DISCERNMENT

My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace. [Proverbs 3:21-22 (NLT)]

snowy egret I recently received an email from a Christian bookstore apologizing for one of their advertisements. Apparently, there had been objections to their “journaling” Bible ad, not because of the possible defacing of a Bible with doodles but because of the ad’s subject line: “Channel Your Inner Creative.” Customers protested their use of “inappropriate” New Age language. While the store’s goal had been to “embrace and celebrate the gift of creativity,” some people thought they were touting “channeling,” a New Age form of spiritualism. When channeling, people yield control of their discerning and reasoning faculties and enter a meditative or trancelike state in order to receive messages from a spiritual guide. When I first saw the ad, I gave no thought to its wording; I simply thought they were offering Bibles with extra wide margins so the reader could write notes or prayers on the pages. In their apology, the store promised to be “more vigilant and discerning” about their messaging. My first reaction upon receiving the apology was, ”Come on people—get a life!” I considered the complainers to be the kind of prissy judgmental people who give Christians a bad name.

The term “New Age” might make us think of crystals, meditation benches and cushions, incense burners, and Shirley MacLaine. After reading the store’s apology, however, I thought about people like Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch and Deepak Chopra and realized how much New Age thinking has crept into our lives and vocabulary. We search for authentic selves, follow Spirit’s guidance, personally transform and self-nurture, love ourselves into wholeness, commit to our spiritual awakening and enlightenment, visualize, and even channel. With its deceptively seductive vocabulary, New Age philosophy preaches an individual eclectic approach to “spiritual exploration.” Yes, we are made in the image and likeness of God but the New Age viewpoint would have us think that makes us divine. Being made in God’s image is most definitely not having His divine essence; although Satan tries daily to convince us otherwise, we are not God.

After giving the store’s apology more thought, I stopped criticizing those who’d protested their words (after all, I’d been as critical of them as they were of the store.) In fact, I applaud their diligence. Every day, we are bombarded with assorted philosophies that seem harmless. We read words that, while somewhat incomprehensible, seem extremely profound. When we have trouble making sense of the weighty verbiage, we think it is our fault. It’s not; it’s because the words are those of fake spiritual guides and charlatans. We all should be more vigilant and discerning about the words we read and the vocabulary we use. May we always remember: if it isn’t compatible with the Bible, it’s counterfeit.

The New Age Movement is a kind of yuppie religious expression in which you can have everything without any discomfort or pain or inconvenience. [Harvey Cox]

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. [1 John 4:1-3 (NLT)]

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