“It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realisation spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Some estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.”  Acts 19:17-20 (The Message).

What was that all about?

Two extraordinarily unusual things happened in Ephesus. Through Paul, God was showing the pagan Greeks and hyper-religious Jews of Ephesus who this Jesus was and what His power could do. He was a healer and restorer of broken bodies and ruined lives. He was the true and only Lord and worthy of their undivided allegiance.

He was also showing them the true nature of the gods they were worshipping — demonic powers that enslaved and tormented people and brought them nothing but misery and destruction. The demon-possessed man beat up those who tried to evict them to within an inch of their lives. That’s the best Satan can produce by his unauthorised occupation of those who believe his lies.

These electrifying events were enough to shake the citizens of Ephesus out of their demon-induced stupor. The reality of who they were involved with woke them up and initiated a wholesale turning to the Lord. The real but unseen Jesus overshadowed Paul. Those who were secretly involved in occult practices came clean, not only repenting of what they were doing but also burning all their books and paraphernalia so that they would never go back to it again.

Now that was a marvellous work of grace — the kingdom of God completely swamping and eclipsing the devil’s domain of darkness, destruction and death! Jesus had decisively demonstrated who is Lord. The devil and his hoards were forced to retreat with egg on their faces because the people of Ephesus were identifying with the legitimate ruler of their lives, whose image had been imprinted in them by their Creator.

God created us in His image. He breathed His own breath into us. That first breath a new-born baby takes into his lungs — what is that? Since God fills heaven and earth, He is everywhere and as close to us as the air we breathe. Every baby emerges from his mother’s womb with the image of God in him and the breath of God that sustains his life in his lungs. Not even the taint of Adam’s rebellious nature can obliterate God’s image in us.

No matter how far a person strays from God into self-destructive ways, deep inside of him is the knowledge that he was created for better things. His heart responds to the call he hears and he says either yes or no. Many of the people of Ephesus recognised the truth of what Paul was teaching them and renounced the pseudo-lord they had been following for the true Lord they had seen in action through Paul.

Their repentance was radical and genuine. All the lies they had been believing and practising went up in smoke with the paraphernalia they burnt, setting them free to worship Jesus and become who they were meant to be, reflections of a loving and merciful God. They were not concerned about the value of the things they were destroying. Their freedom was of greater worth than their books.

That’s the kind of repentance that liberates a person from slavery to the devil. A clean break and a new beginning is the only way to break his hold and send him packing. When we stop believing his lies and giving in to his urging, we will recognise him for who he is, the destroyer and the accuser. Only Jesus can restore what we have messed up because we heeded the wrong voice, and give us the opportunity to start all over again!

Luella Campbell

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