A subtle and dangerous shift in Christianity
By Marsha West
It seems everyone's practicing yoga meditation these days. Physicians recommend it to their patients which means it's beneficial…right? Meditation is said to relieve stress, anxiety, hypertension, acne and post-nasal drip, so go for it! Just tighten those abdominal muscles, inhale deeply and chant Maaaaaaaaa all in one breath and your concerns will drift away like a feather floating on the wind…
But what if you're a Christian? Should you practice the same sorts of things as Buddhist, Hindu's and New Agers?
Listen to what the Bible says:
"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Josh.1:8).
Firstly, meditating day and night does not mean to stay awake for 24 hours a day. Secondly, Christian meditation is very different from Eastern meditation. Followers of Jesus Christ are not to sit in the lotus pose in an altered state of consciousness seeking the "God within" like pagans do. The Bible teaches that when Christians meditate our minds are to be fully engaged. We are never to go into a trance-state.
What does meditation involve? "The word 'meditation' in Hebrew means basically to speak or to mutter. When this is done in the heart it is called musing or meditation. So meditating on the Word of God day and night means to speak to yourself the Word of God day and night and to speak to yourself about it." (http://tinyurl.com/2ct2hv7)
Before you dive into God's Word take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and to reveal truth to you. As you read, stop to ponder what God has spoken through the words on the page. Always, always, always consider the context. In Charles Spurgeon's sermon "Pray Without Ceasing," he says there are four important questions to be asked:
"What do these words imply? Secondly, What do they actually mean? Thirdly, How shall we obey them? And, fourthly, Why should WE especially obey them?" (http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1039.htm)
Sometimes you need to read a passage over and over…reflect on it…analyze it…and listen while the Holy Spirit speaks truth to you. A word of warning: Listening to God does not require that you "empty" your mind. This meditative practice, called Lectio divina a.k.a. spiritual formation…the silence…best known as contemplative (centering) prayer (CP) is a growing trend in evangelical churches despite the fact that this sort of prayer ritual comes from teaching associated with Catholic mystics such as Meister Eckhart, Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. CP was reintroduced by Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Henri Nouwen, William Meninger, Basil Pennington and other mystics.
Many in the Emergent Church movement (ECM) are advancing Roman Catholic mysticism as well. Yet they insist on being seen as mainline evangelicals. ECM has not only introduced aberrant teaching into our churches, it undermines the authority of Scripture. Gary Gilley laments that there has been a shift from infallible scriptures to "psychological and sociological experts, opinions of the masses, trends of the moment and the philosophy of pragmatism. This shift has been subtle, which has made it all the more dangerous. Few have bothered to deny the Bible itself, they just misquote it, abuse its meaning, force their opinion on it, and if necessary mistranslate it to give the appearance that the Scriptures are backing their claims. The affect of all of this scriptural manipulation is to both erode the authority of God's Word and to give the appearance that what Scripture has to say isn't really important. It is only a short step from here to a Christian community that no longer has much use for the Bible." (This is eerily similar to the way liberals/progressives treat the U.S. Constitution.) (http://apprising.org/2010/06/04/mysticism/)
The Body of Christ needs to know who these apostates are. Rick Warren for one. Warren has been promoting CP in his books for years. Other important figures are Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball and Shane Claiborne. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Listen to why it can be dangerous:
"It has the potential to become, and often does become, a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to empty and free the mind and empower oneself. The Christian… uses the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him."( http://www.gotquestions.org/lectio-divina.html)
One should also consider that emptying or freeing the mind can put a person in contact with demons:
"[T]he dangers inherent in opening our minds and listening for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something-anything-that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God's voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds."
Contemplative prayer is almost identical to how the Zen Buddhists meditate. Following is part of the meditation process, "Just be still and know":
"Sit in the lotus pose (cross legged) keeping your spine straight... put your hands on each other in your lap… Now look at your left hand...just look. Aware of the left part of your body... look at the left hand in an empty manner. Just look. Don't let any thought pop up in your mind…look blankly on your left hand and try to feel the left portion of your body…feel the left part...feel…This very process will activate your right brain. When the right brain activates, it results in disappearance of thoughts. Your thought will start disappearing…[ Slowly after a few sessions of practicing this meditation, you will be able to instantly achieve this state of disappearance of thoughts]" (http://www.meditationiseasy.com/mCorner/techniques/zen_meditation.htm )
In Buddhism repeating a single word is known as a mantra. Many Buddhists simply murmur ommmm repeatedly. When Christians practice CP a word or phrase from the Bible is repeated. Many believers, especially young people, have been conned into believing that saying "I love Jesus" over and over will get them in contact with God. The fact of the matter is this approach to drawing close to God is unbiblical. Thus it should be eliminated from the serious Christian's approach to and understanding of meditation and prayer.
With these practices and beliefs comes a "virtual encyclopedia of theological error," says Gary Gilley. Many change agents in the Church are "Progressive Christians" now morphing into "social justice Christians" (SJC). Social justice is doublespeak for socialism. Spreading the social justice gospel is not the good news the Bible speaks of. SJCs want to mold America into a socialist saturated nanny state. Their aim is to redistribute the wealth. Before you buy into the SJC hype, check your history books. In every country socialism has been tried it has failed. Socialism takes away people's freedoms and ultimately leads to tyranny. So why on earth does America want to copy it?
SJCs are bent on reinventing, or as Dan Kimball puts it "re-imagining" traditional Christianity. Progressives are pushing pluralism. Because….when the Church becomes ecumenical and includes aspects of other religions it will blend nicely into their perception of how the 21st Century is going to be.
Authentic Christianity will never blend in! Christianity stands alone. All other religions are based on works righteousness (if you're a good person you will ultimately be rewarded). The Bible is very clear that "there is no one righteous, no not one" (Rom 3:10). We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Sin separates us from a holy God. Christians believe Christ died for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. We believe we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ's righteousness alone. True Christians are willing to die for the Truth. Are counterfeit Christians willing to die for their truth?
So, where was I?…Oh yes.
Progressive Christians are introducing theological error into the Church faster than a cheetah chasing down a gazelle. In "How to Practice Meditative Prayer" Acts 29 Pastor, Winfield Bevins, explains:
"In Hebrew thought, to meditate upon the Scriptures is to quietly repeat them, giving oneself entirely to God, and abandoning outside distractions. The two main things that we are told to meditate on are God's word and God's goodness. Paul tells us, 'Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things' (Philippians 4:8)."
Paul was not talking about prayer when he said "think about these things." He was saying that we should let our minds dwell on pure thoughts because what we allow into our minds shapes our actions. Paul finishes his thought in verse 9:
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
Do what you have seen me do, says Paul. This is not about finding a quiet place to sit crossed legged and prayerfully meditate-he was telling them to imitate what they have seen in him! According to Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary:
"In these things he proposes himself to them for an example (v. 9): Those things which you have learned, and received, and heard and seen in me, do. … What they saw in him was the same thing with what they heard from him. He could propose himself as well as his doctrine to their imitation. It gives a great force to what we say to others when we can appeal to what they have seen in us. And this is the way to have the God of peace with us-to keep close to our duty to him. The Lord is with us while we are with him." (http://biblecommenter.com/philippians/4-1.htm)
Many Christians lead busy lives so they put off spending time with God. In fact, data shows that most believers spend very little time in their Bibles, even though there's a whole lot of prayin' goin' on! People running hither and yon bombard the Lord with bullet prayers. Now, don't get me wrong. Praying umpteen times a day is what believers should do--we are commanded to pray without ceasing. (1 Thes. 5:17) We are also commanded to abide in Christ:
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
If followers of Jesus Christ are to bring forth good fruit they must stay attached to the Vine. The fruit believers bear when they're not abiding in Christ may look ripe and juicy on the outside. But it is rotten fruit!
There is a story in Luke 10:38-42 of two sisters, Mary and Martha, who thought differently about how to serve their Master. When Jesus came to their home Martha stayed in the kitchen preparing food for their guests. She had her own ideas on how to serve Christ. Martha became vexed that Mary was not helping with the meal. Instead she sat at the feet of Jesus to hear his word. Martha actually went to Him to complain. Instead of taking her side, Christ publicly rebuked her:
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things…"
In his commentary Matthew Henry explains the situation:
"He repeated her name, Martha, Martha; he speaks as one in earnest, and deeply concerned for her welfare. Those that are entangled in the cares of this life are not easily disentangled. To them we must call again and again, O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord."
"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Again, Matthew Henry:
"She had justly given the preference to that which best deserved it; for one thing is needful, this one thing that she has done, to give up herself to the guidance of Christ, and receive the law from his mouth. Note, Serious godliness is a needful thing, it is the one thing needful; for nothing without this will do us any real good in this world, and nothing but this will go with us into another world."
Certainly there is nothing wrong with cooking for guests. But what we need to remember is that we are children of God before we are servants of God. Like Mary, we must sit at our Lord's feet. Martha was so busy serving Jesus that she had no time to spend with Him! Have I hit a nerve?
Prayer is intended as praise, confession, thanksgiving, and asking for others. (Phil 4:4-7) In prayer we find God's love and we will experience peace. Moreover, through prayer we are conformed to God's will. Prayer is not meant to be an esoteric experience, like the contemplatives would have us believe. The Bible does not teach that God's people are to go into a self-induced altered-state of consciousness to commune with Him. Again, meditating day and night does not mean we are to look for the "God within," as Eastern mystics and occultist do. For the Christian to be involved in any sort of pagan practice is strictly forbidden by God! This is because God opposes paganism's polytheism and blatant immorality. There is no getting around the fact that polytheism and immorality are the pagan way.
The Christian who truly wants to please God will do as the psalmist suggests:
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
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