Any Christian knows it is important to struggle against sin (Eph. 4:22-24). As we grow in the faith, we walk less and less in the ways of the world, and more and more in the ways of Christ.
What do you do when you find yourself falling victim to a sin that you have been unable to give up? You are locked in cycle of sin, remorse, renewed determination, temptation, sin, and remorse again. How do you break free?
Acts 19:18–20 describes what the sorcerers of Ephesus did to successfully repent of their sin.
Many of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
Let the word grow mightily
It’s doubtful that most of those practicing magic in Ephesus realized their ways would keep them out of heaven—until Paul arrived with the gospel. Sorcerers’ storefronts were a respectable part of the ancient Greco-Roman city. Merchants bought charms to protect them on upcoming journeys. Farmers bought incantations to ensure a good harvest. Teens bought potions to enchant desired ones, and curse the competition.
Today, many don’t realize that their practices are condemned by God. Our society’s moral compass is no longer calibrated. It comes as a genuine surprise that God’s word condemns sexual immorality, lying, using God’s name in vain. One must read God’s word to know what is sinful in the first place.
Let the word prevail
When one learns that an activity is sinful, an inner conflict begins. Satan and God both beckon. Who will win your heart?
Have the attitude that, when you identify something sinful, that God and His word will prevail. Repentance for some sins comes with bigger consequences than others, and yet, if we trust God, we know that He will take care of us no matter what we have to give up.
Magic was not these sorcerers’ hobby—it was their bread and butter, their families’ income! The price of the books suggests they were not poor. “Piece of silver” likely refers to the Greek drachma, which approximated a day’s wage. Thus, the total amount was enough money to support fifteen families for ten years.
When Christ demands a change in your life, it’s not going to be an easy decision. But you know the decision you need to make.
If necessary, confess and disclose your practices
Part of the reason we get caught in the cycle of sin and guilt is that we don’t seek any help. We have the uncanny ability to compartmentalize the things that bother us deeply, and still wear a happy face. God doesn’t expect us to conquer sins alone. He gives us the church, a group of people who encourage and support us in our efforts to become more like Jesus every day (James 5:16, Galatians 6:1-2).
Christians who make themselves accountable to others find it much more difficult to get away with sin. If it’s inappropriate media, move the computer into the living room. Invite your spouse to check Netflix queue weekly. Take similar steps for other temptations. If you’re serious about defeating sin, you’ll appreciate their supervision.
Dispose of the objects of temptation
It has been said that Christians use mighty thin thread when mending their ways. Not these sorcerers–they took all of their books and had a bonfire! They destroyed the temptation to ever go back to those practices once again. From that very moment of decision, they eliminated the possibility of ever turning back.
If your problem is pornography, the appropriate action is not to put the magazines back in the shoebox and stuff them in the back corner of your closet. It’s to dispose of them. If your problem is drunkenness, the appropriate response is not to put the stopper in the bottle, but to pour the bottle down the sink.
If we are serious about rooting out sin, we will be serious about eliminating the paraphernalia that encourages us to sin. We will not make any excuse–“but it’s a collector’s item,” or “I paid a lot for that,” or “his friendship is dear to me.” We will be willing to perform radical surgery (Mark 9:43–48). –John Guzzetta