asaph was a stable leader and faithful follower of God. Yet, there came a point in his life when he became disillusioned and almost lost his way.

Asaph began to look around him, and he observed that the people who did not serve the Lord were living the “high life.” They were full of pride, always at ease, and even mocked the things of God. He noticed that they were cruel and violent, not hesitating to oppress whomever they had to in order to get what they wanted. “They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. “ ‘What does God know?’ they ask. ‘Does the Most High even know what’s happening?’” What Asaph saw blew his mind, rocked his whole theology, and he was close to slipping away from his faith in God. He became envious of the wicked.

Envy is akin to coveting, but it’s a lot deeper than that. Being envious is wanting what others have, and even going so far as to desire ill will upon those of whom you are envious. Asaph desired the apparent ease and pain free life he observed that the wicked enjoyed. He also desired that they be punished. As he tried to understand these things, he began to question the value of being a follower of God at all. He wonders, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” Asaph became bitter inside, and this bitterness was close to destroying him.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever looked around you, seen the “ease” with which those who don’t serve God seem to be living, and in your heart envied them? The world is in love with sex, power, wealth, pleasure, and it’s in your face everyday. All of the TV shows, commercials and music of our culture say, “Come on man. Quit being so hard on yourself, you deserve to live a little.” We see a godless society pridefully flaunt their disdain for God, and nothing whatsoever happens to them. In fact, they are enjoying life, while you encounter trial after trial. They are without a care in the world while you seem to be carrying the world on your shoulders. If we’re not careful, we can get to a point where we say, “God, you are not fair. I serve you and get nothing but trouble. I’m done!” Ever been there? Asaph, worship leader extraordinaire was. He needed to get his mind right and he did- in worship.

“So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is. Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” It was when he went before the Lord that he was able to get the proper perspective. As Asaph worshipped, he saw that the wicked were on a slippery path that eventually would lead them sliding over the cliff of destruction. He may have “almost slipped,” but those who reject God would slip beyond recovery. He understood that their ease and prosperity was like a dream, void of any true substance. He must have shuddered when he realized that “ In an instant they [the wicked] are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.” Asaph also realized that he had forgotten that the Lord was his portion. He said, “I’ve been acting and thinking like an animal.” (v22)  The Lord renewed his mind and he responded by acknowledging that God was all he truly needed, the very strength of his heart. He again saw the reality that in spite of all the hardships, God was with him, guiding him, and leading him to glory. He saw that his envy of the wicked was senseless as he came to the sobering realization that all who reject God will ultimately be destroyed. It was in worship that he got his mind right and once again was able to say, “ But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”

Are you discouraged? Do you spend more time thinking about how God ought to “stick it to those sinners” than you do worshiping Jesus? Have you become envious of how the world seems to have it so easy, while you have it so rough? Christian, you are called to share in the glory of Jesus. Remember, “… be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Consider the words of Paul, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

Don’t let envy of the world lead you into having a bitter, unbelieving heart. Come to the feet of the One who can renew your strength and get your mind right. Jesus is your portion. He is the strength of your life, and being near him is truly all you need. And, as you are renewed, you will be able to tell others of the wonderful things he has done.

God American Style

“Then the People said, “Let us create god in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26 USA translation)

When you listen to politicians talk nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear about having faith in God. Candidates are quick to quote the Bible and tell us that we ought to be thankful to our creator for the many blessings we have. Yep, it’s God this and God that. My question is, “What God are you talking about?” See, the funny thing is that in all this talk about God, you never hear anything mentioned about Jesus. Houston, we have a problem.

In the Bible we find that the Father has summed up all things in Christ. God said that the he has laid a Cornerstone on which everything is built- Jesus! We learn from scripture that although in the past, God spoke in many portions and in many ways, in these last days; he has given his final word in Jesus. The Bible tells us that the one who has the Son has the life, and he that does not have the Son, well, does not have the life. I John tells us that if you do not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, you have made God out to be a liar. The Bible teaches us that it is only through Christ that we can have understanding so that we can know the true God. Read the epistles of Paul and count the number of times he uses the phrase, “In Christ.” Over and over again the Bible tells that all things are in Jesus, and if you want to interact with the Father; you come through Christ. What I’m saying is this; there is no true faith in God apart from faith in Jesus. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

It seems that we here in America have created a god in our own image. We have manufactured a god who does not demand that we come to him by faith, through the cross of his Son. No, the god we have created is simply some force for good out there some where who desires that we believe in him/her/it in whatever way we deem appropriate. The god we have created demands only that we love our country, have faith in ourselves, and oh yeah; BELIEVE. Sadly, many who name the name of Jesus have rejected Christ and the offense of the cross opting instead for a generic, one size fits all god that really is no god at all.

Listen Christian, especially southern, bible-belt Christians like me. This is not Grandma Myrtle’s world. Just because someone throws around words like God, faith, and believe doesn’t mean that they are in relationship with God. Even when someone does mention Jesus, you need to ask which Jesus. Is it Jesus, absolute Lord and master, the Word of God made flesh, Messiah who by the blood of his cross atoned for our sins? Any Jesus that does not fit this description is a false Jesus. There is one God and he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Let me put it this way; Jesus is God. We can talk about faith all we want, but unless this faith in God is expressed through belief in his Son; we are deceived and merely worshiping a god we have created in our own image.

“Goo Goo G’ Joob” (conclusion)

(Unfortunately, many New Age practices and beliefs have been adopted by many who call themselves Christians. It is my prayer that this series has brought to light the incompatibility of Christianity and New Age theology. This is the last segment of “Goo Goo G’ Joob,” and if you’ve not already done so; I hope you will take the time to read  parts 1&2 of this series.)

If the capstone of New Age theology is the divinity of man, the cornerstone upon which their theology is built would have to be pantheism. Indeed, it is the New Age concept of pantheism on which all New Age theology is built. In New Age theological pantheism, god is all and all is god. In fact, there is nothing but God. Consequently, in New Age theology, there is no distinction between the creator and the creation.[1] At the beginning of this discourse it was stated that various elements of New Age thought had integrated into modern ecclesia, and the concept of pantheism is one such example. Some “Christian New Agers” such as Matthew Fox have adopted a compromised pantheistic position. They believe that while God “may be found in everything, God is something more than the totality of all things. “[This form of] Pantheism attempts to retain Christian notions of a fundamental divide between God and creation, while at the same time emphasizing their unity and interactivity.”[2]

It has been said that the “force”as depicted in the Star Wars  movies best characterizes New Age pantheism in which nature is not only a manifestation of God; it is very much alive, and its life- force is considered one great organism. In Star Wars, Yoda declares, “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes it glow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us…Feel the Force around you. Here… between you and me and the tree and that rock.”[3] Dr. Sandra Clifton agrees that this Yodistic Star Wars Pantheistic concept is crucial to New Age thought. In her book, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth she quotes Theologian and researcher James Herrick as saying, “…and pantheism is crucial to the New Religious Synthesis [Herrick’s term for New Age or New Thought]. Pantheism rejects the notion of God as personal or sovereign, instead finding divinity to be an impersonal force, energy, spirit, consciousness or mind in all things…The Other Spirituality’s god is a force to be managed, a potential to be tapped, a consciousness to be experienced.”[4]

Perhaps it is the New Age Pantheistic concept of intuitive epistemology that has extended its tendrils furthest into the modern ecclesia and consequently provides the most “danger” to orthodox Christian theology.  The New Ager would contend that since god is the ultimate truth and since god is in all things; truth can therefore be perceived in all things. Nowhere is this mindset more clearly depicted than in the Postmodern theological arena. In fact, Frederick Ferre`, author of Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, indicates that it is often the practice to view the term “postmodern” as synonymous with New Ageism.[5] Indeed, a common trait of both New Age theology and Postmodern theology is their reaction against Modern epistemology.

“The fundamental issue in the move from modernism to postmodernism is       epistemology– i. e., how we know things, or think we know things. Modernism is   often pictured as pursuing truth, absolutism, linear thinking, rationalism, certainty,  the cerebral as opposed to the affective- which in turn breeds arrogance, inflexibility, a lust to be right, the desire to control. Postmodernism, by contrast,  recognizes how much of what we know is shaped by the culture in which we  live, is controlled by emotions and aesthetics and heritage, and in fact can only be  intelligently held as part of a common tradition, without overbearing claims to being true or right. Modernism tries to find unquestioned foundations on which to  build the edifice of knowledge and then proceeds with methodological rigor;     postmodernism denies that such foundations exist (it is “antifoundational”) and insists that we come to “know” things in many ways, not a few of them lacking in  rigor. Modernism is hard-edged and, in the domain of religion, focuses on truth versus error, right belief, confessionalism; postmodernism is gentle and, in the domain of religion, focuses on relationships, love, shared tradition, integrity in discussion.”[6]

Many contend that it is the postmodern reaction against modernity that has fostered renewed spiritual interest which has taken on the form of New Ageism. In New Age / Postmodern spiritualism, these spiritualities are relativistic, and tend “to be subjective and syncretistic. Often pantheistic, or even pantheistic, they are not searching for the transcendent god “out there” but are rather on an eminent search within the practitioner to find the spirit within.”[7] And, according to the New Age Postmodernist, this search for truth can be achieved by any number of means.

“Pete Rollins of ikon (Belfast, U.K.) reports, ‘We have been actively engaged with  other faiths through the evangelism project. Evangelism has an important role but   is seen as a two-way process designed to open others and ourselves to God.’   Their evangelism project is the reverse of most forms of evangelism. They visit   people of other faiths and spiritualities and allow themselves to be evangelized in  order to learn more about other walks of life. ‘We deemphasize the idea that  Christians have God and all others don’t by attempting to engage in open two-way conversations. This does not mean we have lapsed into relativism, we still  believe in the uniqueness of our own tradition, but we believe that it teaches us to be open to all. We are genuinely open to being wrong about parts and perhaps all our beliefs- while at the same time being fully committed to them.’”[8]

And again,

“Spencer Burke’s community is prepared to learn from faith traditions outside the Christian field. There is a Buddhist family in their church. As a community, the church visited a Buddhist temple. They participated in a guided meditation with  this family. Burke celebrates the many ways God is revealed. He recognizes that the Spirit as been with these people all along. The community celebrates other  traditions, and they see them as beloved children of God.”[9]

In light of the two quotes cited above, both coming from leaders in the Postmodern/Emergent movement; it is clear that New Ageism and Postmodernism have a shared epistemology- one that cannot be embraced by the Christian.

New Age theology claims that every person and all reality is God, and therefore, any “truth” our inner selves discovers is God’s truth. By contrast, Christianity asserts that man and everything that has been created, both seen and unseen, has been created by the will of God and for his glory, that truth is found in the person of Jesus Christ, not by a realization of our own innate “Christ-consciousness.” One must therefore contend that despite the fact that many within Postmodern ecclesiastical circles have embraced various New Age tenets, an exploration into New Age epistemology and the way in which New Age theology elevates both man and creation to the level of deity proves that it is incompatible with orthodox Christianity.


 1. Ron Rhodes, New Age Movement, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 9.

 2. Daren Kemp, New Age: A Guide, (George Square, Edinburg- University Press, 2004), 57.

 3. Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Academic, 1989), 339.

 4. Dr. Sandra Clifton, New Age Lies Exposed: How to Stand Firm in God’s Truth, (Alachua, Florida- Bridge Logos, 2009), 102.

  5. Frederick Ferre`, Knowing and Value: Toward a Constructive Postmodern Epistemology, (Albany, New York- State University of New York Press, 1998), xvi.

 6. D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Zondervan, 2005), 27.

7. Lee Martin McDonald, William H. Brackney, and Craig A. Evans, (Macon, Georgia- Mercer University Press, 2007), 279,280.

 8. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Community in Postmodern Cultures, (Grand Rapids, Michigan- Baker Publishing Group, 2005), 132.

 9. Ibid.

“Goo Goo G’ Joob” (part 2)

(We are continuing our look into New Ageism)

Etta D. Jackson asserts that in the New Age there will be a fusion of man’s differentiated spiritual aspirations into a New World Religion. She also foresees a fusion of intellectual and philosophical thought between people of all stations in life that will result in a spirit of inclusiveness and mutual cooperation.[1] Ultimately though, in New Age theology, while the unified consciousness is constructed in a fashion that allows for a synchronization of differing belief systems; it is man’s belief and awareness of his own godhood that is the key to transforming the world. And, according to New Age adherents, it was Jesus himself who has shown the way as an example of a self-actualized man who had reached his full potential.

The New Age theologian postulates that The Son of God . . . is not Jesus, but our combined Christ consciousness. Jesus is one of a select company, having achieved Christ consciousness. And, every person is encouraged to acquire this same level of consciousness.[2] To the New Ager, Jesus and “Christ” are separate. The “Christ” is the perfect god concept- that awareness of the divinity within. The theology espoused by the New Ager looks at Jesus as one who possessed this “Christ-consciousness” as much as and probably more than any one who has ever lived. Jesus, to the New Ager, is just another one like Buddha or Krishna who comes along to reveal to mankind the divine potential resident within us all. Many within the New Age movement insist that throughout the world today a “Christ-consciousness” is rising at an ever increasing rate, slowly moving mankind towards the “Omega Point” in which the messiah within us all will give birth to a glorious new future.[3] (Perhaps, in today’s culture where the redefinition of terms is standard practice, the Christian should bear in mind that to many New Agers, this emerging “Christ-consciousness” is the eschatological “second-coming” the Bible speaks of.)

As Jesus is no more than an example of a man who ultimately realized his own divinity, and as there is no other being to which man is accountable other than himself, one can see how concepts such as substitutionary atonement, sin and salvation hold little to no relevance within New Age theology. To the New Ager, “evil does not exist but the belief that in its existence produces negative results; we now see that similarly, sin and guilt do not exist but that it is belief in their existence which produces negativity, especially because it legitimates and induces fear. As Shirley MacLaine puts it: ‘we are not victims of the world we see. We are victims of the way we see the world. In truth, there are no victims.’ It is only by our judgmental attitudes, towards others and towards ourselves, and by psychological projection of sin and guilt upon others and ourselves, that we keep           perpetuating the circle of fear. In a way, it is our ingrained belief in original sin that we needlessly increase suffering in the world and create “negative” Karma.”[4]

Indeed, the New Ager would be more apt to define sin as that which keeps one from recognizing his own divinity. In New Age theology, it could be said that it is this “pseudo sin consciousness,” that which stifles the attainment of the “Christ-consciousness,” that is the only sin of which man could be found guilty. And even then, it is ultimately not an issue of sin and guilt, but rather unrealized potential. And it is from this failure to reach his divine potential that man must be saved. “New Age salvation implies the full realization of the principles of self-spirituality and holism; the full realization of one’s inner spiritual potential and progress towards greater and greater wholeness. Whereas in Christian cosmology salvation takes place only after death, salvation in New Age philosophy is thought of in terms of spiritual evolution, a process that may take place in one’s own life but may continue after death…”[5]

It is clear that the divinity of man is the capstone of New Age theology. “Karma takes precedence over the atonement of Jesus Christ. Sins are cultural and relative instead of offenses toward a holy God. Hell is not a place of eternal punishment but a state of mind or negative thought.”[6] By contrast, Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ was not just an example of a self-actualized man who had reached his full potential, but rather God himself clothed in flesh, crucified, dead, and resurrected-literally. The bible makes it clear that sin and hell are more than just unrealized potential or imagined cerebral apparitions. It should be obvious to any sincere student of scripture that the first major tenet of New Age theology is in no way compatible with biblical Christianity.

To be continued…


 1. Etta D. Jackson, The Role of Consciousness in Governance, (Bloomington, IN-Author House, 2009), 41, 42.

  2. “New Age Theology,” All About Worldview. http://www.allaboutworldview.org/new-age-theology.htm, (accessed October 21, 2011).

3. John P. Newport, The New Age Movement and the Biblical Worldview: Conflict and Dialogue, (Grand rapids, Michigan- Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 12.

4. Wouter J. Hanegraff, New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, (U.S.A. – State University of New York Press, 1998), 295.

5. Stef Aupers and Dick Houtman, Religions of Modernity: Relocating the Sacred to the Self and the Digital, (Leiden, Netherlands- Brill Hotei Publishing, 2010), 166.

6. Walter Martin, Jill Martin Rische, and Kevin Rische, The Kingdom of the Occult, (Nashville, Tennessee- Thomas Nelson, 2008), 191.

“Goo Goo G’ Joob” (part one)

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together

~

Lennon/McCartney

Whereas Christianity portrays God as sovereign creator of all that is, holy and entirely separate from all else; New Age theology is founded upon the idea that each individual as well as all of creation is in fact God. Although various elements of New Age thought has integrated itself into modern ecclesia via Postmodernism, a brief exploration of New Age theology will prove to the astute student of the word that such integration is to be avoided in that New Age theology is not compatible with orthodox Christianity.

Whether from Eastern religions, the occult, the new psychologies, the “frontier” theories of science, New Age politics or New Age versions of Christianity, various ideas with a common theme are converging on our culture, pressing their way to the philosophical and ideological center of society. A new world is in the  offing; a revolution in consciousness beckons. All is one-both good and evil. We  are all god-and our first-graders should no it. The mind controls all- if we only use  it. These are ideas-potent ideas-that have consequences for the whole life. They  are shaping the lives of more and more Westerners.[1]

In the quote cited above, Douglas Groothuis provides a look at the zeit geist in the 21st century as well as a succinct summation of New Age religion and theology. Many adherents of the New Age mindset would argue that they have no substantive theology in that they are not a religious movement per se. However, if one concurs with psychologist Erich Fromm’s definition of religion in which religion is defined as “any group shared system of thought and action that offers the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion,”[2] New Ageism clearly possesses all the qualifying characteristics of a religious movement. Indeed, New Ageism is an amalgamation of many sources including: Astrology, Channeling, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Theosophy, and Wicca.[3] In light of Fromm’s aforementioned definition of religion, it is clear that acknowledged or not; New Ageism is a religion in which man’s frame of orientation is his own created reality, and his object of devotion is himself as god.  This idea of man as god is perhaps the capstone of New Age Theology.

“According to the New Age, man must transform himself. He does this by changing his consciousness and actualizing his divine nature. In doing so he becomes aware of his inner divinity.”[4] In the early 1960s, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, hallucinogenic drugs were utilized to create this altered state of consciousness, but as the New Age gained momentum (largely due to the influx of Eastern religions); mystical experiences and alternative conscious altering techniques began to emerge as the new portal to divine enlightenment. According to New Age theology, “man’s self is an ideal that surrounds any demands of time and the human physical body. Expressed in another way, we are the extraterrestrial emergent[5] God. We can then conclude that our human spirit is an extraterrestrial God residing within our mortal human body, and when we meditate, our mind (intellect) comes in touch with our spirit-self.[6] Such mystical experiences led the New Agers to believe that they are truly one with the universe and a part of God. They began to believe that they had uncovered the divine potential resident in all men.[7] And, it became their goal to help everybody discover this reality.

According to New Agers, humanity can become attuned to all the powers of its godhood by achieving unity of consciousness; only the unity of all can bring the well-being of all. Unified consciousness is the key by which all men can tap into their inner-divinity.  According to New Age theology, only the unity of all can bring the well-being of all. The godlikeness within us all; perfect love, perfect wisdom, perfect understanding, perfect intelligence; can only be achieved through the unity of consciousness.[8] It is this writer’s belief that the push for global unity prevalent in the world today is a product of New age theology, and eschatological in its relevance. “The new consciousness entails a unified worldview-“we are all one- a belief in a higher power, though this being need not be clearly defined. It is about healing-healing the earth, healing the marketplace, healing the individual psychologically and physically (Heelas, 1996, p.81). Within the New age, no one belief system is better than another and all have something to offer.”[9]

To Be Continued…


  1. Donald R. Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age, (Downers Grove, Illinois-InterVarsity Press, 1986), 15.

 2. Ibid., 16.

3. Lloyd E. Sandelands, Man and Nature in God, (New Brunswick, New Jersey-Transaction Publishers, 2005), 90.

4. John Ankerburg and John Weldon, The Facts on the New Age Movement, (Eugene, Oregon- Harvest House Publishers, 1988), 21.

 5. It is ironic to this author that Mr. Mall used the word “emergent.” One is made to think of the “Emergent Church” in which many aspects of New Age theology have been incorporated.

6. Alex Mall, The New Age Chameleon, (U.S.A. – Xlibris Corporation, 2010), 55.

7. Ibid., 7.

8. “New Age Theology,” All About Worldview. http://www.allaboutworldview.org/new-age-theology.htm, (accessed October 21, 2011

9. Mara Einstein, Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age, (New York, NY- Routledge, 2008), 198.

 

 

Worship: A Life Laid Down (conclusion)

In the last few posts, we’ve explored this idea about worship being a life laid down, the place where sacrifice and obedience come together through our trust in the Lord. We looked at King Saul as an example of one who never truly laid down his life before the Lord. We saw from scripture that he never really was intimate with God, and that he never really trusted nor obeyed him. We learned that King Saul offered his sacrifices in an attempt to manipulate events and people. Then, we looked at the life of Abraham, and discovered that although his was not the perfect life, it was one laid down before God in intimate trust and exhibited true worship in the ultimate act of sacrifice and obedience. Actually, what really got me thinking about worship being a life laid down is the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.

One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is John 4, the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I talk about it frequently and have written about it as well. It’s really no surprise that it was this passage that got me thinking about worship in a way I’ve not previously considered. Usually, when people talk about John 4 and the topic of worship, it’s always the part about worshiping in spirit and truth. And rightly so; Jesus did say the Father is seeking those who will worship him in this way. For me though, I began to see that worshiping in spirit and in truth is synonymous with worship being a life laid down. Walk with me.

If you recall, when Jesus and the woman began their conversation Jesus had asked her for a drink of water, and then commented that if she knew who he was, she’d ask him to give her a drink of the “living-water.” He went on to tell her that this living- water (Holy Spirit) would be to her a spring of water “welling up to eternal life.” As their conversation went on, Jesus told her to go and get her husband. Jesus was revealing to her the truth about the “well” she had been drawing from all of her life- men. She had tried repeatedly to quench the thirst of her heart through various relationships with men. Now, here with Jesus, this was the moment when she had to admit the truth. Then the woman brought up religion and the different way in which the Jews and the Samaritans worshipped. She reminded Jesus that the Samaritans claimed that you were supposed to worship God at one place while the Jews maintained that the temple in Jerusalem was the only place to worship God. Jesus pointed out to her the fact the time had come in which the true worshipers of God would be those who worshiped God in spirit and in truth, with no respect to locale. At this point, the woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming, and he will explain everything to us.” Jesus told her plainly, “You’re talking to him.”

See, here’s the deal. God is spirit and you have to have the Holy Spirit in order to be a true worshiper of God. And, the only way to receive the Holy Spirit is by laying your life down to Jesus. He is the Messiah who has come to “explain everything to us,” to reveal to us the truth about the Father, and the truth about us as well. He is the one who gives us the Spirit. It’s like he told the woman at the well, “If you want the living-water, you ask me.”  The only worship acceptable to the Father is the  true  spiritual worship that proceeds from the hearts of those who, through their trust in Jesus, have been made to drink of God’s Holy Spirit. Worship is more than just keeping a bunch of rules, or offering sacrifices at a specified temple.  The time has come that sacrifice and obedience must come together in a life laid down through trust in Jesus, the one who makes possible true spiritual worship through the giving of the Holy Spirit.

Worship: A Life Laid Down (part 2)

Okay, so here’s the scenario: You’re Abraham; you’ve been walking with God for a long time now. Years ago, God had promised you a son and he had finally been born. You’ve watched this child grow into a young boy, and then you hear God say, “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Abraham is a wonderful example of what I mean when I say that worship is a life laid down, the place where sacrifice and obedience meet through our trust in the Lord.

Long before the birth of Isaac, God had called a man, then named Abram, to follow him. Abram was living in what we know as modern day Iraq, and if he was anything like the rest of his people, he was probably involved in pagan worship of the moon-god. The Bible doesn’t say that there was anything special about Abraham; it only says that God called him. The Lord told Abraham, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you…” That’s not a whole lot of information (“the land that I will show you”), but Abraham obeyed. Here we see one of the characteristic that would mark Abraham’s life- obedience.

Abraham then begins his journey with God, the Lord reveals himself to Abraham, continuously proves his faithfulness, and Abraham trusted him. Through all the events in Abraham’s life, his time in Egypt, his dealings with Lot, the War of the Kings, Sodom and Gomorrah, Hagar and Ishmael, and his dealings with Abimelech; a relationship was built between God and Abraham, and Abraham trusted him. The Bible says that God and Abraham were friends (James 2:23). Keep in mind, Abraham was not always perfect. If you read his story, you will find times in which he missed the mark, but his heart was one of trust and obedience with the Lord.

Now comes the day that God asks him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. Isaac is the promised child; the one God had told Abraham would be born so many years ago. And now, Abraham is told that he must give him up. What must have gone through Abraham’s mind? I’m glad you asked, because the Bible tells us. In Hebrews 11:19 we find, “Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” Do you see it? Abraham didn’t necessarily understand God’s motives, but he figured that God would evidently resurrect Isaac from the dead. No one else had ever come back from the dead. God had never demanded a sacrifice of this kind before. How could Abraham think, “I guess God is just gonna raise him from the dead?” It’s because he knew God and trusted him! Worship is that place where sacrifice and obedience come together through our trust in the Lord. Abraham’s life had been laid down before God long before the sacrifice of Isaac; he knew that he could trust God, so he obeyed him. That’s worship.

You know the rest of the story, how God provided a substitute to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place, and how eventually Jesus was born as one of their descendants. Can you see how this applies to you? You go through all kind of things in your life. Tragedy, sorrow, loss, victory, ups, and downs; God desires to draw you to himself in all of this. Like Abraham, you won’t be perfect, you’ll miss the mark, but God is still working to bring you to that place of intimate trust. Intimacy is the only way in which you will be able to offer up your “Isaac.”  You can’t truly worship someone you don’t trust. Oh, you can be religious, but true worship is a life laid down. Worship is more than just a little compartment in our lives as Christians.  True worship is the whole of one’s life laid down before God, where sacrifice and obedience merge because you trust the Lord.

Worship: A Life Laid Down (part 1)

I guess one thing we all have in common is that we tend to “compartmentalize.” I am not a psychologist (a few of my friends probably thing I need to see one though), but it’s my understanding that each of us separate thoughts and actions into “compartments” in order to cope with reality. Psychologists tell us that compartmentalization can be used as a defense mechanism, one that assists people in dealing with tragic occurrences in their lives. I’m one who would rather folks come to Jesus in situations like that, and let him actually heal and restore instead of simply tucking away the hurt, but that’s another conversation altogether. My point is that I think maybe we all do compartmentalize in one way or another, and I don’t think it’s always good. And, I think we as Christians tend to be among the chief “compartmentalizers.”

So many Christians separate their lives into compartments: this is work, this is family time, this is time with my friends, and this over here is my “God-time.” Our “worship services” are put into different compartments as well: this is worship time, this is offering time, this is prayer time, this is preaching time, and so on. Something that I have come to understand is that true worship is a life laid down. It’s the place where sacrifice and obedience meet through our trust in the Lord. There is no need for compartments-Jesus is my life. If you look into the Bible you’ll find many references of people who wanted to be religious, who kept offering up sacrifices, but whose lives were compartmentalized to the point that they did not understand that their disobedience revealed the fact that they were not true worshippers of God, that they did not truly know him.

          King Saul is a good example of someone who didn’t understand that worship is a life laid down. You may recall that Israel had wanted a king.  Saul, who the Bible describes as tall and handsome, was anointed the first King of Israel. You can see from the beginning that it appears that Saul only had a relationship with God when someone else was around (good observation Mike). The only time you see him interacting with the Lord is when he was the prophets of Gibeah, or with Samuel the prophet. In fact, if you read on in the Old Testament you’ll discover that during the reign of Saul, the Ark of the Covenant (representing God’s presence) was not sought at all. Saul never came to know the Lord.

In I Samuel 15, Saul had been commanded by God to utterly wipe out the Amalekites- I mean utterly. However, Saul decided to spare their king along with the choice livestock to “sacrifice to the Lord.” When the prophet Samuel arrived, Saul rushed out to meet him proclaiming, “I have obeyed the commandment of the Lord!” Samuel asks, “Well, what’s up with all the sheep I’m hearing?” Saul replies, “Oh, we only spared the best of the sheep and the oxen for God, but we destroyed everything else.”

Samuel then proceeds to rebuke Saul, reminding him of how God had made him king, and asking him how he could not then obey the Lord’s commands to utterly wipe out the Amalekites. Saul persists, “But I did obey the Lord. I have brought Agag the king, and destroyed everything else. Only the best part of the spoil was saved to sacrifice to the Lord.” Samuel replies,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.

 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”

Rebellion is an act of usurping an authority, in this case God. Samuel said that rebellion is similar to witchcraft or divination. How’s that? Well the ultimate goal of witchcraft is to manipulate events. The sorcerer seeks to manipulate spiritual forces so that a desired result will be manifested in the physical. When Saul rebelled against God, he was taking matters into his own hands in an attempt to bring about the outcome he thought was best. He wanted to exercise authority. God had spoken, but he rejected his authority and chose his own way.

Samuel went on to say that stubbornness or insubordination is like idolatry. Say what? Well, when we rebel against God, stubbornly pushing against him, or trying to push him to do what we think is best; we are setting ourselves up as God- idolatry. (Oh, I forgot to mention the fact that just before his meeting with Samuel, Saul had set up a monument to himself in Carmel.) In his stubbornness, Saul had declared, “I am god!” His rebellion and stubbornness blinded him to the reality of his disobedience.

Okay, so how does all of this apply to us? The reason Saul, and we as well, are rebellious and insubordinate towards God is because we don’t trust him. God is working in the events of our lives (even the hard ones) to help us get to know him and thereby trust him. He wants us to listen to his voice, lay down our lives and surrender to him, not just offer up what we think he wants. As we learn to trust the Lord, our sacrifices and obedience come together in a life laid down. Saul never learned that. God used him, he won many battles and was the champion of Israel, but; he never came to trust in the Lord. God had a little compartment in Saul’s life to live in, and he only got to come out when Samuel was around. Saul only sought to manipulate God through offering up the sacrifices he thought would push God towards doing what he wanted Him to do. And in the eyes of God, this was akin to witchcraft and idolatry.

We, here in the West, consider ourselves far too civilized and advanced to worship some kind of idol made of wood or stone, instead; we have proclaimed ourselves as god. Even we who name the name of Jesus are guilty of creating a god after our own likeness and worshipping it instead of the true and living God. We have invented a god who is okay with our witchcraft and idolatry, one who winks at our rebellion and insubordination. We have turned his grace into a license to sin. Like Saul, we offer God our disobedience as a sacrifice, and cry foul when he demands our lives instead. True worship is not simply an act that we perform. True worship is born out of our trust in God. True worship is the place where our sacrifice and obedience come together, expressed in a life laid down.

To be continued… (Next, we look at Abraham.)

(By the way, Christians, we need to repent of reading horoscopes and the little magic emails that guarantees a “blessing” if you just forward it to ten people. That’s straight up witchcraft-just saying)