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. (Acts 19:18, 19 ESV)
Ephesus was a place known for its sorcery. That they had exorcisms in the city show evidence of their dabbling in the occult. The event that brought such fear upon them was a failed exorcism that led to seven brothers getting beaten and sent running for their lives. They were Jewish and, after seeing Paul cast out demons in the name of Jesus, sought to invoke Jesus’ name too. But the evil spirit in the man could see that Jesus was not with them. They were not believers but rather users of Jesus. There is a lesson in that – are you a true believer in Jesus or simply a user of Jesus? The story goes on to show us the difference. Those who were true believers in Jesus came confessing their sin, specifically their practice in sorcery. Knowing their own weakness to fall back into such a practice, they brought their books and burned them. They were worth a great deal of money, perhaps even income!
This is reminiscent of Jesus’ warning to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin. In this people’s case it was their books. So they “cut them off” and burned them in the fire to be rid of them for good. Occult practices may not be common practice in your circles but this text should give you pause to ask, what are the sins common to my culture, that I regularly practice?What do I need to remove so that it no longer tempts me? Is it access to the Internet and the pornography so easily accessible there? Is it a group of friends? Is it a girlfriend or a boyfriend? We cannot overestimate the destructive nature of sin.
Lord, when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord ,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalms 32:3-5 ESV) Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23, 24 ESV)