There is a very provocative story in the life of the apostle Paul where he evidences the kind of ambivalence I'm referring to here. It was when he visited the pagan city of Athens on one of his missionary journeys. Christ had never been preached in Athens, and Paul was amazed at how religious the city was. It was full of idols and idol worship.
At first, the Bible says, Paul was "greatly distressed"—grieved, as it were. But as he continued to walk around, he found something that encouraged him about the Athenian situation—there was evidence that God's kingdom was at work in their midst. The proof of that, Paul claimed, was the fact that they were "very religious." He pointed to an altar, which had been built to an unknown God and declared, "I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with."
He then told the Athenians that God had always been with them; that he had even "determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." (Think of that. God destined them to be in Athens—though it was not a Christian city.) And Paul claims that God did this so people "would seek him" and "find him" because he was "not far from each one of [them]. " He even maintained that all people are wrapped in God's care—that "in him we live and move and have our being."
This story is stunning to me. Paul was saying that God was present and working in that pagan culture before Paul got there with the gospel of Jesus Christ! God was responsible for their impulse to worship. But he clarifies that this "working" was incomplete and unclear without the addition of the gospel. The gospel, or "good news," was needed to unpack God's dream for humanity and to give instruction as to the why and directionality of worship.
But Paul's point is clear—whether people see what is going on or not, God still works in the life of every person, in every nation, at every moment. Most just don't know it, and they build "altars" to what they don't understand.
That is my take on the popularity of "The Secret." People are rushing to this information because they are looking for hope, longing for change, and seeking a new way of living that is not limited or oppressive. But without realizing it, people are really looking for Jesus and the "new creation" [see 2 Corinthians 5:17] he brings.
The Secret Behind the "Secret"
Though we are to do what we can to help others hear about Jesus, the Scripture is clear that Satan tries to blind folks from understanding of the gospel. Paul writes, "The Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil…Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ."
The New Testament also claims that there is a great secret tucked into the gospel of Christ: "This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God's people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance."
It turns out that the secret behind the Secret is Christ himself—not just the law of attraction. This is what Satan tries to blind people from understanding. Apart from Jesus Christ, there really is no lasting peace—he is the Prince of Peace. Apart from Christ, there really is no victory over sin and heartache—he is our victory. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no completeness, no real life—"he who has the son has life."
As believers, we should use the law of attraction (and any other law that will help us be more effective in life), but we must shift the basis for happiness away from laws—our happiness needs to remain firmly rooted in a Person, Jesus Christ. and our trust in him. Once, while recounting Israel's sins to the prophet Jeremiah, God said, "My people have done two sinful things: They have turned away from me, the well of living waters. And they have cut out of the rock wells for water for themselves. [But] they are broken wells that cannot hold water."
People still do this today. They forget (or don't know) that Jesus is the only thirst quencher—the "well of living waters"—and they try to dig "wells" for themselves to quench their own thirst: perhaps a quest for success, a run at fame, a lust for money. Or they journey into darker things, like drug and alcohol abuse or illicit sexual behavior— these are all "wells that cannot hold water."
Years ago an old friend of my wife Gail's and mine, Nancy Arndt, wrote a piece that captures the God-thirst present in every person and how we run at other things to try to fill it.
He is the Security you seek in moneyThe bottom line to all this is, there's more to the Secret—it's Jesus.
He is the High you seek in alcohol
He is the Ecstasy you seek in sex
He is the Health you seek in doctors
He is the Song you seek in music
He is the Dance you seek in the clubs
He is the Beauty you seek in travel
He is the Wisdom you seek in books
He is the Peace you seek in worry
It is Jesus whom you seek.
If you have never received him before, stop, drop, and roll…call out to him, and he will meet you where you are. Do it today. Here's a simple prayer to help you do just that:
Jesus, something in me is nudging me to say YES to you. I want to do that. The Bible says that if I declare you as the one in charge of my life—as Lord of my life—then help from heaven will come—that I will be "saved." I'm so open to that. Jesus, be my Lord—right here, right now, over my current set of circumstances—be my Lord Forgive me of my sin. Cleanse me from the pursuits that I know are wrong. I surrender to you and welcome you into my life. I am yours!