and this became known to all the residents of ephesus, both jews and greeks. and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. and a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. and they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. so the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. [acts 19:17-20]


true repentance


today, like the ephesians we engage in practices to exercise control and give us pleasure (the magic arts and books of the ephesians). of course these days, ‘we are sophisticated!’, and certainly we don’t believe in the same kind of superstitious demonic magic that these ancient ephesians did, right? well, if we look more closely, perhaps we are more aligned to these brothers of old than we think–the “magic” of today is self-help, the guru podcasters, those who preach a subtle prosperity gospel, the purveyors of tools like the enneagram, we think ai will save us, cryptocurrency will save us, tiktok will save us,  technology will save us to not participate in these worldly ways is to miss out, so just in case, let’s have a backup plan–and so we sit in lines and waiting rooms, our heads bowed to our new god, a little screen powered by a microchip.


what would it look like to practice true repentance from these worldly idols? Jesus spoke radically about how to run from our sin:

if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. for it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. for it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. [matthew 5:29-30]


“of course,” you may say–”i know that it isn’t my eye or my hand that causes me to sin–it is my heart–what must be done with my heart?”

“yet even now,” declares the Lord,

    “return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

    and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

return to the Lord your God,

    for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;

    and he relents over disaster. [joel 2:12-13]


Jesus mercifully does what only he can do–he knows that our sin comes from our heart–and he has a solution:

i will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. and i will give you a new heart, and a new spirit i will put within you. and i will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. and i will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. [ezekial 36:25-27]


he does the work in us–only when he puts his Holy Spirit within us–our new heart–can we come “confessing and divulging [our] practices”, willingly casting down the things that we once held so valuable and burning them with fire.  


we were far, now we have been brought near.

we were blind, now we see.

we were once in darkness, now we are in the light.


we can now, like jim elliot say:


“he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”


burning your valuables, cutting off hands, gouging out eyes, losing your heart is painful.


but what you gain return is Jesus, and he is more than you or i could ever want and need.



~ ce