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Social Psychologist & Personal Advisor
Dissecting "The Secret"
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|This is the forth in a series of articles that examines a craze called "The Secret." If you've thought that The Secret offers something Good or even Great, then what I will share in these articles will be even Greater — not because I say so, but because the weight of evidence supports this conclusion.|
| 1 - When the Head is Out of Harmony with the Heart
2 - Getting The Universe to Book Your Appearance on Oprah
3 - Hedonism Hiding In Sheep's Clothing: Twisting True Principles
4 - Faith as Feeling-Filled Visualization of what You Want
5- As a Man Thinketh in his Heart, not his Head
Prominent Christian author, Joel Osteen, helps cloud a true conception of Christian Faith by. characterizing faith as affirmative visualization. From his book "Your Best Life Now," here is an excerpt from the first chapter entitled, "Enlarging Your Vision."
"To live your best life now, you must start looking at life through eyes of faith, seeing yourself rising to new levels. See your business taking off. See your marriage restored. See your family prospering. See your dreams coming to pass. You must conceive it and believe it is possible if you ever hope to experience it."
This statement by Joel Osteen is essentially the same kind of "faith" that the secret is selling via the "ask-believe-receive" wealth-attracting formula—belief as feeling-filled affirmative visualization. Osteen teaches that "You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it." But what is "it"? In a parallel pattern to Secreteering, the focus of your conception is upon You & what You Want. The words seem innocuous enough—"seeing yourself rising to new levels" — but this is not the same "faith" taught in the New Testament.
Joel Osteen's phrase "eyes of faith" sounds good, and nibbles at the edges of what Christ taught, but his message falls short. It's just not good enough and does not rise to the descriptions of faith and belief as expressed in the Bible—a belief and faith that is solely focused in Jesus Christ:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. . . . Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 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: 1-5),
Teaching the true principle of Ask, Believe, & Receive, Jesus adds an important contingency:
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will,
The true application of Ask, Believe, & Receive begins with abiding in the True Vine. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not teach of a generalized "faith" or "belief" that visualizes ME on the center stage of life; instead, the belief spoken of in the New Testament is about a single-minded focus of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Thus, instead of visualizing yourself succeeding with "eyes of faith," if you would honor and "abide" in the True Vine, you must look unto Christ in every thought. As Jesus taught:
"if therefore thine eye be single,
Christ is the way to a wealth and prosperity "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt" (Matt 6: 20). Christ is the True Vine from which we, the branches, receive life and light, and thus are able to bring forth good fruit and abundance within the Father's plan and purposes.
Seeking first His Kingdom goes to the heart of life's meaning and purpose; in contrast, seeking to build our own castles and kingdom disconnects us from the True Vine, and we fulfill the words of Jesus:
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth
Osteen gave an example of belief as feeling-filled affirmative vision of what you want on a day when he and his wife were shopping for a new house. Here's how he tells the story in his book "Your Best Life Now":
"Early in our marriage, Victoria and I were out walking through our neighborhood one day when we came upon a beautiful new home in the final stages of construction. The doors were open, so we stepped inside and looked around. It was a fabulous home, much prettier than any of the other homes in that community. . . .This house was a large two-story home with high ceilings and oversized window."
"When we came out of the house, Victoria was excited. She turned around, look back at the home, and said, 'Joel, one day we're going to live in a beautiful home just like that!' Being the 'great man of faith' that I am, I said, "Victoria, that home is so far beyond our reach, I don't see how we could ever afford something like that."
"But Victoria had much more faith than I did, and she would not give up. We stood out in front of that house for thirty minutes and debated. She told me all the reasons why it could happen. I told her all the reasons why I doubted."
"She said 'No, Joel; I feel it deep inside. It is going to happen.' She was so filled with joy, I didn't want to burst her bubble, so I let the matter drop. But Victoria didn't! Over the next several months, she kept speaking words of faith and victory, . . . She convinced me that we could live in an elegant home like the one we saw. I got rid of my limited thinking, . . . We kept on believing it, seeing it, and speaking it."
There's that word "it" again: the object of feeling-filled, affirmative faith. Again, this is NOT New Testament "faith" — it is NOT the faith that Christ would have us fix our lives upon. Isn't it completely clear that Christ would have us follow Him? And following Him means that we do as He has done. Christ lived a life that was solely focused upon doing the Will of the Father:
"I seek not mine own will, but the will
Again, Jesus offered a direct definition of what it means to Believe in Him:
"he that believeth on me, the works that I do
The future material prosperity of which Joel Osteen speaks, doesn't need to be visualized one whit— especially a visualization with ME in the center of that feeling-filled, affirmative image. The prosperity of which the Father desires to give liberally . . . IS the promised blessing to those who "seek first the kingdom of God." The Savior's said "all these things will be added."
Any visualization with ME on center stage—of ME drawing in wealth from the universe—is a visualization that falls short of the single-eye that fills us with Light (Matt. 6: 22). Jesus taught that we should not think upon self at all, but that we should do exactly the opposite, . . . lose ourselves:
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth
If Jesus would have us fix our eye single to His will and His kingdom, . . . and if the fully faithful follower also does as Jesus admonished: "pray always," . . . then precisely how does the covenant Believer in Christ have any spare time for visualizing self in settings of success and wealth? Wouldn't that necessarily take the single-eye off His will and His kingdom?
The last article in this "Dissecting The Secret" series refutes the pervasive claim: What the mind can conceive, it can achieve! This wildly popular notion is simply NOT so, and it is definitely NOT the same idea taught in the famous proverb "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverb 23: 7). Dr Matt's rebuttal is entitled: As a Man Thinketh in his Heart, instead of his Head.
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Here's a paradigm that does not conflict with the teachings of Jesus, but complements and reinforces them. The following is an excerpt from my book, Changing Your Stripes. It speaks to the paradox that we actually "find" our life as we "lose" our life for His sake.
The Search for Self . . . Solved. We are easily persuaded to think of ourselves as individual entities because our bodies are physically separate from others; thus, some incorrectly assume that the entire "self" is completely contained within the physical shell, as well. Indeed, bodies are separate in physical space, but the expressive mobilization of the body—our be-ing—is bound to others by a communicative bond that breathes meaning and purpose into Life.
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The meaning and purpose of being human is understood by accounting for the broader context of all relationships—both seen and unseen. Because the most essential aspect of self resides in relational-unity, this means that people can neither find self, nor enrich self-worth, with a purely inward look. Self-introspection is literally impossible! Individuals cannot come to know who they are by looking within themselves—there is nothing to see, only a couple of kidneys and a lung or two.
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You will sense your relational be-ing in the reflection of the social mirror, as well as the invisible mirror. Gazing in the looking glass can occur for two motives: Selfish vs. Empathic. The empathic gaze in the looking glass fosters increased character; in contrast, self-centered primping is counterproductive to the aims of self-esteem.
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Self-Discovery Paradox. The head-heavy exercise of trying to figure out who you "think" you are is to begin wrong; it is a quest that fosters a self-absorbed existence. This is the great paradox of Self-Discovery: As one ceases trying to discover self and instead puts all energy of heart and soul into loving others, then the You that is True spontaneously appears. By simply forgetting self, . . . you find yourself and thus connect to who you are from your innocent beginnings.
If you seek to find your self through self-attention, you will lose your true self, but if you lose, or forsake, a self-absorbed search for self, and simply "be" and "do" in the compassionate pattern of Christ, then you will find your self.
As we mature and strive to our highest fulfillment, our primary looking glass needs to be the invisible mirror that radiates reflections from our Creator; an immaculate mirror that provides perfect and reliable reflections for a transcendent purpose: that we might fulfill the measure and meaning of our creation.
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An essential key, to being the best you can be . . . is found ironically, in a process of losing—losing the self-absorbed self. When we fail to grasp this paradox of self-discovery, we become vulnerable to vain projects of image management. (Changing Your Stripes, pages 94-97)
The "faith" encouraged in the Bible is NOT a mentally-generated technique of emotion-filled, positive visualizing — and especially NOT a visualizing of ME on center stage conjuring up Material images of what ME wants. Having "faith" in Christ means "losing" a self-centered focus completely.
The Speaking of the meaning of the words "faith" and "belief," Dr Matt has conducted a thorough Bible review of teachings on faith, belief, works, good works, grace, salvation, and eternal life; the summary of this comprehensive review is entitled: Salvation by Grace through Faith: A Covenant Context.
The last article of the "Dissecting The Secret" series refutes the popular premise: What the mind can conceive, it can achieve — a notion that is NOT the same as the famous proverb "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverb 23: 7). Dr Matt's rebuttal is entitled: As a Man Thinketh in his Heart, instead of his Head.
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