Summary: Why do some strange cults commit mass suicide? The same process that is at work in them in a high degree is at work in nonbelievers and even believers on a smaller scale. This sermon examines the cause and solution to this evil propensity.
Deception and the Truth about God: The Sermon Paul Never Got to Finish
August 14, 2016
TEXT: Acts 14:8-19 – “And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked: 9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, 10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. 11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. 12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: 16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. 18 And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.
19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”
Illus.– On March 28th, 1997 woke up to the unbelievable story that 39 members of a high-tech cult had killed themselves in anticipation of a rendezvous with a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet! They made videos of themselves saying goodbye, appearing very upbeat and expressing pleasure that they were going to a better place. The leader of the group, who went by the name “Do,” was Marshall H. Applewhite, who along with a colleague named Bonnie Nettles persuaded hundreds of people to leave families and belongings behind and join them in 1975. The victims included 21 women and 18 men, all with closely cropped hair and wearing identical black outfits. Most were found with a suicide recipe on sheets of paper: take pudding or applesauce mixed with phenobarbital, drink it down with alcohol and lie back and relax.
These people had some bizarre beliefs.— They believed that humans are just soulless “plants” cultivated by an advanced civilization in outer space. Certain humans are “tagged” from birth to receive a “soul deposit” that would enable that person to evolve into a higher level of evolutionary development, through a representative of the advanced civilization, Jesus being one of those few representatives sent to this earth, and Applewhite, being the most recent. Through a rigorous life of self-discipline and sacrifice, even to the point of being neutered, one could, by the direction and guidance of the representative, reach a state where he or she would be ready to go on to the next evolutionary level. The way to get there to the next level was [PAUSE] to commit suicide for those beliefs?
Now let me ask you this: What would cause people to voluntarily live such lives of self-denial, hold such bizarre beliefs and be willing to commit suicide?
Well, the answer’s really very simple, and it’s illustrated in our text today. You see, this is not the first time people have believed bizarre religious ideas. What led these people in this twisted cult was something that billions of people have been equally affected by, just not to this great a degree. And it may surprise you to know that everyone in this room has been affected by this at one time or another.
I’d like us to look at three points from our text that will help us understand this, and then we’ll make some personal applications our lives at the end.
I. THE FIRST THING I WANT YOU TO SEE IS THAT PEOPLE ARE GULLIBLE AND EASILY DECEIVED – Acts 14:11-12 – “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. 12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.”
When these people saw a miracle that Paul had done by healing the crippled man in Lystra, they immediately jumped to wrong conclusions. The reason they assumed that Paul and Barnabas were Mercury and Jupiter was the same reason the Heaven’s Gate cult members gave their lives to hook up with a mother star ship they seriously believed was coming in behind the Hale-Bopp Comet. It was because THEY WERE DECEIVED.