Scripture Reference: Matthew 22:37-39
Uniting The New Age With The Old AgeDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | November 22, 1987
Selected highlights from this sermon
The Church has always had a problem with adding in some of the world’s values and doctrines. We’ve seen the church succumb to the exaltation of man, instead of seeing ourselves as sinners before a holy God.
Why are we so quick to turn away from biblical truth? It’s because we harbor unbelief.
The older I get the more I realize how much prayer we really need, and that the human heart can really only be touched by the Spirit of God. It’s not what I say, it is not what the choir sings, it is not what we may think. It is God that touches the hearts of people, so would you pray with me that God might speak to each of us today in a very powerful way, and that the people beside you and behind you might also experience His blessing and hear His voice.
Our Father, we ask today in the name of Christ that in these moments You might have our complete attention. And though we speak about things that may be controversial, we ask, Father, that You shall give us the guidance and the ability and the enlightenment of the Spirit through the word that we seek. We pray for those today, Father, who may resist some things that are being said, and we ask that You will help them to be open and to probe their own hearts, that we might know the truth, the truth that can set us free. We ask, Father, for those who have had occult experiences. We thank You that in Your grace, You deliver Your people. For those who even now may be turning to other gods and not know it, we ask, Father, for clarity of thought, for openness of heart, and we ask that these next moments may be Your moments, and we shall thank You, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
You know, the Bible teaches that the church is to be in the world, like a ship is in water, but when water gets into the ship, the ship is in trouble. Jesus spoke about being in the world, but not of the world, and I’d like to suggest to you today that the evangelical ship may be taking on water.
Maybe one of the greatest problems that the church has had throughout its two thousand years of history is the great temptation to absorb within itself the teachings of the world. The first indication of this, the first major turn of events was when Constantine became emperor of the Roman Empire back in 1314, I believe it was, or shall I say 314, not 1314. And Constantine made Christianity acceptable and said that it should become, and later it became, the religion of the Empire. The Christians had been persecuted, and now they had times of rest and peace, and they welcomed this new era of peace and conciliation.
It was during this period of time that the church began to embrace paganism, and accepted paganism within itself. It amalgamated the current paganism of the day with Christian teachings. For example, the Romans had gods for everything. They were polytheists. The had gods of the sea. The had gods of the land. They had gods that you prayed to if you wanted to sell something. They had gods that you prayed to when you wanted to buy something. They had gods that guarded you when you went on your journey. And so they had many, many different gods, and Christianity embraced this teaching, and the Christian leaders did not want to become polytheists, so they changed it and they said, “We cannot accept other gods, but we will give these responsibilities to dead saints.” And so people began to pray to the saints. And there was a saint that would help you on the journey. And there was a saint that would help you to buy. And there was a saint that would help you to sell, all because of the fact that paganism was embraced by the church.
In the eighteenth century you have another example of the world embracing the prevailing zeitgeist, the spirit of the age of the day, and that was rationalism. The rise of rationalism said that God cannot create, God cannot do miracles, God cannot do these things that we have ascribed to Him. He does not intervene. He does not see the sparrow fall to the ground. So rationalism says, “God does not create any miracles today. He is distant from the world. At best He created the world originally but now he has no intervention.” And so, for the first time in the history of the church, unbelievers who were always outside the church, now became a part of the church, and theological liberalism was born with its belief that God is not a miraculous personal God who intervenes in the affairs of men.
Today we see the church embracing the world as well in dozens of different ways. But the only way I want to discuss today is through the New Age Movement that we’ve been talking about in the last four messages. Remember that the New Agers say that God is all and all is God. Ultimate reality is spiritual reality. In fact, the world is an illusion, and what you have to do is to get beyond this world to ultimate spiritual reality, and in that reality you are in contact with your higher self, and not only that, but you can find all sources of energy and power within yourself as you go down deep within in the crevices of the mind to find all the strength that you need because actually you are God. And your great need is not for forgiveness and reconciliation to God, your great need is for enlightenment. And so, as we’ve noticed in other messages, there are more than 150 different techniques to find the God within you, whether is it centering, or biofeedback, or meditation, or whatever it is, there are techniques to get in touch with the world beyond.
We’ve explained how that each of these techniques happens to be a bridge to occult power, so people who get involved in these things suddenly find that they are involved with demonic spirits. Ten days ago I was with a friend of mine. He said that there was this fine Christian family and they had a teenage daughter who came home one day cursing, swearing, saying all kinds of things that this young woman had never said in her life before. They couldn’t figure it out. What had happened? He discovered that she had been controlled by a demonic spirit, but how does a young woman in a Christian home suddenly have such a change in character? What happened? He discovered that it was because that day she had been introduced to transcendental meditation in the school, and she had been meditating, trying to think about nothing to get in touch with her higher self. So we find that the world today is really drifting toward the occult, but doing it in subtle American ways.
Now, if Satan came here today in the church, and he came down this aisle, and he walked, and he stood here and said, “I’d like to say a word on the lower platform,” and we turned on the microphone. If Satan came, and we knew that he was the devil, and he gave a speech and said, “I am here to deceive all of you. I would like to control you. I have come to steal and to come and to destroy. How many of you would like to come with me?” You know, I think if we voted on it, the vote would be somewhat lopsided. We would all say, “Satan, be gone. We want nothing to do with you. We have no takers here.” But that’s not the way he is coming to us today. He is coming to us subtly. He has the wisdom to know that he will never capture the evangelical wing of the church unless he comes with two necessary prerogatives. First, what he presents has to appear to be biblical. We know that there’s no way, we’re not going to accept it if it’s not in the Bible, so what he does is he takes the teachings of Scripture and twists them, and people use the verses of the Bible to say certain things that appear to be of God. And he knows that that’s necessary.
Secondly, what he presents has to work. We who live in America, we are above all pragmatists. Show us something that will work and we’ll accept it. So, with those two provisions he begins to deceive the world. And what he needs to get to us in the evangelical community are various bridges by which we can become involved with him and not know it and think that we are doing the will of God.
Now with that introduction I’m going to say some things today that may be a little controversial, but you know, I’ve done that before. You should just see the mail I’ve been getting in light of this New Age series. So what I’d like to do is very gently and sweetly suggest just four bridges that Satan is using to help people become embroiled in something that could lead to New Age teaching. It’s borderline. That’s why I must speak carefully because some of it sounds biblical. It seems right, but at root it is wrong.
The first bridge is the bridge of secular psychology, the welding together of secular psychology with Christianity. A professor of psychology by the name of Paul Vitts at the University in New York, Ph.D., in Psychology, says, “Psychology as a religion has great strength in the United States, and it is deeply anti-Christian.” You take, for example, psychologists such as Carl Jung or Eric Fromm. Eric Fromm wrote a book entitled, “You Shall Be As Gods.” He took the words right out of Satan’s mouth and wrote a book on the divinity of man. These people were into the New Age long before you and I ever knew what the term meant. And so secular psychology says, “Since you are God, one of the things that you must do above all things is accept yourself. You must have a good self-concept. And the bottom line is self-acceptance. Heaven help the person who doesn’t accept himself. That’s the great sin is to not accept yourself. And what they mean by that is, first of all, you have to accept yourself and your sin, and secondly, if you feel uncomfortable and guilty with yourself, you don’t have to change your behavior. You have to embrace a self-concept that is big enough to include your behavior. And so everybody today is in love with themselves, and God help you if you aren’t.
Now, Christians looked at this teaching and they said, “You know, we kind of like it. The idea of loving yourself is a great idea. The question is can we find it somewhere in the Bible? That’s the question. It has to be biblical.” So they turned to the words of Christ who says, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself,” and they said, “Aha, there it is. You are supposed to love the Lord your God and your neighbor as you love yourself. It is right to love yourself.” So you have all kinds of books in the last 20 years. By the way, I challenge you to find one of the books by evangelical authors that say we should love ourselves before the last 20 years. They just don’t exist. All the saints in the past, can you imagine how warped their personalities must have been? They didn’t know that they were supposed to love themselves. They used to think that loving yourself was a vice. They didn’t know that that was the thing to do.
So you have all these Christians writing books on self-love. There are books entitled “How to Love Yourself.” I’m talking about dozens of books on how to love yourself. Robert Schuller in his book, “Self Esteem: the New Reformation,” says, “It was appropriate for Luther and Calvin to think theocentrically with God at the center, but,” he says, “times have changed.” And I’m quoting now. “What we need is a theology of salvation that begins and ends with the recognition for every person’s hunger for glory.” Do you remember the days when sin was a violation of the Law of God? He says, “Sin is any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or self esteem.” That’s what sin is.
I have read books that have ridiculed the song writing of Isaac Watts and his songs because he wrote a song that we sometimes sing that goes like this:
Alas, and did my Savior bleed,
and did my sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?
And I’ve seen that quoted with ridicule. They say the awful thing, just think, this worm theology is just terrible. What we have to do is to recognize we aren’t worms. We are of infinite value, and therefore loved unconditionally by God. So the therapists who accept everybody–now suddenly in evangelical circles it is God, the cosmic therapist, who accepts me just as I am, and I don’t have to change, because He’s loving and He loves me unconditionally.
I was reading one Christian author who said that there was this beautiful young woman, and she was a Norwegian girl who had a bad self-concept. She didn’t like her looks, and so he said he asked her to look into the mirror. And she looked into the mirror and she closed her eyes, and he asked her to open her eyes, and eventually she was able to look at herself, and then he got her to repeat several times, “I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful.” And he said that this helped her so tremendously in developing a better self-concept.
Well, my friends, I have to smile for this reason. I need a self-concept that works not only for beautiful young women, but also for ugly old men. That’s what I need. (laughter) I need a perception of self that is so good that it works for people who wouldn’t dare look into a mirror lest they break it. My dear friend, there is a need for a self-concept. Let me give you how some of the saints originated their self-concept.
Isaiah in the presence of God: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
What about Job who sees God. He says, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
What about Peter in the presence of Christ? He says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
What about Paul? He says, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
You say, “Well, all these people were warped psychologically–such awful things about themselves.” My friend, they were the only sane people that we’ve got. Listen to me carefully. It is important to have a self-concept, but that self-concept says that I am a helpless, desperate, needy sinner in the presence of a holy, wondrous, righteous God, and I’ve got to repent in dust and ashes. And when I do that, Jesus said, “Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs shall be the kingdom of heaven.”
When I see myself like that in the presence of God, He in grace saves me and lifts me up and gives me a sense of identity and a sense of fulfillment that arises not out of love for myself but out of appreciation and love of Him. That’s the whole secret.
One day Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to take the Israelites out of Egypt?” He asked the great philosophical question of the twentieth century. “Who am I?” Did God say, “Now, what I’d like to do is to just give you a lecture. Moses, you have a bad self-concept. What you have to do is to understand that you have to have a better image of yourself.” God never even answered his question. God says, “Moses, here’s the answer to your question. I am the Lord. I am the Lord.”
You say, “Well aren’t we of inherent value?” I like what Luther said. Luther says, “God doesn’t love me because I have inherent value. I have inherent value because God loves me.” No wonder we have so many people with psychological and emotional problems, running around trying to love themselves when there isn’t very much nice to love frankly.
Do you know that there are people who come for counseling who know more than the counselor? They will say, “You know, I’m all messed up. I’ve really got problems. I’ve done this, that and the other thing, and I really have some deep needs.” And the counselor says, “Oh no, no, you’re being too hard on yourself. You know what you have to do is realize that what you’re doing, everybody’s doing. You’re very normal.” My dear friend, they’re on the verge of getting some help, if they understand that they have a need that only God is able to meet.
And so, God is not that cosmic therapist. Whenever we exalt ourselves we dethrone God, and what we need in society today is a proper understanding of our need and to know that the Bible says that the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, and that unconditional acceptance is not found in the Scriptures. Even for believers, yes, legally we have unconditional acceptance but God disciplines us when we sin. He strikes at us and He brings us low, and if that does not happen to you, the Bible says you are not a believer. It says you are an illegitimate child.
And so people are into themselves today. Instead of loving God they are preoccupied with loving themselves. The Bible says that in the day, the end time, men shall be lovers of their own selves, perverse, and then it goes on to list all of the qualities of the end times.
Secondly, the combining of the science of mind with biblical promises, the science of mind. Remember the New Age says that whatever you can believe you can achieve. In a book, “The Magic of Believing,” it says, “By a full and powerful imagination anything can be brought about in concrete form. Reality can be reordered by using images. Images can influence reality to such an extent that they become reality.” Another writer says, “The key to power is that we pray to go into the depths of our inmost self to get the power and to realize that I am the power.”
I have so many other quotes but my time is going by so quickly. Let me simply say that Christians then have taken some of these ideas and they have combined them with the promises of God. They said, “Jesus said that if you ask for anything you’ll receive it. Therefore, whatever you can conceive, you can have.”
Look at this famous writer. “God has given us authority over disease, demons, sicknesses, storms, and finances. We continue to ask God to act when, in fact, He has given us the authority to act with divinely empowered speech. We are to declare that authority in Jesus’ name. We are to command the money to come to us, command the storm to be stilled, command the demon to come out, command the leg to grow, command the cancer to leave.” There is some truth in this, but there’s nothing said about verses that say, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Very little is said about the fact that if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me. It’s just “Name it! Claim it! It’s yours.”
Whatever you can imagine! I read a Christian writer just yesterday. He said that all the money in the world is going to end up in the banks of Christians because God has given believers all the wealth. And so, people are saying, “You want a Cadillac? God knows you need one. Visualize it, and pray about it, and it’ll become yours. If you have the faith to name it, you can claim it.”
Do you remember years ago? Some of you are old enough to remember the days when we used to admire missionaries who left all to follow Christ. They were our heroes. The Bible says regarding Moses that he was willing to forego the pleasures of this world and to be identified with the afflictions of his people. If Moses were alive today he would leave to become identified with the health, the wealth, the prosperity and the blessings of his people. And so today God is not only the cosmic therapist, but God also is considered to be the cosmic slot machine.
One evangelist on television said that God says that if you give a hundred dollars, you’ll get ten thousand in return because, he says, you’ll receive a hundred-fold. Therefore, he asked some of the poorest people who needed money to give him a hundred dollars that they might get ten thousand. Now, my friend, just think that through. If it is true that every time I give a hundred dollars God gives me ten thousand, why didn’t this evangelist tell his people, “Look, we need money so desperately we’re going to send a hundred dollars to anyone who needs it because every hundred we sent out we’re getting ten thousand back.” (applause)
And so people think, “I’ve given God a dime. Where is my payoff?” So the combination of the science of mind and biblical promises.
Thirdly, the bridge of inner healing. You know there are people who say in the New Age that we can heal ourselves. “Cycle immunity.” You can access all the resources that you need to heal yourself. And then there are people who come along who are into the healing business, and they say that they are doing it through spirit guides. One writer says, “I asked Jesus to send His mother, Mary, to give the person (He says if it’s a young person who hasn’t had much love while growing up), I send Jesus to send His mother, Mary, to give this person love and security.” Others say, “I try to take them back so that they go back to the time when they were born, and even before birth, to remember all of their hurts, that they might be able to deal with them.” And so there are people into various kinds of inner healing today all over the place. And they are doing it in the name of Christ.
Now there are two things that are wrong with it. First of all, it’s not found in the Bible. Jesus is the one who came to heal the broken-hearted, the Bible says, and nothing is said there about my needing to go back to remember what happened even before I was born to try to excavate, as it were, all the hurts. But secondly, and this is very important, some people go on the assumption that just because you uncover hurts, you’ve taken care of them. You haven’t. I’ve known people who have gone through those kinds of experiences and they have been frustrated and angry. They discover that there were more hurts in them than they even realized. And as these hurts began to surface, all that they did was end up with more hurt.
My dear friend, God is able to deliver you from hurts that you cannot remember. He is able to take you and to heal your soul. Those hurts that we can remember certainly we must be willing to forgive them, and that is one of His means of healing, but we do not have to go into theories of healing that say you can use the name of Jesus, or you can use the name of Mary, or some other name and get the same results. And yet I find that there are Christian writers who are saying just that. And because we’re all concerned about good health, it’s easy to fall into these traps, and think we’ve stumbled on some truth that God didn’t know about, and that’s why He didn’t include it in the Bible.
Fourth, the bridge of existential experience. The bridge of existential experience. Whenever you find the New Age Movement, you discover that they exalt their experience above the Word of God. They’ll say, “I’ve had an experience, and this experience is more than what God says about it.” Somebody who is into channeling says, “I found this master of ancient wisdom, this disembodied spirit with all of this wisdom.” And you say, “Well, you know the Bible says that it’s a demon.” They say, “Oh well, no, it can’t be, because he gave me some good advice,” as if demons don’t give people good advice. Occasionally they do to deceive them.
And so people today exalt their experience above the Word of God. There’s a very famous man whose name I will not mention, who said he had a seven-hour conversation with Jesus. He said, “Jesus came to my room and for seven hours we discussed various matters.” Now my dear friend, that is heady stuff. What I wouldn’t give for ten minutes, and this man gets seven hours of conversation with Jesus Christ. That’s remarkable.
Somebody else says that they have met Mary. They have seen this saint that has appeared to them, and this saint has said this. My friends, I want to speak to you very clearly today so that there is no misunderstanding. Do you realize that when you seek such experiences that there are demons that take the name of Jesus, that take the name of Mary, that take the names of saints? And they take those names to deceive and to lead into idolatry and into bondage. It’s done all the time under the name of some good solid biblical personage.
Next week I speak on the topic, “Will the Real Christ Please Stand Up.” We’ll discover that there are many Christs. Paul says, “Don’t be moved from the Jesus that we preach to you because there are many Jesuses, and some people are going to be lost forever because they believed in the wrong one.” The bridge of existential experience.
And so people say, “God is the cosmic therapist. God is my slot machine. God is my servant. God is my roommate who sends me whomever I need, whenever I need it. He is just there to help me out. That’s why He exists.” And so the clay begins to tell the potter what to do, and the clay begins to tell the potter how reality should be ordered in this world all because we are invested with such awesome powers, oftentimes divorced from biblical teaching about sin and repentance and human need.
Now, my dear friend, why does the church go in all these different directions? Let me tell you why. It’s because at root our churches today are filled with unbelief. Filled with unbelief! I’ve heard people say, “I have tried God and He hasn’t worked. I have tried to find God and I’ve not been able to find Him.” Or, “I prayed about something and God didn’t do it, and because He didn’t do it, I’m not going to bother Him again. I’m angry with God. I don’t get any results from God,” and so being filled with unbelief our churches and our individuals in churches turn to other places to try to get something done and have something happen. And what we don’t realize is the reason we are not getting results from God is because our hearts are so indifferent and so hard and so filled with the world and so filled with lukewarmness that we no longer seem as if we are in contact with the living God. And our real answer is not to go in these different directions. Our real answer is to repent of our sins.
You know that many people think that the Laodicean church is the church of the end time. Most people think that the church at Laodicea had a great problem. Ask the average church member, “What was the great problem with the church at Laodicea?” They’d say, “Oh, I know what the problem was. It was lukewarmness.”
My dear friend, that was not the biggest problem of the church at Laodicea. Lukewarmness is really not that serious because lukewarmness has a tremendously good cure. It’s repentance! That wasn’t a problem. The problem with the church at Laodicea is that they were lukewarm and thought they were hot. It says, “Because thou sayest, I am… increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked.” You see, if they saw their lukewarmness, they could repent. If they saw their indifference, they could repent. They could cry up to God and say, “O God, revive us.” But they couldn’t see their lukewarmness. The text says they thought they had need of nothing, no use to humble ourselves. “No use to mourn and weep for our sins. We’ve got it made.” And that’s why the church had such desperate need.
You see, our need today is to see ourselves in the presence of God. And our self-concept that we’ve talked about? Our self-concept must be developed there. Our understanding of wealth and health and prosperity must be developed in humility before a sovereign God who can do as He wills with His own. Our healing must be in His hands. Our word must come from His book, and not from some spirit that meets us in the room.
A number of months ago I was reading the book of 2 Kings and there’s a very interesting story there; a king named Ahaziah. The Bible says that one day as Ahaziah was walking along he fell through from the upper chamber to the lower chamber and obviously hurt himself. And the text says he was ill. And Ahaziah, a king of Israel, sent to Baal. Of all things, he sent messengers to the god, Baal, the pagan god, Baal, and said, “Help me.” Now, what do you think the God of Israel thought of that idea? God was angry. Three times He asked this question through the prophet, Elijah. He said, “Is there not a God in Israel that you must go to Baal?” Three times God asked that question. And in the end it says that the Lord said to Ahaziah, “Because you have gone to Baal, you will not get out of bed, and you shall die.” And the text says that Ahaziah died in his bed.
I’ve got to ask you today, is there not a God in America who can give us a sense of significance and a sense of being worthwhile? Must we turn to secular theories to find the answers to life’s great questions? Is there not a God in America who can give Christians the grace to go through times of poverty and sickness so that we don’t always get what we want? Is there not a God like that in the United States? Is there not a God in America who can heal the deepest hurt of the human heart without going through kinds of therapy that lead us back even to the point of birth? Is there not a God who can take people who are bitter and hurting and guilty and make them whole? Is there not a God in the United States whose word can be believed and whose promises are sufficient? Must we go to other beings to receive communication to bypass His book? Is there not a God in Israel? Is there not a God in the United States that could bring a revival to this country? Is there not a God who can take hard hearts who are set against the Word of God, and who say, “I will not believe, regardless of what you say?” And I heard this past week someone who said that. Is there not a God in Israel who can break through a human heart like that?
There’s a God in Israel, and there’s a God in America who can but who won’t, unless we repent of all of the water that’s getting into the ship. In the world but not of it yet, but when water gets into the ship, the ship is in trouble.
Is there some water in your life, either through the New Age, some other things that you’ve allowed to creep into your life that are just taking over and turning to other things other than God?
Remember Psalm 73 when Asaph was going through that great struggle, he finally, in the temple of God, says, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth,” he says, “but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”
When you finally realize you have nothing left but God, it is then that you realize that God is enough. You don’t have to go anywhere else to find the answer to our deepest, spiritual, emotional, and physical need.
In the Old Testament they used to use balsam from the balsam plant in healing. One day God asked the same question. He said, “Is there not a balm in Gilead? Isn’t there some salve in Gilead that can heal the sin-sick soul? Do you really have to go to other countries? Do you have to go to Baal? Isn’t God enough?”
And so I ask you today, is God and His Word enough, or do we have to go somewhere else to find the answers?
Our Father and our God, we ask that in these crucial hours that You have given to us as a church, the human need all around us that is so great, hearts that are so hard and indifferent, believers whose lives are crowded with all kinds of irrelevancies, we pray that You shall bring us to repentance and faith. May we confess all of the alliances that we have made. May we confess those alliances, Father, with false gods, and may we find You to be sufficient we ask.
For those who have never believed on Christ as Savior, they’ve never responded to Him, we ask that the Holy Spirit will show them their need, that they may believe in the Redeemer.
We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.