Don't Check Your Brains at the Door part 3
Winds of New Teachings
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 25, 2008

[This message series examines several of the spiritual concepts that are dominant in our society but are contrary to Biblical teaching. In particular, we are looking at the spirituality being promoted by Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle in their webinar based on Tolle’s book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” The videos used are not available on the Sunrise website. However, you may still be able to find them on iTunes or YouTube. In the event that you do find them, the start times for the clips are included in the notes below.]

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at some of the teachings of the most powerful and most influential woman in the world… Oprah Winfrey. And we’ve been focusing in on a ten week Internet class she just finished up partnering with the New Age author Eckhart Tolle who wrote the book “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.”

So far we’ve looked at eight of the claims that they’ve been promoting, and we’ve given a Biblical response to each of them. You can find those summarized in your notes this morning.

But you might be wondering, why Oprah? Why are you attacking Oprah? Well, we’re not trying to attack Oprah here. As we’ve talked about, she’s done some pretty incredible things with her life. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t examine and evaluate her teachings. Especially when it comes to issues of spirituality.

James 3:1 (NIV)
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Oprah and Eckhart Tolle have set themselves up as teachers… and through this Internet class they’ve been teaching a couple million people every week. And through her TV show, Oprah teaches 15-20 million people daily. So when you’re dealing with someone with that much influence who’s making the types of claims that she’s making, then we really have to take a look at it. We have to see what she’s promoting and we have to determine if what she’s saying is true or not.

Now, I’ve checked out all ten weeks of the classes. And they did have some good things to say. But that’s not what we’re talking about here this morning. We’re talking about their false claims… the claims that contradict what the Bible teaches.

Now, in the past… and we’ll do it again in the future… we’ve given some logical truths that the Bible is trustworthy. We don’t trust the Bible just because it’s the Bible; we believe the Bible because we’ve discovered it to be true rationally, logically, and experientially. So we’re not dealing with those ground floor issues during this series. We’re starting with the understanding that the Bible is true and is a reliable guide for everyday life and for spirituality… for connecting with God.

Besides, Eckhart Tolle and Oprah both use the Bible to promote what they’re teaching, anyway. So we’re going to look at their teaching to see if it really does line up or not.

Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)
We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Of course, if you do conclude that what Oprah and Eckhart Tolle are teaching is a bundle of lies or empty philosophies or high-sounding nonsense, then they’ve already come up with a response for you and for everyone who disagrees with them. Take a look…

Video – Week 9 from 32:03 to 32:53
(Tolle - If you are reading this book and you find it meaningful... you have already begun to awaken. If you haven't,  the book will be meaningless.")

So if you don’t understand them or you don’t agree with what they’re saying, apparently it’s because you’re not awakened yet. So at the risk of showing my lack of awareness, let’s look at the first claim… number 9 in your notes…

Video – Week 1 from 45:09 to 46:21
(Oprah - "I let go of the guilt of did I make it to church or I didn't make it to church... this force that we call God cannot be contained in a church.... but if church allows you to feel like you are being of service, then use it that way.")

False Claim #9:
You can be a healthy spiritual person all by yourself

You just saw in that video that as far as Oprah and Eckhart are concerned, being part of a church is optional. If it works for you, great. But you don’t need it. They consider faith to be a solitary, individual journey that could take place as part of a church but could take place anywhere else, too. Being part of a church is optional.

But think about it. What’s that going to do? That’s going to remove your support system, that’s going to remove your accountability, that’s going to remove your encouragement. That’s going to rob you of the opportunity to contribute toward the growth of other. And it’s going to prevent you from being equipped to deal with strange new beliefs. Your spiritual food will come from people like Oprah with no one there to clarify what Scripture really teaches.

So here’s the biblical response…

Biblical Response:
God’s design is for believers to worship and grow together

Now, Oprah and Eckhart were right in a couple things they said. It’s true that God can’t be contained within the walls of a church building. God’s much too great and powerful for that. He’s omnipresent, which means He exists everywhere. And it’s also true that God doesn’t want to be worshiped or served only on Sunday. He does expect us to devote everything we are and everything we have to Him. And that means we worship beyond Sunday morning. We serve beyond Sunday morning. They go beyond a once a week thing for us and become a way of life for us.

So they were right in that. But they weren’t so right in minimizing the importance of being part of a church family.

Now, I know that sounds self-serving coming from a pastor. Of course I want you to be here. But it’s not just me saying it. Take a look, first of all, at the pattern of the early Church when it was first formed in Acts 2… we’ve looked at this passage before…

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had… They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Do you see how much they were together? Do you see how much they depended on “togetherness” in their spiritual journey. For them, being part of the family of believers was not optional… it was necessary. It was crucial to their spiritual growth.

And then take a look at what Hebrews 10:25 says…

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

What are Oprah and Eckhart saying? They’re saying that it’s okay to neglect meeting together as believers. Of course you can’t miss their class, but you can certainly drop out of church. According to them faith is an individual journey.

But the truth is, it’s also a group journey. It’s a community journey. We need others and they need us. Within the context of the church family… the church community… we support each other, we encourage each other, we celebrate with each other, we cry with each other, and we spur one another on to greater heights. We worship and we grow together. That’s the way God designed His Church to operate.

Video – Week 7 from 7:20 to 9:45
(Tolle - "There's suddenly a peace that comes when the emptiness that is left behind by the form that has dissolved is not resisted internally. And then through that empty space there comes what the Bible calls the 'peace that passes all understanding.'")

That’s not what the Bible calls the peace that passes all understanding. But let’s deal with the claim first…

False Claim #10:
The peace of god is the result of acceptance

If you’re suffering in life… maybe something’s happened to you, maybe something’s been done to you, maybe you’ve caused the problem yourself… if you’re suffering in life, then Tolle says that the way you experience the peace of god is to accept what’s happening to you. You come to a point of acceptance.

But I’ve mentioned to you before about how during these Internet classes, they continually quote Bible verses but take them out of context. They twist them to mean whatever they want them to mean. In this case, they reference the Bible verse in Philippians chapter 4 that talks about the peace of God that goes beyond our understanding and they conclude that the way you experience this peace is to accept what’s happening.

But that peace is not about acceptance… it’s about trust.

Biblical Response:
The peace of God is the result of trust

I know that sounds like semantics (but then, I've always been prone to "some antics"). But I think this is an important distinction. It's not about acceptance. It's about trust.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So you don’t simply accept what’s happening to you. In fact, we’re told to talk to God about our suffering. Ask Him to help. Don’t fret and worry… don’t be anxious… take your concerns directly to God. And then trust Him. And He will give you a peace that will guard you and bring you through safely on the other side.

But again, it’s not about acceptance. It’s about trust.

Video – Week 1 from 32:26 to 33:32
(Tolle - "If there's no shift in consciousness we will go downhill very quickly.")

False Claim #11:
The hope of the world is a higher consciousness

As you just heard Eckhart explain, he believes that all the atrocities of the 20th century… and there were plenty of them… all of them were the result of a lower consciousness. The people causing the atrocities simply weren’t aware yet. They hadn’t awakened. And so according to Eckhart Tolle what the world needs is for more and more people to achieve a higher consciousness.

Here, let me show you something. I brought a jar of water with me this morning. Anybody here want to take a drink? No, it’s pretty brown, isn’t it?

Let me ask you, why do you think this water is brown? Here’s two options… could it be that this water has simply not experienced a higher consciousness yet? It hasn’t awakened so it’s still operating on a lower consciousness? Or… is it more likely that this jar of water is contaminated with some dirt?

You see, the problem with this world with a lower consciousness. It has everything to do with sin. Sin has contaminated all of creation. The inclination toward sin is what led people to commit those terrible atrocities. It’s what leads you to do things that you know are wrong. We have been contaminated with sin, and we are helpless to cleanse ourselves.

James 1:14-15 (NLT)
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Now, I guess I should mention that Oprah doesn’t believe in sin. Earlier this year she promoted another New Age program called “A Course in Miracles”. And one of the teachings of that course is that there is no sin. So if Oprah doesn’t believe that sin exists, it’s no wonder that she doesn’t think sin is the problem.

But sin does exists, and it is the problem. So what’s the Biblical response?

Biblical Response:
The hope of the world is Jesus

Jesus came to take care of the sin problem. You and I couldn’t do it. God had to become a man and enter into His own creation to take care of the problem for us.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

So Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sin. He died in our place. He and He alone is our hope for overcoming the sin in this world and the sin in our lives. Over in the New Testament, Matthew references a prophecy about Jesus…

Matthew 12:21 (NLT)
“And his name will be the hope of all the world.”

So the hope of the world has nothing to do with achieving a higher consciousness. Because the problem isn’t a lower consciousness. The problem is sin. And Jesus offers the only solution to sin.

Acts 10:43 (NLT)
“He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

So our hope is in coming to Jesus, accepting that what He did on the cross He did for you and for me… He died so we could be forgiven. And He rose from the dead, proving that He really does have power over life and death, and that He the authority even to forgive sins. Jesus is the hope of the world… He’s my hope, He’s your hope.

1 John 1:8-10 (NLT)
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Video – Week 1 from 27:17 to 28:43
(Oprah reads from a new age book "A Seeker's Guide" - “The old way is the hierarchy has the authority, church authorities tell you how to worship in church and how to behave outside of church. The new spirituality is that you are your own best authority as you work to know and love yourself you discover how to live a more spiritual life. The old is God and the path to worship him have already been defined and all you need to do is follow the directions. The new is being able to listen within for your own definition of spirituality, your deeper longings are under search. And the old says exact here what Eckhart was saying. That there's only one path it's the right way and all other ways are wrong. And the spirituality says that many paths lead to spiritual freedom and peace. You have a rich array of gems from which to draw illumination. The world's religious traditional, mythology, psychology, healing methods, scientific wisdom, your own experience and that you can begin to string a necklace all your own.”)

False Claim #12:
You are your own best authority on Truth

This is the claim that says spirituality is a totally subjective matter and you’ve got to find your own path. There is no right and wrong… just do whatever you think is right. As long as you feel good, that’s all that matters. You don’t need anyone else’s input, you don’t need any guidance, you don’t need any structure… you are your own best authority.

And that’s such a post-modern view of spirituality. That’s such a 21st century model. That’s a snapshot of our society today. Anything goes. What’s right for me may not be right for you. Find your own path, because it’s all about you. You are your own best authority. That’s the idea that Oprah was endorsing there.

But you know what that reminds me of? One of the saddest verses of the entire Bible. In the Old Testament book of Judges, you read about a time that was pretty Godless. People had rejected God and had begun to worship their own idols. They didn’t follow any moral or spiritual code… everyone saw themselves as their own best authority. They were Godless and lawless. This is what it says in Judges 21:25…

Judges 21:25 (NLT)
…All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

Isn’t that sad? That verse was written as a heartbreaking commentary on how far the Jewish community had fallen. They had lost their way. They had lost their unity. They had lost their God.

It wasn’t a good thing that people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. But haven’t we come around to that again? Isn’t what Oprah said the sentiment of a lot of people? You are your own best authority? You should do whatever seems right in your own eyes? You can even go ahead and create your own beliefs. Go ahead and draw from the various conflicting faiths in the world… it doesn’t really matter what’s true. In fact, what’s true for one person may not be true for someone else. That’s what they’re telling you. So take whatever makes you feel good, and create your own believes.

Isn’t that where we are right now as a society?

“What this fails to acknowledge is that man dos not define reality; man does not determine what truth is.”
~ James A. Smith Jr.

Biblical Response:
The authority for Truth is God speaking through His Word.

Contrary to what Oprah and Eckhart are teaching, you don’t awaken to your life’s purpose by looking for the truth within. You discover your life’s purpose by getting to know your Creator. By connecting with God. By discovering the truth of who He is and by looking into His Word.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT)
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT)
Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ…

Okay, so we’ve now gone through 12 of the false claims being promoted by this Internet class and are becoming quite popular in our society. We’ve gone through them rather quickly so we’ve only been able to scratch the surface on these different claims. So over the next few weeks we’ll dive into a few claims in more detail, starting with: Is Jesus just one of many paths to God? That’s next week.

Now, just as we finish up here this morning, I want to show you a verse about the people of the city of Berea, because they model for us how you and I should be treating the various faith claims that come our way.

Acts 17:11 (NLT)
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

Just because Oprah says it doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because I say it doesn’t mean it’s true. Search the Scripture and see for yourself whether or not you are being taught the truth.



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