Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Do We Love God? By Shutting Down Our Minds?

If you happen to be looking for a teacher/leader/guru who will con, dupe, and manipulate you, just look for one who will tell you to turn off your mind, your critical faculty. The Hindu guru Baghwan Shree Rajneesh had stated that the,

• Goal is to create a new man, one who is happily mindless.

And this is what he did! He had his followers dance, gyrate, jerk themselves about, and to engage in orgies – whatever was required to turn off their minds and to make them subservient to his program. However, God lovingly gave us a mind for our protection and His glory:

• Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37)

Using our mind with its power for discernment is not optional. It is required!

Eckhart Tolle, Oprah Winfrey’s New Age guru, attacks rationality and discernment in a different way:

• If you go deep enough in your religion, then you all get to the same place. It’s a question of going deeper, so there’s no conflict here. The important thing is that religion doesn’t become an ideology…the moment you say 'only my belief' or 'our belief' is true, and you deny other people’s beliefs, then you’ve adopted an ideology [theology]. And then religion becomes a closed door.

Thinking and ideology are evils, while experience apart from mental discernment (unless it’s Tolle’s) is the good. He is not alone in teaching that the mind is a great obstacle to transformational experience and enlightenment. Another guru, the Emergent Church’s Tony Jones – and he labels himself “Christian” – informs us that we can’t know divine truth:

• There’ll be no cutting corners, no easy answers, no magic bullets. (The New Christians, 111)

• To assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless is the deepest arrogance, and it establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress. (114)

Not only can’t we know God’s truth, but when we think that we do, we’re just being “arrogant.” Why then bother to study Scripture and to exercise discernment! However, this is far from the Biblical message. The entire Bible is a revelation of God. Rather than this revelation making us arrogant, we are told that the knowledge of God is the one thing that we can boast about:

• "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Throughout the Bible, we are instructed that this knowledge is of critical importance. In contrast, Jones assures us of his surpassing knowledge:

• The Kingdom of God is expansive, explosive, and un-pin-downable (to coin a phrase). Consequently, our characterizations of God and God’s Kingdom are necessarily fleeting? (114)

If God can’t be pinned-down, then God can’t be understood. Nevertheless, Jones seems to understand a lot about our inability to understand.

Dismissing knowledge creates a vacuum. The Emergent Church is quick to fill it with experience. Consequently, Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and the contemplative spirituality movement have become popular when Scripture is disparaged. Foster argues that we miss out on the blessings of God without using his techniques – silence, visualizations, imaginations:

• Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day. Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord. In sleep the child is very receptive to prayer since the conscious mind, which tends to erect barriers to God’s gentle influence, is relaxed. (39)

Scripture never teaches that our “conscious mind” is a barrier against His influence. Instead, He is omnipotent! His grace cannot be impeded by our weaknesses!

Furthermore, we are not in need of Foster’s unscriptural techniques. Instead we have EVERYTHING we need in Christ:

• For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)

If we refuse to believe in this “fullness,” we become vulnerable to every false promise to fill some area in our lives where we feel empty. Not only are we complete in Christ, Scripture gives us sufficient guidance for every spiritual matter:

• All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

We commonly hear claims that we fail to receive the good things from the Holy Spirit, because we block Him by thinking too much. Pastor John Arnott of the Vineyard Toronto Airport Church (“Toronto Blessing”) argued that the “greatest deception” was a matter of missing out on the blessings of the Spirit because of a concern about being deceived:

• If you’re going to be concerned about deception, then please be concerned about the greatest deception that there is, and the greatest deception of all, in my opinion, is not to fall for teachings of a false prophet or fall for some, you know, wild goose chase of a rabbit trail out there or whatever and wake up in tens years [sic] that you’ve been deceived. In my opinion the greatest deception of all is to have a move of God come through and you not recognize it. (Quoted by Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival, 231)

However, this does not line up with Jesus’ opinion. He was very concerned that His sheep might stray into false teaching:

• "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast [or “teachings”] of the Pharisees and that of Herod." (Mark 8:15)

• "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

Paul also warned about the dangers of false teaching:

• See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col. 2:8)

According to both Paul and Jesus, missing out on divine blessings wasn’t a matter of exercising too much mental discernment or mental activity. Instead, it was a matter of listening to false teaching. Paul tearfully warned the Ephesian elders about this threat:

• I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard…(Acts 20:29-31)

The flock wouldn’t suffer because they failed to be open to new experiences but distorted teachings. Paul therefore argued that an Elder,

• Must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it…They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach... (Titus 1:9-11)

When we turn off our critical faculties in order to experience something new and exciting, we shouldn’t expect the Spirit to bless us. Why should He, when we are walking contrary to His Word. He warned us that

• And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor. 11:14-15)

We therefore mustn’t listen to those who are teaching contrary to the Word, even if they are performing miracles:

• If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 13:1-3)

When we put other things above Scripture – experience, miracles, social concerns…whatever – we prove that we don’t love the Lord with all of our “heart and…soul.” Loving God is a matter of keeping His Word (John 14:21-24; 15:6-10). This is how He wants to be loved.

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