Million Dollar Renouncements
Robert Wurtz II
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:19, 20)
Repentance is getting serious when people start renouncing sinful and questionable practices. It is even more serious when the people begin getting rid of sinful things from their lives. I once said, that the famous last words of a Christian are, “I can handle this.” In other words, ‘I can handle’ something in my life that I know is going to become a stumbling block to my ongoing victory. We have to burn the bridges. These people understood this. These are practical things, but no less important.
I heard a story of an alcoholic that decided he was going to show the Devil that he had the victory. He went and bought a bottle of liquor and pushed it down in his back pocket. He carried this bottle around for a while and before he knew it he had emptied it! (and not on the ground) The story may have been parabolic, but it demonstrates how people can foolishly play with sin. What says the scripture, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us. (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV) If it is a snare to you, get rid of it!
Sometimes the only thing to do is to flee from the sin. Humans are creatures of habit and if we are not careful we may give the enemy an occasion to ensnare us again. An old-timey preacher once quoted Romans 14:22b, Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. The context is a little different, but I think the principal applies. Don’t tempt yourself or God. If Jesus would go so far as to say we ought to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand to prevent ourselves from some sin, how much more ought we to pluck some stone of stumbling from our lives?
Sin Not For Sale
Again we read, them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. Notice that they did not sell them. They wanted these evil documents out of circulation. Burning documents in antiquity was a way of repudiating the contents. These so-called Magical Papyri or slips of parchment with symbols or magical sentences written on them were called Ephesia Grammata or Ephesian Letters. These Ephesian Letters were rolled up into tubes and worn as amulets or charms. The Ephesians wanted nothing to do with this stuff. Get it out of my house and out of my life!
Burning this mass of books and charms could have taken a long tome to accomplish. What is more sobering is the cost. Scholars tell us that they effectively burned fifty-thousand days wages (Keener. IVP Bible Background, P379). These silver coins would have been either the Ephesian drachma or the Roman Denarius. By today’s standards an average day of pay in America is $184 a day. The range globally is $1 to $200 as a general rule. Conservative estimates of the value of this material is between $750,000 and $1,000,000. If we estimate that a person works typically 255 days in a year (less weekends and holidays) it would represent 196 years worth of work. However we calculate it or examine it, it was a tremendous expense. This is fruits worthy of repentance.
No Always Blatant Sin
Sometimes God will call us to get rid of things that are not necessarily sin, but may become a means of stumbling as they bring sinful memories before our minds. The Holy Spirit might deal with us to get rid of something or renounce a certain action because He knows where it is heading. We have to be sensitive to God and swift to obey. This does not mean I can legislate certain things that are my own convictions. We each have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
I recall many years ago when my dad was Born Again and delivered from alcoholism. He immediately took a different route home from work than the old route. Why? Because he used to go by the liquor store every night. He went home and cleared out all the beer from his home. Some months later I came over and the wine collection was sitting on the curb for the garbage. I asked, “What is that doing out there.” He said he had to get rid of it as it reminded him of drinking. Later on I came home and the record collection was on the curb. “Why the record collection?” He said it reminded him of the parties he used to host/attend where drinking and playing records went on. So Elvis and all of his palls were out on the curb. Why? because that’s what you do when you are bent on making sure you can keep your mind on the tracks. If it’s a hindrance, get rid of it. Don’t keep the snake in your pocket.
Compromise in the Attic
I had a man once tell me that he was upset because he had backslidden and needed to go back and buy all of his death-metal CDs that he destroyed when he got ‘saved.’ He said he thought that the next time he gets saved he would just put the stuff up in the attic in case he backslid again he would not have to incur the expense. This is not repentance. This is ‘premeditated backsliding’. If you think this way you have already decided you are going back to the world, it’s just a matter of when. This is not what the Ephesians had done. They burned the stuff and never looked back. They didn’t put it on EBAY to recover their expenses. Why would they sell another person the thing that enslaved them? Burn it! Get rid of it. Anything that is an encumbrance to your spiritual life needs to be dealt with.