I Can’t Possibly Do That
And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. Acts 19:19
I knew for a long time what it would take for me to get sober. I knew I needed to confess, go to inpatient treatment, and change jobs. I can’t possibly do that! Those things were just too painful. Eventually of course, I had to do the things that I thought I could never do, and I found recovery.
I still hear this complaint now from others. I can’t possibly do that. When someone I know is struggling with viewing pornography on his phone, I suggest that something radical has to change. Confess. Download porn-blocking software. Have someone else block adult content. If all else fails, get rid of the smart phone. Rarely though, does the one struggling follow through with any of those suggestions. Why? Because the cost is too high. So, he usually just continues to ask God to take away the destructive appetite, while he changes nothing. Then . . . nothing changes.
Jesus said that if something causes us to sin, we must violently cut it out of our lives (Matthew 5:30). Today’s passage provides an example of this. In Ephesus, when Paul preached the gospel, many believed and spontaneously confessed their sins. Those who had been practicing witchcraft, burned their magic books, making an irreversible commitment to change.
I’m not advocating book burning. I’m just insisting that it takes radical commitment on our part to do whatever is required to abandon our self-destructive behavior. We do the thing that makes us miserable. We want to stop but we can’t. So, we beg God to take it away, but he doesn’t. He asks us to obey, doing whatever it takes to cut it out of our lives. We don’t though, because the cost is too high. That parasitic thing has become a part of us and amputating it is horribly painful. I can’t possibly do that.
As long as we refuse to do what it takes, we prove that our desire for the thing is greater than our desire to be free of it. Often, it’s only when we become miserable enough, that we’re willing to burn it. When we finally commit to radical change though, we’ll find the joy, peace, and transformation that comes with obedience to Christ. We may have to abandon the thing daily, but in our obedience, we’ll daily find the freedom that comes with turning from the old life to the new one. Then, we’ll wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.