God On Film 2009 part 4
Faith Lessons from Harry Potter
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 26, 2009

VIDEO - Trailer

Harry Potter. Since the release of the first book about him by J. K. Rowling in 1997, Harry Potter has captivated the minds and imaginations of children around the world. But not just children. Parents, college students, teenagers, young adults and fans of fantasy have all been charmed by the fictitious young student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Over the past twelve years, over 400 million copies of the Harry Potter series of books have been printed in 67 different languages. There are seven books in all, and the final four set consecutive records for the fastest selling books in history.

So far, the first six books have been made into movies, becoming the highest grossing film series of all time (not adjusted for inflation). The final book is going to be broken into 2 movies to be released in November 2010 and July 2011. And just in cast you want to know, if you want to watch the first six movies before going to see the seventh one when it comes out, you’ll need to set aside 15 hours and 3 minutes. There’s a marathon for you.

The six movie, “Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince”, opened in theatres just a week and a half ago, and has already set several records. It broke the record for the biggest midnight showing, it set the record for the highest single-day worldwide gross, it took Spider-Man’s record for the biggest ever worldwide 5-day opening, and is the fastest movie to ever bring in $350 million.

So obviously, people are going to see this movie. Many of you have seen it or are planning to see it. Which makes it a pretty good candidate for us to look at today as we finish up our message series, God On Film.

Over the course of this series, we’ve looked at some of the movies that are out in theatres this summer that people are going out to watch, and we’ve tried to use them to help illuminate what the Bible tells us about God, about our relationship with Him, about our relationships with each other, and about how we can live lives that are Christlike and God-honouring.

We’re not necessarily recommending or endorsing these movies; we’re just acknowledging that they are out there, people are seeing them, and whether the movies themselves are good or bad there are good things we can learn because of them.

So let’s talk about Harry Potter. In case you’re completely uninformed about this series, let me give you a bit of background.

As the story goes, Harry Potter was born as the son of a wizard, but his parents were killed while he was still an infant. So he ended up being raised by his uncle and aunt who wanted nothing to do with wizardry and hid Harry’s heritage from him. But eventually Harry finds out and is enrolled in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he learns about himself and his powers and where he experiences adventures with his friends Ron and Hermione.

Through the course of the series, Harry comes face to face with his Arch-enemy, Lord Voldemort… a powerful, intelligent, ruthless Dark Wizard who also happens to be the one who killed Harry’s parents. You see this conflict between Harry and Voldemort escalating throughout the series, and it goes to yet another level in this most recent movie. And no, I’m not going to give it away.

Before we go any further, though, let me say this, too: The Harry Potter series has not been embraced by everyone. According to the American Library Association, the books from the series frequently appear on their list of the most challenged books as being inappropriate. They’ve actually topped the list more than once.

Plus, many parents worry that the Harry Potter books encourage children to rebel, since Harry always tries to do what he thinks is best regardless of what he’s been told. Others, including many Christians, are concerned that their emphasis on magic and witchcraft creates an unhealthy interest in the occult.

The flip side is that many people including Christians applaud the series as a well-written series of books that encourages children to read. Harry Potter is a strong moral character and models courage and loyalty to his friends. He’s a good kid who takes on evil. And even as the series progresses and Harry struggles to “find himself”, he continues to stay on the side of the good. In regards to dealing with witchcraft and the occult, supporters would say Harry Potter is a series about fantasy. And besides, real-life witches and Satanists have claimed the books and the movies do not really resemble what they are all about. And if you are going to reject Harry because the books deal with magic, then you also have to reject Cinderella, A Christmas Carol, The Sword and the Stone, and classics like C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”.

Okay? So those are the two opposing views. But my purpose this morning is not to tell you which side you should fall on. I would encourage you to be informed and investigate the things that the series teaches. Especially if your children are interested, you should be interested and check it out. Compare it to what the Bible says and make a right judgment yourself.

So, what we are going to do this morning is identify five truths that we learn from the Harry Potter series. And you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks.

Five Truths from the Harry Potter Series:

1.    There is a reality beyond what we see

Now, if you went up to Harry and told him this – that there is a reality beyond what we can see – he would have absolutely no problem accepting that. Why? Because he’s already experienced it!

Throughout the series, Harry is constantly battling with unseen powers, he’s feeling the effects of unseen oppression, he’s very much aware of unseen authorities, both good and evil.

Hogwarts itself is invisible to the non-magical world. Early on in the series, Harry is given an invisibility cloak which allow him to become invisible to the people around him. And in the current movie, there is kind of an evil alliance of wizards that seems to be able to come and go as they please. One moment they’re there, the next they’ve vanished.
So in the world of Harry Potter, it’s a given that there is a reality beyond what we can see. And that’s true in the real world, too. There are all kinds of things we can’t see.

Ultraviolet light. It’s invisible to the naked eye.
Subatomic particles. Same thing.
How about radiation? You can detect it, you can see the results of it, but you can’t see it.
Or what about emotions? Do you have them? Yep. Do you know they’re real? Sure. But can you see them? No, you can’t. But they impact how you feel, how you act, how you interact with others…
Or how about thoughts? Most of us have thoughts. But you can’t see a thought.
Or what about other dimensions or parallel universes? They’re talked about all the time in science fiction and scientists have developed theories about them. But no one can see them. At least not yet.
Plus, there are probably things we don’t even know about yet.

So there are all kinds of things that are invisible to us. And that includes…
Sure, I think we experience their effects, some people may get a glimpse of this spiritual world from time to time, and someday I believe we’ll all come face to face with it, but for now it’s basically hidden from us.

Let me show you some verses…

Colossians 1:15-16 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

So there are things we can see, and there are things we can’t see. Including an unseen spiritual reality. You can ignore it, you can deny it even exists, but that doesn’t make it so.

Romans 1:20 (NLT)
Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

So again, you have the unseen – the invisible qualities of God which are expressed through everything He created. And when you pay attention and you recognize these qualities, they point you toward God Himself.

So there are all kinds of things that are invisible. Even something as basic as love. Love can make you do some pretty goofy things. Love has a definite impact on how you act and how you think. It can raise you to the heights of jubilation or it can crash you to the depths of despair. You can’t see… but it’s there.

You see, the world is more than we can see. And this is an important truth for us to recognize. Why? Why is this even important?

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

You know, the past 4-5 weeks have been really tough on Hollywood and on pop-culture. A lot of really talented people have died. And it’s tough, because you wonder if they were aware of what was waiting for them. You wonder if they were aware that there is a reality beyond what we can see. And you wonder if they were ready for it.

As Christ-followers, we’re aware of it. And we’ve set out eyes on it. But we also need to be about the business of directing other eyes toward this unseen reality and toward God Himself. It’s up to us to share about the reality of what we cannot see.

Because really, everyone tends to become consumed with this reality… with what we can see. But what we can see isn’t really all that important. Someday, it’s all going to be gone. But what for now is unseen… that is eternal.

2.    There is an evil seeking to destroy us

This builds on the first truth. Because not only is there an unseen reality, but there are unseen forces… unseen beings battling on the side of good and on the side of evil.

In Harry Potter, the evil that is seeking to destroy Harry is a character named Lord Voldemort. He’s also called He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or You-Know-Who, the Dark Lord, or he’s known by his birth name, Tom Riddle.

And just for you trivia buffs, in the movie it’s pronounced as Voldemort. But originally, the “T” was supposed to be silent, like the French pronunciation. In fact, that’s the way it is in the first four audiobooks, but they changed it after the first movie came out.

Anyway, Voldemort is evil. And he’s out to destroy Harry.

Well, we also believe there’s an evil out to destroy us. And he also goes by a variety of names… Satan, the Devil, the Adversary, Lucifer… all kinds of names. And he’s out for you and he’s out for me.

And he’s like Lord Voldemort on steroids. He makes Voldemort look like a girl scout. Satan is an incredibly powerful evil being. And he’s out to destroy you.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Ever watch a nature program? Ever see a lion on the prowl. You see, a lion is a skilled hunter. He often uses stealth to sneak up on its prey and attacks it. Or, as you see in this verse, he might go around roaring. That’s not very stealth-like. In fact, you can hear a lion’s roar up to 8 kilometers away. But that roar can strike terror. It can intimidate. And it can scare you into an ambush by other members of the pride. (Lionesses)

A lion also hunts with a lot of skill. A lion will seek the weakest, the smallest, the slowest… and that’s the one he’ll go after.

And a lion will also use strength to overcome its prey. And a lion is incredibly strong. In fact, a lion can grow to be 8-10 feet long. Just to give you a little perspective, that’s about the distance from that speaker to the wall. That’s a big cat. And he can weigh up to 500 pounds.

A lion is incredibly skillful, incredibly strong, incredibly dangerous… And that’s why for the pre-Christian, it’s important for you to come to Christ. Because you can’t oppose Satan on your own. He’s much too skillful for that. And if you are a Christ-follower, it’s important that you grow and become mature and depend on Christ and His skill to overcome any attacks of Satan.

In fact, I think the very next verse tells you this…

1 Peter 5:9 (NLT)
Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.

It’s not enough for you to just stand firm, you also need to be strong in your faith in Jesus Christ. Because there is an evil out to destroy you, and on your own you can’t win. But with Jesus, you can’t lose.

3.    There is a right way and a wrong way to do things

This was Harry’s big problem in the fourth installment, The Goblet of Fire. That’s when he was involved in the Triwizard Tournament, and he was torn between sticking to the rules or breaking them. And actually, Harry did cheat a little bit, and he did win… but there was a consequence and someone died.

You see, when you have a choice on how you’re going to do things, you can choose in one of three ways…

You can do things your way… and sometimes that works out, but often it turns out to be the wrong way because it’s so easy for us to mess up.

Or you can choose to do things the enemy’s way… and that’s always the wrong way.

And the third way is, you can choose to do things God’s way. And that’s always the right way.

In the current movie, there’s a new professor at Hogwarts, and in one conversation with Harry he basically tells him… “There is light, and there is dark. I try to stick to the light.”

And I think that’s a pretty good policy. Try to stick to the light. Stick to God’s way. Let Him direct your choices, and you’ll always get it right.

John 8:12 (NLT)
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

1 John 1:6-7 (NLT)
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

You see, when you don’t stick to the light… when you don’t stick to God’s ways… that’s when you are faced with sin.

Now, let’s talk about sin, because that’s a word that people make more complicated than it needs to be. The word “sin” simply means “to miss the mark”. It’s actually an archery term, and the image you get is someone with a bow and arrow, aiming at a target, letting it fly, but they miss. Maybe you shoot it wide, maybe you don’t even shoot it far enough, but you miss the target.

Shera and I have been watching a show this summer called Superstars, which is basically a group of B-list celebrities who are going head to head in athletic competitions. This past week, one of the challenges was shooting an arrow at a target on the wall. Some of them were hitting the target, some of them were shooting it way wide. But there was one time when one of the celebrities shot the arrow, and it was so close to the target that they had to call in a judge to inspect it. And after the judge checked it out, it missed the target.

You see, sin is sin. Sometimes we sin in big ways, but often we sin in small ways and we think it’s okay. But we’ve still missed the target. Maybe you’ve gossiped, maybe you’ve been unforgiving, maybe you’ve not been kind to someone… seemingly minor things, but they still miss the target and they’re still sin.

So what’s the best way to hit the target? What’s the best way to make sure you stick to the light? Let me give you a little secret…

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

The best way to hit the target is to learn the ways of God, is to read about him, learn what He values, and internalize His Word by memorizing it.

4.    There is a road of suffering we all must walk

By the time you get to the fourth, fifth, and now sixth installments of this series, you really see that the contradiction between who Harry is and who he wants to be, and this problem he’s having with Voldemort… all of that is heating us.  Fights are going on, people are dying, and it hurts Harry. He suffers because of everything that’s going on.

Now, no one here has ever suffered, right? No, we’ve all suffered. We’ll all gone through it. The loss of a loved one, a rough break-up, sickness, disease… we’ve all gone through it. The world is full of suffering. This is what the Bible says…

1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

Suffering is part of life. We all go through it; none of us are immune. In fact, if you go to BibleGateway.com and do a search on the word “suffering”, you’ll find dozens of passages in the Bible that talk about suffering. It’s our common experience as human beings. We all face it. Even as Christ-followers, we still face it. In fact, sometimes it’s precisely because we are Christ-followers that we do suffer. It’s part of the Christian life.

Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

Listen, suffering is something we don’t enjoy. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be suffering. But suffering does have some good results, and we can rejoice as Christ-followers because we know that God uses our suffering to help us develop endurance, character, and a confident hope in our salvation.

Newsflash – Jesus didn’t die to end our suffering. He died so we could have eternal life, so we could have forgiveness, so we can be holy. But not to get rid of suffering. At least, not in this lifetime. But we do look forward to the day when all our suffering will be over.

Romans 8:18 (NLT)
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.

That day is coming. But it’s not here yet. So how do you handle suffering right now? Do you try to go it alone? Do you vainly try to escape it? Or do you turn to God? Do you ask Jesus, “Help me get through this.” Because even though He doesn’t end our suffering, He does help us with it.

And that brings us right to final truth we’re looking at this morning…

5.    There is a Guardian watching over us

If you’ve read the books or seen the movies, you know that Harry often feels all alone. But what he learns over the course of time is that he’s never alone. First of all, he has his Godfather… Sirius Black… who Harry didn’t even know about at first but who has always been watching out for Harry. He’s been a kind of guardian... at least, when he's not in prison.

And then you have Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts. And in the fifth movie you find out that Dumbledore has assigned a wizard to covertly check in on Harry and keep him safe.

And of course, you’ve got his friendships with Ron and with Hermoine. There are times when Harry thinks he has to fight against the evil Voldemort all by himself, but Ron and Hermoine are always there to remind him that he doesn’t have to do it alone… that they’re right there with him.

And you know, it’s nice to know there’s always someone there that you can count on… that there’s one person you can trust.

If you’re married, then hopefully you feel like that with your spouse. You know that they’re always with you. You know you can count on them. And even when everyone else turns their backs on you, they are there for you.

A few months ago, I had a nasty stomach flu… like I’ve never experienced before. And it was… how do I say this… messy. But Shera’s the one who would walk into the bathroom while I was hanging over the toilet to check on me, to see what she could do, to ask how she could help…

Maybe you’ve got a spouse like that who you can count on. Or maybe you’ve felt like that with your parents. Maybe you’ve got a good set of parents who have always been there for you and you know that they’ve always been on your side. Or maybe you’ve had a best friend… we’ve all had best friends… so maybe you’ve had a best friend that you could always count on no matter what. They were going to be there with you through thick and thin.

Well, Jesus created the Church so that we could be that for each other. So we could support and uplift and be there for each other. But even beyond the Church, He Himself is always there. And even when you feel alone… even when you’re going through a time of suffering or testing or confusion or failure… He is right there with you. I love this…

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT)
For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
…There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

And as Jesus said…

Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

[This message drew heavily on resources by Richard Abanes]



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