Friday's Sydney Morning Herald has an article entitled "Bring our the Broom, we're off to Church!" It asks: "What are the fastest growing religions in Australia? Buddhism? Islam? Pentecostal Christians? No Think druids and pagans, witches, Scientology and spiritualism. From the Australian census, 30,000 Australians identify with these New Age religions. In one of the most urbanised nations on earth, nature based religions are by far the fastest growing religions in Australia." (Leonie Lamont SMH 26/9/97)
This year 50,000 men and women attended the Mind*Body*Spirit festival. This festival is a collection of practitioners of the New Age Movement. As you walk round the stalls, each set up for the profit of the stall holder, the signs say: "Do you want your palm read?" "Past Lives Healed!" "Future Wealth Guaranteed!" "Run Your Life By The Stars". "These Cards Tell It All." "Find Energy From Crystal." "Let me Take You To The Other Side." "Receive Message From The Dead." "Learn Your Past Lives." "Chant This Mantra." "Come To Know Your Guardian Angel." "Meet The Cosmic Christ." "Hail Swami Jesus." "Meet Your North American Indian Spiritual Ancestors." Each sign promises hope, healing, understanding of your self and a better life. Many promise prosperity.
In many shopping malls today, folding tables are set up with women ready to read your fortune, tell you what your stars say, read the Tarot cards about you, sell you crystals to wear around your neck and so on. Is Australia entering a new medieval era of gipsies, astrologers, spiritualists, clairvoyants, psychics and quacks? In this scientific era, why are so many people taken in by superstition?
Are Australians so gullible that they are so easily taken in by hype, delusion, and fantasy? ? Recently, a feature article entitled: "The New Agers: Ordinary People, Amazing Beliefs." outlined ways in which New Age people have infiltrated society. They have a syncretism of religious beliefs, superstition, astrology, self realisation, emphasis on health, wealth and positive thinking. The New Age is a counterfeit religion. It attracts yuppies who want health and wealth, who distrust the established churches and who have made success and selfsatisfaction the centre of life.
New Age is a term popularised in the mid1980s to describe a nebulous, quasireligious set of beliefs that are an outgrowth of the 1960s "counterculture" and the 1970s "human potential movement." In the United States the name alludes to the expectation, found particularly on the West Coast, that a new "spiritual" age is dawning in which humans will realise higher, more spiritual selves. New Age encompasses a wide array of notions: spiritualism, rebirthing, astrology, outofbody experiences, reincarnation, and the occult disciplines, as well as unorthodox psychotherapeutic techniques and pseudoscientific applications of the "healing powers" of crystals and pyramids.
I will not examine the stupidities of actress Shirley Maclaine one of the high priestesses of the New Age as featured in a "Time" article recently, nor their practises of sitting under pyramids and seeking blessings through crystals and astrology and listening to minimalist music often lush evocations of the natural environment. The New Age Movement says God is everything, everywhere.
I visited a large bookshop in Bateau Bay Village. In the section marked "Religion" was a good range of books. Another section entitled "New Age" was filled with books on Psychics, Palmistry, Sorcery, Astrology, Cults, Crystals and Karma, Tarot Cards and Eastern Mystics, but also a book by Bishop John Shelby Spong decrying belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, and a book by Dr Barbara Theiring, her latest reduction of the person of Jesus. That is exactly where they belong among the Cults and Tarot Cards!
Many people think that possessing a sense of spirituality is enough. But Jesus said it was not. It was not enough to speak about a sense of God, of feelings of spirituality, or even acknowledging God. Jesus said: Matt 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" That is blunt!
How should we respond to new age exponents? There is a pervasiveness of New Age teaching and many people think because it is spiritual there is no harm in it, and that it must be Christian. How must we respond to the New Age heresy?
1. REMEMBER CHRISTIANITY IS REVEALED TRUTH. One thing that comes home in a New Age festival, is that every belief is acceptable, all truths are equal, and that there are many paths to God, however you think of Him. Jesus said just the opposite. He said many ways lead to hell. One only leads to God.
Matt 7:13-14 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Christianity is not something you collate from a bit here and a bit there. It is a revealed religion, shown forth by God. You can accept or reject, but you cannot modify it.
2. HOLD TO THE SOURCES OF YOUR FAITH. One of the main indicators of New Age practitioners is their willing to be eclectic about sacred writings. Because everything is of equal worth, they have pieces of Jewish scripture mixed in with some teachings of Buddha, a piece of Hindu sanskrit, a poem by some English clairvoyant, a Gaelic blessing and a saying from the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico - all of these examples from a New Age book entitled "The Gift of Prayer." Christianity is built upon the Holy Scriptures as the revealed Word of God. They are the only source of Christian faith. Christianity regards any mixture with others writings as heretical.
3. RECOGNISE TRUTH, NOT FEELINGS, IS FINAL. So much New Age practise is based solely upon feelings. Christianity is based upon understanding of the mind. In an era of intellectual skill and knowledge how strange that people should rely solely upon how they feel. This can be the great error of our time. Feelings come and go depending upon health, stress, what is happening about you and other variable factors. But Christianity is based upon the fact: 2 Tim 1:12 "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." Factual truth, not transient feelings.
Christian truth is supremely found in Jesus Christ. It is not just what He taught, or did that counts, but who He is and what He accomplishes for you, which you receive by faith. Jesus said Jn 14:6
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There was no other name, no other way, no other gate, no other path, no other truth, no other life. Your faith depends upon that fact, not upon your feelings.
4. REALISE CHRISTIANITY OPERATES EVERY DAY. Christianity is not something you do and believe on a Sunday. It is an everyday way of life. It is an alternative culture. It is a different family to which you belong. It is caring life-style that must be followed every hour of every day. Spring Fair workers show their Christianity in action continuously. They care for others, visit people, work together to bring hope and healing, make things to be sold for funds to enable care for other people. Their Christianity never stops. New Age beliefs come and go. Christ- ianity operates every day.
In Spring Fair it is great to see hundreds of volunteers working together to raise money to help the needy, the sick and the poor. We have no-one who is on salary, no stall working on commission. Every worker is voluntary and every stall stocks goods freely made and donated. Those who work in our Spring Fair and just the opposite of those who work in the Mind*Body*Spirit festival. Our people also set up stalls and sell things to the public. They also are concerned for those who wander in from the street and are alone. But our people do not sell for their own profit. They do not sell on commission. They freely give of themselves.
They give their time to raise funds to make other people happier, healthier. They are concerned that people find inner peace and eternal life through support of our ministries of the Word of Life. Christians must be aware for New Age Philosophy is very active in some denominations, especially within the Uniting Church, as I will discuss next week.
5. RECLAIM A SENSE OF JUSTICE. The big difference between true Christianity and the pretend religions is that Christians burn with a sense of justice. This is Social Justice Sunday. Christian Churches everywhere look for justice for those hurting in society. Today many churches remind all of our obligations to the poor, the homeless, the sick and the disabled, the aged and infirm, children and families and of our obligations as Christians to provided with our care, accommodation, food, clothing, counselling and support as required, and of our continuing obligation through advocacy and political action to improve conditions that cause any kind of injustice. Churches remind members to respect the environment. Wesley Mission, alone among churches in Australia, has justice issues on the agenda every week. Every week we raise issues in services, on radio and TV. Recently we studied issues concerning refugees, landmines, atmospheric discharges as green-house gasses, industrial waste, ocean pollution, and here two weeks ago, child sex slaves in Africa. We live with a social justice agenda.
Christians were the first "greens" caring for the environment, for animals, whales, ending gladiatorial contests in the arena, ending slavery and child labour, and establishing schools for the poor, and the first trade unions.
They started prison reform, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, to children and to sea creatures. Many of these specifically Christian organisations have now become general public policy. Sometimes the word or sign for Christianity which was there from the be-ginning is today under attack. The YMCA and YWCA is under pressure to drop the word "Christian" from their titles. The Red Cross, is under pressure to get rid of the Cross and replace it with another symbol. The new Age movement wants everything generic.
In Scripture, the NEW AGE is a time when God acts decisively in judgment and salvation. We who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour already live in a new Age. Christ brought about the end of the age of sin through His sacrificial death. Heb 9:26 "But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." Paul spoke of his generation of Christians as those on whom the end of the ages has already begun.(1 Cor 10:11) The new age to come is associated with the experience of eternal life (Mk 10:30; Lk 18:30), the resurrection of the dead (Lk 20:35) and the immeasurable riches of God's gracious kindness (Eph 2:7). The close of the age is associated with final judgment and reward (Matt 13:39,40,49) and with the coming of Christ (Matt 24:3). The new age is already here and it is already in God's future.
Christians, consciously, as an act of obedient will, declare they believe him to be both Lord and Saviour and they will live the Jesus way. That commitment ids not based upon feelings, but upon an act of will. From there you will live as a member of God's alternate society. Why not decide that now?
REFERENCES USED IN THIS SERMON:
SHOOTING FOR THE STARS R Clifford P Johnson, Albatross 1993
UNDERSTANDING THE NEW AGE R Chandler Word 1988
THE NEW AGE E W Lutzer, J F DeVries Victor 1989
GOD IS GREEN I Bradley Doubleday 1990
WHAT IS THE NEW AGE SAYING TO THE CHURCH J Drane Marshall Pickering 1991
WORLDS APART? D Milikan, N Drury Aust. Broadcasting Copr. 1991
THE GIFT OF PRAYER: FROM THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS J Kieling Dwyer 1995
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