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ARE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE NEW-AGE MOVEMENT?
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves...” (II Timothy 3:1, 2).
There are some things that we must understand in these verses. First, the term “last days.” It is often said by scholars that this refers to the whole period of the Christian age, from the beginning to the end. But it is evident here that the Apostle is speaking of the very end of the Christian dispensation. He says that perilous times “shall come.” Dr. Henry M. Morris said that “the ‘last days’ were obviously still far in the future from Paul’s perspective” (The Defender’s Study Bible; note on II Timothy 3:1).
My esteemed teacher, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, said, “‘The last days’ is a technical term... It speaks of the last days of the church...I believe we are now in these ‘perilous’ days which are described in this section” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, pp. 469-470; note on II Timothy 3:1).
The Apostle says, “In the last days perilous times shall come.” The word “perilous” is a translation of the Greek word “chalepos.” It means “fierce.” That Greek word is used only one other time in the New Testament – to refer to the demon-possessed men that Christ confronted in Matthew 8:28. We are told they were “exceeding fierce.” So, Paul tells us that in the last days men will become increasingly dangerous and violent “as the end approaches” (Morris, ibid.).
However, Paul is not focusing in general on the world outside the church. Here in the third chapter of II Timothy he is speaking specifically of the increasingly apostate churches. We know that from verse 5, which says they will have “a form of godliness.” This means they will have the outward appearance (morphosin = outward shape) of godliness. Again, in verse 7, he says they will be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So, these are nominal Christians who are studying religion, but are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7). Dr. Morris says this entire passage refers to those who have “a pseudo-religion...to religious humanists, to the liberal theologians...and to New Age” practitioners (ibid., note on II Timothy 3:5). So this description refers specifically to nominal, unconverted “Christians.” And it increasingly speaks of conservative churches that have become full of unconverted people as a result of "decisionism." When churches stop having a Sunday evening service they have taken a big step toward the nominal, Laodicean religion of the last days.
Now notice the second part of our text, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves.” Dr. John MacArthur has made false statements about the Blood of Christ. But he is absolutely correct when he says that self-love, as a good thing, did not appear as a central teaching in Christianity until modern times. Commenting on the words “lovers of their own selves,” MacArthur says, “The concept of self-love as a positive characteristic did not find its way into the church until the late twentieth century, and...it has spread quickly to broad portions of evangelicalism...the heresy of self-love continues to find acceptance among those who claim Christ” (John MacArthur, D.D., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Moody Publishers, 1995, 2 Timothy, p. 109; note on II Timothy 3:2).
All the other errors in II Timothy 3 flow out of the heresy of self-love, climaxing with the words, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).
I have given you this message on II Timothy 3 as a background for what I am going to say in the rest of this sermon.
I have found more and more young people who just cannot seem to trust Christ. They are looking for a “feeling” within themselves. They can’t seem to shake off their desire to “feel” saved. I wondered why Spurgeon never dwelt on this subject in the 63 volumes of his sermons. I wondered why neither Whitefield nor Wesley ever spoke against looking for “inward proof” instead of trusting Christ. I finally came to the conclusion that these classical preachers didn’t need to deal with this subject. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said a few words about this problem, but very few others did –very few indeed! Yet now I find that this is a major problem. In the past the “big” problem was self-righteousness. People thought they were Christians because they prayed, attended church regularly, etc. So preachers were constantly warning people not to depend on good works, but on Christ. But today, among the young people I meet, that is not the major problem. Most of them are not depending on good works. That is actually quite rare today. Today’s young people are either looking for a “feeling” or depending on a “feeling.” They want to experience a transcendental, mystical transformation – which they call “trusting Jesus.” When they don’t get this transcendental feeling, they say they are not saved. This is very easy to prove. We ask them to kneel and trust Jesus. I usually say, “Trust Him quickly and then get up and sit in the chair.” Then I wait – usually for quite a while. Finally I say, “Did you trust Jesus?” Usually they will instantly say, “No.” I ask them how they know they didn’t trust Jesus. Almost invariably they will say something like, “I just know I didn’t.” This is a dead give-away – it is proof positive that they were looking for a mystical inner transformation – and were not really seeking Jesus at all! They were, in fact, seeking a “new-age” experience!
There you have it! The reason the old preachers didn’t need to deal with this problem is because our culture in the Western world had not yet been infiltrated by new-age thought! New-age thought does not emphasize an objective faith that looks outside of one’s self to Christ. New-age thought looks inwardly, into one’s self, for a religious “experience.” “Men shall be lovers of their own selves” (II Timothy 3:2). “Lovers of self” comes from one Greek word “philautos,” which is composed of two Greek words, “philēo” (love) and “autos” (self). Whenever someone thinks in “new-age” terms, they look within themselves for a mystical transformation. As Dr. MacArthur said, “The concept of self-love as a positive characteristic did not find its way into the church until the late twentieth century, and...it has spread quickly to broad portions of evangelicalism” (ibid.). The new-age goal is “to cultivate a transcendental self-awareness.” One new-ager said, “The world-view among us centers solely on the self... Anything leading to a psychic Xanadu [a mystical experience] is permissible...The fascination evangelical communicators seem to have with the inner self...with steps for attaining direct encounters with God, must be contested as sub-biblical and sub-Christian” (Michael S. Horton, Ph.D., Made in America: The Shaping of Modern American Evangelicalism, Baker Book House, 1991, pp. 121-122). Dr. Michael Horton said that. And he went on to say examples of this are all through our newer hymns, such as “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart” – and “He touched me, oh He touched me, and oh the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.” Someone said, “If He really did ‘touch’ you, you would turn into ashes!” (Horton, ibid.). Dr. Horton said, “People today hunger not for personal salvation...but for the feeling, the momentary illusion of personal well-being.” He said, “Christians have become almost idolatrous in their obsession with self” (ibid., p. 134). And Dr. Horton said,
Is the experience of Jesus in my heart (an issue that the Bible does not even address) the whole defense we bring to a modern world that wants to know why we insist “He lives”? Our shift from a rational, objective faith to an antirational, subjective spirituality is not a sign of great faith in the face of rationalism, but of default [a giving in] to modern [new-age] existentialism (ibid., p. 94).
One of the early songs that expressed this selfish transcendentalism was “In the Garden.” It is a song I have always hated because I knew it was pagan, and not Christian. It goes like this,
I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me Within my heart is ringing.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.
(“In the Garden” by C. Austin Miles, 1868-1946).
One woman I knew used this song as a weapon against attending church and trusting Christ. She said to me, “This is my religion. I go to my garden to meet my god. I don’t need church.” I hated this song even more when I heard that she went into her garden and committed suicide by drinking weed killer! That’s where the god of new-age transcendentalism took her – to Hell! God help us!
Many young people today do not think the same way most of my generation (and the ones before it) thought. When we thought about becoming Christians, we thought about our sin, and our need for Christ to pardon our sin in the sight of a holy God. But your generation thinks about having a transcendental mystical experience, a feeling of inward tranquility. For you “feeling is believing.”
Nietzsche (1844-1900) was one of the first to proclaim a “new Buddhism.” In Buddhism this inner experience is called “nirvana.” In Hinduism it is called “moksha” – a union with the divine, the experience of bliss in the heart. You seek to feel and touch a god – not to trust Christ and be pardoned from your sin objectively, in the sight of the holy God who hates sin. As Dr. Horton put it, “there is no sin, no reason for guilt.” He said, “The hippies of the 1960s...have brought their Transcendentalism with them” (ibid., p. 119). New-age thought runs through many of the Beatles’ later songs, like “My Sweet Lord.” It says, “I really want to see you. I really want to know you. My sweet Lord. Hallelujah. Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna. Hallelujah. My sweet Lord. I really want to see you. I really want to know you. Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna.” The hippies took psychedelic drugs to produce an inner transcendental experience. They meditated, practiced yoga – anything to come into contact with the spirit world. This was not a desire to know the God of the Bible. It was a desire to have a union with the spirit world, “a union with the divine, the experience of bliss in the heart.” There was no idea of sin, “no reason for guilt.”
The ideas of the hippies have filtered down into our culture – and are very evident among evangelicals, as Dr. Horton pointed out. Your generation is looking for “the feeling, the momentary illusion of personal well-being...and psychic security” (ibid., p. 134). The British rock group "The Who" sang a song they made famous at Woodstock. It spoke to the religious desires of that generation. The song was inspired by the new-age guru Meher Baba, a Hindu leader that the author of the song was following.
feel me, touch me, heal me , , , . . , . , , . , , , .
Gazing at you, I get the heat
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me
That song expresses the chief end of religion for many young people today.
How do you escape this new-age delusion? First of all stop looking for some “change” in your own heart. Think of your sin in the sight of a holy God who hates sin. Think deeply about your selfish, self-centered heart. Recognize that your heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). When you are thoroughly “disgusted” with yourself, as one girl put it – then look away from yourself to Jesus. Come to Him who died on the Cross to save you from your sin. Look away from your own feelings to Christ, who is in Heaven, “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Cry out to Jesus and trust Him alone – not your own feelings and emotions.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Any man who is awakened and convicted of sin must be in trouble about this. How can he die and face God?” (Assurance – Romans 5, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971, p. 18). Then you may be enabled to say with Toplady,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
(“Rock of Ages” by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778).
Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Timothy 3:1-5.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Rock of Ages” (by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778).