You can find more of Marsha West’s work at the new discernment site http://bereanresearch.org/
Marsha West writes:
Sue’s a self-professed Christian who attends church and a Bible study regularly and sings with the praise and worship team. Sue also practices yoga, consults a psychic medium, plays the Ouija Board game with friends and believes in reincarnation.
Sue and her boyfriend sleep together in the apartment she shares with two friends from church. No one questions what goes on behind closed doors. Sue and Tim, who’s an atheist, plan to marry someday so she believes God will overlook this “sin.” Her roommates are on the same page.
Because Sue is skilled at assessing a person’s character and motives — and she’s usually right — she boasts that she has the “gift of discernment.” Her roommates agree.
Whether or not Sue is a Christian remains to be seen. What’s clear by the choices she makes is that she’s out of God’s will. So, does a person who goes against God have the “gift of discernment”? What criteria should we use to determine if a person is discerning?
First off, there’s no doubt that God wants to mold our lives according to what is written in His Word. There’s no doubt that God wants to bring us into conformity with His will. And there’s no doubt that believers who conscientiously study the Bible will develop spiritual discernment. However, Christians looking for quick answers instead of truth can study the Bible until the Pacific Ocean turns into Hawaiian Punch and they’ll never truly know God’s will for their lives nor will they gain an ounce of discernment.
A thorough study of the Bible will equip believers with understanding and wisdom that leads to maturity. Christians who don’t know the Bible are unable to differentiate between God’s purpose and desire for their lives from their own aspirations.
The sincere Christian’s desire is to grow in the knowledge of our risen Lord and to walk in step with Him. Regrettably a large number of believers remain “baby Christians.” Baby Christians spend a great deal of time stumbling around like one-year-olds learning to walk, preferring milk to meat. There’s no time like the present for milk drinkers to introduce meat into their diet!
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14) (Emphasis added)
“The Bible is the revelation of things as they really are,” said the late Ray Stedman. “It represents the only truly realistic look at life that is available to man today. It is the only instrument provided by God that is adequate to the task of producing mature, well-adjusted, whole persons.” Moreover, “It’s not the book, but the Lord that the book reveals that is our food.”
Jesus Christ is our sustenance, our nourishment, our provision. No one who neglects the Bible will become a mature Christian. (Proverbs 1:5-7)
The Holy Spirit gives guidance to those who explore God’s Word. He shows us what He wants us to do and be. He’s our teacher and the dispenser of discernment. With the Spirit in our corner we won’t be taken in by counterfeits. We’ll come to recognize false prophets, aberrant teaching and flawed doctrine. What a person says and teaches should line up with Scripture or it’s false. John warns:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 1:1)
In this day and age many Christians don’t bother to test the spirits and fall prey to all sorts of false teaching. When believers decide to take the time to weigh and examine what’s being taught they won’t be deceived.
Sadly, the contemporary Church is so lacking in discernment that even self-professed Christians, like Sue, dabble in pagan practices. Believers say they’re dabbling for the fun of it, but that excuse won’t wash with God. In Deuteronomy 18: 9-12, He warns:
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.
Could the Lord be any clearer than that? He despises sorcery!
Yet millions of Christians completely ignore God’s warning. Instead of taking Him at His word they demand to know what’s so wrong with astrology, holding séances, contacting spirit guides or angels — and what’s wrong with meditating? I mean, everyone’s doing it! Meditation is beyond the scope of this article but before I move on I need to point out that many Christians have been sucked into “Spiritual Formation.” SF promotes contemplative prayer (listening prayer, breath prayer, centering prayer) and those who practice this sort of prayer say they do it to connect with God on a deeper level and to hear His voice. In order to hear the voice of God, they believe, one must practice “Christian” mantra meditation. The aim in mantra meditation is to empty one’s mind of all thought. This technique, called Transcendental Meditation, has its roots in Hinduism which is a pagan religion. So let’s be clear: “Whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.” If you don’t mind being an abomination (disgrace, repugnant) feel free to sit in on a séance.
Christians must come to understand that God made them and He owns them. The parameters He has set for His people to live by are for their ultimate good. God makes no bones about sorcery. It’s a health hazard!
Here’s the main reason it’s unhealthy. The occult arts are part of Satan’s strategy of evil tricks and deception, designed to lead humans astray. The Bible teaches that Satan and his demons (fallen angels) are real beings that exist in the spirit realm. These beings are out to destroy the human race. That’s why Paul warned believers to “Put on the full Armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10, 11).
Unarmed Christians fall prey to deception so we must have a fair amount of knowledge on the cults and the occult. For the purpose of this article I’ll focus on the New Age movement because it is in the realm of the occult. The preferred term is New Age Spirituality (NAS). Call it what you will, “spiritually” is the modern day equivalent of ancient paganism. Neo-Paganism traditions and practices are deeply ingrained in our culture and have made inroads into the Roman Catholic Church as well as evangelical and mainline churches.
Defining NAS is difficult because it is both eclectic and diverse. There’s no hierarchy, no membership, no specific doctrine and no dogma. New Agers believe they are “one with the universe and a part of God.” Because we are ignorant of our divine nature, personal enlightenment during mystical experiences will bring us out of our ignorance into a total awareness of our divinity. Higher consciousness can be achieved through the help of so-called angels, spirit guides, psychics and through meditation, yoga (even so-called Christian yoga), drugs, and other Eastern religious practices.
One of the most distinctive beliefs of the New Age movement is monism — the belief that all of reality is essentially one. Hence, everything that exists is part of a single organic whole. Since all is essentially one, no difference exists between good and evil.
New Agers hold to pantheism — the belief that God is everything and everything is God. Simply put, God is an impersonal all-pervading energy and is one and the same as the universe. God is an “it” like the “Force” in Star Wars.
New Age religion not only goes against Scripture and tradition; it goes against reason.
Christianity believes that God has shown Himself in the pages of scripture. “God is separate from his creation,” said the late Paul E. Little. “He is transcendent — above and beyond His creation, the heavens and the earth. He is not a slave to the natural law He authored, but is independent of it and above it. He can override it at will — though normally He does not interfere with it. He is exalted and eternal, the world’s Creator, Sovereign, and Judge.” He is a personal, all-knowing, all-loving God.
There’s no question that the Bible condemns occult practices. So, would Jesus Christ involve Himself in something He condemns? No! Jesus never speaks through spirit guides, psychics or mediums, nor does He give guidance through the Ouija board. But demons do! Demons are powerful, odious and deceitful. For centuries demons have been masquerading as spirit guides, voices from beyond the grave, even guardian angles. What is their motive? To trick, to deceive and to control lives! Make no mistake about it: Satan’s aim is to take a multitude of humans to hell with him. Peter gave this stern warning to keep believers from stepping into the devil’s trap: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Satan has introduced many counterfeit gods. Berit Kjos explains what the world’s counterfeit gods are like:
“They must be strong but permissive; compassionate but amoral, unifying but tolerant toward all beliefs except those that clash with the vision of solidarity. This new, more affirming image has already permeated religions around the world. His names don’t really matter, for they would all represent the same universal deity — re-imagined under the banner of love, tolerance and unity.”
New Agers often sound like Christians. They’ll talk about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit — even the atonement and salvation. But don’t be fooled! They redefine Christian terms to fit their own religious beliefs, thus the importance of probing to discover what someone really believes about God. A discerning Christian will pick up on the deception. Always find out what a self-professed Christian believes about Jesus. Is He the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as orthodox Christians believe? Is He the Son of God and the Savior of the world? If someone’s view of God is radically different from what the Bible teaches, that person is a counterfeit!
It’s important to note that every heretical doctrine that has slithered into the Church “begins with the misconception of the nature of God.”
Believe it or not, many New Agers actually read the Bible but it’s not the final authority in their lives as it is for the Christian. I often hear them on the radio or observe them on TV tossing out Bible verses and then manipulate the long-established interpretation to make it support their version of truth. Their defense is that they are “purifying the errors of Christianity.” Not surprisingly their purified version of words and concepts contradict the Bible. Tossing out Bible quotes and utilizing Christian terms does not translate into authentic Christianity. In fact most New Agers are anti Christian.
In many contemporary churches a New Age, metaphysical gospel has replaced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preachers may talk about God, quote Scripture, and speak fluent “Christianese,” but they’re counterfeits. So their eternal souls are separated from God and in need of reconciliation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
In our postmodern moral relativistic world, a person’s “feelings” and “experiences” take precedence over doctrine. Moreover, many believers have this idea that they’re free to pick and choose the parts of their faith that they agree with, and just toss out what doesn’t mesh with their lifestyle! This is the primary reason so many believers are involved in the sorts of pagan practices I mentioned earlier. What happens when Christians lose their scriptural base? They’re open to almost anything!
How do we remedy this crisis? Listen to the wise words of Ben Shin of Talbot Theological Seminary:
…if you want to go deeper in your relationship with God, then you have to know about Him and who He is. That’s why doctrine and theology are really key because they give us deeper knowledge of Him. (Emphasis added)
So — when a person is involved in any way, shape, or form in the occult arts, inform him/her what the scriptures say. A Christian will want to know the truth about everything, above all the practices God detests. If truth matters he/she won’t be satisfied with anything else. When confronted with truth, Christians are never to become defensive, proud or arrogant. Those who have adopted an unbiblical doctrine or have fallen prey to aberrant teaching must set aside their pride and own up to their mistake no matter what the cost!
Going back to Sue and her roommates, by now it should be obvious that they are immature believers at best and it’s possible they’re not saved. Does Sue have “powers of discernment”? I’ll let you decide.
Articles on Contemplative Prayer — On Solid Rock Resources
Articles on the New Age Movement — On Solid Rock Resources
Articles on the Occult — On Solid Resources
Articles on yoga — On Solid Rock Resources
© Marsha West