ACTS 19:17-20: “The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.”
OBSERVATION: Is my life continually being transformed? Have I grown stagnant and indifferent in my walk of faith or am I constantly changing? Am I willing to count the cost of discipleship or am I attempting to negotiate my own terms with God?
The story of the Ephesian believers always challenges me when I read it. Ephesus was the center of pagan worship and the home of the temple of the goddess Artemis. This was so important to the city that one of the biggest industries in the city was the production of silver idols. When Paul came proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his message, and those who believed, turned this city upside down.
Paul was not making any friends among the silversmiths. Demetrius, a leading silversmith, incited a riot in the city in opposition to Paul and the believers. A line was being drawn. There was no middle ground. You either were a disciple of Jesus or you were a disciple of Artemis. There probably would not have been an issue if it hadn’t been for the reaction of the Ephesians who believed.
The Ephesian believers not only professed their faith in Jesus Christ, but they also made a public break from their sinful past. It was not just a symbolic break. It was a costly one. It was so costly that it threatened the very livelihood of the entire city. There was no doubt in their mind. To be a follower of Jesus Christ meant a dramatic change. They could not simply believe. They needed to lay down everything they put their trust in before they trusted Christ.
- “Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.”
Their faith impacted a multi-million dollar industry! No wonder Demetrius was upset. If this continued they would be totally out of business. Christianity was no longer just another religion. It was an imminent threat to their way of life. Battle lines were drawn!
Am I living for Jesus Christ with the same zeal and sacrifice? Is my life marked by such raw and heartfelt devotion? Am I willing to lay down my all for Jesus – even if it affects my pocketbook? Is my life different today than it was last year? All of these questions rush to my heart as I meditate upon this powerful story of faith and sacrifice!
I am afraid that it is easier to compartmentalize our lives than allow the Holy Spirit to change them. So many times I am tempted to put my past in a shed and lock it up rather than allow it to be burned upon the open flames of the holiness of God. It is easy to convince myself that I have changed while I still hold on to the things of value from my past. The Ephesian believers were willing to take a radical step of discipleship – and so should I!
Throughout my life, I have faced these junctures of decision. The Holy Spirit has called me to repentance and change. There has always been an initial hesitance on my part. No one likes change, especially when the change involves sacrifice. Yet, by the grace and mercy of God, I have learned that this change is both necessary and worth the cost. Whatever God has called me to cast in the fire – He has replaced with His goodness and provision.
I think of the discourse between Jesus and Peter. Peter understood the cost of discipleship, but he wondered – “Is it worth it?” Jesus replied,
- “…And I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then. ”. Mark 10:29-31 NLT
The world will never understand the pathway of the cross. In fact, they will oppose it with anger and hostility, because it threatens their lifestyle and livelihood. The cross calls us to repentance, discipleship, and change. It is God’s light shining upon our darkness and calling us to His light and love. Those who reject the Gospel hate the light because it exposes the reality of their deeds. They will ridicule and oppose every step of change in our life. Yet, God will bless and reward every step of obedience to His grace.
There is so much that remains to be changed in my life. When I look to Jesus I realize how much I fall short. Yet, I do not see disappointment in His eyes. I see His loving hand reaching out to me, empowering me, and encouraging me to take the next step of obedience and change. He meets this call with the power of the Holy Spirit and the provision of His grace. And, as I lay down the next layer of my life I am clothed in the next layer of HIs righteousness. What a wonderful promise and provision for all who believe!
Lord, this morning I want to change. I want to count the cost of discipleship. I want to have the boldness of the Ephesian believers who cast their old sinful practices into the fire – even though it cost them millions. Grant me the grace to take the next step in my call to take up my cross and follow You!
In Jesus Name!