This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on August 26, 2016.
The book of Acts records three missionary journeys in which Paul the apostle was the main character. On the last of these, Paul came to the city of Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia. He spent the better part of three years in this city, teaching and preaching, and also performing what Luke calls “extraordinary miracles” (Acts 19:11). The result of Paul’s preaching was that many of the Ephesians, both Jews and Gentiles, were converted to Christ. When he left Ephesus, he left behind a fully organized congregation under the leadership of elders (cf. Acts 20:17-35).
Paul’s work in Ephesus was marked by an unusual demonstration by the newly-converted Christians of that city. In Acts 19:18-19 Luke says, “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.”
The silver coins mentioned in v. 19 were probably the Greek drachma, which was the equivalent of the Roman denarius. This was the daily wage for a common laborer. Fifty thousand pieces of silver equalled about 137 years’ wages. This was an incredible amount of money, and represented a significant sacrifice on the part of the ones who surrendered their magic books to be burned. More than this, however, this action represented their complete break with their former ways in order to follow Jesus. By burning their magic books these new Christians made an emphatic commitment to the new and living way.
For these Ephesians, following Jesus was worth giving up everything that reminded them of their former way of life, or which might draw them back to it. The cost of the books each person gave up was nothing compared to what he or she gained by submitting to the will of Christ. The promise of eternal life was so valuable to them that they willing, and freely, destroyed every semblance of their former ways. Their sacrifice raises an important question for modern Christians. What is the Lord worth to us? In other words, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to follow Him?
We sometimes sing a song in worship that asks this very question. It declares, “Jesus the Lord laid His glory aside, sinners to save and make whole, Freely He died our transgressions to hide, what is He worth to your soul? All that was His for the sinner He gave, pointed the path to the goal; Sin would deprave, but the Savior would save, what is He worth to your soul? All that He saves He will keep till the end, under His blessed control; Men may depend on this wonderful friend, what is He worth to your soul? All who will trust Him in sunshine and gloam, shall when they reach the bright goal; Ceasing to roam be forever at home, what is He worth to your soul?”
This question is worth serious consideration. The Lord asked it this way: “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). The Lord gave up, albeit temporarily, all the glory of heaven to provide the atonement for our sins. Such a sacrifice and gift is beyond our ability to measure. How then can we continue to cling to the vestiges of our sinful life after having been washed in the blood of the Lamb? Eternal life is worth whatever we have to sacrifice in order to receive it.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth, he acknowledged that his first letter had caused no little grief in that congregation. He spoke of this in 2 Cor. 7:8-10, where he said, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it — for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while — I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
We often speak of the distinction that Paul made here as godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is indeed sorrow, and may even be remorse, but it is not based upon a penitent heart that is resolved not to sin in the same way again. This is why Paul said that worldly sorrow produces death. A person who is sorry in this manner has not changed his views about sin, and thus is likely to return to his sinful behavior once the furor dies down. Such a person is destined for eternal condemnation, which is the death of which Paul spoke.
In contrast to this, however, godly sorrow leads to a penitence that is based upon recognition of the ugliness of sin, and a resolve not to repeat it again. In the case of the church in Corinth, their sorrow over Paul’s condemnation of their sins led them to change their attitude about those sins. The sternness of Paul’s first letter caused them great sorrow. No doubt they were cut to the heart by his words, but instead of rebelling further against his teaching, they took his teaching to heart and renewed their commitment to the Lord. The result was that they were a much better church, and Paul could rejoice about the change (2 Cor. 7:9).
In the New American Standard Bible, quoted above, the translators supplied the words “the will of” between the words “according to” and “God” in vs. 9-10. Their reason for doing so was to make sure the readers understood that this is the kind of sorrow that God wants mankind to have. In 2 Pet. 3:9 Peter said that God does not wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. In other words, it is God’s will that each sinner become convinced of the folly of sin, and turn away from it, and turn back to Him. Every time sorrow leads one to turn away from sin, and to turn back to God, His will is being accomplished by that action.
King David of Israel captured the spirit of godly sorrow in Psa. 51, which he wrote in the aftermath of his sin with Bathsheba. In Psa. 51:17 David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” The word “contrite” in this verse means to feel or to express remorse or penitence. This is the essence of godly sorrow. When we have godly sorrow we are not only sorry over the consequences of our sin, we are sorry that it happened in the first place. We are so sorry that our earnest desire is that we will not do such a thing ever again. This is what true penitence is.
The simple truth of human life is that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Even Christians sin, as the church in Corinth so amply illustrates. However, if we have godly sorrow every time we sin, our gracious Father in heaven will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). He understands our weakness because His Son experienced life just as we do, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). For this reason, if we have godly sorrow over our sins, our souls will remain safe in the hands of our Lord Jesus.
After the death of Abraham, the scripture says that Isaac settled in Gerar, which belonged to Abimelech king of the Philistines. God blessed Isaac there and he became very wealthy. As a result of this the Philistines envied Isaac and Abimelech told Isaac to leave their territory. Isaac moved a short distance away from the city of Gerar and settled there. In Gen. 26:18 the scripture says, “Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.”
In the verses following this statement, the scripture tells us that the Philistines quarreled with Isaac about these newly restored wells, so he moved a little further away and dug another well. They quarreled with him about this well also, so Isaac moved once again. Finally, when he had moved far enough away to satisfy the Philistines, he dug another well and was able to settle there.
This process was necessitated because the Philistines had stopped up these wells after Abraham’s death. There is no indication in scripture that the wells had gone dry, or that they had become polluted, or become otherwise unusable. The wells were, in fact, still perfectly good, but the Philistines purposely made them unusable. They did so as a sign of disrespect for Abraham and for his family. Thus Isaac had to dig them again in order to benefit from the water hidden beneath them.
This series of events perfectly illustrates what happens when we neglect or distort the scriptures. The scriptures are the source of the water of life, by which we are saved (Jas. 1:21). God our Father dug this well, as it were, when He breathed out the scriptures to the inspired writers of the Old and New Testaments (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The scriptures, as God revealed them, are pure in every respect. They are everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and they equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we come to the scriptures with an honest heart and a desire to know the truth, we will find the refreshing water of life that will sustain us all the way to our heavenly home.
Over time, however, the well of God’s word has become polluted and stopped up by various man-made attitudes and dogmas. Like the Philistines who stopped up Abraham’s wells, men who have no respect for God have filled the well of His word with the rocks and debris of human philosophy, false teaching, and neglect. When one comes to this stopped up well, he cannot find the water of life because man-made teachings are blocking access to it. The only way to drink the water of life is to re-dig the old well by clearing away every bit of man-made doctrine and human philosophy that has stopped it up.
There is no question that this is hard work, but it is what must be done in order to reach the pure water of life that God has revealed in His word. Re-digging the old wells means devoting oneself to consistent and systematic study of the scriptures. Jesus told some believing Jews, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). To do so these Jews had to remove all the clutter of Jewish tradition in order to faithfully follow the Son of God. We today must remove all the clutter of human traditions and search the scriptures daily, so we can know the truth (Acts 17:11). To re-dig the old wells, we must have the same attitude that Paul had, who said, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
One of the most famous trademarks in modern advertising features a black and white dog sitting next to an old-fashioned gramophone, apparently listening as a disc plays. The original painting, done by the dog’s owner, is entitled, “His Master’s Voice.” The painting was sold to one of the early recording companies and over time this image became a logo for the RCA Company in the United States. The image was marketed in such a way as to subtly suggest that RCA recordings were so lifelike that the dog could not distinguish between the sound of his master’s voice on the disc versus in real life. Many years later, the Memorex cassette tape company tried to use this same idea with their, “Is it real or is it Memorex?” campaign.
The idea of recognizing and listening to one’s master’s voice is an important theme that has biblical application. When God brought the people of Israel to Sinai to give them the law, He commanded Moses to consecrate the people so He could speak to them from the mountain. In Ex. 19:18-19 the scripture says that God descended upon the mountain and spoke to Moses. As God spoke, the people heard it as thunder. In Ex. 20:18-19 the scripture says the people trembled when they heard the voice of God. They begged Moses to ask God to speak to him, rather than to them, lest they die from hearing His voice.
From our perspective this may seem to be an odd reaction. Many today glibly suggest that God speaks to them with revelations and messages for believers. Others say they wish God would speak to them personally. Yet, every time the scriptures speak of an occasion in which God spoke from heaven, it sounded like thunder and the audience was either terrified or left in awe by it. The voice of God was not something they wished to hear. Men like Moses, Joshua, and the prophets heard the voice of God and were not afraid, but they were extraordinary men serving in extraordinary roles.
Nevertheless, wise people wish to hear the voice of God still today. They wish it because they know that the only way they can please Him is to hear His will so they can obey it. The lives of godly people all around us demonstrate that God is still speaking to His people, but how is He doing it? The answer is that He is speaking through His revealed word. In 2 Tim. 3:16-17 Paul said, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (English Standard Version).
The key in this passage is the phrase “breathed out” in v. 16. This means that every word in scripture came from God Himself. In 2 Pet. 1:21 Peter said, “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Using the Holy Spirit as the medium to convey His will, God spoke to the inspired writers of both Old and New Testaments. The things they wrote are the very words of God. Therefore, when we read the scriptures, we are hearing our Master’s voice. This is, by the way, the only way we can hear His voice until we stand before Him in judgment. There is no need for God to actually speak to us today because the scriptures are “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).
The scriptures are breathed out by God. They make us complete and equip us for every good work. They are everything pertaining to life and godliness. They are our Master’s voice telling us how to live on earth, so we can live with Him in heaven in eternity. Therefore, read the Bible, and listen to your Master’s voice.