A daily devotion for July 14th
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.
Many also 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. Acts 19:18-20
Luke mentions two movements here. It started with the believers who began to clean up their own lives, who came and divulged their hidden practices, confessing what they were doing in private. Obviously these were relatively new Christians and perhaps they had never thought that anything was wrong with these practices. But as they sat under the teaching of the apostle and saw the kingdom of God and how God longs to set people free, they began to see that what they had been doing — the astrology, the reliance on horoscopes, the belief in the influence of the stars, and all their other superstitious practices — had held them in bondage. These were the reasons why they remained weak and fearful, upset and distressed within themselves. So they began to confess all this and therefore to be free from their bondage. And that, in turn, precipitated another movement. The unbelievers around them in the city began to take a second look at their own practices. Many of them who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them when they became Christians under the influence and power of the gospel, and thus they were set free from their own deadly delusion.
This illustrates how light breaks forth through the church. It is the church that is the light of the world. When the church begins to straighten out and clean up its life, and act and live as God has called people to do, then the world will begin to see itself as it is, and see what is wrong, and start straightening up and being freed from the practices that are darkening and blinding it. This is what happened here. They surrendered all their occult literature — and that was a costly thing to do. As they totaled up the value of these books and the various paraphernalia that was brought to be burned, it came to fifty-thousand pieces of silver. That is about ten thousand dollars, which was a tremendous sum in those days. It meant that these people were forsaking their livelihood. They were changing the total pattern of their lives, as they saw that they could no longer practice the occult and live as Christians too. It revealed how willing they were to be free from this terrible practice.
Here in Ephesus, Paul and the other Christians, by the power of the truth, broke through this deception. They assaulted this stronghold of evil. They cracked it wide open, so that Luke says,
The word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailed. That is how a church ought to operate — in the power of the Spirit and by the authority of the Word. There are strongholds like this all around us today, bastions of darkness: drugs, witchcraft, homosexuality. How desperately this situation needs the assault of truth and of light. God longs to deliver people from these strongholds, and he has given the church this power.
Father, I see powers of darkness holding people enthralled, locking them into misery and heartache, superstition and fear, hostility and emptiness. Lord, help me to understand that this is a very strategic time to live and to give myself to this exciting, glorious encounter against these powers of darkness.
Life Application: Are we faithfully and transparently confronting any and all evil practices in our own lives? Are we committed to being set free, and to sharing that freedom with others, regardless of the cost in worldly goods or prestige?
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Daily Devotion © 2014 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.