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Overcoming Fear by Negative Association
Setting a True Reference Point for Discerning
Questionable Spiritual Phenomena and Teaching
[originally sent under the title: Overcoming Fear of the New Age Movement]
November 27, 1989
2 The LORD said to [Moses], "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." 3 Then He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand and grasp it by its tail "-so he stretched out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand - 5 "that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.". Exodus 4
10 So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12 For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Exodus 7
Please consider with me this amazing story of Moses and the rod. I want you to put yourself back in time a moment, standing as an observer in Pharaoh’s court. You know nothing—except the following:
There is a rumor our about some man named Moses lately come in from the desert. No one seems to know where he came from except that legend has it the man was once a part of an earlier pharaoh’s court. In fact, it is said that this man was once raised in Pharaoh’s house, trained in all the ways of Egyptian astrology, knowledgeable of all Egyptian metaphysical practices, etc. For some forgotten reason (some say murder), the man was forced to leave the court and hit the desert. Anyway, there’s more….
This Moses is making a claim to have had a special visitation from the “true God”—specifically, the “God of the Hebrews.” The message of this God is to let the Hebrews go. Oh—here he comes now into the court. The stage is set. Let’s see what Moses will do to represent himself as ambassador of the true God…
Before the showdown begins, other knowledge you have about Pharaoh’s religion and his astrologers comes to mind. You know that Pharaoh’s magicians are able to perform astounding tricks. One of their most well known symbols—indeed, the symbol that has represented all eastern satanic religion from the beginning of creation is the serpent. It is like a trademark of all false religion.
Armed with this knowledge, and with your doubts about the origins of this Moses already in place, you now watch the showdown…
So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts
“Aha!” you say.
“Now the proof is in! This Moses is an imposter. The rumors were true. The evidence is incontrovertible. He’s a carbon copy of the sorcerers he claims not to be like. First, he pulls a magic trick—just like they do. Then not only that, but he turns his rod into a serpent, the telltale sign of all false religion! Then when you consider the “roots of this theology” in eastern religion in Pharaoh’s court, and add to that his reputation as a murderer, it’s absolutely clear. It would pass in any court of law. The man has simply borrowed from ancient religion, given it a new twist by inserting the name of a new god, and by calling it the “God of the Hebrews,” will use it to lead a revolt with himself as King-cult leader.”
I. Knowing Truth From Error
Doesn’t the reasoning behind this conclusion appear flawless? The evidence through appearances and associations is truly unquestionable. Any of you standing there that day would easily have drawn the conclusion that Moses was a fraud.
But there’s just one problem you would have faced if you had drawn this conclusion: namely this—
You would have been dead wrong!
And why would you have been wrong? It’s because you cannot use reason, appearances, association, circumstantial evidences, and third, fourth, and tenth hand information about people to establish what is spiritually true about a person or to establish the source of spiritual happenings.
Yet this is precisely what is being done of late through a number of books on the New Age movement and on other ministries, the latest being about Kenneth Hagin and the Faith Movement. The end result of these books is that they put many people under a spirit of binding fear and engender an unholy spirit of suspicion about everything.
These are the undeniable results in the lives of people who read these books without discernment instead of availing themselves of the simple Spirit of Truth who instructs our hearts concerning Jesus without engendering fear and suspicion about what does not test out to be of Him. I’m writing you about this because it has come to my attention that a number of you are really getting into these kinds of books producing the effects I just cited.
The irony with these books is that they offer their own observations as the standard of truth and discernment to which we should adhere, yet their observations are as subject to the author’s fleshly frailties as are the ones they criticize. Moreover, once they’ve exposed all the error, they offer no clear-cut positive alternative of liberating truth.
All this combines to leave readers in equal bondage to what they are supposedly being saved out of. (A spirit of suspicion is no more liberating than a spirit of deception or cultic doctrine.) This is what always happens when people use their reasoning faculties to try to verify the spiritual reality behind other people, movements or phenomena. It doesn’t work and produces false conclusions—logically derived as they may be.
The natural power of observation and research cannot verify the spiritual truth behind anybody or anything—whether or not that power embraces scripture in the process.
We live some 3,500 years after the fact of Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh. We have our Bibles. So it’s easy to tell that Moses was of God. We know all the facts behind the scenes. But if you had lived then, you wouldn’t have had 3,500 years to wait before you had to decide whether Moses was of God—or whether Jesus was of God, or Paul. And the truth is, that if you have to wait til the Bible is written on a matter before you can tell whether a current event is of God, you will be too late every time.
You have to be able to know now what is of God today, not 2000 years from now. It will be obviously too late by then to decide whether Kenneth Hagin is of God, or whether something is truly of the New Age Movement or of God.
For this cause, God gave us something in this age for knowing truth—something that defies time. Here it is:
27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (I AM the way, and the truth, and the life) I Jn 2:27 (Jn. 14:6)
If you want to know the truth about the New Age Movement, or Kenneth Hagin, or anybody, then start applying your knowing of Jesus. Knowing the truth about anything comes as a byproduct of your knowing of Jesus. It does not come as the result of your effort to learn about it directly through your reading books about it by Constance Cumbey or Dave Hunt or D.R. McConnell.
Books can help—if they ultimately point you to Jesus. But if books about someone or something are your central application for your knowledge about it spiritually, you will not come up with the truth, but with fear and a warped view distorted through one more frail mind—a mind just as frail as the humans it seeks to expose.
I encourage you to start doing less with these books and more with your effort to know Jesus through the Spirit. You will lose your fear and suspicion as a result and will gain the real truth in your heart which these books cannot give you. As a result, you will find that the books were right about some things, and wrong about others. But even in those things you found them to be right, you will find it will not touch you or consume your attention. The simple awareness of it is enough—and you can move on in your life to better things.
So please don’t get stuck in all this negativism. And if you are stuck, get back to Jesus so you can start developing the rest of yourself. One thing is certain: if you want to be safe from the evils of which you read, you won’t find it by reading about them.
II. The Nature of Truth and Error
Having said all that, I wonder if I might take some extra space to deal with the nature of spiritual truth and error. In so doing, I hope I might clarify what our attitude should be toward some of the things we hear about New Age teaching that seem to be similar to much late Christian teaching.
The big problem seems to be the issue of similarity. There is this natural gravitation in our reasoning that associates like causes to like effects. If two things appear the same way, it must be because they have the same cause. The whole discrediting of the supernatural work and teaching of God in this century is based on our reasoning this way.
So when it comes to spiritual things, we apply this same reasoning. Our premise is that God and satan are opposites, therefore each has his own way that is distinctly, identifiably different in results, effects, and associations and appearances. We believe that God will do everything differently than satan in appearances because they are opposites in nature. We believe therefore that if God does something a certain way, satan can’t and if satan acts a certain way, God would never, etc.
So once we come to associate a certain way with God, we never dream satan would operate the same way, and vice versa. Therefore, if two things happen the same way, it is our nature to absolutely and finally believe that they have the same cause, and it has to be either God’s doing or satan’s’ doing—but never could both do the same.
The only problem though is spiritual truth and reality do not function this way!! There are no neatly assigned, categorized sets of causes and effects belonging to either God or satan. Spiritual reality lies in a dimension far above any such notion and can only be identified an entirely different way. God does not exclusively own a certain modus operandi nor does satan (as we perceive them). God can do things in ways that by past association may seem satanic. And satan can do things in ways that by previous appearance were associated with God.
There is no clear ownership of cause and effects between the two by any appearance whatsoever. In many cases, the work of the two may actually be superimposed over each other in the same event or phenomenon. For example, the crucifixion of Jesus was both the plan of God and the work of the devil:
“[Jesus], being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Acts 2:23
The same is true of Joseph who said of his imprisonment:
“You thought evil against me: but God meant it for good.” Gen 50:20
And with Job—
And in our own lives we recognize the work of God inextricably superimposed on satan’s work. Out of satanic destruction we are made Christlike.
So what are we saying? Though God and satan are spiritually opposite, that opposition does not manifest in any consistently identifiable way through opposite sets of causes and effects in the earth. Therefore you cannot automatically assign a certain way, or thing, or happening, or teaching pertaining to such as being necessarily “of God” or “of satan.” Spiritual discernment has to supersede all such observation if it is to be true.
B. The Counterfeit Factor
Not only can’t we establish opposite appearances as being of either God or Satan, but the truth is that by appearance, evil may have much more in common with truth than it has difference.
Why? It’s because evil is simply a perversion of good. Evil is an offshoot of something originally good. A lie is a perversion of truth. Where there is no truth first, there can be no lie against it.
A lie cannot exist independently of a truth it has copied and which existed before it. In fact, the whole satanic plan, empire, strategy is a copy perverted of God’s. Therefore, by appearance, it is more natural to expect apparent similarities between spiritual truth and lies rather than dissimilarities.
This is what the parable of the tares and wheat is all about! God plants truth. Satan plants lies. But the lies look like the truth, and not until final harvest may they be clearly distinguished by appearance. In fact, so challenging is the discernment before harvest that not even angels are allowed to pluck the tares out lest they pull out wheat too!
So what does this say? It says to us it is impossible to make appearances of similarity our basis for discerning between truth and error.
For instance, in Christianity we have the doctrine of the resurrection. But in satanic circles (such as Hinduism), they have the doctrine of reincarnation. What shall we say then? Does the similarity of these doctrines mean they are from the same source? Shall we then take the known source of one to establish the source of the other?
Shall we say, for example, that since we know the resurrection doctrine is from God that reincarnation must also be from God? Or shall we say that since we know reincarnation is of the devil that the resurrection must also be of the devil?
“Ridiculous,” you say.
Well, of course it is. After all, you have the apostle Paul 2000 years ago to stand on. But 2000 years ago what could you have stood on? What would you have said to the Jew who refused your testimony of Christ’s resurrection because it sounded just like Hinduism fresh from nearby India?
Can you get my point? I’m coming now to the New Age Movement. Here we are—today. Now. 1990. No Bible is written yet about the New Age Movement. It won’t be around for centuries, if at all. Yet here today Christians are teaching some things that sound similar to New Age teaching, and vice versa. Then you have books coming out condemning all Christian teaching that sounds at all like the New Age teaching….
And that is ridiculous! It is just as ridiculous to throw out teaching today that sounds like New Age as it is to throw out the resurrection because it sound like reincarnation!
But what do you expect? What should you expect? Shouldn’t you expect some Christian teaching to sound New Age? Isn’t that what wheat and tares are all about? As God advances his truth in the world at the close of this age, doesn’t it make spiritual sense that New Age teaching should sound like it (and vice versa)?
So why all the scare? Why, the fact that new Age teaching sounds similar is a good sign! It’s a sign that we are on the right track.
Don’t you get it? If we know that the lie mirrors the truth, we can actually use the lie to our advantage to discover the truth it counterfeits by the Spirit of God. God can easily take advantage of a lie to teach us what is truth if we aren’t afraid of it. His Spirit is not bound! He can use a lie to teach us truth just as well as He can use clear truth.
God can teach us what is right through our observing what is wrong just as easily as He can teach us directly through what is right. I mean we have all learned “how not to do it” at one time or other by observing what is wrong in the church or some institution, and then being led to what is right as a result. So why fear the New Age movement? You can learn just as must from its lies through God’s Spirit as you can from what is directly true.
God’s Spirit teaches us all truth, whether we are surrounded by teaching that directly points to truth, or by counterfeit teaching which indirectly points to truth by its own perverted existence. So why be afraid?
Personally, I get great satisfaction inwardly when I hear a New Age teaching that sounds like something I believe in Christ. Though I reject the lie, the fact it exists gives me confirmation that I’ve heard truth from God in my heart. Otherwise there would be no lie to mirror it!
III. Clarifying the Doctrines of Deification vs. Glorification
This leads me to my final topic. Let me elaborate on the core doctrine of New Age and its true counterpart in the emerging Church of today. Both the Church and the New Age have a “Doctrine of Man.” In the New Age, we may call it the “Deification of Man.” It stems back to Eden when satan said, “You shall be as gods.”
Well, the church has the true counterpart to this counterfeit. This true doctrine is the “Glorification of Man”—not glorification in the sense of worship as unto God, but in the sense of physical immortality. It is the promise of a glorified body like unto Christ’s own body, replete with all His supernatural capabilities. Now actually, the doctrine of glorification has been around for years. You can find it in any college Bible Doctrines course of systematic theology.
But something is happening. Two things.
First, the Spirit of God is now energizing the church in such a way as to bring that glorification so much manifestly closer than ever before that even the people who believe in the “paper doctrine” of glorification don’t know how to handle these energizings and so are offended by anybody teaching of its nearness in a literal sense.
Second, the New Age counterfeit called “the deification of man” has mushroomed so much now that people who proclaim the nearness of “the glorification of man” are seen as “New Age,” again simply because of the similarity. The similarity scares the people all the more.
In addition, it does not help that numbers of Christians get their eyes off the Lord, so that their espousal of true doctrines becomes corrupted into espousal of New Age doctrines. You see, as we get closer to the end, and the revelation gets more glorious, the easier it is to go from true doctrine to false doctrine because of the spiritual intensity of it.
Some people just don’t have the maturity and grounding in Christ needed to be responsible ministers of such hard-to-handle doctrine. So the doctrine destroys them through their ego which immediately thrusts it into New Age teaching—because it is now man-centered. So again, this doesn’t help.
Nevertheless, the “Glorification of Man” is a true doctrine, embedded in the New Testament, commensurate with the return of Christ. We should hold it with fear and trembling before us. We are seeing ourselves made ready to be glorified. We are seeing the New Age counterfeit it with “deification.” And we are seeing immature ego-inflated Christians stumbling over it into New Age-type teaching.
- Rightly Stewarding the Doctrine of Glorification
The question is, how can we be stewards of this doctrine and increasing partakers of its growing reality without stumbling over it?
Answer: keep your eyes on Jesus—not your glorification!
You see—in the final analysis, the only difference between true church doctrine and counterfeit New Age doctrine is Jesus Christ at the center of focus, or man at the center of focus. That’s all. It’s that simple.
As soon as a Christian’s center of spiritual gravity shifts off Jesus Christ to something or someone else, he becomes New Age in thought and practice. Many have. This is called apostasy. It is simply Christianity with man on the throne. And that’s really all there is to it.
So how do we stay pure? Not by fearing the New Age. Not by shunning all similar appearances with it. Not by feeding on books about it having little true spiritual discernment. No. Rather we stay pure by abiding in Christ—and by accepting the responsibilities of stewarding increasing revelation and partaking of the increasing realities of it through our abiding in him—until He comes, and we are glorified together with Him.
This will be very soon, so keep at it. Let us then abide in Christ. Let us responsibly receive the revelation that comes through abiding, and let us walk in the maturity of that revelation—not fearing the counterfeit, but rather being “flattered in reverse” by it!
written from Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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