Speaker: Mike Connell
Acts 16:16 tells a story about a woman who was tormented by an evil spirit - a python spirit, or spirit of divination. Many people came to her city, a centre of Arts, wanting to know their future, and she made a lot of money for her owners by fortune-telling. What is the source of this power? How does it gain access to our lives? What does the Bible say about our destiny? How can we be set free?
Let’s open the Bible up to Acts 16. We’ll read from verse 16.
”Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.”
So, the Bible tells us very clearly that Jesus came to set people free. This is a story about a woman tormented by an evil spirit. It was in a particular place in Greece where they worshipped the god Apollo. It was the centre of the creative arts and in that place, there was the practice of divination. Another word for divination means fortune-telling. It means consulting spirits to try and find your future. So, there was a special temple there in this place.
There was what they called the oracle of Delphi. There was a woman who used to prophesy using demonic spiritual power. People would come to her and they would pay money in order to be able to get their fortunes told. This was a very famous city. People came from all around to try and find out what their future held. When there were major decisions to be made in business or in arts or in drama, they would come there. They would pay money in order to discover words about their future.
This is very common today. We want to know what the future holds. We want to know whether our life will be blessed. We want to know about tomorrow. We want to know about things in the future. This hunger for the future, hunger to know what’s ahead is found in all cultures. The Bible tells us our life is in God’s hands.
In Ephesians 2:10 it says: “God has planned works for us to accomplish with our life”. You are not an accident. You were born into this world by God’s design. There may have been difficulties in your family. You may have been born unexpectedly. Maybe you weren’t what your parents expected. The Bible says, God had a destiny, a plan, something for you to do with your life. Long before you were ever thought of, God was thinking of you.
There are many examples in the Bible where God reveals He knew about people before they even turned up in the earth. For example, Jeremiah 1:5 – God says to Jeremiah, “While you were in the womb, I formed you and ordained you to be a prophet to nations.” So while he was still in the womb, barely conceived, God saw a prophet. God had a destiny for him, and called him into that destiny.
In the Old Testament there’s another king by the name of Josiah. Would you realise this, that over 600 years before he was born, a prophet prophesied one day there’ll be a king called Josiah who will be a restorer of the nation and he’ll overcome all of these idols and alters. So, 600 years before he was born, God knew he was coming, knew his name, knew where he’d be born, and had a plan for him.
You go back into Genesis; God prophesied to Adam and Eve that there would be a saviour coming into the world called Jesus Christ. That’s 4000 years before He came. The Bible has many prophesies that were fulfilled in Jesus. In other words, God looks ahead and sees your life. He has a plan for your life and no matter what happens in your life, if you have faith in your heart to Him, He is able to use even the negatives for good in your life.
Now, if we don’t have a relationship with God, then we have no certainty about our future. So, people turn to divination. God hates divination; calls it spiritual prostitution. We are not made to connect with evil spirits, we’re made for relationship with God. So when we go to be involved in divination, we make contact not with God, but with an evil spirit.
That’s what’s happening with this girl. She had a spirit of divination. Today we’d call her a psychic. You would go pay money to have your reading. But, the source of power was an evil spirit. She had a spirit like a python wrapped all around her. Interestingly, the name of the goddess that was the one who prophesied was called Pythia, meaning python. There were lots of people that operated with this spirit. So they would go and pay money to the girl, and she had a spirit wrapped around her.
Evil spirits do not know your future. The devil cannot see ahead and know your future. Only God can do that. Isn’t it much better we trust in God and walk with Him, than we reach out to evil spirits? So, people in the entertainment industry, people in business, people in finance, people in government, would go there before they made any major decisions. When they exchanged money, they were trading with an evil spirit; opening their life for the spirit to now have power over them.
Did the demon know their future? Not at all. But there’s something like a demonic internet. The demons watch people. So, the demon can speak and say things about your life that you already know because they observe people. If you go to a fortune teller, go to a psychic, then you won’t connect just with the person, you’ll connect with an evil spirit. They tell you things about yourself which are true because spirits are watching you. But if you were to begin to believe the words they tell you, you will give them power over your life.
So, this woman, when she saw Paul, begins to follow Him. She began to cry: “These are the servants of the most high God. They’re showing the way of salvation.” She was telling the truth. She was actually speaking what was reality because the demons could see it. But her presence and the spirit around her was incredibly irritating. A python traps people by crushing them. Slowly wrapping itself around people, and then squeezing the life out of them.
So, when people go to be involved in divination, they get addicted to going and they can’t make decisions unless they consult. Steadily, they’re giving up power over their life to an evil spirit. Gradually, it wraps itself around the person and then begins to crush their life, destroy their hopes. This young woman had the spirit and one day, Paul turned, and the Bible says he confronted the spirit. He spoke directly to the spirit, commanded it in the name of Jesus Christ to come out, and the demon unwrapped from the woman, and left her, and she was set free.
Now, notice her life changed. No longer was the spirit wrapped around her squeezing her life. No longer did she have voices speaking into her ears. No longer did she have power to know what was going on in people’s lives. When the presence of the spirit left her, the power to talk to people and tell their fortune went with it. Evil spirits don’t know their future, but if you will consult and listen to them, you’ll open your life up and they’ll begin to influence your future.
God calls us to have relationship with Him. Calls us into a relationship of trust, of walking with God in life. Trusting Him, believing that a loving God who loves us deeply, has only the best plans for us. God doesn’t tell you all His plans, but He does write desires and dreams in your heart. He does speak to you and confirm what He wants, and as you choose to walk by faith, He begins to unravel His plan for your life.
It always starts with the first step – the step to receive Jesus Christ. A step away from sin. A step away from a life without God, and a step towards the living God. God wants some of you here tonight to make that step. A step to respond to God’s kindness. A step to receive His love.
How did this woman come to have the spirit? How do these spirits get into people’s lives? Possibly, it was in her family. Maybe the family worshipped idols. Maybe the family was involved with spiritism. So the spirit came down the family. She was hearing the voices from when she’s very young. Having disturbing dreams. Seeing the spirit at night time.
I was over in a place called Fiji, and we were driving down the road and I saw a group of people in a park. I got interested because I thought I saw snakes. So I said, “Stop the car, let’s have a look.” So we went over, and an area was fenced off, and there were some people there with a mat and they had some snakes. They were playing with the snakes. We don’t have snakes in New Zealand, so this was new to me. I was interested. One of them came up to me and said: “Please don’t pray against us. We just came from Borneo, we want to earn some money. We don’t really want to harm anyone.”
I realised they were not just operating with snakes, they were actually sorcerers. They were diviners. They were using the snakes and they had power over them. They were operating under demonic power. I see them take some water and they got 3 volunteers, and they just threw the water on them and they literally fell down on the ground. Then they put a hood over their head and they did some kind of sorcery. Then, when they took the cover off their head, the person was tremendously frightened because when he looked at the sorcerer, he could see in place of the sorcerer’s head, a serpent. They were absolutely terrified. They had been charmed or come under the influence of an evil spirit. So, these powers are very real.
The Bible says: “It grieves the heart of God when we get involved in those things.” There’ll be some of you and your family have been involved with evil spirits; have been involved with divination or fortune-telling of some kind. They’ve opened the door for spirits to come and torment your lives. There’ll be some of you, and you’ve been involved in fortune-telling yourself. Maybe you’ve had a Ouija board with letters on it and a glass called up spirits. You have connected with the evil spirits. God wants to set you free. Or perhaps you’ve done other forms, or gone to a psychic, or gone to a medium. A medium is a person who has a familiar spirit, and the spirit speaks through them. Maybe in your life, you’ve sought out these fortune-tellers, and it grieves God.
God loves you, has a plan for your life, and it makes Him sad, it breaks His heart when we turn to evil spirits and becomes entangled with them. So, maybe the spirit came down the family line. Maybe she was dedicated to this idol. Or maybe she just opened her life to the spirit, invited it to come in. Perhaps she was involved in spiritism. Whatever it is, she opened her life to the spirit, and Jesus set her free.
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