Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is the the Self-Help and Actualization Movement a Sham?

These days there’s no lack of self-help books and DVDs to teach you how to be prosperous, healthy, and successful. These teachers all claim to have the keys to help you fulfill your dreams. But not all that glitters is gold. So much of what they say is just human wisdom -- man’s philosophy, which does not square with the Word of God.

The fact that these teachings don’t agree with God’s Word, the Bible, may not bother you. But it should, especially if you claim to believe in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father except by Me.” (Jn 14:6). Yet countless throngs of people who consider themselves Christians are consuming the human wisdom in these self-help books, and while it may sound great, it’s actually leading them away from the Lord. What’s worse, many church leaders are reading these books and then teaching these things from the pulpit as though they were Biblical truths.

Here are some examples of what they teach:

Fulfillment of your dreams is only a thought away.
You originate from the core of your self.
You ultimately return to the core of yourself.
You need to believe in yourself.

Now for a reality check on each one!

They teach, “Fulfillment of your dreams is only a thought away.”
Human wisdom is to direct your thoughts toward the fulfillment of your dreams, and then your words and actions will follow until they are fulfilled.

Yet Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Mat 16:25). When he talked about trying to save your life, he wasn’t just talking about trying to protect yourself from being killed. He was talking about the human tendency to have all that you want in life. It’s the tendency to preserve your own way of life the way we you like things to be. Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way!” But Jesus said if you do that, you will lose your life. Instead, you need to lose your life for Jesus’ sake. When you do that, you will truly find it. And the life He gives is better than anything you could have imagined.

I once thought before I gave my life to Jesus that if I gave my life to Him, then I would no longer have any fun or happiness in doing the things I want to do. But once I did give my life to Him, I found out that the joy and fullness I experience now is incomparably better than anything I knew when I was living for myself.

Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Joh 10:10). So if you want to experience this kind of abundant life, then give your life completely to Jesus. Don’t grasp onto your dreams and ambitions as though it’s up to you to fulfill them. Put your dreams and ambitions on the altar and offer them up to God, willing to let them die. When you do this, God will be pleased and bless you with much more than you ever thought was possible.

The psalmist wrote, “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psa 37:4). You see, when you delight yourself in the Lord, then your desires are in line with His, and they will be fulfilled in due time.

Many people are consumed with a quest for what the world calls success – they want the food and clothes and other worldly things that humans hunger for. But Jesus said, “Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:31-33) So if you seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, before all else, then all the things you need will be given to you.

The self-help authors teach, “You originate from the core of your self.”
But the Bible says God made you. He is the source and author of your life, not you!

The psalmist prayed to God: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psa 139:13-14). He understood that He was made by God and gave thanks to Him for it.

The psalmist went on to pray: “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” (Psa 139:16). He understood that all of his days were appointed by God in advance and they were all written in His book before one of them came to pass. Since this is true, then what good is it to try and be the master of your destiny and the captain of your own ship, directing your life the way you think is best? But men have been doing this for centuries.

This is why the apostle Paul wrote: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom 1:25). People would rather serve the creature, like themselves, rather than the Creator. In doing so, they exchange the truth of God for a lie.

The self-help authors teach, “You ultimately return to the core of yourself.”
They often refer to this as the center that you need to always come back to for proper balance in your life. Some also teach that there is no judgment in this place deep within you. So basically they teach that in the end, it’s all up to you to decide right from wrong. This may sound good but it’s not true.

King Solomon wrote: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Pro 16:25). So you may think you know the right way to take, but it leads to death in the end.
That’s why Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Mat 7:13). In other words, the road to destruction is wide and many people go that way. But if you want to have eternal life, enter through the narrow gate, which is Jesus.

Jesus said, “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Mat 25:31-32). So He clearly taught that there will be a final judgment. The judgment is not up to you to decide at your core what is right. You will ultimately stand before God and the judgment will be up to Him. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2Co 5:10).

The self-help speakers teach, “You need to believe in yourself.”
This could not be farther from the truth.

Wise Solomon wrote, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Pro 28:26). If you trust in your own heart to lead you, you're in for trouble. Living life that way ends in destruction.

As the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). The human heart is totally depraved, meaning that it has no good in itself, then how can it be trusted? Even the apostle Paul said, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Rom 7:18). Even this man who was a mighty servant of God said there was nothing good in himself! So why should you trust in your own heart or your own abilities. You cannot succeed this way any more than a man stuck in quicksand can pull himself up by his own bootstraps.

Putting it All Together
The multitudes will continue to follow authors like Wayne W. Dyer, Robert G Allen, Napolean Hill, Oprah Winfrey, and Norman Vincent Peale. But I agree with Steve Salerno who used the acronym SHAM for the Self-Help and Actualization Movement. He said it is not only ineffective in achieving its goals, but it's also socially harmful. I also agree with Christopher Buckley, who asserts in his book God is My Broker that: "The only way to get rich from a self-help book is to write one."

The basic premise of the self-help teachers is to seek your own good and fulfill your own dreams and ambitions. Yet in God’s Word it is written, “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” (1Co 10:24)

So when we follow man’s wisdom on how to be successful, we’re walking on thin ice. This is a dangerous place. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9). God's thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. That's why human wisdom will never save you or give you the keys to truly abundant life.

Let me encourage you to beware of these self-help authors and speakers. What they say may sound great and appeal to you, but it’s not all true. Much of it is half-truths and lies. Don’t practice what they teach. Instead, give your life to Jesus. Live for Him. Be a student of God’s Word and put into practice what He says. As Solomon wrote: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” (Pro 3:5-8)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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