Living the Antithesis Like Our Spiritual Fathers: “We must never conceal that Word in the folds and creases of worldly clothing.” ~ A. Kuyper

Ps119-105

…What carries over from Isaiah’s imagery and what it intends to convey is that we can only see by the light of God’s Word and Spirit when our souls are not always looking at and hankering after the ways of the world. We see only when we embrace absolutely the separation between God’s people and the people of the world. Then we’ll have nothing to do with their song and dance, either in our hearts, our heads, or our homes.

That’s how our fathers felt. That’s why they became staunch Puritans, that is, people who had the courage to break with the ungodly world that the Lord so accurately describes as people ‘who hatch lizards’ eggs and weave spiders’ webs.’

Our spiritual fathers yearned not to be conformed to this world. That’s why they thought differently, sang differently, lived differently, ate differently, clothed themselves differently, and raised their children differently. They didn’t allow the world to dictate their standards, but they reverently bowed their heads to God’s law. When the world called out: ‘Come along with me!’ their ready, stalwart, and bold response was: ‘We can’t!’ And they didn’t either, but held to their own path and thus reached their destination.

And that’s how we should proceed, brothers and sisters, guided by the same rule. We shouldn’t introduce a Mennonite kind of avoidance, nor play the part of ‘Precisionists,’ nor expect repayment from God for satisfying him with the self-righteous work of chastising ourselves. All of this is deadening, under his curse, and yields nothing at all.

No, but remaining in this world, as often as the demands of this world’s words come into conflict with the Word of God, we need to stand relentlessly and immovably on God’s Word. We need to cling to it tenaciously. We simply need to proceed on that basis of that Word with deadly seriousness in opposition to all earthly powers, friends, kinsmen, and human talk and gossip.

We must never conceal that Word in the folds and creases of worldly clothing.

Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.162-64.

This particular meditation (#52 of Volume 1) is titled “We Fumble Along in the Middle of the Day” and is based on Isaiah 59:10 (KJV)  – “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men..”

What Justification Does the Christian Have for Reading Secular Literature? A PR Perspective

litclassicsYou may recall that a few weeks ago we examined another section of Dr. Leland Ryken’s valuable book on the Christian’s reading of literature, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). That particular section dealt with the Christian justification for reading secular literature (classics), and you will remember that Ryken grounded this first of all in the doctrine of “common grace.”

We took issue with this position, even though Ryken appealed to Scripture (without any specific texts) and to Calvin (with a couple of quotes that only proved that God also gives unbelievers “excellent gifts,” which may be of use to the believer – something with which we agree; we just don’t call it “grace”, not even if you call it “common” and not “saving.”). But it is not enough to say we do not ground the Christian’s right to read secular literature in common grace; we must state the justification positively, with Reformed and biblical grounds.

And we Protestant Reformed people do, even though many think we do not. To be sure, we do unashamedly affirm the antithesis, that spiritual “line in the sand” (separation) God by His sovereign, saving grace makes between the Christian and the ungodly world, between our renewed thinking and their perverse thinking, between our good works and their evil works (of literature too), between our Christ-directed purpose for living and their self(-ish)-focused purpose for living. That means that there is filth that the world produces that the Christian has no use for and may not use, including in the realm of literature (cf. 2 Cor.6:14-18; the first part of Eph.5; I Jn.2:15-17, e.g.).

But we also believe that God puts us in this world to live out our faith fully, to use this world and its things, including the works of fallen, unconverted sinners, to the glory of God and for our development in grace as His people. That includes their works of literature – with limitations and discernment, of course – but also with a free and good conscience governed and informed by the Word of God. That’s the key to the Christian’s use of this world – we view it and employ it through the “lens” of God’s Word (Calvin referred to this as living and learning through the “spectacles of Scripture.”).

What I want especially to point out to you tonight is that the Federation of PR Christian School Societies has produced various guides for the teachers to use in the areas of instruction that they teach. And one of these is a “Literature Studies Guide,” available on the page linked above. Part of that guide specifically addresses the Christian’s reading of secular literature, and from that part I would like to quote. These are the thoughts of Mr. Fred Hanko, a now-retired but long-tenured Christian school teacher. Let them be a guide to you as you make use of the classics of unbelievers:

In exploring the problem of what the Christian can do with the literary works of the unbeliever, there are a few basic ideas with which I would like to begin.
First it must be understood that there is an objective reality which includes God Himself, all things in the universe which He has created, and all the works that God has done in history.
Second, the Christian is called upon to know and understand this reality as far as his limitations and capacities allow. Third, the Christian is required to respond to this reality. The response must be of acceptance of the good and rejection of the evil, as well as belief and worship. Further, the response must include behavior toward God, toward men, and toward the earth.
Now the business of literature is communication. The objective reality is the material with which the author works. He explores this reality, he responds to it, he interprets it, and he uses the written word to communicate the results to the reader.
Note that the special feature of literature that makes it differ from other writings is that literature bears the imprint of the writer. The author himself appears in all works of literature. It may appear in his selection of materials, his interpretation of reality, in his response to reality, in any or all of these. The job of the author is to explore reality and to communicate the results to us. The author says to us, this is what I see. Do not you see it too? This is what I feel. Don’t you feel as I do? This is what we ought to do. Go forth now and do it.
When the author is a Christian, we have no problem in dealing with his works. We see reality as he sees it and we respond as he does. From his work we gain knowledge, insight we have never had before, feelings that are new to us or deeper than we have ever had before. We become better Christians than we have ever been.
Our problem, however, lies with the work of the unbeliever. Can he know reality? Can he interpret it correctly? Can he respond to it as he should? And if he can do none of these things, why should we study his work?
The answer to the first of these questions seems to be the most difficult. It seems clear that just as the scientist can observe a flower and report accurately its structure, and function, so the poet can observe the flower and say accurately, This is what I see, and this is how I feel about it. Does either the scientist or the poet speak the truth? Or both? Or possibly neither?
Since we are dealing here with the work of man, it seems proper before we try to answer that we say a few things about the nature of man. We are agreed, I think, that with the fall of Adam man lost the image of God. The loss of the image of God means that man lost the true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. From that time forward his knowledge was only that of evil, his works were all unrighteousness. Man is opposed to God and in league with Satan. “All the thoughts of man’s heart were only evil continually.” Without the grace of God which restores the image of God man remains only the creature created to be an image-bearer of God but now bearing the image of Satan.
There is in man and in the works of man no neutrality of thought or actions. He is for God or he is against Him. As one created to be an image-bearer, however, he has the faculties of intellect and reason which make it possible for him to know what is true, but this truth he will not acknowledge. (Cf. Romans 1)
The unbelieving author, then, can observe reality correctly and can report it accurately even while his purpose may be to serve his idol gods. He may even be more shrewd in his analysis than the God-fearing man is. The unbelieving poet may see something in the flower that we would never see of ourselves. By reading the work of the poet, we also may see, and by our special knowledge we may gain a better understanding of God. Although the writer may have done his work in sin, we may use His work to the greater glory of God. Even the Apostle Paul used the learning of the Greeks quoting from one of their own poets in his speech at Athens.

There are more to these thoughts, and you may find them at the link above. By all means read the entire guide. You will profit immensely. And then go read, with your spiritual “eyeglasses” on.

Can Christians Benefit from Books by Nonbelievers? | Desiring God

CsLewis-readRecently, on a Desiring God’s “Ask Pastor John” (Piper) program, a Christian from Kalamazoo, MI asked a question about reading secular literature. Piper gave him an answer that I think is helpful.

Since this is a question that often comes up, especially for new Christians who feel they ought only to read Christian literature (and, certainly, that ought to be the priority throughout our lives), but also for mature believers, we post part of Piper’s answer here. You may either read or listen to the entire program at the link provided below.

If you have thoughts on this subject, feel free to leave a comment for the benefit of others.

Of course, the Bible gives crucial insight into these things that come from nowhere else, but the raw material of knowledge is gained, in large measure, from life experience, and then the Bible takes that common fund of human experience, of reality that we bring to the Bible, and shows how God relates to it and transforms it.

The New Testament assumes that we have not forgotten the lesson of the book of Proverbs that we should go to the ant — a little bug, the ant — consider her ways, and be wise (Proverbs 6:6). In other words, look at the world. Learn reality from the world. Learn something about hard work from the world, learn something about perseverance from the world. Grow your fund of reality experience of a thousand things that are in the world because, when the New Testament mentions those things, it assumes we have some experiential knowledge of them.

But here is the catch. Most of us live lives that are so small, narrow, constricted, and limited — we know so little about so many things — one of the ways, only one, but one of the ways that God has ordained for us to grow in our knowledge of many things, many experiences that we have no immediate experience of is through reading. This means that if we have a wide and deep knowledge of things through reading, as well as through life experience, then when the Bible speaks, for example, of the sorrow of losing ten children, we may have a greater understanding of what it is referring to — I am thinking of Job — if we walked through it ourselves, which most of us won’t. Hardly anybody loses ten children all at once. But we might read about it. We might read the various kinds of horrible things that people have walked through like that and deepen our grasp of the human spirit and the experience of what it is like to do that.

So, let me give you just a little glimpse of how this worked for the original Jonathan Edwards. He delivered a sermon about slavery to sin and what it is like to have Satan as a slave master. Now, he knows that Satan is the most wicked, crude, most fiendish master that ever was. And yet most people gladly walk in his service.

Now, how could Edwards feel this as he ought to? How could he know the reality of what it means to be ruled by Satan as he ought? How could he say it in a way that would help others know the reality? Well, Edwards had evidently done some reading about human sacrifice in the country of Guinea. And here is what it did for him. Here is what he says:

[Satan and his cohorts] do by you as I have heard they do in Guinea, where at their great feasts they eat men’s flesh. They set the poor ignorant child who knows nothing of the matter, to make a fire, and while it stoops down to blow the fire, one comes behind and strikes off his head, and then he is roasted by that same fire that he kindled, and made a feast of, and the skull is made use of as a cup, out of which they make merry with their liquor. Just so Satan, who has a mind to make merry with you.

That is pretty horrible, pretty powerful, pretty unforgettable. Edwards got that knowledge of evil from outside the Bible, and it informed biblical teaching about Satan’s horrible, fiendish, devastating, murderous rule over his people — all the while making them think they are having fun.

Source: Can Christians Benefit from Books by Nonbelievers? | Desiring God

What It Means to Be Reformed: Christian Life – Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerIn the May 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer Prof.B. Gritters concluded his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed.” The last segments of the series treated the Reformed Christian life.

One of the sub-points in this part of the series was the truth that the Reformed Christian lives a “dual citizenship” in this life – in the church and in the world. This is how he explains the first citizenship:

When the Reformed Christian’s spiritual GPS asks him to assign an address for “Home,” he enters “Church.” Membership in and life in a true church is the starting point and ending point of his existence. The center of his life is the church— the church as institute. Although he has many interests in the world and a multitude of responsibilities, these interests and responsibilities all trace their significance back to his membership in the church.

What demands that he make the church central is his union with Christ. Christ Himself makes the church central. He ascended into heaven “that He might appear as head of His church,” as the Heidelberg Catechism says. God “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1. “The church He loveth well,” the Psalms teach us to sing. For the Reformed Christian, no minimizing of church is permissible. Hold that thought.

But, then, he also goes on to show that the Reformed Christian lives a full life in this world – though he is not “of it.”

Reformed Christians also live in, and have a citizenship in, the world. They are citizens in a particular country and reside in an earthly community where not all are Christians. They have responsibilities there. They do not flee the world, Anabaptist-fashion, but live as productive citizens in it, engaging freely but cautiously in all its dimensions. They seek an occupation that fits their gifts, study to advance understanding in science and the liberal arts, and delight in good music and arts. In other words, they live broadly as productive citizens with a view to the welfare of the community. Part of that life is submitting to the magistrate. Reformed Christians usually cast votes for their leaders and, if necessary, write letters of concern to the powers that be. Some will sign petitions to keep a business closed on Sunday, or to
bar from the neighborhood a so-called Gentlemen’s Club, an abortion clinic, or a casino. Others will join with fellow citizens—of course, in a manner that does not compromise their Christian principles—to oppose evils like abortion, or do good for the community or nation in which they live. They are citizens of an earthly country.

In that connection, he also points out the real danger of neglecting this part of the Christian life:

There is a real danger that we Reformed Christians belittle or even shun these components of the Christian’s existence, huddle in a little corner, and avoid contact with the world. There is a history of Christians making this mistake, and we must not repeat it by an unbiblical understanding of antithetical living. Living antithetically does not mean physical separation from the world. Healthy Reformed Christians grasp the teaching of the Belgic Confession’s Article 36, and appreciate its reference to I Timothy 2’s call to pray for rulers. And even if they do reject the new, but common and foolish, interpretation of Jeremiah 29:7—that Babylon must somehow be transformed by our efforts and even become the friend of the church—they also properly understand Jeremiah’s call to seek the peace of today’s “Babylon.”

How then shall we live? In this way, by God’s sovereign grace.

Turning from Vanity – Rev.M. DeVries

Ps119-37The meditation for the January 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer was written by Rev. Michael DeVries, PRC pastor in Kalamazoo, MI. It is a reflection on the prayer found in Psalm 119:37, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity ; and quicken thou me in thy way.”

Penned with the new year in mind, this meditation contains timely and timeless thoughts for us believers living in the twenty-first century. Here are a few of these considerations as we seek to flee the vanities about us and within us in 2016:

A Fervent Prayer
Who can deny that this world is filled with vanities? Who can ignore the horrible manifestations of sin that we see? Shocking immorality! Gross perversion of God’s ordinance of marriage! Unbelievable filth – vanity! Terrible lawlessness and rebellion – vanity! Economic woes and political chaos – vanity. And in much of the church we see bold apostasy and world conformity – vanity! We behold fantastic wealth, luxuries, pleasures, and entertainments – vanity!

…The term “vanity” comes from a root word which means breath or vapor. Go outside in the frigid temperatures of winter and exhale into the cold air. That puff of vapor is vanity! Vanity is that which has no real substance. It is that which is useless and futile. It doesn’t last. Its existence is fleeting. Apart from the fear of the Lord, all the endeavors of man, in every sphere of life, are vanity. All of his learning and culture, his science and philosophy, his invention and industry, his finance and economics, his recreation and entertainment, his life at home, at work, at play – vanity, all vanity! It is all passing away. Man finds no real joy, no real satisfaction, no true peace.

For sin and the curse of God’s righteous wrath beset this world and all the endeavors of men. We see utter rebellion against all Biblical standards of morality and even common decency. And it all ends in the vanity of death and the grave. Almighty God will not be mocked and shall cast the ungodly down into destruction. This is the world of vanity in which we have walked in 2015 and in which we are required to continue walking in 2016.

By God’s grace we pray, yea, we pray fervently, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” By grace we are not one with this world of vanity. Yet we feel the tug, the pull in the direction of the vanities of this world. For we are still beset with our sinful natures that belong to this world of vanity. We realize the appeal, the attraction, the allurement of this world of vanities. Perhaps especially in our youth – physical appearance, popularity, possessions, money – who can deny the appeal?

And so, by grace we express our heartfelt need unto the Lord, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity. “ We realize that as earthy creatures all of our senses are attracted to these vanities, but especially our sense of sight. That’s why our culture of “screens” is so dangerous – from smart phones and tablets to large screen televisions to theater screens – the whole world of vanities is there to see! And those images are impressed upon our minds, and we become increasingly hardened and enslaved to the vanities. “O Lord, turn away my eyes!” Is that your plea?

The Example of the Early Church On Sexual Matters – Michael Haykin

TT-Nov-2015Yesterday before our worship services I was able to complete my readings in this month’s Tabletalk (see the previous Monday posts this month for more on this issue).

The final article I read was the last one in the magazine – “The Example of the Early Church” by Dr. Michael Haykin. In connection with the theme of this issue (“The Christian Sexual Ethic”), Haykin takes us back in history to a key Christian apologetic work in the early church – The Letter to Diognetus (2nd century).

In this letter of a Christian (unknown) to an unbelieving inquirer (Diognetus) the apologist speaks to the way believers in Christ handle sexual matters in the world of their day, among other things.

The following paragraphs are a quote from this letter and some commentary by Haykin on it. It makes for interesting and instructive reading. So does the rest of Haykin’s article (cf. Ligonier link below), and I am sure, the rest of The Letter to Diognetus (shall we agree to read it together?).

In the World, but Not of the World

The author of the letter notes that, unlike the Jews, Christians are not to be distinguished from their fellow Greeks and Romans by virtue of their geographical locale, distinct language, or various unique customs of dress, food, and other matters of daily life. When it comes to all of these things, they lived like the other citizens of the Roman Empire. Yet, their Christian commitment did draw certain lines of demarcation between themselves and their surrounding culture:

They live in their own native lands, but as sojourners; they share all things as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners…. They marry, like everyone else, have children, but they do not expose their infants. They share a common table, but not the marriage bed. They are in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend [their days] on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. (Letter to Diognetus 5.5–9)

Here the New Testament language of sojourning and heavenly citizenship is pressed into service to affirm the paradox of Christian existence. The Christian life is one that was similar in so many ways to the mores of Greco-Roman society, but in certain key areas—notably with regard to the treatment of children and sexual expression—it bore witness to a completely different ethic.

Source: The Example of the Early Church by Michael Haykin | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

The Antithesis and the Theater – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman relates the antithesis to movies and theater attendance on the part of the students at Calvin. He has some very frank and revealing comments about the breakdown of the antithesis at this point – and this is in the 1920s.

The antithesis failed in the matter of amusements. Many leaders of the church demanded abstinence from movies, card-playing, and dancing. These are dead chestnuts today; but in the 1920s these prohibitions, questionable in theory and unenforceable in practice, were on the books. I never saw either card-playing or dancing at Calvin, though I heard about the latter. Movie attendance was another matter. Often somebody in the dormitory would holler, ‘Who’s going to Wealthy [theater]?’ and a group would gather. The fact is that many Christian students saw no evil in attending a good motion picture. In 1928 there were movies you could take your mother to. The students broke the rule as a silly one; some faculty members felt the same way but observed it. This rule triggered more dissimulation than did anything else at Calvin.

The first movie I ever saw was Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1928. I went to see it on the invitation of a preseminary student, a gentleman who has since served our church with devotion for a lifetime. The theater was a place some went to nonchalantly and some with guilt attenuating or intensifying their enjoyment; some sneaked in, and some bough their tickets defiantly. For some time, students had to sign pledges not to attend. Were it not for the profound convictions of the church leaders, rooted in their idea of loyalty to the Lord, the insistence on the rule would now seem to have been much ado about nothing. In the 1920s, the defense of movie attendance cost Prof. B. K. Kuiper his seminary post (p.30)

The Antithesis and Chapel at Calvin College – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman relates the antithesis to chapels at Calvin. This too makes for interesting – and some humorous – reading.

The emphasis on the antithesis was also apparent in the insistence on chapel attendance. There was little surveillance in those days. Prof. Rooks wandered around occasionally, checking likely retreats; but in actuality there was little disciplinary action. There always were inveterate skippers, but chapel was generally well attended. A far greater proportion of the whole student body attended than do today. In fact, in actual numbers there were often more students attending daily chapel at Calvin then than there are today in a college ten times its size.

Chapel services varied. Occasionally, clergymen and celebrities were invited to speak, but most of the sessions were conducted by faculty members. Those humble enough to recognize their ineptitude at public speaking regularly devoted the session to song, Scripture reading, and prayer. Others, however, spoke frequently. I remember a fascinating series of talks by Prof. Johannes Broene on the personalities of the apostles. Prof. Vanden Bosch always spoke. He was a meticulous man, almost fussily neat. Annoyed at the litter dropped in the building, he once spoke on the text ‘Let him that is filthy be filthy still.’ Dr. Peter Hoekstra often illuminated Scripture passages with historical data. Prof. Rooks gave his talks in the Oxford accent he had acquired in Graafschap. Dr. Ralph Stob spoke on the same topic for quite a while, and he always assumed that the students remembered the content of the preceding speech. Prof. Nieuwdorp, a fine mathematician, gave several talks on the ‘Stahrs.’

…At its best, chapel was spiritual refreshment; at the lowest level it was a rendezvous, a brief date, a study period, or a time to sleep. For most it was an activity to participate in, not something to escape. It was a boon not a bore. Students did not often skip chapel; and neither did the professors (pp.29-30).

The Antithesis and Learning at Calvin College – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanTwo weeks ago we began quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.

Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman describes the effect the antithesis had on learning.

The pervasive emphasis on the antithesis did not diminish the appreciation for learning or produce an index of forbidden books or a cowering from challenge. In the classroom it resulted in the search for truth from alien sources and a critical appraisal of fundamental religious options. Some teachers did this brilliantly, some rather feebly, but they all did it. Calvin College then, as afterwards, emphasized the best that had been thought and written. Although only six of the eighteen professors held doctorates, all but two of the rest had master’s degrees or their equivalent. The teachers were well acquainted with scholarly habits, and almost all insisted on rigorous work. One of those who did not compensated for it in illumination. Calvin graduates were admirably prepared for university studies beyond Calvin, and many of them enhanced its academic reputation. I think most of the students would have agreed that they were well prepared in their majors, confronted by the deep questions, nurtured in the Reformed faith, and given a genuine liberal education. There were, of course, real or self-appointed geniuses who would dispute that, but I think I state correctly the attitude of the vast majority of students (p.29, in “‘Golden Branch among the Shadows”’).

The Reformed Worldview: Some Books are Meant to be Burned – Rev.S. Key

SB-July-2015-Synod-IssueThe July 2015 issue of The Standard Bearer is out and while this issue is the annual PRC Synod issue – complete with a recap of its decisions and plenty of pictures of the men and their work, – there is more to this issue than synodical matters.

Rev.S. Key returns to his rubric “Reformed Worldview” to pen another article on “Truth and Its Consequences, this time addressing “The History of the Concept Worldview.” At the outset he reminds us what the Reformed worldview is:

We last saw that the Reformed worldview is one that has us living in willing subjection to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He Who has purchased us with His precious blood also owns us body and soul.  There is not an aspect of our lives that falls outside the scope of His Lordship.

But it is His work of grace in our hearts that brings us into willing subjection to Him.  The Lord of glory Who owns us also lives in us!  He rules over us — not by force, but by the impelling power of His love as His Holy Spirit sheds that love abroad in our hearts.  Christ’s rule, therefore, is a rule of grace in us who are His.

That life of Christ in us brings a profound change.

…By “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6) the perspective of the children of God is changed in every respect.  Their worldview is completely changed under the influence of the gospel of their salvation in Christ Jesus.  Their understanding of God has changed.  Their view of themselves has radically changed, as has their view of the world and their own relationship to the world.  To use the language of Acts 19:20, the Word of God will be seen prevailing over the thoughts that once had governed us and the behavior that characterized our lives apart from the gospel.

And then he takes us to one such example of this profound change – the new Ephesian Christians, who as part of their repentance burned their books that were tied to their former idolatrous life:

A new perspective, a new worldview, marks those who are new creatures in Christ.  So verse 19 records, “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

That we have here evidence of true conversion is demonstrated in verse 18.  The faith worked in them by the Word of God brought the conviction of sin to their hearts.  They were given to see the nature of the sin in which they had been involved.  It was idolatry.  They saw it as the offense against God that it was.  They knew that the kingdom of God was closed to any ensnared in idolatry, and that the only salvation was salvation through the Christ Whom Paul preached, the Lord Jesus, sent from God to pay the

Thus, we read, they “came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.”  Willingly, in heartfelt repentance, they proved the honesty of their sorrow of heart, by confessing their sins.  They acknowledged the folly to which they had given themselves.  They grieved their wickedness, and devoted themselves to renouncing it forever.

But their repentance was not mere words.  They took all the instruments of their sin, the books in which they had invested great sums of money and time, and made a bonfire out of them.  The text tells us that this was an act of great cost.  “Fifty thousand pieces of silver” was the value of those books.  No matter how you count that silver, whether the Roman denarius or the Jewish shekel, we’re talking thousands of dollars worth of books going up in flames.

Added to the price of the books was the cost of their reputation in the eyes of their neighbors.  After all, “magic and sorcery, witchcraft and superstition, charms and incantations, ‘portents’ and the interpretation of dreams were deeply woven into the tissue of Roman life.”[1]  These new Christians, by their actions, were marking themselves in the eyes of their peers as lunatics, crazy extremists.

But that cost was little in their eyes compared to the price that Jesus paid for them.

Consider the testimony that these actions gave in that city where so much value was given to magic and superstition and the worship of Diana.

“What are you doing?  Those books are valuable!”

“No, they’re not valuable to us any more.  We have seen the folly of them.  We now belong to Him Who alone has power over death, and Who alone holds the future in His hands.  His name is Jesus.  Let us tell you about Him.”

[1]Will Durant, Caesar and Christ, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1972, p. 388.

What about our own worldview? Is it Reformed, that is, biblical? Does it bear the marks of these new Christian in Ephesus? Do we have any books that need burning because of the idolatry of which they are a part?

May we think about how our worldview is influencing our own lives.