January 31, 2016
This Tuesday will be Groundhog Day. On this day every year, a large rodent supposedly predicts the weather for the next 6 weeks. And I'm sure many of you remember the movie with Bill Murray, and Punxsutawney Phil, who is probably the most famous of such groundhogs. The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day can be found in a diary entry, dated February 4, 1841, of Morgantown, Pennsylvania, storekeeper James Morris: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." Of course, today we have far more scientific ways of predicting the weather. But it serves to illustrate how mankind has always searched for ways of knowing what the future holds.
And that led me to the subject of this morning's message... Let's take a look at some of the ways that people have used to gain insight into what their future will bring, and hold them up to the light of God's Word. There have indeed been some rather bizarre methods used over the centuries. Some, like the groundhog tradition, use animals. For instance, have you ever heard of felidomancy? Practitioners claimed to know the future by observing cats. And while everyone knows that a black cat crossing your path supposedly predicts bad luck, did you know that sneezing is supposed to be a cat's way of predicting rain? I personally have seven cats, including one that is all black, and she has not brought me one bit of bad luck. And it certainly doesn't rain every time one of them sneezes!
But groundhogs and cats aside, there are some methods that have been used for centuries, and are still in use today. Who here hasn't ever read their daily horoscope? Or been intrigued about what their zodiac sign reveals about their personality? Or maybe even worried a potential mate might not be suitable because their sign is believed to be incompatible with yours? Jesus told His disciples in Luke 21:25 that before He returns, "there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near! And Jesus birth was marked by a special star as well (Matthew 2). But God also warned us to not use astrology in Zechariah 10:2, which says, "This is what the LORD says: "Do not act like the other nations, who try to read their future in the stars. Do not be afraid of their predictions, even though other nations are terrified by them." You might be wondering what the difference is between the signs in the stars that Jesus told us to watch for, and those God told us not to pay any attention to?
Let's take a look at some more intense forms of fortune-telling before I answer that. Crystal balls, palm reading, tea leaves and many other fortune-telling tools are often used by psychics today to give 'readings' to people who are desperate to know what their future holds. While most are merely skilled at psychology, a few are actually occultists. Then there are Ouija boards and tarot cards that can also be used by an individual at home to do their own readings. I think most Christians are acutely aware that these types of things are considered an abomination to God, along with witchcraft and other such 'black arts'. The Old Testament law even stated that "A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads." (Leviticus 20:27) Thankfully, we are no longer under the law, and God extends grace and forgiveness to those who repent of these acts! But how many actually think of these things as sin anymore, and seek God's grace and forgiveness? Today's movie industry capitalizes on the door to the underworld that can be opened up through these practices. So much so, that our senses often become dulled to the truth behind the sensationalism, and we think it is all really harmless. After all, once we walk out of the movie theatre, we enter the real world, where demons don't really haunt houses and possess people, right? Wrong. (And note I did say demons, and not human spirits, but we will save that for another message). The Bible is quite clear that demons do indeed exist. Jesus Himself cast out demons! So we if don't believe in them, we are in essence calling God a liar. And God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) But satan is the father of lies! (John 8:44) And satan would love nothing more than for you to think they do not exist, and to think that inviting them into your life through occult practices is nothing more than harmless make-believe.
And what about seances? If you attend a seance because you are desperately hoping to talk to a loved one who has recently passed from this life, do you really think they are communicating with that person? Perhaps the departed loved one was not a Christian, and the medium tells you that they are at peace in heaven. Maybe you even hear their voice telling you how beautiful it is. Demons are excellent imitators. Through this they are getting the message out that you don't need faith in Jesus to get to heaven. And if you walk away from the seance happy because you believe your loved one is in heaven, but convinced that if they got to heaven without Christ so can you, then satan's trap worked. Meanwhile, your poor departed loved one, who the demon is imitating, would like nothing more than to warn you about hell. (Read Luke 16:19-31)
OK, so you won't use a Ouija board, and you aren't planning to attend a seaance. What about the more 'sugar-coated' forms? Have you ever hoped to receive a special blessing because you forwarded that prayer to 10 people in 5 minutes? Or worried you would have misfortune if you didn't? Maybe you have a charm, crystal, or something else that you carry to give you 'good luck'? Or maybe you listened to a preacher on television, or read a book by one, who claims they have some special knowledge or information that God gave them alone. Some even give 'personal prophecies' - at a price. Remember, just because someone says they are a Christian, and they claim God gave them a vision of a future event, does not necessarily mean it came from God. This requires acute discernment. First of all, look at the rest of this person's preaching, and their personal life and testimony. Does it line up with Scripture? Does their prophecy contradict anything in the Bible? Obviously, in light of my message 2 weeks ago, I do believe that God still interacts with people on a personal level. But we must always remember that satan is an excellent counterfeiter, and it takes a strong reliance on the Holy Spirit and God's Word to be able to tell the difference. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
I know we all want the assurance that our future will be rosy. Jesus never promised that all of our days on earth would be heavenly, but He did promise that if we trusted Him our eternity most certainly would be. As He told the disciples in John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Yes, the day is coming when God "will put an end to all witchcraft, and there will be no more fortune-tellers." (Micah 5:2). The day is coming when we will truly understand the promise in Romans 8:28, "that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God." When we cross over into eternity, and can see the big picture, as God sees it now, we will marvel at how all the pieces fit; and we will wonder why we ever doubted Him.
Back to my earlier question, why are God's signs in the heavens to be believed and followed, but not astrology? In case you haven't figured it out by now, astrology is satan's counterfeit. It is his way of getting your eyes off of God, and instead believing that the stars themselves have control over your personality and your destiny. And if you believe that the stars have more power over you than God Himself, you are setting them above God, which is idolatry.
So if you want to know the future, just open the Bible. The Bible accurately foretells specific events - in detail - many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter - no errors. That means there are 500 that are yet to be fulfilled. As it says in 2 Peter 1:20-21, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
So let's stand on God's promises, and His alone! Amen?
THE CHILDREN'S MESSAGE:
Which of these can predict the future? (Answer: God's prophets like Isaiah, The Bible, and God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)