While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.
18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
When I was in seminary, one of my colleagues there shared a story about himself, rather it was his testimony about the work of God in his life. Before coming to college and seminary and becoming a follower of Jesus Christ he had been a mechanic. And that's a great profession, where would we be without those skilled trades they keep our vehicles going. He was a good mechanic; the problem was he was also a thief. You see he had made it a practice that if he saw a tool that he wanted he would just take it. He had stolen tools from family, friends and employers. When he became a Jesus follower something happened to him, he was restless about all these tools he had taken. He sat down made a list and one by one he either return the tool or purchased a replacement for everyone he had stolen from, at least that he could remember. You see my colleague and his testimony illustrates true repentance. A complete turn around. Making restitution opened many doors for him to share about his faith in Christ.
It is this kind of repentance that we see here in Acts chapter 19, verses 18 through 20 of our reading today are both shocking and convicting. Here, we are told that many new believers in Ephesus made a point to disclose (proclaim or reveal) their sinful practices to one another.
As uncomfortable as this practice sounds, we do find the practice in Scripture: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). The practice of confessing our sins openly is not meant to bring us guilt or shame, but to bring healing. Ask yourself today, is there something in your life that causes you to sin? If so, we need to bring that “something” and the corresponding sin into the light? 1 John 1:6-9 reminds us that
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Here is the outcome of the repentance of the Ephesian believers, not only did they confess with their mouths, but they also actively repented by literally burning the things that led them into sin. They disposed of their books valued at 50,000 Drachmas. True repentance involves doing away with, or avoiding things in our life that have been harmful or that which we have been enslaved too.
I am not suggesting that we ought to burn books, smash our computers, throw our TV out the window or destroy other physical possessions that lead us into sin, burning books and scrolls was what the Ephesians believed they should do, but for you perhaps you need to cut out some unhealthy practices. I believe that we all should ask God what it is in our life we need to “burn” in order to “pursue Him and His ways” unhindered. When God by his Spirit reveals something to you, a choice you are making, or some attitude or action that contributes to creating distance between ourselves and our loving Creator, we need to rid ourselves of it so that the word of the Lord may spread widely and grow in power in us.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.