INTRODUCTION / PASSAGE
Morning! My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor of Renovation Church
It is so great to be back with you this morning.
Although, our team had an amazing time in Mozambique!
We went to a city that was 88% Muslim and preached the Gospel in the streets, in marketplaces, and at a large outreach.
And the Lord moved in such a mighty way!
Our team of 22 helped lead over 1,800 people to Christ, and get connected with local pastors for follow-up
And we were part of a broader mission there with literally 1,000 local churches in the city, and together, we led ____ to Christ!
It was insane! I would love for you to go with us to Africa next time!
Thank you so much for your prayer and a special thank you to those of you who were financially supporting your friends and family who went!
All right, this morning in our Zechariah series, we’re talking about New Age Beliefs and Paganism…
And by the way, when I say “Paganism” today, I’m going to just define it as the worship of many gods, or idols, or spirits, or energy…or really anything in the broader new age movement.
My first exposure to that movement was probably as an unsaved teenager.
My very first job, at 16, was as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Cambridge, and I was terrible at it.
I was too slow and I talked too much
But one of the things I remember from that job was on my lunch break, I would order a cheeseburger and fries, and then sit down and read the newspaper
This is the pre cell phone era
And as a non-believer at the time, I got in the habit of always reading my horoscope while I ate lunch.
And in my mind, I knew it was silly.
And I knew anyone could write, “Today you will have a challenging day and meet someone with a vowel in their name,”
But yet, I read it almost every day that year.
I guess, maybe there was something inside of me that was looking for more.
And in some ways, I wasn’t all that different from the Israelites of Zechariah’s day.
So let’s talk about this as we look at our passage from Zechariah 10 today
(page 650) if you’re using the Church Bibles from the Welcome Tent
Or you can use our Renovation App, just tap Summer Services, and then Weekly Verses
If today is your first time with us, Zechariah was a prophet who ministered about 520 years before Jesus.
We’re going to look at just two verses today from Zechariah 10
This is the Lord speaking:
(Zechariah 10:1-2) – NIV
Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
and plants of the field to everyone.
2 The idols speak deceitfully,
diviners see visions that lie;
they tell dreams that are false,
they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
Okay, so let me give some context on why the Lord was saying this through Zechariah the prophet.
God’s people had just come back from a 70-year exile in Babylon, and perhaps the main reason that God exiled them there in the first place was because of their idolatry.
They continued to play around with all of the different gods and goddesses and idols you could imagine, and that led them into all sorts of sin and depravity.
And now, even though they’ve returned to Jerusalem, it appears that some of the Israelites are re-engaging in this sort of paganism.
Verse 2 of our passage warns about the lies of idols.
Little statues of a god that you perhaps would pray to for a certain thing, or you would have a “diviner” as Zechariah mentions, come over and tell you what the god is saying to you.
The “diviner” might also perform rituals by sacrificing one of your animals, calling out to different gods, or even by looking for answers in the organs of your animal.
By the way, this is not all that different from how many people in Mozambique and East Africa still live.
It is incredibly common for Africans to see a witch doctor for help, and that witch doctor will then perform similar rituals to seek answers for them.
And unfortunately, in Zechariah’s time, the cultural influence of the pagans was once again seeping back into God’s people
THE RETURN OF PAGANISM
And, I submit to you, this is happening again in our day as well.
Paganism is returning to our culture.
So what are the common beliefs of paganism, or new agers, or wiccans, or ….
Well, as you might suspect, it’s a bit hard to pin down because it’s such a broad category, and includes a lot of different groups.
But let me give you a number of examples of modern-day paganism:
Any many of these aren’t as intense as being a wiccan, but they are just as unbiblical…and can be just as dangerous.
For example, many pagans believe in what is called “The Law of Attraction”
The Law of Attraction says that our thoughts and feelings attract a corresponding energy to ourselves.
If your thoughts are negative, you attract negative things into your life.
If your thoughts are positive, you attract positive and good things.
And so people say, “Good vibes only”
And so therefore, the idea behind this is that you need to believe, imagine, and visualize what you want.
Others will say you need to manifest it into existence by speaking it over yourself.
Let me give you another example: Many other pagans believe that we should, through mindfulness, or our breathing, or meditation, connect with the greater cosmic force.
Or, I was sharing the Gospel with someone earlier this year, and they responded by saying, “I just believe that God is out there in nature…that he’s in the forest, or in the wind.
Again, that’s not a well-defined spiritual system per se, but you can see the influence of paganism on our culture.
For example, when the average American today wants to connect to a higher meaning or a higher guiding purpose for their life, they don’t reference God anymore…
…they’ll say something like, “Well, I guess it’s just the way the Universe meant it to be.”
What is that? The Universe controls your life?
And of course there is eventually a next step into Paganism, right?
And unfortunately, over the last 10 years, as the distance away from Jesus increases for many, people are taking even the next steps into paganism.
I’m referring to things like:
Putting crystals in your pocket, or wearing certain medals to keep away bad energy.
Going to see a psychic
Or to see a medium who claims to speak with your dead loved ones.
Tarot card readers, spirit guides, palm readers, and those who practice Wicca.
Some of you might think, “why are you talking about this?”
A) Because it’s our text for today
And B), Because these types of beliefs are absolutely EXPLODING in America
For example, a Trinity College survey found that in 1990, there was just 8,000 wiccans in America.
In 2014, Pew Research, said the number of practicing witches had grown to 1.5 million.
For comparison’s sake, there are only 1.4 million members of the Presbyterian Church of America.
There are more witches than old fashioned Presbyterians in America right now.
Why is this happening?
It’s happening in Western Civilization in part because we are transitioning from being a culture where almost everyone went to church (not that they were all saved, but they at least were influenced by the teachings of the church) and thus they had somewhat of a Christian worldview…
…to now, we are living in a culture, where in cities like ours, maybe only 15-20% of people go to church.
And when people leave God behind, what do they turn to?
I’ll tell you, it’s not what everyone thought they were going to turn to 40-50 years ago!
The thought by leading atheists and philosophers, was that by now (by the 2020’s), we would be a nation filled with atheists.
But it isn’t happening
Atheism isn’t even really growing.
Meanwhile, paganism is exploding.
Because humans have a god-shaped hole in their heart.
That’s how they were made!
They desire a spiritual connection…and so atheism just feels wrong for them.
But they no longer want Christianity, or even Islam, or Judaism, because those things come with having to submit to a moral authority regarding how one is to live.
People still want spirituality, but not morality.
They want to do be able to do whatever they want sexually, relationally, you name it.
And so Americans are finding themselves falling into the arms of paganism…because in paganism, you can have spirituality, but without a personal God, so you can create your own morality!
And for our culture, that’s a match made in…hell.
And honestly, these sorts of beliefs are even creeping into the church.
In part because the Christian Church in America has created a vacuum which allowed it to come in.
American Christians are the least Biblically educated that they’ve been in any of our lifetimes.
This is why we’re so serious about teaching the Bible here…not just moralistic messages about how to not be angry or balance your time.
This is why we have Renovation U to teach the bible and theology.
Without good Biblical teaching, people can’t live by God’s truth.
I mean look at this, according to Pew Research, 61% of American Christians have at least 1 pagan belief.
That is, according to their poll, 61% of Christians believe in at least 1 of the following 4 pagan beliefs:
That there is Spiritual energy in physical objects (like crystals or nature)
Or astrology (the idea that the stars and planets influence your daily life)…this is like horoscopes.
61% of Christians believe in at least one of those 4 things.
Even though God’s Word actually directly speaks against ALL of them.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
So what do we do with all of this since this is happening in our midst?
But let me give you a few principles here
WHAT TO DO ABOUT PAGAN BELIEFS:
#1: Realize they pale in comparison to our God
This is the teaching of Zechariah 10
Look at it again.
Zechariah says that it is God who cares for people.
He brings the rain, and water to the plants.
The idols are mute and fake.
And so they can’t care about you
He also says that God is the one with the real truth.
When the diviners come and pretend to “speak for the wooden idol” that the guy down the street just made with his own hands…
Zechariah reminds the people that the Diviners are lying!
And many of us go, “Yes, how could anyone possibly think otherwise? It’s a wooden statue for goodness sakes!”
But remember, you think that way because you grew up in a culture that (in part because of Christianity) prioritized logic and truth…
And now as we transition into a new era that has blown up logic with a million sticks of dynamite, we’re seeing “the return of paganism”
Because it’s only in a world in which logic, reason, and science are being destroyed… that a person can possibly think that a crystal will influence their day, or that Saturn’s position in the sky will help them find the right person to marry.
And Zechariah says there is no comfort from these pagans who tell you they have a vision for you, or pretend to interpret your dreams.
And neither is there comfort in a psychic or a palm reader
They give “comfort in vain” Zechariah says because they can’t point you to a God who loves you and cares for you.
And they can’t point you to a God who is really in control.
That’s why the Lord says these people wander like sheep without a shepherd because they have no care, no comfort, and no real truth.
But you can find all 3 of those things in the REAL person and in REAL truth of Jesus Christ.
So that’s the first thing I would say to you, realize that anything you can find in Paganism, in the end, absolutely pales in comparison to what Jesus Christ can give you.
Okay, second thing:
WHAT TO DO ABOUT PAGAN BELIEFS:
#1: Realize they pale in comparison to our God
#2: Don’t go near them
And I’m not sure our American churches of today understands this point as well as our predecessors did.
Because the Bible says that we should stay very far away from these sorts of things because they are literally “detestable” to our God
I mean think about it, believing that you can speak your future into existence by your own positive words, or believing that the universe is in control, or that karma determines your fate, or that a pagan psychic or horoscope knows your future…
All of those things are a total affront to God, because they each imply that God doesn’t do those things.
So God gives the following instruction regarding these things to his people in Deuteronomy 18 (page 133)
right before they’re about to enter the promised land…which had ALL SORTS of pagan beliefs existing in it at the time:
(Deuteronomy 18:9-12) – NIV
9 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.
And so these things are SO detestable, SO offensive to God, that it’s a primary reason He’s judging and removing the nations that were currently in the promised land…
and ironically, it would also be the primary reason God would eventually exile Israel & Judah from the same promised land years later.
God hates paganism.
And so as followers of the one true God, we are to have absolutely nothing to do with these beliefs and practices.
And let me be absolutely clear on something: these are not silly playthings…and they’re not pretend,
As a person who has seen firsthand the absolutely awful effects of witchcraft in Africa, this is not a funny costume with a broom.
Paul very clearly says that these are teachings taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1), and that to participate in them, is to participate with demons (1 Corinthians 10)
And I think that’s part of why people get so attracted to these things.
Because there often is a real spiritual power behind them!
It’s not all pretend, much of it…is demonic!
And so if there is anything in your life that is connected to this, run from it my friends.
We see this sort of running in Acts 19.
In Ephesus, when Paul reached for Christ those who had been previously practicing sorcery, the new Christians came together and burned their scrolls, even at a massive financial loss.
They had met Jesus, and they wanted nothing to do anymore with the ways of Satan
And so let me give you a third principle here because some of you are raising a lot of “what if’s” or “what abouts” in your mind
WHAT TO DO ABOUT PAGAN BELIEFS:
#1: Realize they pale in comparison to our God
#2: Don’t go near them
#3: Practice spiritual discernment
It’s probably obvious to most of us that God does not want us to engage in witchcraft, but it may be less obvious if you should read a certain book, watch a certain show, or engage in a certain type of thinking
1 John says this:
(1 John 4:1) – NIV
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
We see this language a lot in the New Testament.
Christians are to use spiritual discernment.
In other words, if there is an issue we are uncertain about, we are to absolutely, get on our knees, take it to God, and take it to our Christian friends for counsel.
And with pagan influences exploding all around us (especially in media), I want to urge you to pray about what you’re interacting with
For example, if you’re a young person, or you have a young person in your house…
If you go the library (and I love libraries, but this is one of the reasons we’re building our own Christian library in our building), because if you go to the Young Adult section in a public library…
Almost every single book is about a vampire, a witch, or a spirit.
And for some people, that might not be a very big temptation.
But I know other young people who get caught up in the fantasy and excitement of it, and soon enough, they’re dabbling in paganism…and then eventually…they’re caught in it.
And I think 30 years ago, you might be right in saying, “That pastor is just exaggerating about that stuff!”
But listen, it’s not 1993 anymore.
Kids aren’t isolated.
With the internet & YouTube, it’s not hard for kids to fall deeply into this pagan stuff, quickly!
And so discernment is key here.
I talked to a friend from our Mozambique Team who had gotten caught up in this same stuff as a young person, and he said someone once helped him by telling him:
That you need to always ask, “Is this book, this show, this practice, leading me closer to Christ or farther away?”
For example, our family loves the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
But it has a witch in it, and she does spells!
But allegorically, she represents the devil, and Aslan, the Christ figure defeats her (sorry I gave it away! 😊), and so, yes, it draws me closer to Christ.
But on the other hand, I remember a few years ago, I. started watching a TV series 2 years ago that was recommended to me, and the characters started chanting and doing spells.
And I just, when I prayed about it, I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying, “This isn’t of me.”
And so I stopped.
And, as a general rule, if you can’t decide, I’d say, in this area, you’re better off safe than sorry.
You don’t want to be dabbling in something that is “detestable” to your God.
You don’t want to be reading, or watching, or engaging in something, that, truly, has demons behind it like the Scripture says.
Even if you look weird to the culture by not participating, my friend, you want to trust God here!
God has laid these things out in Scripture not only for His glory, but also for our own good. Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
AUGUST 6, 2023