What Is the Occult? Is It Real?

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a listener question from Kelly who asked, “What Is the Occult? Is It Real?”

Show Notes:

  • The occult IS real.
    • It can refer to different things… witchcraft, worshiping pagan gods, and attempts to communicate with demons and demonic forces…
    • It’s difficult to figure out the exact statistics, but a 2018 article in Newsweek cited studies that estimated there are about 1.5 million practicing witches in the U.S. alone…
    • Last fall, NBC News cited a 2014 Pew Research Center study increased that projection several times over in assessing that 0.4% of Americans identified as pagan, Wiccan or New Age.
    • Which may not seem like a lot, but even that number from 2014 means there’s been a significant increase in people who believe these things, and again, that’s just in America alone.
    • Other parts of the world and other cultures have deep ties to witchcraft and the occult — witch doctors are still very prevalent (and very powerful) in many parts of Africa, for example.
  • Flirting with the occult is wicked.
  • For many, they say worshiping Satan is a way of resisting unjust tyrannical authority—even in that, I can start with a point of agreement that many people have usurped religion to gain unjust authority, Jesus himself was crucified by those doing that. So even there, for the convinced Satanist, I can find a point of agreement to start from. Ironically, they are giving Satan credit for resisting that authority when he’s the one creating it. Satan filled Judas and the Pharisees. Jesus resisted.
  • More often, Satan shows up in false religion…
    • Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:20: “I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.”
    • In other words, the sacrifices made to pagan gods were really sacrifices made to demons who were behind those gods.
  • In America, he’s in materialism and power (angel of light)
    • Matt 6:24 talks about not being able to serve two masters. Our modern Bibles translate that word as “money,” but in older translations, like the KJV, they use the word “Mammon.” “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
      • Why did they do that? Follow this: Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and “Mammon” is the Aramaic word for money. The New Testament is written in Greek, so, when the Gospel writers wrote down Jesus’ words, they translated him from Aramaic to Greek. But for this one word, Mammon, they left it in Aramaic.
      • Why? ​​Well, when you are translating something, what kind of words do you not translate? Names. You don’t translate names, you transliterate them. The early church said the disciples wrote down this as a proper name because they understood that Jesus was not just talking about a THING here; he was talking about personal power. A demonic power. Something that comes into your heart with a will.
      • Satan has a unique power over money. It’s part of his domain. It’s not that you can’t have any of it—no, the world works on it and it has great power for good—it’s just you should realize that it will always be fighting to have you, to possess your heart. God and money will ALWAYS be pulling you in opposite directions.
      • You will love the one and hate the other; or hate the one and love the other. With demonic energy it beckons you, Christian, to transfer your trust from God to it. You may never verbalize it, but in your heart you’ll think: “I don’t need to trust God for the future; I have Mammon.”
  • On the personal level, we find him questioning identity
    • Satan begins his temptation of Jesus with an attack on his identity because Satan knows if he defeats him there, he’ll be powerless against all other temptations.
    • In the great temptation, Satan is not out in the wilderness showing Jesus pictures of naked women or offering him drugs.That comes later. He starts by making Jesus question who he is and how God feels about him.
  • Satan is in the desire cultivation business
    • Your enemy’s main tactic is not always to directly attack you. Sometimes he is just quietly and subtly cultivating sinful desires in you, reinforcing them until they become second-nature to you and you can’t escape them.
    • Here’s what ethicist and author Russell Moore says, “Sometimes the Bible uses the language of predator and prey to describe the relationship between tempter and tempted, but often the Scripture also speaks of temptation in the language of rancher and livestock. You are not just being tracked down—you are also being cultivated.”

Kelly, yes the occult is real and yes, we should resist it—even “mild” forms of it. We also have to recognize that our enemy is more often than not going to approach us in those forms. He’s going to come to us in distortions of biblical truth, tempting us to reshape our views of God rather than what the Bible says, he’s going to repeat the same lie in the garden of Genesis 3.  He’s going to try and get you to change what you think about God. He’s going to be there to make you question your identity. Satan is playing the long game.

I know this is heavy and it might make you wonder how we can escape an enemy who is so wise. The Bible gives one answer to that and the answer is Scripture itself.

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