Satan’s Worldwide Religion: Acts Series #18
Is the devil for religion or against religion? Yes, Satan is for religion. He uses religion to oppose the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The devil’s opposition to the “true religion” began in the Garden of Eden. The first temptation that came to humankind, when Satan crawled his slimy, corroding path into the pages of history in the Garden of Eden was a religious temptation.
Do you remember what Satan said to Eve? He said, “If you eat this fruit, then you will be like God.” He was saying to her, “I’m going to tell you how to be godly my way.” It wasn’t a temptation to fall down; it was a temptation to fall up—to be like God. Satan was offering a perverted religion. He has always been in the religion business.
In Acts 8:5, we read: “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city.”
We read in Acts 8:-24: “But there was a certain man, named Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of a long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgive thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the LORD for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
I am going to carefully describe the devil’s religion. If ever a generation needed to be warned against false religion—what I call Satan’s religion—it is this generation. In the last days there will not be a lack of religion; there will be more than ever. The Bible prophesies in the last days as days when men will have a form of godliness, but they will deny the power thereof. They will have religion without reality; they will have form without force. Most Americans don’t need more religion—they need to turn from religion to Jesus Christ.
I. Behold The Satanic Power of False Religion
In 8:9-10 we read, “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.”
Here was a man who was practicing witchcraft. He was practicing what the Bible calls “sorcery.” Was this just a bag of cheap tricks? Was this man a slight-of-hand artist? No! He was connected to devilish, unholy, supernatural power. So great was this power that everybody said, “The power that is on this man is the power of the great God.” Everybody in that city had been swept away by this man—Simon the sorcerer.
Where did he get that power? In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, God described the devil’s superman who’s to come—the antichrist. This man of sin who will one day rule the entire world. The Apostle John describes him in these words: “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” Power, signs, and lying wonders—this is going to be the hallmark and the devil’s stock in trade. He will have the power to perform signs and wonders and to deceive people. We can also read in Revelation 16:14: “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles”—spirits of devils, working miracles. I have little doubt in my mind that this man—Simon the magician—worked miracles.
I believe that he did it by devilish, unholy power. We have a generation that is being, and will be, swept into Hell by a demonstration of satanic, miraculous power. These people were deceived. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, we read, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Did you know that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light? Satan is not necessarily some scaly monster with a forked tail and hooves. The devil could be very beautiful—holy looking— as an angel of light.
In Revelation 13:13-14 we read: “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles that he had power to do…”
The devil has the power to make fire come down out of Heaven in order to deceive people. How on earth can people know that they are saved? We read, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy…” (2 Peter 1:19). In 1 John:5:13 we read, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life…” We have God’s Word and we must learn to stand on the Word of God.
If I were to stand before the Lord, and the Lord asked me, “James, why should I let you into My Heaven?” I would say, “Because, Lord, You have said to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and I’ve believed. And, You’ve said in Your Word—in John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death until life.” If Satan is there, then I’ll say, “Satan, read it yourself. The argument is between you and God’s Word, and I know who’s going to win that argument.”
There is a time coming when the devil himself is going to perform such miracles upon this earth that he’ll make you think that white is black, that black is white, that up is down, that down is up, and you’ll cut your mother’s throat and think that you’re doing God a service. He’s such a deceiver! The Bible says that Satan deceives the whole world. We must beware of the devilish power of false religion. It is not just that people are preaching the wrong thing. They will come with such a demonstration of power and miracles that people will say, “Why, that must be of God.”
II. Beware Of The Satanic Pride Of False Religion
In Acts 8:9 we read, “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria”—now watch this— “giving out that himself was some great one.” Do you see it?
Here was Simon the sorcerer, who was egocentric rather than being God-centered. Here was a man who was inflated with pride and ego. The hallmark of all satanic and false religion is pride. It was pride that made the devil the devil.
You want to find the genesis of the devil? You want to know how the devil became the devil? Isaiah 14:12 says, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”—Now watch this; you’re going to find that, five times, the devil will say, “I will”—“For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” I will, I will, I will, I will, I will.
He’s self-centered. “I will.” Do you know what the devil said? He said exactly the opposite of what the Son of God said. The devil said, “Not thy will, but mine be done—not thy will, but mine.” All false religion is based on will-worship and self-will. This is the way that the devil tempted Eve with the first temptation in the Garden of Eden. He said to Eve, “If you will do this, then you can be your own god. You will be like God.” This was the appeal to pride. All false religion and all devilish religion is built on pride. Paul warned about this in Timothy 6:3: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud…” It was pride that made the devil the devil.
We have a generation of people who are religious. However, rather than being God-centered—is self-centered; it is ego-centered. Each of us need to examine ourselves right now and find out whether you have ever repented of your sin, been broken in the dust before the Lord Jesus Christ, and dethroned the self and enthroned Jesus Christ.
Millions of religious people are strutting their way to Hell, thinking they’re too good to be damned. They have never repented of their sin. They’ve never made Jesus Christ Lord. It is a man-made religion. It is rooted in ego. It is rooted in pride.
III. Beware Of The Satanic Pride Of False Religion
In Acts 8:12-13, we read: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” How wonderful! They believed in Jesus, and they were baptized, because Philip preached the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. Wonderful! “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and the signs which were done.” I want you to listen very carefully. In these verses there are two kinds of believers that are described: True believers and false believers—possessors and pretenders.
The first group, described in verse 12, was made of possessors. The second group was made of pretenders. Simon never was saved, and I’m going to show you in a moment, clearly, that he wasn’t saved. He was an unbelieving believer. Now, the difference was in the object of their belief. One group—those who were saved— believed in the Master. Simon believed in the miracles. Simon was a man who was interested in power that he could get hold of—something that he could use. As you will recall, he had been practicing witchcraft and sorcery. He also saw the apostles, who had the power to lay their hands on people, to receive the Holy Spirit.
He said, “I want that kind of power in my life.” Thus, he tried to buy that power. I want you to notice verses 18-19: “And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee…”
In essence Peter said, “You and your money both go to Hell.” That’s what he meant when he said, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness…” He wasn’t a saved man. He was a lost man. His belief was not in the master, but in the miracles—not in the person, but in the power. False religion is egocentric, it is always rooted in what I can get and not in what I can give. There are people who want miracles, not because they love God, but because they love miracles. It’s a false faith. It’s a faith that will not save. It’s a faith that will condemn and lead to Hell. There are always those miracle mongers.
Do you remember what happened after Jesus turned water into wine? In John 2:23-25, we read: “Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.” But then, the Bible says: “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24–25). When the Bible says, “Jesus did not commit himself unto them,” it’s the same as saying the word “belief.” They believed in Him, but He did not believe in them. He didn’t commit Himself to them. Why? He knew that they didn’t really trust Him. They only believed in the miracles. They only wanted what He could do. They didn’t really want Him. They were like Simon with a self-centered religion.
Real Faith is Authenticated by its Object
The difference between a false faith and a real faith is found in two things. Real faith is authenticated by its object; and number two: It’s authenticated by its objective. What is the object of real faith? Jesus Christ. I hear people say, “Well, just believe.” I say, “Believe what?” They say, “Have faith.” I say, “Faith in what?” Faith is no better than its object. Faith in faith is only positive thinking. It is self-centered. It has roots in man, rather than in God. The Apostle Mark said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). It is not faith that moves mountains; it’s God that moves mountains. Faith is no better than the object. We are to put our faith in the Lord. The difference between Simon and the other people—the other people had faith in Jesus. Simon had faith in miracles.
Real Faith is Authenticated by its Objective
Not only is faith authenticated by its object, but it is also authenticated by its objective. What is the purpose of faith? It’s to bring us into a relationship with God. Faith is not a way that man’s will is done on earth, but faith is the way that God’s will is done in Heaven. Faith is not something that uses God; faith is where God uses you. It is where you come to God, and you’re broken at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, and say, “Lord, let Your life and Your will be done in me. Not my will, but Thine be done.” Faith is for official use only. Faith is for God to do what God wants done on this earth.
Many people are in religion for what they can get and not for what they can give. They have never repented, as Peter told Simon to repent later. They have joined churches, been baptized, gotten in the church for what it can do for them. It’s false religion. It’s devilish pretenders who have never been saved. The biggest thing that breaks my heart is that churches are filled with them—great pretenders. “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22–23).
IV. Battle The Satanic Poison Of False Religion
We must beware of the satanic poison of false religion because false religion poisons everything that it touches. I want you to notice when Simon said: “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts 8:19–20).
Have you ever heard of P.T. Barnum? P.T. Barnum was the founder of the Barnum Bailey Circus. When Charles Haddon Spurgeon was preaching so mightily and so powerfully in London, nearly 10,000 would come each Sunday.
Mr. Barnum heard about it what Pastor Spurgeon was doing and he thought, I wonder if there’s some way that I can merchandise it? So, he thought, I will get the great Spurgeon to come to America. I’ll put him in a big hall, and I’ll charge people to come hear him. He wrote a letter to Spurgeon with proposition, that if he’d come, then he’d make him a wealthy man. Spurgeon wrote him back with these words: Please read Acts 8:20–“…Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money.” Signed, Spurgeon.
Peter says to Simon, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:21–23). The word “gall” may be translated into “poison”—the poison of bitterness. Beware of the poison of false religion.
There are two things that false religion brings: bitterness and bondage. Peter says, “You’re in the gall of bitterness and the bondage of iniquity.” Every man, every woman, every boy, and every girl that’s swept up into false religion ends up in bondage and in bitterness. Why in bondage? Because, the devil has ensnared them, and there’s no deliverance from their sin. No false religion can make a person free. There’s nothing more tedious and more binding that false religion. Why are they bitter? Because they’re unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
The sweetest, most wonderful, most godly, gentle, genteel, loving, and pure people that you’ll ever find on the face of this earth are found in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that the favorite sport of some people is Christian bashing, and they just love to talk about all the hypocrites in the church. I’ve been preaching long enough to know that God is real and that God’s people are real. You’ll never convince me that the dear saints I know don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ and that they are not genuine, real, gentle, and loving. Having said this, I want to say, also, that the meanest, the wickedest, the cruelest, and the bitterest people that you will often find are religious people who don’t know God. They are bitter and in bondage. They’re like Simon. Peter said, “You’re full of bitterness. You’re in the bond of iniquity.”
If you think about it, all over our world today we are having wars over religion. The devil’s not against religion. The devil’s in favor of religion that leaves people in bondage and in bitterness, and that will take them to Hell because they’ve never had relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. People are in bondage. People are in bitterness. Religion without reality and a church without Christ. here is devilish power in false religion. It is rooted in satanic pride. It shows in satanic pretense. It results in satanic poison. The only answer is to repent before it is too late.