We are not going to be studying the Gospel of Mark today. This past week I heard about the The Secret and it troubled me to the point that I feel I need to inform you on what this is all about.
The press release for The Secret reads:
The Secret is released to the world! This ground-breaking feature length movie presentation reveals The Great Secret of the universe. It has been passed throughout the ages, traveling through centuries... to reach you and humankind.
This is The Secret to everything-the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth; everything you have ever wanted.
In this astonishing program are ALL the resources you will ever need to understand and live The Secret. For the first time in history, the world's leading scientists, authors, and philosophers will reveal The Secret that utterly transformed the lives of every person who ever knew it... Plato, Newton, Carnegie, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein. Now YOU will know The Secret. And it could change your life forever.
You can understand people's interest in this, who doesn't want to know the secret to joy, health, money, relationships, love and youth? People want these because they want to be happy and they believe that these things will bring them happiness. Different people define happiness different ways, but no matter how you define it, we all want it. Everyone in the world shares one basic desire; we all want to be happy.
Have you ever noticed that no one ever says, "I wish I weren't so happy all the time!"? Some people may not care about being successful, or rich, or good-looking. It doesn't matter to some if they're married or single, or whether or not they have a family, or whether or not they have many friends. Some people don't care about material possession or being able to travel, or having enough time and money to do whatever they want whenever they want. None of these things may make a difference to some people, but regardless of the "things" people want in life, I am sure that everyone here wants to be happy. It is an intrinsic human desire; we're built that way. We all want to be happy.
In the seventeenth century, the French mathematician, philosopher, and religious thinker, Blaise Pascal, put it this way, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."
Everyone wants to be happy. I want you to understand this morning that seeking one's own happiness is not a sin; it is a simple given in human nature.
C. S. Lewis, in his sermon, "The Weight of Glory," said:
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful. God wants us to be happy. Well, even though everyone wants to be happy, even though God wants everyone to be happy, most people simply aren't. And that is why The Secret's promises are so attractive.
The Secret is the brainchild of Australian-born Rhonda Byrne, a former television producer who has written what could be the fastest-selling book of its kind in the history of publishing with 1.75 million copies projected to be in print by this month (March), just over three months since it came out, plus 1.5 million DVDs sold. Everything in Byrne's life was falling apart, and she was in deep despair. That's when her daughter gave her a copy of The Science of Getting Rich, a book written in 1910 by Wallace Wattles. Reading the book changed her life.
The Secret is not a movie or documentary, it's a video seminar featuring a series of prominent authors, philosophers, doctors, quantum physicists, and "spiritual" practitioners. The most well-known of the "teachers" is New Age guru Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and The Success Principles.
What is The Secret, exactly? It's the Power of Positive Thinking! Watch the movie and you'll learn how thinking optimistically can be applied to attracting wealth, better health, and relationships; in a word, happiness. "The Secret is the Law of Attraction," says Byrne, "which is the principle that like attracts like." She calls it "the most powerful law in the universe" and says it's working all the time. "What we do is we attract into our lives the things we want, and that is based on what we're thinking and feeling."
The law of attraction means that every good or bad thing that happens to us, we draw to ourselves, be it positive or negative. "If you were at a restaurant," says Lisa Nichols, "and you ordered something, you fully expect it to come served that way. That's how the universe is. You're putting out orders--consciously and unconsciously. So if you say, 'I'll never have a great relationship,' you just placed an order."
You can, if you wish, take this law of attraction figuratively, to mean that by changing your thoughts you can feel better about your situation in life. Or you can view it as a source of inspiration--that by believing you will succeed, you will perform better in the race or the test or your relationships.
But that's not what The Secret is saying. Its explicit claim is that you can manipulate objective physical reality--the numbers in a lottery drawing, the actions of other people who may not even know you exist--through your thoughts and feelings. In the words of Lisa Nichols: "When you think of the things you want, and you focus on them with all of your intention, then the law of attraction will give you exactly what you want, every time." Byrne emphasizes that this is a law inherent in "the universe," an inexhaustible storehouse of goodies from which you can command whatever you desire from the comfort of your own living room by following three simple steps: Ask, Believe, Receive.
Joe Vitale says in The Secret: "So you want to become aware of your thoughts, you want to choose your thoughts carefully and you want to have fun with this, because you are the masterpiece of your own life. You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts."
We are told in The Secret: "Be very clear about exactly what you desirefocus on it, write it down in great detail, give it all your positive energy, feel good about it as you dream. When you are putting positive energy into your dreams, you are sending positive vibrations to the Universe. The Universe always responds."
Bob Proctor says in The Secret: "See yourself living in abundance, and you will attract it. It always works. It works every time, with every person."
If you're a person trying to lose weight, you had your choice of two pieces of advice last week. One, from the American Heart Association, was to eat more vegetables and exercise an hour a day. The other was from Rhonda Byrne, Byrne's recommendation was to avoid looking at fat people. Based on the "law of attraction"--that thoughts, good or bad, "attract" more of whatever they're about--she writes: "If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them, but immediately switch your mind to the picture of you in your perfect body and feel it."
The Secret devotes several pages to the weight she gained after her pregnancies. Unaware of the law of attraction, she mistakenly believed that eating made her fat. She now recognizes her error: "Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight." She is saying that you can manipulate objective physical reality.
In a dramatized interlude in the film, a young woman ogles a necklace in a window, and the next thing you know, it's around her neck. A child imagines himself with a new bike, and it appears outside his door. No need to do a lot of boring chores or get a newspaper route; the universe provides. Contrariwise, a worrywart who obsessively checks the locks on his bicycle returns to find it stolen; the law of attraction has called down on him just the predicament he hoped to avoid. A financial consultant reliably finds parking, just by visualizing an empty spot--which implies, by another law of the universe, the one about two objects occupying the same space, that he believes his thoughts can induce someone else to leave.
According to the teaching of The Secret, guess who's controlling the universeyou are by your thoughts. But the Bible says that God controls every event that takes place in His universe:
"Thine, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O LORD, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all. 12 "Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. 13 "Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name (1 Chronicles 29:11-13 NASB)
This is what one of The Secret teachers says: "Your mission is the mission you give yourself. Your life will be what you create it to be, and no one will stand in judgement of it, now or ever" (Neale Donald Walsch).
But the Bible says:
So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12 NASB)
Do any of you recognize these teachings of The Secret? They are not new, but they are New Age. As Christians, we should become aware of the insidious threat of the New Age movement and how to combat its false teachings. It is important that we learn to think Biblically about the New Age Movement.
WHAT IS THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT?
Someone has said defining the New Age is like trying to nail Jelly to the wall. It can't be pinned
down. An attempt would read something like this: The New Age Movement is a loosely
structured network of individuals and organizations who share a vision of a new age of
enlightenment and harmony. The New Age Movement has no set of creeds or dogma, however,
there are several unifying factors that clue us in to the new age mindset. The under girding belief
of the New Age is that of:
1. Monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is God)this is the theory that sees everything as one. Everything in the universe is of the same substance. There is no distinction between creator and creation; man, metal, timber, water, God--we all share the same essence. The conclusion from monism is if all is one then all is God-- therefore, we are God. Everyone and everything is God. New Agers confuse the Creator with His creation and think that God is part of creation, not separate from it.
Shirley Maclaine put it like this: "There is an urgent need for people to recognize the power within themselves, to know themselves as a spark of God Begin with self; recognize the god within, and the result will be the recognition, with tolerance and love, that everyone else possesses God within as well. In other words we are each part of God experiencing the adventure of life." That's a good summation of classic New Age thought.
New Agers believe in the divinity of all mankind, that we are separated from God only in our own consciousness, which needs to be altered through a variety of ways, including: meditation, Yoga, chanting, drugs, visualization, and the like. Man will thus experience union with God.
At the very heart of this movement lies the idea that humans are living in an unbalanced state, which prevents them from having a harmonious and direct relationship with God, nature, each other, and themselves. Many different themes throughout the New Age Movement indicate this search for oneness, such as wholeness, spirituality, relationships, attunement, and universal brotherhood and sisterhood. This theme of oneness is at the very center of the New Age belief system.
As Christians we see a distinction between Creator and creation:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? 3 "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! 4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, (Job 38:1-4 NASB)
What gives God the absolute authority over man? I'm looking for a one word answer; what is it? Creation. God is the Creator of all things, and we owe Him our obedience and our worship. We are not here by chance, we are not an accident, we are not a mutation, we are the direct creation of God. God created us, and He can command us.
The Bible clearly and repeatedly states that God is the creator of everything! Let me just show you this because it's so important for us to understand. Genesis says it; it can't be said any more clearly or comprehensively:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NASB)
In the great expanse of eternity, which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn, and creation existed only in the mind of God. In His sovereign majesty, God dwelt alone:
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. (Genesis 1:3 NASB)
This is creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. There was no one to suggest plans to God, or to suggest alterations to the plans God had. There was no one to defeat God's purpose. God was alone. He could do as He pleased.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3 NASB)
Nothing is in existence that He didn't create. Speaking of Christ, who is God, Paul says:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16 NASB)
Did you notice the emphasis on "all" in these verses? "All things were created."What do you mean by that? Well, "In heaven"--that would be everything that exists in the universe, everything. "And on earth,"; everything in our little microcosm, this earth, everything outside this earth, and everything on this earth. He created, everything. And listen to this, "Visible and invisible." You can see a mountain, He made it. You can't see the wind, but He made it. You can see an ocean, He made it. You can't see an electric current going through the air, but He made it. Visible and invisible, and that includes angelic beings called "thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities." "All things", repeating it again, "were created by Him and for Him." Could it get much clearer than this? The Bible is relentless in its affirmation of this truth.
"Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? (Deuteronomy 4:32 NASB)
There was a day when God created man on the earthGod is the Creator and man is His creation.
Flowing out of monism and pantheism is:
2. Personal and planetary transformationthis is the primary objective of the New Age,
which is a long way of saying that the priority for a New Ager is to recover their godlikeness
through "enlightenment," "attunement," "self actualization"whatever it may be called.
It's essentially coming back to what is believed to be our own true divine identity which we have lost. This "transformation" occurs through a shift in consciousness, and when our consciousness is transformed, then we can escape the lie of our finiteness and realize our true potential.
It's why so much of the New Age relates to practices like meditation, creative visualization, the use of the imagination, self hypnosis, and the like. These "psycho-technologies" seek to reconnect us with the divine in each of us.
The planetary transformation idea occurs as a critical mass of personally transformed individuals take responsibility for the sociopolitical dimension of the world. This will be the "New Age."
For usthe Christian's primary responsibility is to be reconciled to God and to live in a relationship with Him; to accept our place as a fallen creation and to enjoy God's forgiveness and restoration.
Finally, we look at the creed of the New Age, which is that there is no creed. You take a bit from here, a bit from there. It's why it's called post modern spirituality because it embraces the core values of post modernity.
3. It's known as Syncretismwhere there is no exclusive devotion to any one set of teachings. New Agers will feel okay reading the Bible. They just won't see it as an authoritative source of truth. It will be a helpful book with some great teachingsbut then they will only be great teachings if they work for you.
One New Age writer has said, "We honor the truth and beauty of all world religions, believing each to have a seed of God, a kernel of spirit that unites us."
New Agers will draw their beliefs from a wide variety of sources, some that may seem fairly bizarrebut at the end of the day the reason for acceptance will be primarily because they feel right to them, they like them, and they work. There is a high degree of pragmatism in the New Ageif it doesn't work, then find something that does work for you. That means that the teaching that is right for you may not be right for me. One of the highest priorities in New Age thought is tolerancethe acceptance of another person's way of finding enlightenment.
A typical New Ager's philosophy is that you believe what's right for you and I'll believe what's right for me, and it will all work out in the endbecause truth is relative truth adapts to what you want it to be. We can all be right.
The implication of this, of course, is that the Bible can make no claim to be God's only revelation to mankindlet alone authoritative or reliable. This is in direct conflict with the teaching of Scripture itself.
The New Age Movement focus is on selfit's obsessed with self developmentself fulfillmentthe New Age is very much self focused. It's all about me.
That type of mindset is in stark contrast to a truly Christian view where Jesus speaks of finding our life when we lose itof life to the full coming through self denialof taking up our cross and of putting others firstseeing others as more important than ourselves:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)
Do you know who is one of the biggest promoters of the New Age philosophy today? Oprah! On February 8 Oprah aired a special about the film, The Secret. Oprah has 49 million viewers a week, so the cat is out of the bag. Oprah's current promotion of the DVD, The Secret, is not the only time she has promoted a New Age book. Gary Zukav's book, The Seat of the Soul, has been one of her favorites for some time. Ray Yungen elaborates on Oprah's fascination with such spirituality:
Without question, the most influential practical mystic today is talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Her predominantly female audience, numbering in the tens of millions, looks to her as the source of spiritual inspiration; even more so than church, in many cases. I realize speaking critically of someone as warm and caring as Oprah might stir angry emotions in many of her viewers. Nonetheless, please keep in mind that with Oprah, as with the others I have written about, her obvious good qualities are not the issue here. While I might admire Oprah as a person, I am gravely concerned about what she promotes.
Somewhere during her career, Oprah read a book titled Discover The Power Within You by Unity minister Eric Butterworth (another on her favorites list). In line with Unity teaching, the book expounded on the Divinity of Man as perceived through mystical practice. Oprah embraced these views so earnestly that she advocated:
"This book changed my perspective on life and religion. Eric Butterworth teaches that God isn't 'up there.' He exists inside each one of us, and it's up to us to seek the divine within."
Her talk show has launched many New Age authors into national super-stardom--authors, such as Marianne Williamson (A Course in Miracles), Sarah Ban Breathnach, Iyanla Vanzant, and Cheryl Richardson.
On Friday, February 16, 2007, two of the promoters of The Secret appeared for the second time on the Oprah show. For the discerning, what spewed from the mouths of these two men, Michael Beckwith and James Ray, was New Age. One lady, identifying herself as a Christian, spoke about her unease with the seeming focus of The Secret.She was quickly shot down by Beckwith and Ray and Oprah Winfrey, claiming that she, too, was a Christian. After all, if Oprah Winfrey is a Christian and supports The Secret, isn't that endorsement enough for all Christians?
We are dealing with a philosophy, which is in vogue in our culture, and which is being propagated in our public and private schools, colleges, universities, arts, cinema, television, music, and government. Rather than being the salvation of our society, it is a subtle, but insidious cancer for Christianity and culture. It will not center us, but rather move us away from the center of our faith, Jesus Christ our Lord and God, and cause us to doubt the moral center of revealed truth, the Bible.
The New Age distortion of the teachings essential to Christianity ought to concern us. God becomes an impersonal force. Jesus is simply an advanced avatar. Sin no longer exists. Salvation is by our cyclic rebirth through reincarnation whereby we work off the bad karma we accumulated in previous lives. The Scripture is not true where is says that "it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment," because we die many times and just keep trying. We die and try, die and try. All humans are divine. The Bible is not the revealed truth, but only one truth. All religions are equal, and none is the true way.
We should be concerned, because our kids are being subjected to this kind of teaching. We should be concerned, because we are being infiltrated by it in our churches. Rick Warren and his "Purpose Driven" agenda been accepted by many churches. I wonder if they know of the connection between Rick Warren and such New Age gurus as Neale Donald Walsch, Robert Schuller, Bernie Siegel and Marianne Williamson? We should be concerned, because too many people are Biblically illiterate and have not had their minds trained through a systematic study of the Word to discern truth from error. We should be concerned. because it all sounds so good and harmless.
To combat this New Age philosophy we must have a thorough understanding of the Bible, God's revealed Word. It is important that we come to an understanding of the great doctrines of the Bible. Doctrines like the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the sinfulness of humanity, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the efficacy of saving grace, and the certainty of judgement. These are all topics that must be studied until you gain an understanding of what the Lord says about them. Only armed with what the true looks like can you tell the counterfeit.
The Secret is so popular because people want to be happy, everybody wants to be happy. But true happiness only comes from a right relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing else can bring the joy that a personal relationship with God can bring, and once you learn to base your happiness on your relationship with God, nothing in the world can take it away from you.
David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." (Romans 4:6-8 NASB)
The word "blessed" literally means: "Oh, the happiness." "Blessedness," as the Bible defines it, is the heart condition the whole world is looking for. You see, "blessedness," Biblically defined, is that almost indescribable, but very real "inner sense of well being." It's an inner feeling of security and contentment, and a positive outlook on life. It's to experience an unusual level of joy. "Blessedness" is a calm assurance of self-worth. It's the vitality of spirit that comes when you know deep down that all is well between you and God.
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
George Gallup conducted a survey that concluded that fewer than 10 percent of Americans are deeply-committed Christians. But the people who make up this group, according to Gallup, can be categorized as particularly influential and happy. He called them, "A breed apart." He said that they are more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds, they are more involved in charitable activities, they are more involved in practical Christianity, they are absolutely committed to prayer, and he said, "They are far, far happier than the rest of the population."
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God; (Psalms 146:5 NASB)
God is saying that you don't need anyone else. You don't need anything else. All you need is Him. Commit your life to Christ and your soul will delight in the Him. He is saying that He can give you happiness above and beyond anything the world has to offer.
The only way to really experience happiness is through a relationship with the God of creation. He created us, and He alone knows what will truly make us happy:
Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalms 16:11 NASB)
Cling to Him as if He is your only hope for happiness in this world--because He is.