Serving the God you want, or the God who is?
Several years ago I decided to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes; relaxing at our local bookstore and browsing through the latest arrivals.
I stopped at the Mind, Body and Soul section and couldn’t help but notice how large this area had become. The shelves were brimming with “wisdom literature” covering a wide range of topics from the spiritual nature of humanity to our relationship with one another and humankind’s connection to the cosmos.
As I paged through the writings of the more popular spiritual masters I became acutely aware of the pervasive and powerful influence these new age thinkers have on the hearts and minds of millions of people around the globe. It was interesting to note that a number of these authors carried the endorsement of world renowned celebrities. This prompted me to dig deeper, to find out whether there was real substance to their world view around spirituality, its effect on our daily lives and the purpose of life.
Kernels of wisdom
I spent a couple of years delving into the teachings of notable modern day and ancient spiritual thinkers from the West to the Far East. A number of these teachers hold Jesus in high regard, but only as one among several spiritual masters. They will often refer to selected biblical scriptures, in both the Old and New Testament, in support of their ideology. Their writings embrace kernels of conventional wisdom, inspiration and insight, much of which is also contained in the Bible. But most do not recognise everything Jesus taught or the centrality of the gospel message; nor do they recognise the purpose of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus and the amazing grace our saviour brings to all of humanity.
This selective approach to the scriptures opens the door to several interpretations of who or what God is, as well as one’s understanding of truth and destiny, as reflected in the writings and teachings of a number of spiritual guru’s. Here are a few examples:
God stands for Grand Organised Design
God is a metaphor.
God is a mystery that transcends all human categories of thought
We may call it infinite energy in perfect balance or God
Eternity is the living reality of who you are
God is the formless consciousness and essence of who you are
The mind of God is consciousness
This is an intelligent universe. Intelligence permeates you and is available to you through inspiration and intuition to guide and direct your life.
Intelligence is not a separate thing inserted into us by an independent creator
Enlightenment is about connecting with the cosmic consciousness
Something is true when it resonates with and expresses your inner being
A profound sense of relief
As I brought this journey of exploration to a close, and contrasted my findings with the Holy Scriptures, I experienced a profound sense of relief and appreciation for the understanding of the triune nature of God as revealed by Jesus. A God who is real and has not only offered salvation to all of humanity, but wants to enjoy an intimate personal relationship with each one of us, for eternity.
I was also struck by the enormous disparity between the ideas of modern day new age thinkers about God, and the biblical revelation of who God is. To a large extent the difference lies in relating to an intelligent universe, the creation, versus a relationship with the personal God who created all things, the Creator. The former is rather impersonal and detached while the latter is intimate and personal. In essence, it is a question of serving either the creation or the Creator. Romans 1:25 talks about serving created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised. We also read in verse 20 “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
The difference seems to be all about searching for the God we want rather than the God who is. Is it an attempt to create one’s own supposedly deeper understanding of the meaning of life, God and spirituality? Some may ask; “what about the authenticity of the scriptures that form the basis of the Judeo-Christian faith?” Are these not simply the writings of human beings, giving their own take on spirituality and God? After all, the philosophies and works of new age sages also originate from the minds and hearts of various people.
A new journey of discovery
Here we have the opportunity to embark on an inspiring new journey of discovery. Let’s begins with 2 Timothy 3:15-16 “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed, is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We also read in 2 Peter 1:21 “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
I encourage you to pursue this path, an endeavour that will enable you to discover a combination of remarkable factors, pointing to the “God-breathed” veracity of the Holy Scriptures. Naturally, we do not have the time or space to give full justice to covering all the relevant bone fide elements in one article. Nevertheless, let’s briefly highlight a few key factors:
The meticulous preservation of manuscripts over aeons of time. Original manuscripts were accurately copied according to the strict rules and disciplines of well trained scribes.
Former director and principle librarian of the British Museum, Sir Frederick Kenyon writes: “In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament.”
The careful due diligence process given to the authentic canonisation of the Scriptures.
Historical corroboration of Old and New Testament personalities and events.
Archaeological evidence verifying the authenticity of Old and New Testament people and events.
Fulfilled prophecy, including the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, also clearly evidenced in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The unique correlation of a consistent theology that threads its way through both the Old and New Testament, written under inspiration by at least forty different authors, spanning thousands of years across vastly different civilisations, cultures and circumstances.
The creation itself pointing to the reality of the divine architect of the universe.
I am constantly amazed at the number of scientists, archaeologists and even palaeontologists who have in fact turned the corner, moving away from atheism and fully embracing the reality of God’s presence in their lives. They have come to recognise that there is in fact no conflict between science and the God who created the universe; where there are differences, either one or the other is misunderstood.
Yet there are those who are quite comfortable with living in the here and now, and the concept of merging with the cosmic consciousness of the universe after death. As one new age protagonist said to me “I am here to make a significant difference in the world now. Once I die then that’s it!”
Most new age teachers will tell you that the enlightening philosophies of the modern age will enhance whatever religion or faith you belong to. You do not need to forfeit your belief in Christ. However, one cannot deny the fact that a gigantic gulf exists between the so called enlightenment of New Age thinking and the revelation of scripture. It is hard to fathom how the two can even begin to coexist!
The overwhelming weight of information pointing to the “God-breathed” authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, from the early history of civilisation to the present, inspires an unrivalled confidence in the message of scripture. Words cannot describe the depth of God’s love and mercy for you, bringing with it a purposeful life in the here and now as well as the expectation of an intimate relationship with the triune God, including many of your loved ones and others, for eternity.
Let’s conclude with Colossians 1:15-22 “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation...For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him...He is before all things and in him all things hold together...But now he has reconciled you through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish.”