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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, December 9, 2001

"But Elymas the sorcerer…withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith" (Acts 13:8).

The Harry Potter movie is a smash hit. It revolves around the adventures of a boy named Harry who is a child sorcerer. He goes to school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn how to use the power of witchcraft. He learns about spells, curses, divination, reincarnation, potions, communing with the dead, and even demon possession.

Real Christians around the world are condemning the film. Dr. Reinhard Franzke of Germany says that the movie "is anti-Christian and has an occult character…It is opposed to the Christian faith and the Word of God" (Christian News, November 19, 2001, p. 7).

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention (of the Southern Baptist Convention) recently passed a resolution against witchcraft and sorcery. The resolution said, "The Harry Potter book series and its subsequent materials are inconsistent with biblical morality and ethics and promotes pagan beliefs and practices." The resolution declares, "We will firmly denounce and speak out against any books or materials that promote witchcraft, sorcery and the casting of spells…and specifically the Harry Potter book series and subsequent materials" (Christian News, ibid., p. 7). I completely agree with that resolution!

Robert McGee, in a Baptist Press (Southern Baptist) statement, said, "When individuals use the power of witchcraft, they are using demonic power and opening themselves up to demons…This is a critical victory for Satan and has put our children in great danger…Will the legacy of our ministries be that on our watch we allowed the neo-pagans to indoctrinate our children?" (Christian News, ibid.). It's not going to happen on my watch! I am here to tell you this morning that the sorcery portrayed in the "Harry Potter" movie and books is from the Devil - stay away from it!

The Apostle Paul and Barnabas were going through the island of Paphos. This was the capital of Cyprus. It was a great center for the worship of Aphrodite. The city was a literal hotbed of immorality and paganism. They encountered a magician, named "Elymas the Sorcerer."

The Roman governor of Paphos was named Sergius Paulus. The Bible tells us that he was "a prudent man," an intelligent man. He had listened to the preaching of Paul and Barnabas, and was interested in becoming a Christian. But Elymas the Sorcerer tried to turn him away from becoming a Christian. Then Paul looked at this sorcerer and said:

"O full of all subtilty [deceit] and all mischief [fraud], thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gives this comment:

When [Paul] encountered this kind of opposition, he denounced it with all his being. He recognized it as satanic and he denounced it. I think we ought to do the same thing today (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Volume IV, Thomas Nelson, p. 567).

There is a great deal of sorcery and paganism going on in Los Angeles today. Young people like you hear all sorts of false ideas. And I am here to tell you the same thing Paul said - these false ideas about religion are from the Devil.

Dr. Merrill F. Unger of Dallas Theological Seminary said:

The sinister…character of Elymas appears when he 'withstood' Paul and Barnabas, "seeking to turn the proconsul from the faith." Special tools of Satan, such as he, frequently come into view in the Book of Acts… (Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Biblical Demonology, Scripture Press, 1952, p. 118).

Dr. Unger goes on to point out that a great deal of "subtle magical occultism" has appeared once again in these days in which we live (ibid.). I am convinced that Dr. Unger was right. I want you to think about three points this morning:

1. The Devil is alive today.

2. The Devil will seek to turn you away from becoming a Christian.

3. The Devil can only be overcome through Jesus Christ.

I. First, the Devil is alive today.

Notice what Paul said in verse ten:

"O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil…" (Acts 13:10).

Yes, Elymas was called a "child of the devil" (Acts 13:10). And the Devil is very real. He is not in Hell yet, as some people think. The Bible calls him "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2). He is in the air. He can come to you, to trick you and confuse you, because he is in the air - around you.

And the Bible tells us that the Devil will produce many evil men like Elymas the Sorcerer in the last days.

"But evil men and seducers shall wax [grow] worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13).

Dr. Unger points out that the word "seducers" refers to "a class of magicians who chanted magical formulas in a strange guttural voice" (Unger, ibid., p. 118).

We should not be surprised at the popularity of the "Harry Potter" movie. It is one of the signs that we are now living in the last days. Jesus gave many signs of the end of the world as we know it. One of the signs Christ gave was an increase of demonic activity. He told us that there would be a literal explosion of sorcery, demonism, and general Satanic activity in the closing days of this dispensation. Christ said:

"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders: insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24).

The "Christ" of the Islamic religion is a "false Christ." The "Christ" of Mormonism is a "false Christ." The "Christ" that many Americans believe in is a "false Christ." When you hear a liberal teacher in your college debunk Christ, and say that He is dead, that college teacher is talking about a "false Christ." The real Christ is alive. He has risen, flesh and bone, from the dead. He is alive right now in another dimension - up in Heaven, at the right hand of Almighty God!

Yes, the Devil is alive, and he is very powerful. The Bible calls him "the god of this world" (II Corinthians 4:4). The Devil operates through sorcery, like that shown in the "Harry Potter" movie. But Satan also operates through false religions, that are not based completely on the Bible. The Bible says, "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

How can a young person like you escape from the delusions and tricks of the Devil? Only by completely believing and trusting the Bible, the Word of God!

"The entrance of thy words [the Bible] giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psalm 119:9).

"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89).

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11).

Read the Bible! Memorize verses in the Bible! Hide the Word of God in your heart! When some drug-brained old-Hippie college teacher tells you not to believe the Bible, you quote this verse to him:

"I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation" (Psalm 119:99).

Only the message of the Bible can set you free from the trickery and sorcery of the Devil! That's why you need to come back here to church next Sunday - to learn the message of salvation from the Bible! That's the only way to escape from the Devil's sorcery! Yes, the Devil is alive and well.

II. But, secondly, the Devil will seek to turn you away from the faith.

Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to Sergius Paulus.

"But Elymas the sorcerer…withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith" (Acts 13:8).

Young person, someone brought you to church this morning. Now I am preaching to you from the Bible, just as Paul preached to the governor. But for sure someone will try to stop you from coming back next Sunday. For sure, someone will try to turn you away from the faith. It is absolutely certain that the Devil will use somebody to try and stop you from coming back next Sunday!

Why will the Devil try to stop you from coming back to church here? The answer is simple - the Devil doesn't want you to become a real Christian!

The Bible says:

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (II Corinthians 2:11).

After forty-three years in the ministry, I am very aware of the "devices" the Devil will use to keep you from coming back here and becoming a real Christian. I know by experience how Satan will seek "to turn [you] away…from the faith" (Acts 13:8).

1. He may use a relative, perhaps your own mother or father, to keep you from becoming a true Christian. But there are some things that your parents can't really decide for you. They can't decide who you are going to marry. They can't decide what profession you are going into when you get out of college. And you shouldn't let them decide what church you are going to attend! That's your business - and yours alone.

2. Or the Devil may use a friend of yours to try to keep you from coming back here and becoming a true Christian. Every Christian in this church this morning went through that experience. And every one of them had to resist the temptation of Satan, telling them not to come back here. You will have to make that decision for yourself - whether to listen to your so-called "friends" - or whether to listen to God's Word and become a real Christian. And I hope and pray that you will make the right choice - and come back. Why be lonely? Come home - to church!

3. Or the Devil may actually try to turn you from the faith through your own mind. You must recognize that Satan uses mental tricks to stop many people from becoming real Christians. You must realize that you can't really trust your own mind when it comes to spiritual things. The Bible says, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18). You see, the Bible teaches that there is something wrong with your heart and mind. One of the first things you must learn, if you want to become a real Christian, is that you really can't trust your own feelings and thoughts. If you "feel" that you don't want to come back to church, you must resist that "feeling" or the Devil will use it to turn you away from the faith. Decide with your will, not your feelings, that this is the right way - and decide to come back no matter how you "feel."

I recently read about a teenager who was lonely. She knew that she needed Christ. But there was a struggle going on in her heart. Part of her said, "I need Christ." But another part of her said, "I don't understand why Jesus had to die for my sins. When I understand more, then I'll decide." But another thought came to this young person, "Believe in Christ first, and understanding will then come." Then she heard the preacher say, "The Devil does not want you to put your trust in Christ." Her inner struggle was over - she came to Christ and fully trusted Him. She has now been a Christian for many years. I hope and pray that you will come to Jesus Christ, as this young person did twenty-two years ago.

III. But, thirdly, the Devil can only be overcome by believing
in Jesus Christ.

The governor, Sergius Paulus, was "a prudent man," an intelligent man, according to Acts 13:7. He listened to Paul preach the gospel of Christ. Then he heard the Sorcerer try to turn him away from becoming a true Christian.

He listened to both sides. Then he decided, "I am going to put my trust in Jesus Christ." The Bible says:

"Then the deputy [Sergius Paulus]…believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord" (Acts 13:12).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee says:

Probably the sorcerer had been doing some fancy tricks by the power of Satan. In that day a false prophet could probably heal and perform other miracles by the power of Satan.

Paul has his authority from the Lord Jesus Christ. He absolutely dominates the sorcerer by his message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sergius Paulus comes to the light [of Christ]. He has been in spiritual darkness but now [he] believes [in Christ] and is astonished at the doctrine of the Lord (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., ibid., p. 567).

And that's what I am asking you to do. The Bible says:

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"

(Acts 16:31).

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He arose physically from the dead and is now alive, up in Heaven, in another dimension, at the right hand of God, praying for you. Jesus loves you very much. He wants to cleanse your sins by His Blood, and He will do so if you turn from your sins and fully believe on Him. Will you let the love of Christ deliver you from a life of sin? If you trust Jesus Christ, you will be saved from the penalty of sin in Hell. You will be saved from sin, Hell, and the grave - and you will live for eternity with God.

I am asking you to turn away from your sins and come into the loving arms of Jesus - and come into the loving fellowship of this church every Sunday. I am asking you to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). As the old gospel song puts it:

Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home,
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home.

("Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling"
     by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).

Let me illustrate the love of Jesus for sinners by this account from Dr. Kurt Koch, the German expert on sorcery and the occult:

I was in Liberia [in Africa]…After I had spoken, a seventy-year-old man came to see me for counselling. The missionary warned me that this old man was a much-feared sorcerer, who was nicknamed "the Country Devil." He was the president of the sorcerers in Liberia. I felt uncomfortable having such a man with me for counselling. But I was in for a surprise.

The sorcerer said forthrightly, "I want to confess my sins and become a Christian." Then he began to reveal all the [sinful] things he had done in his life. He had no difficulty in accepting forgiveness and deliverance through faith in Jesus Christ.

The missionaries had prepared the ground excellently. Without the ministry of these faithful witnesses of Jesus on the mission field, the sudden conversion of this old sorcerer, who was so clear about what he was doing [turning from sin and believing in Jesus] would not have been possible (Kurt E. Koch, Th.D., Occult ABC, Literature Mission, Germany, 1983, p. 333).

If Jesus Christ could save and convert an old sorcerer like that, He can save and convert you, my young friend! Why be lonely? Come home to church next Sunday! Why be lost? Come into the loving arms of Jesus Christ and be saved!

Christ has for sin atonement paid; What a wonderful Saviour!
I am redeemed! The price is paid! What a wonderful Saviour!
I praise Him for the cleansing Blood; What a wonderful Saviour!
That reconciled my soul to God; What a wonderful Saviour!
He cleansed my heart from all its sin; What a wonderful Saviour!
And now He reigns and rules within; What a wonderful Saviour!
What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus, my Jesus!
What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus, my Lord!

("What a Wonderful Saviour!" by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

Come home to church next Sunday! Come to Jesus Christ! He is the wonderful Saviour who can save your soul from sin, death, Hell and the grave! O, my young friend, come to Jesus - the Saviour of mankind!

Sure, you'll have to change some things in your life to become a Christian and be in church every Sunday, just like that old Liberian sorcerer did. Sure, you'll have to go through an inner struggle that may take weeks before you are really converted. But it will be worth it all when you finally trust Jesus and are saved.

It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ,
One look at His dear face, all sorrows will erase,
So bravely run the race, till we see Christ.

("When We See Christ" by Esther Kerr Rushoi, 1941).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Acts 13:6-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
      by Martin Luther (1483-1546)/
"Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know"



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"But Elymas the sorcerer…withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith" (Acts 13:8).

(Acts 13:10)

I.   The Devil is alive today, Acts 13:10; Ephesians 2:2;
II Timothy 3:13; Matthew 24:24; II Corinthians 4:4;
I John 5:19; Psalm 119:130, 9, 89, 11, 99.

II.  The Devil will seek to turn you away from the faith,
II Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 4:18.

III. The Devil can only be overcome by believing in Jesus Christ,
Acts 13:12; Acts 16:31.