Finding The god Within YouErwin W. Lutzer | October 25, 1987
Selected highlights from this sermon
The New Age Movement is completely contrary to the teachings of Scripture, even though they hold up Jesus as an example of divine enlightenment. Their pantheistic view of god insists that everything is god—including us—and that we must recognize and pursue this spiritual godhood. Essentially, the lie of the garden is believed—they think that they are god.
A number of years ago a coach by the name of Cotton Fitzsimmons was trying to motivate his basketball team, the Atlanta Hawks. And he didn’t know how he could do it because they were on a losing streak, and no matter what he did, they continued to lose. So one day before they played a game he decided to give them a pep talk, and he centered it around the word pretend. So he said to the team, “Instead of being one of the worst teams in the league, tonight,” he said, “I want you to pretend that you’re the best team.” He said, “Instead of realizing that we are on a 3-game losing streak, I want you to pretend that we are on a 3-game winning streak.” And he said, “Instead of this being just an ordinary game, I want you to pretend that it’s the NBA Championship Game.” So with that the team left and went on to the floor and was soundly whipped by the Boston Celtics. Fitzsimmons was very upset. He was angry. He was disappointed. He was frustrated. One of the players came up and slapped him on the back and said, “Cheer up, Coach. Pretend we won.” (laughter)
The question that we have to ask is, “How much power does the human mind have?” Are we pretending when we explore its latent potential? There was a book written entitled, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill. Napoleon Hill said that he was releasing a secret that would transform business, and to some extent it has. He said the secret, the grand secret, is this: that whatever the human mind can believe, the human mind can achieve.
When we talk about the New Age Movement, what we are speaking about is a number of different techniques that are diverse and multiple, different ways that people have of trying to tap the latent potential of the human mind, trying to understand that when we go down deep inside, we find within ourselves the resources, all the resources that we need for life. The secret is to tap those resources, and there are many different ways that it can be done such as meditation, holistic healing, visualization, biofeedback, astral projection, hypnosis, channeling, centering, positive thinking, EST Rebirthing, and on and on the list goes.
I have before me a bulletin called The Monthly Aspectarian. It’s Chicago’s New Age Holistic Metaphysical Magazine. I want to read you some of the possible opportunities that there are for seminars and the names of the topics such as:
- The Spiritual Adventure
- Trance States and Healing
- Being More than Psychic
- Restarting the Future
- The Crystal Connection (A Slide Presentation)
- Inner World Guides
- Music and Spirituality
- Bridging the Gap Between the Spiritual and the Mundane
- The Holistic Nature of Earth’s Mysteries
- Living in the Imagination
- Earth Force (A Slide Presentation)
- Time, Spirit, and Mathematics
And that doesn’t include a whole host of other things like Astro Talk, and biofeedback, and on and on the list goes.
What is happening when we speak about the New Age Movement? What is it all about? It’s my responsibility to take all of these diverse things that are happening in our society, and if you are unaware that they are happening, you are out of touch with the controlling realities of our age. There’s a young man here in our congregation who recently gave up his job because he discovered that in the sales force all of it was based on the New Age philosophy.
A man from whom I occasionally buy insurance said that he is asked to go to various meetings, and he says, “What do I do as a Christian? Because,” he says, “everything that we are taught about sales is based on the New Age Movement. Whatever the human mind can believe, the human mind can achieve.”
What we have to do for a moment is just to back off and ask ourselves some big questions to put this in perspective. Let me explain that there are three basic views of God. Let me give them to you and then explain how they impinge on the New Age Movement.
First of all, there is what we call theism. Theism believes in the existence of God as the creator of the universe. God is independent of the universe. God is personal and the human race is estranged from God because of sin, though reconciliation, thankfully, is possible. That’s theism.
There is another view of God called atheism. Atheism says there is no God. Follow carefully. Atheists say that the only reality that there is is matter. The universe is eternal. It has always existed. We do not know how it came about, but here it is, and all of reality is actually material reality. It is hard matter— atoms, if you please. There is no soul. The universe is not populated by spirits of any kind. There is no God. All that there is is what can be quantified by science—matter and energy. That’s atheism.
There is another view of God known as pantheism, pan meaning everything. And that view says that everything that exists is God, and God is all there is. God is everything. Everything is God. This view also holds that there are various gradations of reality or godhood, if you please. The lowest is the material world, and then you have the vegetable kingdom, then the animal kingdom, and then you have man. Contrary to atheism, pantheism says that the ultimate reality of the world is spiritual, and that actually matter, if anything, is an illusion, and if it’s not an illusion, it is certainly on the lowest possible rung of reality.
Did you notice the workshops, the names that I just read to you? Did you notice how many had in them the word spiritual, psychic, transcendental (meaning going beyond the immediate), out of body experiences, entities that exist in the spirit world. Pantheism says that God is all, and all is God. And that is the basis of the New Age Movement.
Now, what I’d like to do is to give you very briefly what the New Age Movement teaches regarding God, regarding man, and regarding salvation. And then I will explain to you how those three doctrines actually collapse into one bottom line. Stay with me.
What can we say about the pantheistic view of God? What kind of a god is the god of pantheism? “All is God and God is all.” First of all, he is impersonal. He is the force. He is energy, and when we had the harmonic convergence here a few months ago, people were out on Lake Michigan trying to get plugged into that force, that energy. Star Wars: “May the force be with you.”
To quote the words of one man, Dick Sutphen, he says, “In the beginning there existed the great energy, the gestalt. We call it God, but any other name would serve just as well.” God is impersonal—force, energy.
Secondly, God is both good and evil. It has to be. After all, if God is all and all is God, and God is all that there is, God has a good side and God has a bad side. And God is both. How that gets played out in terms of morality I don’t have time to tell you, but in some future message I hope to explain that in a little bit more detail. But to go back to Star Wars, when George Lucas was interviewed by Time Magazine he said these words. He said, “My movie had a religious statement.” He said, “I was trying to say that God, the force, was both good and evil, and it works best if you get plugged in to His good side,” said Lucas.
Charles Manson probably will not be remembered in history as a great theologian, he is more generally known as a mass murderer. But Manson, who was deeply into eastern religions and into pantheism, asked this question, he said, “If God is all that exists, then what is evil?” Good question.
You ask Alan Watts, who made Zen Buddhism popular for American college students during the sixties. Watts says that good and evil in the character of God are like two people on a stage who appear to be in conflict, but he says, “When you get behind the screen, behind the stage, they are the best of friends. God is both good and evil. He is the impersonal force, and it’s best to get plugged in to his good side.”
What can we say about the doctrine of man in the pantheistic scheme? The doctrine of man is that he is the highest order on this scale of godhood. Remember the earth is also god. I was reading an article yesterday where the scientists of the New Age Movement are trying to say that the earth is a living organism. They’re saying that because they want to say that we are really an extension of mother earth. We are all that there is, and we are one, capital O-N-E. But man is among the highest in this order of oneness, if you please. Even though everything is God, man has the potential of being closer to the ultimate godhood, and what man must recognize is first of all, the primacy of mind over matter.
This past week I spent time reading three of Shirley MacLaine’s books, the pop theologian of the New Age Movement. She said the reason that she got into transcendental meditation is when she saw all of the poverty and the heartache in India she said she was so overcome by it that she knew the only possible way to accept it is to begin to meditate, because meditation says that my mind can focus on certain entities regardless of my circumstances. In fact, the more you meditate, the more contentless your meditation should be until you are thinking about nothing, totally oblivious, to what surrounds you, and to your body. And to really reach a high stage of enlightenment what you must do is to finally get to that place where you are uncaring, unfeeling, and if possible, unthinking. And finally, to quote the words of one person, you renounce all that is on this earth to embrace the worlds above through the concentration of the mind.
So man is the highest in the order of the spectrum, but he must recognize the primacy of mind over body, and the bottom line is that his problem is not sin. That word is a no-no in the New Age Movement. Its problem is not sin. It is ignorance. All that we need to do is to be enlightened. If only we had understanding. If only we could disengage ourselves, and suddenly become one with the mountains and the trees and the streams, we would then recognize that we lose our identify as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. We become one with the ultimate, one with the force, one with the divine. That’s the goal of man.
What about salvation? Well, the doctrine of salvation, which I’ve already touched on is the attempt to be reabsorbed into God. We are one with nature. We are one with all that there is, and we have to be reunited with God because even though we already are God, in a sense we are also becoming God. We are both in the process of becoming God, though we are already God. Again, it has to do with the gradations, the higher forms of reality that we move along.
And so life is cyclical. Everything goes around and around and around and around. Atheism says, “You go around once in life.” Pantheism says, “You go around and if you get it wrong the first time, you get a second chance, and you go around again and again and again, and that’s where reincarnation comes in that we will preach on next week. So what you have is the attempt of people to be absorbed into God, the god that they already are.
I told you that I would discuss briefly the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, and the doctrine of salvation, and then I said it would all collapse into a single sentence, and that single sentence is simply this, that man is God.
Let me give you a quote from a number of people, and I begin with Shirley MacLaine. In her book, “Out on a Limb,” she had this insight that we are co-creators with God. By the time she wrote “Dancing in the Light,” her thought had progressed, and she finally saw the light, and now I quote, “If everyone was taught one basic spiritual law, your world would be a happier, healthier place, and that law is this, ‘Everyone is God.’” Everyone.
Let me quote Maharishi, who promoted transcendental meditation. He’s famous for that. He says, “Be still and know that you are God.”
Terry Cole-Whittaker, an evangelist, a Christian evangelist supposedly, who is now into the New Age Movement with a vengeance says, “You are God. I am God. Together we are God, and together with our own consciousness, awakening and choice, we create the Kingdom of God. Worship yourself. You are the light.”
I have been reading New Age material for the last several weeks. If I were to take all the quotations that I came across, saying that we were God, or a statement equivalent to that, I could use this entire message to just give you all the quotes.
What does the New Age Movement think about Jesus Christ? How do they view our Savior? They view Him with reverence and appreciation and as an example to follow because all the New Age Movement literature that I have read says that when Jesus declared Himself to be God He was perfectly right on. He was God, and what you and I must see is we must reach the very same stage of enlightenment. And if we could only be like Jesus, we would then realize that we are God too. Our problem is we just think we’re less that He is, and that’s why we are so ignorant.
If we knew that we had the same potential as Christ, He was just plugged into the force, and when He said, “I AM that I AM.” Shirley MacLaine takes those very words, by the way, and applies them to us. “I also am that I am, just as Christ said that I AM that I AM.” So they want to be like Christ. That’s their goal and their desire.
Now, of course, you and I talk about being like Christ, too, don’t we? But we mean something just a little different by that, I think. At least I do. What we mean is we want to be like Jesus Christ in our responses, in our love, and in our joy, and in our peace. We want to be Christ-like. The New Age Movement says, “Yes, we want all that, but we also want to be able to make the same statements that He made. We are divine. We are the Christ.”
Now, let me ask you, “Where did all this get started?” Where did it have its beginning? I want you to take your Bible and turn with me to Genesis, chapter 3. One verse from the Old Testament, and one verse in the New Testament will help us put all of this in perspective.
Genesis, chapter 3, Adam and Eve are in the Garden, and they were told not to eat the fruit of a certain tree, and the serpent who is Satan comes to them in the Garden and Eve strikes up a discussion with the serpent. And she says, “If we eat of the fruit of the tree of the garden we shall die.” But in verse 4, the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die, for God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” “Like God.” Not gods, like the the King James says. That was a mistranslation. “You will be like God if you sin.” And Adam and Eve bought the line.
Now, you see, it’s too much for the human heart to be able to say that I am God, the creator. That’s too much to believe that I am the creator of the stones, and the trees, and the planets. So pantheism comes along and makes the lie more acceptable and palatable. Pantheism says, “Sure, I’m God, but actually you’re God too, and the trees are God, and the sun is God, and the moon is God, and the universe is God, and mother earth is God. Everything is God and we just happen to be the best expression of it all.”
Now, let me ask you a question. I quoted Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind can believe, the mind can achieve.” Where did that notion come from? Let me give it to you in his own words. “I have evidence,” he says, “that unseen friends hover about me, unknowable to the ordinary senses. There is a group of strange beings who maintain a school of wisdom, masters who can disembody themselves and travel instantly to any place they choose.” And then he goes on to say, “One came to my study and said, ‘I will reveal to you the supreme secret.’” And what is the supreme secret? That anything the human mind can believe, the human mind can achieve. That’s the secret.
My friend, it is not true that whatever the human mind believes, the human mind can achieve. That is true of God. Whatever God believes, whatever God wills, God can conceive. But we can’t. That is the lie that came in the Garden of Eden from Satan, and then the disembodied spirits that communicated with Napoleon Hill would be evil spirits called demons who want to perpetuate the lie in this generation.
You say, “Oh, but there’s some truth to positive thinking, isn’t there?” Yes, that’s true. I don’t know if you ever studied the little poem of the little engine that said, going up a hill, “I think I can, I think I can.” How many of you remember that one? Oh, you all do. Yes.
Now the little engine saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” his saying that probably helped him up the hill. There’s no question about that, but if, when he got to the top of the hill, the tracks were washed out, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference how often he would say, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Now turn to another passage of Scripture in the New Testament. Second Thessalonians, chapter 2. The Apostle Paul is discussing the end time. He’s talking about the tribulation period when the man of sin comes and claims to be Christ. But in 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul says, he’s going to have tremendous power by the way. I’m going to pick it up at verse 8. Second Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 8. “And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false.” The King James is better here. It says, “That they should believe the lie, (That’s what the Greek text says) that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”
What is the lie? The lie is that this man is God. He sets himself up as Anti-Christ. He sets himself up as being God, and people believe him. That isn’t hard to believe. If I’m God and you’re God, and everybody is God, and some are more God than others, but we all are God, why is it difficult to believe that this man who says he is the Christ is God? Why is it hard to believe that he is? The text says that God will send them a deluding influence that they might believe that lie.
Now, my friend, and we are going to be talking about the end times in one these messages when we talk about how the New Age Movement hopes to bring about peace and prosperity and justice upon the earth by plugging into the force. But do you now see that the New Age Movement is really the opposite of Christianity? The one says, “God is everything and everything is God.” Christianity says, “Only God and God alone can have the universe’s throne.” There is a God independent of the universe, a God who is personal, who sees the sparrow fall to the ground, a God who will judge the world.
The New Age Movement says that salvation comes by man, recognizing that he must be reabsorbed into the divine, whereas Christianity says that our great problem is not ignorance nearly as much as it is sin. And salvation comes not through trying to find the God within us, not by taking a journey within ourselves and seeing that within ourselves are all the resources we need, but to take a good look at ourselves and to see our helplessness and our hopelessness apart from the mercy of God in Christ.
The New Age Movement says you can save yourself. Just recognize the potential that is in you, and if someone hurts you, don’t accept it, because actually it’s your fault because you are God (That’s what it teaches as we’ll notice in another message.). Whereas Christianity says, “You are not God and you need God’s help, and you need God’s forgiveness and you need His grace, and it’s to be received through Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. And when you receive it, you are saved and you are not among those who will be damned because they believed the lie. That’s the difference.
So, I have to ask you today. Are you saved? Are you saved? Have you ever believed in Jesus Christ and humbly received the free gift that is given to those who do not recognize their godhood but their sinfulness?
You know, one day a missionary over in India was trying to communicate with one of the folks there steeped in eastern religion, trying to communicate the difference between Christianity and what this easterner believed. And the missionary would often have discussions with the man and say to him, “You know, salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift if we acknowledge our sinfulness and come in humility and believe it is granted freely for those who trust Christ.” But the easterner would not accept it. He said, “I hope to walk 800 miles on my knees and then go to the Ganges River where I hope to be reabsorbed into the ultimate and eventually get to Nirvana, as my identity will be lost in the one big ultimate called God.”
So they couldn’t agree, but before they parted, that Indian, who was a pearl diver, gave to the missionary as an expression of friendship one of the most beautiful pearls that either of them had ever seen. And the missionary was so taken aback by the gift and so touched by it, he said, “Let me pay you for it.” And the man said, “No, that is an insult. I would never let you pay for this pearl.” And he said, “I’ll tell you why. It’s because this pearl was caught by my son, but he died in the process.” So he said, “As I give you the pearl, there is no price that you can possibly give to me for it because it represents the life of my own son. You must only receive it free.” And the missionary said to himself, “Aha, I found a way to explain the Gospel to my Indian friend.”
God says that when Jesus Christ died on the cross that death was so special because it was a death for sin. It was God giving His best so that those who come in simple faith and humbly receiving Jesus Christ as a free gift, recognizing their helplessness and their sin, they receive it in faith, and it is theirs, forgiveness, acceptance with God, theirs forever. And it can’t be earned, and you don’t have the resources inside you to pull it off on your own.
We can pretend a lot of things. We can pretend like the basketball team pretended, but when you are lost forever, all the pretending in the world will never get you where you ought to be. It’s faith in Christ who alone can save. That is the answer to the deepest needs of your heart.
This morning in my devotional time I happened to just read Psalm 16, and the verse just flipped out at me, just like that. This is what is says. It says, “The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god shall be multiplied.” There is only one God, independent of the universe. He can be approached only one way, and that is through Christ, the Savior, who died that we might know Him.
And if you will, shall we pray?
Our Father, today we want to thank You so much that Your word is truth. And Lord, we’re concerned about the many people who are traveling in all kinds of different ways, seeking all different kinds of techniques to get in contact with the ultimate, but being unwilling to face the fact that they are sinners and must come through Christ alone to God the Father. We pray for those who may be here today who do not know that, or who have never received Christ. We ask, O Father, that graciously and gently You shall bring them to that point of faith. We ask that Your Holy Spirit would help them see their need, that they might respond to Him, and Him alone. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.