Sunday’s sermon was called “Magic Spells”, and it was taken from Acts 19. A lot of Christians worry about Halloween, but the real concern over magic should be focused on a far more pervasive problem, which is an approach to Christianity that basically looks at it as if it were a magic spell. All of the prosperity gospel and “abundant life” stuff falls into this terrible sin.
The sons of Sceva believed that the name of Jesus could be used as a magic spell. They thought they could work Him into their routine, and get a little bit of Paul’s action. This was Simon the Sorcerer’s sin as well, who believed he could buy the gift of the Holy Spirit from Peter.
Magic is the attempt to use some kind of power or knowledge to control or manipulate God to do what you want. It is the belief that the forces that underlie the universe could be bound to our will. And when we approach Christianity with a mind to see what we can get out of it, this is essentially what we are doing. This is a far greater danger to the church than any Harry Potter book, and serious Christians need to sit up and take notice, first looking for this attitude in their own practices, and also in their churches.
If I think that getting baptized or going to church or a mission trip or saying enough prayers forces God to bless me, then I am essentially practicing magic. I am attempting to make God my instrument to accomplish my ends.
Real religion is the opposite- I submit myself to God, and make myself His instrument, to accomplish His ends. In the Bible, the holy men never take hold of God’s power to do what they want. Instead, God works miracles and accomplishes great things, sometimes using holy men as His instrument. It’s all the difference in the world.
The people of Ephesus recognized the difference. When they saw the failure of the sons of Sceva, they all brought their spell books to be burned. Our spell books are not Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings- our spell books are the latest fads on how to use God to get rich, be happy, and accomplish your goals.
The whole sermon is on the sidebar link.