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What is the Occult?

Todayís Question: What does the Bible tell us about psychics? I was tuned into a particular television station one night and this "medium" came on communicating with spirits from the other side. Is this possible? Is this work of the devil or God? I've also had an out of body experience and I know when we die our spirit goes upward. My doctor told me that they had lost me for some time. But I could see them working on me. Giving me mouth to mouth, CPR, shaking me, calling me, I could hear everything they said but my spirit wanted to keep going upward until suddenly I was back into my body again. Can you help explain this to me? Thank you for your time.

Rebecca

Bible Answer: Psychics fall under the category of the occult. Somewhere in nearly all of us is a desire to contact the unknown, with some "higher power"ósomething greater, wiser and more powerful than ourselves. Peopleís curiosity causes them to delve into the occult. The word "occult" comes from a Latin word meaning "concealed or covered over, secret". It is knowledge of the supernatural type.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with supernatural knowledge. God imparts knowledge. The real issue is the source of the supernatural knowledge. Is it coming from God or some other supernatural being?

Through the Hebrew scriptures, God specifically warns against delving into the spiritual world without Godís approval.

When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. (Deut 18:9-13)

God has placed the longing within us to know the realm of the spirit, but His archenemy, Satan, has invented ways to divert people into deceptive, evil systems that bring them into bondage to himself. These deceptive systems can take countless different forms, such as the Psychic you mentioned. But the standard name for them all is the occult. In ancient Israel those forms were called divination, sorcery, witchcraft, casting spells, and consulting the dead. John Edward is famous for consulting the dead. This description may be thousands of years old, but it sounds like what is going on today in Hollywood.

The Bible forbids contact with the dead. God says about those who die, "They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise" (Isa 26:14). Departed spirits do not contact the living, and so the living cannot contact them. John Edward often contacts "familiar" spirits, which are demons that imitate the deceased.

Movies, television, and video games are making the occult attractive or at the very least benign. But the occult is not harmless. If it was harmless, then why does God give such clear warnings against it? You see the psychic hotline with a disclaimer at the bottom: For entertainment only. Trouble is it is dangerous entertainment.

Is it really wrong?

I can hear some people sigh, "Címon, pastor, you donít really believe those things are dangerous, do you?" This is exactly why I am answering this question. The world including Christians have become desensitize to the occult. Consider the stern warning about participation in the occult.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)

Look at the list carefully. They are grouped in four categories. They are divided by semi-colons (;). The first group is sexual sins; the second group is occult sins; the third group is hate sins; and the fourth group is unruly sins. Depending on your background, certain categories are sins to you, while others are not. However, according to the Word, they all are sins.

Liberals often lobby against hate sins, such as racism. Conservatives often lobby against sexual sins. While both often debate with each other, the truth is we all should be against all forms of sin. We should not pick and choose which sins are really wrong. Sin is wrong, period! We are not given the choice by God to declare what is right or wrong. God tells us what is right and wrong, and our choice is to agree or disagree with God. Iíve decided not to be influence by the current culture by allowing it to tell me what it right and wrong. God is the judge, no one else. And God has judged all categories of sin as being evil.

One of those categories is the occult. Paul mentions idolatry and witchcraft. When people try to tap into the spiritual world in an unauthorized manner, then they are opening themselves to demons. We see this spelled out in 1 Corinthians 10:20, "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to GodÖ" This is a reference to offering sacrifices to idols. The occult has its origin in idolatry. An example of deliverance from spirits that have its root in the occult is in the book of Acts:

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. (Acts 16:16-19)

This young girl had a rare ability to predict the future. The Bible says that a spirit gave her this ability, but when Paul drove out the spirit, she lost this power. When she had this power she made a lot of money for her owners. There is money in fortune telling. One needs only to look at proliferation of the psychic hotlines to be given evidence of this.

Another thing to notice about this girl: she appeared to advocate Christianity. She shouted, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." The thing that fools some Christians about the occult is when the fortune-tellers or psychics appear to talk about God. They sound Christian. But their practice is Occultic. Paul was not fooled into that kind of phony witness for the Lord. Donít be either. I heard John Edward (host of Crossing Over with John Edward) say that he was invited to do a sťance with a group of Catholics. He laughed and said, "I could not use the word sťance because that was taboo with them." He changed the word to "talking with the saints." Catholics are not the only ones being fooled, however; Protestants and Jews often fall for the Psychics.

Finally, from the biblical story of the fortune teller, there was a battle for the minds of the community. The owners of the girl had Paul arrested and eventually he left the city. There is still a battle for our community. I notice how hard the occult community can be on Christians. They will fight us in this area. They want to preserve their income they get from the occult. But the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than the power of Satan as Paul showed. The only advantage the occultists have against us is money. They have more of it and they will use it to promote the occult through the media.

Concerning your death experience. I do not see anything unscriptural about what you experienced. Just beware of those who try to persuade you to get involved in the occult such as the psychics.

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