By Marsha West
July 21, 2006
Sue attends church regularly, she goes to a weekly Bible study, and sings in the praise band. She also practices yoga and consults a psychic. Sue’s boyfriend spends the night at the apartment she shares with two Christian friends. Sue is skilled at assessing a person’s character and motives—and she’s usually right about them! Her roommates are confident that Sue has the “gift of discernment.” Are they right or wrong? What criteria are Christians to use to determine whether or not someone is spiritually discerning?
God wants to mold our lives according to what’s in His Word. Christians who conscientiously study the Bible develop discernment. Christians looking for quick answers instead of truth can study the Bible until the Pacific Ocean turns into Hawaiian Punch and will never gain an ounce of discernment.
A thorough study of the Bible will equip the believer with understanding and wisdom that leads to maturity. Christians who don’t take time to study 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 have not reached maturity and spend most of their time stumbling around like one-year-olds learning how to walk. That’s because they prefer drinking milk to eating meat. The time has come for milk drinkers to introduce meat into their diet. The mature Christian has cut his teeth on the meat of God’s Word.
“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.” He then points out, “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. “Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles. Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:5-7 - NLT).
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 recognize false prophets, aberrant teaching and flawed doctrine. What a person is saying or teaching should line up with Scripture or it’s false. “Do not believe every spirit,” said John, “but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4: - NIV).
In this day and age many Christians don’t bother to test the spirits and fall prey to all sorts of false teaching. If believers took the time to weigh and examine what’s being taught, false prophets couldn’t deceive them. “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (Proverbs 15:14 - NIV).
Discernment is so lacking in the Church that a large number of Christians are dabbling in mystical practices. In a word, paganism. They may be dabbling just for the fun of it but that excuse won’t wash with God. In Deuteronomy 18:9-12 He says, “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no-one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.”
Could He be any clearer than this? He despises sorcery!
Millions of Christians ignore God’s warning. Instead of taking Him at His word, they demand to know what’s so wrong with holistic health remedies, astrology, holding séances, contacting spirit guides or angels, and altered consciousness. “People who do these things are an abomination to God.” So, if you don’t mind being an abomination to God, feel free to sit in on a séance.
Christians must come to understand that God made them and He owns them. The parameters He’s 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 why it’s unhealthy. The occultic 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. Which is 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).
The unprotected Christian falls prey to deception, which is why we must have a thorough understanding of the New Age movement. Today it is commonly called New Age Spirituality (NAS). Whatever you call it, it’s the modern day equivalent of sorcery. NAS is deeply ingrained in our culture. It has also made inroads into the Church.
Defining NAS is difficult because it is both eclectic and diverse. There’s no hierarchy, no membership, no specific doctrine and no dogma. New Age followers believe that they are “one with the universe and a part of God.” Because mankind is ignorant of their divine nature, personal enlightenment during mystical experiences will bring them out of their ignorance into a total awareness of their divinity. Higher consciousness can be achieved through the help of so-called angels, spirit guides, psychics, and through meditation, 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.
As well, New Age followers embrace 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 the Star Wars films.
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 - NIV).
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.” Sound familiar?
New Age followers 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. That’s why is so important to learn what someone really believes about God. A discerning Christian will pick up on the deception. Always find out what a professing Christian believes about Jesus. Is He the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, as orthodox Christians believe? Is He the Son of God? The Savior of the world? If someone’s view of God is radically different from what the Bible teaches, that person is not a Christian!
Believe it or not, many New Agers actually read the Bible; however, it’s not the final authority in their lives as it is for Christians. I often hear them on the radio or observe them on TV tossing out Bible verses. The problem is, they manipulate the long-established interpretation of Scripture so that it supports their warped version of truth. (They especially enjoy torturing the words of Jesus.) How arrogant! They declare that they’re “purifying the errors of Christianity.” Not surprisingly, their purified version of words and concepts contradicts the Bible. Tossing out Bible quotes and utilizing Christian terms does not translate into authentic Christianity. What New Age followers espouse is a gnostic and metaphysical gospel. The truth is, most New Agers are patently anti Christian.
Sadly, what’s being taught from pulpits all over America is a New Age gospel that has replaced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These preachers may talk about God, quote Scripture, and speak fluent “Christianese,” but they’re not from God. In fact, their eternal souls are separated from God and in need of reconciliation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
“For most Christians today,” says Robert Bowman, “the challenge of learning how to discern orthodox from heretical doctrine has apparently not been faced. Either they treat doctrine as minimally important and so regard charges of "heresy" as rude and unloving, or they treat doctrine as all-important and so regard anyone who disagrees with them in the slightest as a heretic. In short, most believers seem to think either that there are almost no heretics or that almost everybody outside their own little group is a heretic.
“The cause of doctrinal discernment, then, is in serious jeopardy. Although anticult and discernment ministries are mushrooming everywhere, many of them operate on the basis of an excessively narrow understanding of orthodoxy. Consequently, such groups are charged deservedly with "heresy hunting" and discredit the practice of doctrinal discernment. At the other extreme—and often overreacting to such heresy hunters—are those within the Christian community who reject any warnings of heresy among professing Christians.”
Orthodox Christianity has been under attack for two thousand years. Paul gave this warning to the Church at Corinth, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Cor. 3:1-15 NLT).
Today, feelings and experiences have taken precedence over doctrine in much of Christendom. Christians think they’re free to pick and choose the parts of their faith that they agree with, and toss out the rest. This helps explain why so many believers are involved in the pagan practices brought to us courtesy of the New Age movement. When Christians lose their scriptural base they’re open to almost anything! “[I]f you want to go deeper in your relationship with God, then you have to know about Him and who He is,” says Ben Shin of Talbot Theological Seminary. “That’s why doctrine and theology are really key because they give us deeper knowledge of Him.” Every heretical doctrine that has slithered into the Church has started with the misconception of the nature of God.
When someone’s involved in any way, shape or form in the occultic arts, inform them what the scriptures say about dabbling in sorcery. A Christian will want to know the truth about everything, above all the practices God detests. If truth matters he or she won’t be satisfied with anything else. When confronted with truth, Christians are never to act proud and arrogant. Those who have adopted an unbiblical doctrine or fallen prey to aberrant teaching must set aside their pride and own up to their mistake—no matter what the cost.
There’s no excuse for a serious Christian to settle for milk instead of meat. “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NIV).
Mature Christians ought to be teachers! Teachers must be equipped to handle the word of truth. As well, they must have knowledge and spiritual insight, which comes only through the reading and study of God’s Word—plus constant prayer! Mature believers are sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. They understand the difference between right and wrong, important and inconsequential, good and evil. They’re vigilant at all times—always on the lookout for Satan’s weapons of mass destruction.
In these dark days ahead, Christians who lack spiritual discernment are dead in the water.
1. A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy - Robertt M. Bowman
© 2006 Marsha West - All Rights Reserved
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Marsha West is the Founder and Editor of the E-Mail Brigade News Report, an online news report for conservative people of faith. Marsha is a freelance writer specializing in Christian worldview. She is a regular contributor to NewsWithViews.com, Alainsnewsletter.com, CapitolHillCoffeeHouse.com, plus her commentaries appear in MichNews.com and bibleteacher.org.
is also designer and webmaster of a Christian apologetics website, On
Solid Rock Resources. She is currently writing a series of children's
books for homeschoolers. Marsha and her husband reside in historic Jacksonville
Christians think they’re free to pick and choose the parts of their faith that they agree with, and toss out the rest. This helps explain why so many believers are involved in the pagan practices brought to us courtesy of the New Age movement.