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Summary: A look at Israel’s history of (sinfully) worshipping the pagan gods of those people around them, its implications, and how Israel kept doing it again and again. The sermon compares this with how our contemporary society falls into this same trap (karma,

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HOW’S YOUR KARMA?

An Exploration of the Danger of New Age Mysticism in American Society

Based upon the teaching of Isaiah 1:10-18

Stephen H. Becker, M.Div.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church—Elk Grove, CA

November 4, 2007—23rd Sunday After Pentecost

A few months ago I did something that really upset my son Stephen. He and some friends from school had a new found fascination with a popular group of kids’ toys: Pokemon. He had Pokemon for his Game Boy and Pokemon cards. It all looked innocent enough until somebody shared with me the dark side of Pokemon, the evil spells and incantation side of these popular childrens’ toys. Now I’m going to preach on Pokemon tonight, but I want to use the history of Israel, especially as we find it in Isaiah, to take a look at how adamantly God warns of the dangers of pagan or non-Christian teachings in a Christian home or a Christian way of life. God wants to be first in our lives. Not because He is envious. But because He knows when we put Him first, Satan and his teachings will fall by the way-side. So let’s open with prayer…

As I said, I took Pokemon out of my house because I learned that it taught things that were absolutely contrary to my Christian faith. Most people, when I tell them about this, either laugh at me or simply tell me that they think that I am (pause) over reacting. But am I? You see, we live in a world full of false religions that ultimately lead away from the God of Israel…false religions whose teachings have managed to become so commonplace, that we don’t even notice that they have become common, or notice that they have crept into our daily lives. (pause) Don’t think so? Well, how many times you heard people tell you that you shouldn’t do this or that because of the bad karma this deed might result in? Or how many times have you heard someone say that in their “next” life, they’d like to come back as this or that? (pause) How’s your aura? Is mine glowing? And, if I read the stars right, we are all definitely on the brink of the age of Aquarius, and since I am a Virgo, the stars definitely are telling me something different about my life that for the rest of you who aren’t a Virgo. Does all this sound familiar?

Wicca and witchcraft are so common in our society that Harry Potter movies are regularly #1 at the box-office. Reincarnation, karma, aura, bad—or good vibrations…how about the crystals that some people believe bring good luck or special spiritual healing…all of this is (pause) is what we call “New Age” spirituality or “New Age” thinking. It’s so commonplace, that as I said, many people told me I was over-reacting to Pokemon, when I learned that Pokemon meant “pocket monster,” and it conditions the child who plays the game into accepting the occult as a normal part of their childhood. And it’s not just Pokemon, but tarot cards, eastern-meditation, channeling or focusing your energy, connecting with your higher consciousness. Whatever we call it, it is non-Christian teaching (pause) that is un-Christian teaching based upon worshipping something or someone other than God. It was such an issue during Isaiah’s time that God sent these same pagans who Israel had been worshipping to conquer them as a lesson about Who it is that we should be worshipping!

So what I’d like to do is take about two or three minutes and give you a brief history lesson from Isaiah chapter one. It will help you to put into perspective why it is that God goes out of His way to warn the Israelites, and us as believers, to stay away from pagan gods. God warned them about this sin time and again. Here in Isaiah chapter one, Israel had just come back from being exiled, after having been conquered by these Assyrians. God had repeatedly warned them not to mix with any of the beliefs of other religions; but they ignored Him. For example, God told Israel in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” And then in verse 5, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” Yet Israel kept doing it again and again. Here in Isaiah chapter one, we see the aftermath of this invasion. The Lord confronted his people with their rebellion and sin and issued them an ultimatum. In verse two God tells them, “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.”

God accused Israel of breaking the covenant with Him and most especially for worshipping other gods and for embracing the pagan religions surrounding them instead of worship God alone. And so as they came back out of exile, many of them had learned their lesson, but had now gone to the extreme opposite end of paganism. They were so worried about fulfilling the letter of the law, that worshipping God ended up being basically something you did out of habit, because you had to, not because you loved the Lord. For some of them, it got so bad that they were neglecting the poor in favor of mechanically obeying the rules; that’s called legalism and it remained a big problem in Israel right up to Jesus’ time. And then, sadly, we see how later in verses 21 and 31 some of them started to turn back to idolatry and worshipping pagan gods, here in this case worshipping fertility gods. So here in our passage from Isaiah chapter one verses 10 through 18, God is dealing with these people, who in the past had been lost in paganism, and now were equally as lost in legalism. What God wants them to know is that He wants them to worship Him because they love Him, because of who He is to them and what He has done for them. And when they do, their sins will be forgiven.

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