Friday, 9 June 2017

Magic and God.

I once knew a girl who used Tarot cards. She lived at the flats where I lived, in Dianella some years ago, a few doors down from me. A palpable sense of darkness seemed to hang about her. I refused her offers to do a reading for me and told her that she would be better off turning to Jesus and burning her Tarot cards, because Jesus is much more powerful than magic. To my knowledge she ignored me - she had a beautiful pack of Tarot cards, probably very expensive, and burning them was the last thing she wanted to do with them.

In Acts chapter 19, it says what the people of Ephesus did, after they saw the power of Jesus' name.

And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.  Acts 19:19-20

Magic is all about control, really. Magic, tarot cards, divination, spells, are purportedly methods of gaining control of life by supernatural means. The problem is that those who try to gain control by these means end up at the centre of a web of fear and lies and manipulation, in which they themselves have lost control - even while they think they are in control!

The burning of the magic books in Ephesus was actually sparked by an incident. The seven sons of a high priest named Sceva were casting out demons by 'the Jesus whom Paul proclaims' and it did not go well:

God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Acts 19:11-17

The fact is that ultimately 'this Jesus whom Paul proclaims,' the crucified, risen, ascended Saviour is the one who is in control, for He is seated at the right hand of God, and everyone will eventually have to acknowledge this, for 'at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' Philippians 2:10-11

The big question of our lives that we all have to face up to, either now when we still might be able to be redeemed, or later, perhaps when it is too late, is this: who is in control?

Do we still have the illusion that we are in control of our lives? We are not. Ultimately, Jesus Christ is in control, and we must yield control to him at some point, whether willingly now, or unwillingly later. (In the Narnia books, the question is presented allegorically as -  'who is in charge, you or Aslan?' )

Anyone who uses magic, Tarot cards, summoning of spirits, etc etc to control what happens in the future is in the end a victim of these things, caught in a web of lies, deceit, the corroding of their identity, the manipulation and deceit of others, and the ever-increasing darkness of slavery to evil. But it is only those who turn to Jesus, who yield their freedom to Him, that discover that they can be free.

There is no middle ground in these things. There is no place where one can have both self-will and God's will. It's one or the other.

*Special note, added a day afterwards: the burning of the books is not main point of what the people were doing. The burning of the books is merely an outward sign of the state of their hearts - an action they were taking that shows where their lives were centred - they no longer cared about magic and even all the money they had spent on these books and the preciousness of these once valued books no longer mattered to them - they wanted to do God's will now.
In a way this turning to God - expressed as a turning away from something valuable to a person but obstructive to Christ's influence - is something in common with people who turn to God everywhere in every time and place different people express it differently.
For me, it was destroying some record albums that I felt were obstructing my relationship with Jesus, and throwing away a painting I had done which expressed my own idolatry, my worship, not of God but an idol of my heart, and the destruction of some writing I'd done more recently. It was not the albums or the painting or the writing, but what they represented to me - the destruction of an obstruction of Christ in my life, my heart-idols, turning away from things I was worshipping other than Him - that was the important part of it.

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