Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Magic, The Occult, and God

Acts 19

How do you picture the Devil? Is a funny-looking guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork? Is he an all powerful force, which you are incapable of resisting?

In actuality, neither is true.

This is Satan's boast, his dream, his desire:
Isaiah 14:13-15
"13 You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

This, perhaps is the picture of that being we know as Lucifer, that the people in the city we are going to visit today held.

Today we are going to visit the city of Ephesus - Ephesus lies 3 miles inland from the western coast of Asia Minor. It sported one of the best harbors in the Mediterranean, fertile soil, and access to the inland cities. It was a center of trade, and also a center of magic and occultism.

It is no wonder that Paul's message to the church birthed in Ephesus centered on spiritual warfare against the Devil - since he held such a stronghold in that city.

The Occult, though ancient in origin, holds many in its sway even today.

Vs 1 - 7
Paul clarifies Jesus

Just because someone says they are a Christian, doesn't mean they have a good theological understanding of what being a Christian really means. Just ask a member of the Mormon church.

That's why it's good to have a firm base on what you believe. Do you? I'm not saying you need a degree from Fuller Seminary, but I'd challenge you to think about your faith - can you defend it?



Vs 8 - 11
Preaching to all of Asia

We see a subtle shift here in Paul's preaching patterns. At first he goes to the synagogue as was his usual manner of preaching. But after some of the Jews got obstinate, Paul actually rented a hall from a guy named Tryannus. Paul apparently had the hall from 11am to 4pm every day. It was during that time that the people of Ephesus took a nap. Paul would spend the morning and afternoon making tents, and the noon time preaching.

In this way he was able to reach people all across Asia. This is encouraging because before this God prevented them Paul from going to Asia - now it's bigger than he could have imagined.

For us - don't lose heart if at first God says "no."

Vs 11 - 22
Miracles and superstition in Ephesus

13-16
Aaron covered this - but let me just add that Sceva was called a "Jewish High Priest". Its most likely that this was a self given title, that he wasn't the high priest - but in that culture a "high" priest would be accorded more powers.

The handkerchiefs were God's way to accommodating himself to human frailty, not creating a pattern for us to follow.

But, at the same time, we shouldn't rule out God acting in ways that are unusual. Our problem is, if it happens once, we think it's the way it should happen all the time, so we laugh uncontrollably, think we should be rich because of a contract we have with God, or that putting mud in your eye is a way to heal the blind.

To understand what was happening in Ephesus we need to know about the city. It was, at this time, a center for magic. In fact, there was an old saying: "Ephesian writings" that meant anything containing a spell.

The city was the center for the goddess Diana, or Artimis, the goddess of fertility. The people were steeped in the occult and magic - and would not think it unusual for something like a handkerchief to possess powers.




A couple of points here:
1) The miracle contributed to the spread of the gospel
2) There was nothing in the handkerchiefs of aprons themselves, any more than there was anything in the mud Jesus used to open the eyes of the blind.
3) It was merely evidence that God had done the miracle through Paul, and not through one of their gods.
4) By the way: sending away for "anointed" handkerchiefs today doesn't work
.

Vs 23 - 41
The Riot

As I said, Artemis was a central part of the Ephesians' culture at the time. Craftsmen, like Demetrius, would make "miniature silver niches, containing an image of the goddess" which her followers would bring to her temple to have dedicated.

Demetrius worried about an economic impact this new "way" would have on his business, but he knew that alone wouldn't cause an uproar, so he used a patriotic argument and even a religious argument to get people all riled up. He was more successful than he perhaps expected.

It reminds me of a lot of protests I cover. It seems just the fact that someone is protesting something brings all kinds of people out of the woodwork. They don't care about the cause, just so they can yell and shout.

Here Luke demonstrates that the legal system, if properly administered, can bring justice even to a Christian. This also happened with Gallio in Corinth back in chapter 18.

I want to share a couple of things from this chapter.
1- Sharing the gospel according to the context of the people to whom you are talking.

It's important for us as believers to understand the culture before we can effectively share the gospel. That is true for overseas missions, and it is true for over the kitchen counter missions.

That's why bikers make better missionaries to bikers than engineers. If you can talk the language, even play the part, you will be accepted. This was the case in Ephesus. The city was held by occultism so God used something that they might recognize as a bridge to the gospel. We can use bridges too.

Maybe for you it's engineering. You can speak the language of so many processors per angstrom - transistor this and silicon that. You can take that situation and use it - talking about how intricately God created DNA - how the entire blueprint of the human exists on those fragile strands - and reminds us that our lives are totally dependent on our creator.

The Occult today

o 70,000 witches in US - in fact witchcraft.org calls witches: "Children of Artemis".
o 25% of those who join the occult used to attend an evangelical church
o The occult is all around us: "Practical Magic" which casts witchcraft in a positive light, "Harry Potter" with its potions and magical characters, "Teen Witch" teaching teens how to cast spells against crabby teachers.
o Practically every newspaper in the country has a page devoted to horoscopes.
o TV shows like "Roswell", "The X Files" and others promote curiosity into the occult.

What entices people into the Occult?

o Occult means: "hidden" - they get knowledge that is hidden from others
o Power over others
o Music (Black Metal)
o Games (Ouija Board, Dungeons and Dragons)
o Drugs and Sex

Reaching to Occultist

o They are held by fear - but God is greater (Matt 10:28)
Matt 10:28 "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

o Don't point to the church or Christians - but to Jesus as Savior.

o Know what the Bible says about the occult, and know your faith.

o Symbols are important to them - we can use them too (baptism, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, the cross) - but they must not raise to the level of having magical powers in themselves. That was the Israelite's problem when they thought the Ark of the Covenant would protect them in battle. It was God, not the Ark that was their source of protection. We need to make sure we don't elevate anything to take God's place.

o Burning books - context is that destroying spells was important to deliverance - it wasn't the same as burning a book. We should note that the magicians in Ephesus did this of their own accord - no one forced them to do it.

o Getting rid of Occult symbols and reminders (Ouija Board) is important - a repudiation of all the evil, a dramatic cleansing from the past.

Conclusion

1) The Occult is to be respected, not feared.
It's like 220volt electricity. If you don't handle it right it can hurt you badly, but if you respect the power you can work with it - by turning it off first. We need to turn "off" the power of the enemy by calling on Jesus' name, then handle the situation with wisdom.

2) Break ties to the Occult
If you have been involved in the Occult - but have not fully repented or gotten rid of the influence - do it.

3) Don't worry about becoming an expert in the gospel
Just become an expert in what God has done in your life and the basic elements of the Good News. Each one of us has an area of life that we move in - think about ways you can "bridge" to the Lord, then pray that he'll bring up a situation that you can use it.

At the beginning I shared Satan's dream. As the verse continues we discover Satan's reality:

Isaiah 14:15-16
"15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. 16 Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: "Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble?"

Isa 14:19-20
"19 But you are cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch; you are covered with the slain, with those pierced by the sword, those who descend to the stones of the pit.
Like a corpse trampled underfoot, 20 you will not join them in burial, for you have destroyed your land and killed your people."

The bottom line is, Satan cannot hold us if Jesus holds us in His hands. Satan cannot harm us as long as God's armor surrounds us. Satan's temptations cannot pull us away as long as God's Word fills our ears and our hearts.


Eph 6:10-13
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.


Bible verses about the Occult

o Astrology - Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:2-5; 2 Kings 21:3, 5; Job:31:26-28; Jeremiah 10:2; 27:9-10; Daniel 2:1-4; 4:7; 5:7-9; Zephaniah 1:5.
o Magic - Exodus 7:11; Leviticus 20:27; 2 Kings 21:6; Isaiah 47:12; Ezekiel 13:18, 20; Micah 5:12; Acts 8:11-24; Galatians 5:20-21; Revelation 9:21; 21:8; 22:15.
o Fortune Telling - Leviticus 19:31; 1 Samuel 28; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3; 44:25; Jeremiah 14:14; 27:9; Ezekiel 13:3, 8; 21:21.
o Overview - Deuteronomy 18:9-12
Links to information about the Occult from a Christian perspective:

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