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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, November 25, 2001

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5).

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is the second biggest money-making movie in history. It made $100 million in the first five days of its release, coming in at a virtual tie with "Star Wars: Episode One." The movie is about magic and a young boy learning to be a sorcerer. Allan Zola Kronzek is the author of a book called, The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter (Broadway, 2001). Mr. Kronzek says, "Most of the magic in Harry Potter comes out of the Western magical tradition, which really originated in the Middle East, in Babylonia and Mesopotamia. Greek, Roman and Egyptian sources got all mixed together in a kind of melting pot and formed what scholars called the Western magical tradition. That's where a lot of the magic spells, the potions and the curses come from" (USA Today, November 16, 2001, p. 1E).

Linda Harvey is a Christian writer. She is the president of Mission America. Mrs. Harvey says, "From a Christian perspective, sorcery, witchcraft, spell-casting, dealing with the occult has always been forbidden. Witchcraft is being pitched at our kids [in the Harry Potter movie and books]. We have no idea what we're playing with here, even though it's done in a lighthearted way" (ibid., USA Today).

Dr. Merrill F. Unger, late professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, pointed out that renewed interest in witchcraft and sorcery is one of the signs that we are living in the last days, very near the end of the world as we know it. Dr. Unger said:

The Apostle Paul, warning of the grievous times of the last days when erroneous doctrine and occultism would abound and false teachers would resent and oppose the truth, as Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, withstood Moses (II Timothy 3:1-12), declares that "evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). "Impostors"…is employed of a class of magicians who chanted magical formulas in a strange guttural voice…"Sorcerers" would, perhaps, be the nearest English equivalent, and points to the subtle magical occultism to be encountered in the closing days of this age (Dr. Merrill F. Unger, Biblical Demonology, Scripture Press, 1952, p. 118).

J. K. Rowlings is the author of the Harry Potter books, upon which the movie is based. The first three books in the series have sold at an amazing rate. More than thirty-three million of these books are already in print. And, as I said, the movie is a blockbuster. Phil Arms writes:

Harry is an eleven-year-old boy who is a wizard. He uses his magical powers as he goes through life's experience…The books are filled with intrigue, mystery, and heroism. Unfortunately, they are also filled with blatant illustrations of witchcraft, occultic powers, violence, and all sorts of New Age teachings. Each book is a virtual graduate course for children on how to use [so-called] "good magic" and how to manipulate spiritual powers to accomplish their ends (Phil Arms, Pokemon and Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction, Hearthstone, 2000, p. 75).

Mr. Arms goes on to say:

Harry's world is one of darkness, deception, and treachery, where evil is praised and wickedness is rewarded. In that world, children learn to trust Satanic forces and to fellowship with demons.

Yes, these malevolent entities and activities are camouflaged behind a veil of good intentions and innocent fun. But, sooner or later, all who enter the world of Harry Potter must meet the true face behind the veil. And when they do, they discover what all those who toy with evil discover, and that is, that while they may have been just playing, the Devil always plays for keeps (ibid., p. 84).

Yes, I believe in the Devil and I believe in demons. The Bible says that these beings are very real - and very dangerous. The Bible says:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour"

(I Peter 5:8).

Dr. Kurt Koch tells of a young Jamaican college student who came to him for counselling:

He told me that at night he had to struggle against evil spirits. Not until he looked to Jesus in faith and called to Jesus for help would these powers of darkness go away. I asked him whether he had been charmed as a child by a…magician of the Caribbean islands. He replied that he had been ill as a boy. No doctor had been able to help him. His parents had taken him to a [so-called] "godly man" who had healed him…in three days. That was white magic. White magic has the same effect as black magic. We can see the result. [He] was still troubled by dark powers… (Kurt Koch, Th.D., Occult ABC, Literature Mission, 1983, p. 299).

So-called "white magic," and even "black magic," are practiced in the Harry Potter movie and books. This is as demonic as Halloween. Since we, as Christians, reject Halloween, we also reject Harry Potter. Don't have anything to do with it! The subtle message of these books and this movie can bring deep psychological and spiritual problems. One young person whom I know personally was so deeply troubled by seeing The Exorcist that he couldn't sleep for several nights. He now no longer attends church and is filled with constant anger and hostility toward God. This is a real person. I knew him well as a young person.

You may think that Harry Potter is less harmful than The Exorcist, but it may very well be even more harmful! You cannot play with demons or the Devil without it harming you - perhaps in unexpected ways. I say, don't even watch the video of this supposedly harmless movie when it comes out! Don't "give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27).

Now, the people in the city of Samaria are a good example in the Bible of those who are delivered from the Satanic power of sorcery, such as that in the Harry Potter movie. And I want us to notice three simple facts about these people, and the great Christian revival they experienced:

I. First, they had been bewitched by sorcery for a long time.

The Bible tells us that there was a sorcerer, a magician, named Simon in that city. We read:

"And there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries" (Acts 8:9-11).

Verse nine says that Simon "used sorcery." Ellicott tells us this literally means that he "was practicing magic" (Charles John Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, volume VII, Zondervan, n.d., p. 48). The Greek word for "sorcery" is "magos." It means "wizard, sorcerer, a pretender to magic powers, a professor of the arts of witchcraft" ( Vine). Our English word "magic" comes from this Greek word.

With these magical powers Simon "bewitched the people of Samaria" (Acts 8:9). The Greek word for "bewitched" means "to astonish, to amaze, to cause one to be beside himself" (Fritz Reinecker, A Linguistic Key to the New Testament, Zondervan, 1980, p. 279). Ellicott tells us that this literally means that Simon's sorcery "threw them into the state of trance or ecstasy; set them beside themselves, or out of their wits" (ibid.).

Kathryn Kuhlman was a famous "faith healer." She touched people and they were "slain in the Spirit," falling over on the ground. Many of them claimed physical healing through her ministry. Dr. Kurt Koch gives a report which says, "Kathryn Kuhlman calls herself an instrument of the Lord. In reality, she is a medium [or sorcerer] of the Lord of this world [Satan}. A person cannot receive a second birth from the Holy Spirit when someone touches his face and says a few words to him. What Kathryn Kuhlman displays is not a gift of the Holy Spirit of God, but a gift of the spirits of the air [the demons]. These spirits make use of her, herself deceived and deceiving others…She is a medium of Satan…A well known professor of theology at Tubingen [Germany] has the reputation among believers of being a born-again Christian. This professor wrote to me [Dr. Koch], 'Kathryn Kuhlman is a spiritist'" (Koch, Occult ABC, p. 118).

A well-known Baptist preacher and theologian said to me, after watching Kathryn Kuhlman on television, "Her voice is so unnatural. She seems to be demon possessed to me."

Across the years I have become increasingly convinced that many of these "faith healers" like Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, and leaders of the so-called "laughing revival," are actually demon-energized magicians, sorcerers who practice so-called "white magic" to seduce and "if it were possible…deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24).

My former associate, Dr. Arthur B. Houk, and I attended two "laughing revival" meetings in Pasadena, California a few years ago. We saw people rolling on the ground, barking like dogs, and screaming at the top of their lungs when touched by the leaders of this movement. Both Dr. Houk and I concluded that these manifestations were demonic in origin, that "white magic" was used to induce people into a "state of trance or ecstasy; set them beside themselves, or out of their wits" (Ellicott, ibid.).

Millions of charismatics and Pentecostals have come under the sorcery of these "magicians" who masquerade as servants of God. Rather than physical healing from God, they experience demonic healings and trances. Thus, hundreds of thousands who watch the TV ministry of Benny Hinn today are subjecting themselves to occult ministry, sorcery, quite similar to the sorcery practiced on the people of Samaria by Simon the Sorcerer.

Other thousands of Americans have been deceived by the occult practices seen on television in the form of "spiritual readings" and "mediumistic" so-called contacts with the dead. Many young people go into fits and trances through the sorceries of rock bands like those of Ozzie Osborne and others, and through reading the Harry Potter books. Drugs can also be a way that demonic, occult activity takes over a person's life.

All of this occult, demonic activity makes people hungry for more. No wonder that so many Americans are now open to the message of Harry Potter. Occult, new-age demonic activity is having a booming revival throughout the Western world - and will probably help to lead the world into the occult sorceries of the Antichrist and the False Prophet in the future Tribulation period - a time of great demonic activity, led largely by sorcerers.

Like the people of Samaria, these Americans have great regard for their occult leaders, because for a "long time [they] had bewitched them with sorceries" (Acts 8:11), just as happened to the people of Samaria.

II. Second, the people of Samaria heard the gospel.

Our text says:

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5).

That's what we need today, from one end of America to the other. We need to hear Christ preached! We have heard just about everything else: verse-by-verse commentaries, dramas in church, rap music, contemporary "worship," positive thinking, possibility thinking, name-it-and-claim-it teaching, Lordship salvation, Brownsville Awakening teaching, laughing "revivals," deliverance ministry, Promise Keepers, church growth seminars, preservation of the English in the KJV, choruses on slide projectors, the open theism of Clark Pinnock and others, TBN charismania, progressive dispensationalism, and the list goes on and on.

Yet none of it affects you young people. The churches are twisting in the wind. Young unchurched college-age people like you are never touched and never reached. Why? Because everything I listed a minute ago is irrelevant. If you don't already go to church, it has nothing for you and nothing that will help you or get you saved and into church. These methods and ideas are just not adding many unchurched young people to our churches.

In all of their scrambling and twisting, and trying to be relevant, America's preachers have failed to reach the unchurched young people of this generation. I see preachers that grow a "van Dyke" beard and ignorantly call it a "goatee" (which is a completely different beard). They shave their heads and put on turtle necked sweaters - but they don't get college-age kids from outside the church. Why? Because kids don't need a preacher with a shaved head and a small beard. They don't need drums and rap music. They need something this culture doesn't already offer them! They need Jesus Christ to forgive their sins, and they need the fellowship, strong, deep, loving, loneliness-curing fellowship of a local New Testament, old-time Baptist church! They also need strong Fire and Blood gospel sermons about salvation through Christ. And they need pastors who will sit down with them and listen to them after they preach. Superficial evangelism has not reached our young people. They need quality time with the pastor after hearing a fiery evangelistic sermon. That's what kids need - and we aren't going to get them into our churches until we give it to them!

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5).

Young person, that's exactly what you need. You need to have Christ preached to you. You need to know who Christ is - that He is God in human flesh. You need to know what Christ did - that He never sinned, yet He took your sin in His own body on the Cross, punished in your place, to pay for your sins. You need to know where Christ is - far above this earth, in another dimension, in the "heavenlies" - seated at the right hand of God in a flesh and bone resurrected body. You need to know why Christ is important - because you can only get to Heaven by having your sins washed away by His Blood. You need to know where to find Christ - in and through a local New Testament Baptist church - God's ordained means for effectively proclaiming Christ so you can be saved.

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5).

My young friend, Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is God the Son.

My young friend, Jesus Christ took your sins on the Cross. He died under the weight of your sins. The First Person of the Trinity, God, punished Him. God punished Jesus on the Cross to pay for your sins. That's called "propitiation." The wrath and anger of God against sin was poured out on Jesus. God punished Jesus Christ for your sins. That's what's called "vicarious atonement" - one person dying in the place of another.

You should go to Hell for your sins - but instead, Jesus went to the Cross to pay for your sins! Jesus put Himself in your place - to pay for your sins! Then Christ rose from the dead. He ascended physically into Heaven, into another dimension. He is alive there right now, seated beside God the Father.

What must you do to be saved from sin and from Hell? The Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). The moment you turn from sin and put your full faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved for all time and for all eternity. As Joseph Hart put it:

The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His Blood.

("The Moment a Sinner Believes" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

III. This brings me to the third and last point of the sermon - the people of Samaria believed and were baptized.

"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12).

These people were delivered from sorcery and sin by fully trusting Jesus and proving that they trusted Him by changing the way they lived.

They left paganism and were baptized into the local church. They were now in church every time the door was open. That's New Testament Christianity! And that's what you need! That's the only way to become a strong Christian, and it's the only way to cure your loneliness. Why be lonely? Come home to church!

I heard a preacher tell about a Mormon he witnessed to. He told the Mormon about the gospel, what Jesus did on the Cross, and his need to be saved by believing in Jesus. The Mormon said, "I understand what you told me, but I don't believe it." Well, at least that Mormon was an honest man. He said, "I don't believe it."

We had a Chinese college student in our church last year who was not honest. The Chinese boy said, "I do believe the gospel." He could tell you all about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He could tell you all about the mechanics of getting saved. I said, "OK, let's baptize you. Become a member of the church and get baptized next month." You know what? That Chinese boy got so scared of joining the church that he stopped coming! He wouldn't change his way of life to become a Christian!

The Mormon was honest. He said, "I don't believe the gospel." The Chinese college student was dishonest - he said he did believe the gospel, but he would not change his way of living, join the church, and become a regular Christian.

The people in Samaria were not hypocrites like that Chinese student.

"But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12).

If you want to be saved from the loneliness of this dark world, come to church next Sunday! If you want to be saved from damnation for sin, come to Jesus Christ, the Son of God! He will wash your sins away by His Blood so you can come into this church and become a strong Christian. Go for it!

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Acts 8:5-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul"



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5).

(I Peter 5:8; Ephesians 4:27)

I.   They were bewitched by sorcery, Acts 8:9-11;
Matthew 24:24.

II.  They heard the gospel, Acts 8:5; Acts 16:31.

III. They believed and were baptized, Acts 8:12.