I’ve never seen a Harry Potter film, but I know that many people are fascinated with the occult. In my rock ‘n’ roll days, I listened to some musicians who were into the occult, but something always kept me from following their ways. I’m thankful, because I know that all it takes is a little curiosity, and I was curious. “Innocent” curiosity often leads into involvement. It’s better to remain ignorant, and instead be “wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” Romans 16:19.
That doesn’t mean that we just ignore evil. Through Christ, we have the power and authority to resist it and overcome. The apostle Paul confronted a sorcerer in the Book of Acts (13:6-12). Notice how he dealt with Elymas. Elymas was trying to interfere with Paul’s witness of the truth to a local administrator. Paul was neither polite nor politically correct with evil– he simply addressed Elymas and said: “Thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). Christians don’t need to be obnoxious, but we do need to be discerning. When something is definitely wrong, the first step in battling evil is recognizing and calling it for what it is.
Now here is where sorcery comes in. Often, we don’t recognize evil because it is so tricky. The Greek word for ‘sorcerer’ is the same word that is rendered elsewhere as ‘Magi.’ The meaning of this word is denoted as wise, or wisdom. The interpretation of the name, Elymas, literally means a wise man. (Acts 13:8).
Sorcery is a kind of wisdom, but it is not God’s wisdom. It is of the world. The Magi were wise men who practiced the art of reading the stars, a religious practice derived from the East. The word ‘Magi’ previously applied to priests in the Persian empire. These wise men were outsiders regarding the Jews. Though they came to see a King, they were initially foreigners in regards to God’s ways. Because their hearts were right, they saw God. Elymas, on the other hand, was a Jew- a good place to begin, but his “wisdom” turned him into a foreigner concerning God’s ways, as he tried to withstand Paul.
The wisdom of the world is often foreign to true Wisdom, acting as a “child of the devil” and “perverting the right ways of the Lord.” The spirit of Elymas is still in the world today, trying to throw stumbling blocks in Truth’s way.
The wisdom of the world is constantly being pumped out through the media and in the marketplace. Satan has cast a spell over souls, attracting them to all that is wrong in the spiritual realm. He hypnotizes the masses in many ways. There is constant noise, in our living rooms and in our shopping malls. Customers cannot buy groceries without being assaulted by the glitz and glamour of sleazy vanity on the magazine racks. The spell is carried further through the constant bombardment of advertising and the promotion of rebellious attitudes and values. It goes even further with the advancement of technology and the virtual sensations that entertain but do not edify.
The masses are rallied into a mass frenzy of distraction and activity, that they may give no thought to their spiritual condition. Instead, they continue to seek out any avenue of comfort or luxury that might be found. The world swirls with hypnosis and seduction, but those with spiritual eyes can see through it.
How to effectively wield authority and power
It is interesting to note that Saul’s name becomes dropped in the passage regarding his conflict with Elymas. He is now called Paul, in conjunction with the fact that he was filled with the Spirit. The name change signifies that he’s become a different person. In fact, it is not he who lives, but Christ lives in him. And when evil is confronted by Christ, it must submit to Him.
The Latin meaning of the name, Paul, is ‘weak’ or ‘small.’ Tradition notes that Paul was small in stature. The significance, however, is that he became weak and small in his own heart. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must be small in heart, which means choosing to depend on the Lord and not ourselves. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness (2Cor.12:90).
On the other hand, the Hebrew meaning of Paul’s name is ‘great’ or ‘wonderful.’ Here is the glory of the Christian life neatly revealed in a name: we become great or wonderful when we are weak and small! But Satan doesn’t want us to get a hold of this truth. He would rather we take control of our own battles and get puffed up with pride, rather than humble ourselves. And so his sorcery continues throughout the earth, luring people about with a false wisdom that says, “be the master of your world.”
Yet in the Spirit of the Lord, Paul took charge of the situation. So can we. Being “small” in heart doesn’t mean letting the world run over you. It simply means trusting in the Lord’s word and power rather than the flesh.
A word about attacks
A Christian that wants to grow and learn how to use his authority will be a prime candidate for the enemy’s attacks. This can be frustrating, but it can also be liberating to know that there is worry in the enemy’s camp. A sleepy Christian does not threaten the devil like one who is alert for Jesus. We also operate from a standpoint of victory. The devil is already defeated, and “greater is he [Christ] who is in you than he [the antichrist] who is in the world” (1John 4:4).
In this world we still have troubles. They aren’t necessarily from the enemy. Sometimes they are simply consequences of living in this fallen place. Sometimes they are from the wrong choices we make, or the wrong choices of others. And sometimes they are expressly sent from Satan’s troops. God is not the one sending the troubles. But He can turn it all around for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Knowing this, and knowing God’s love towards His children, be alert to guard your heart and mind. The enemy concentrates many attacks there. Circumstances can be trying, but it is when our attitudes are self-reliant and fighting for control, that the enemy succeeds against us. Holding on to confusion and self-pity, anger or complaints in the midst of a storm will stop the flow of faith that recognizes the power and authority of God to overcome the situation.
Paul cursed Elymas with blindness, and “immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11). The mist and darkness need not stay over us, though we live in a dark land. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Jesus called us the light of the world, and His light can shine through and send the darkness right back to the demons.