“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19 NIV)
Peter’s exhortation to onlookers in Acts 3 echoes his sermon in Acts 2, and it contains a simple message that resonated through the prophets, the Gospels, and the book of Acts: Repent! It’s the kind of dramatic message that calls us to make drastic changes and live differently. But do we really like listening to this kind of sermon?
I know he preached repentance, and I know we are supposed to turn away from our sin. It’s what Peter preached, it’s what John the Baptist preached, and it’s even what Jesus preached as he initiated his public ministry. Maybe like most people, I don’t always embrace repentance the way I could or should. If somebody tells me I need to repent then it means I am doing something wrong, and if I accept the admonition to repent it implies that I need correction, and am failing somehow. It seems like a drastic admission and a drastic move, especially in a public setting where I have to broadcast my failure to everyone. These sermons weren’t feel-good platitudes, they were personal challenges that shook people up and called for immediate response, right there in front of God and everybody. Peter meant business. The image of the crazy guy with a beard holding a sign on the street corner comes to mind: REPENT!
I’ve always been focused on the negative side of that equation: I’m doing wrong, so I have to change. I need to do business with God. God is mad at me and I better give up my evil ways or I will pay the price. But I hadn’t really noticed part “B”—the result of repentance, “so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Our motivation to repent doesn’t have to focus exclusively on the negative.
Yes we need to humble ourselves, to keep it real, and to be honest before the Lord. But instead of thinking about repentance as what we need to turn FROM, maybe we should remember who we are turning TO. Peter says that we should repent to clear the decks, to have our sins wiped out, to BE REFRESHED. What, exactly, does that mean? “Times of refreshing from the Lord”?
Think about the upside of repentance: a cold drink in the shade in the middle the desert, or a taste of mint after something bitter. Imagine a delicious breeze on a muggy day, a freshening wind that invigorates and cools, blowing away the humidity and the stale, stagnant air of inactivity… Imagine newborn joy, fresh delight, first love… those are the fruits of repentance. Maybe the crazy guy on the street corner needs to be holding a sign that says, REFRESH! That’s what awaits us. Had a tough week? Repent! Been slogging through a hard time? Repent! Bored, tired, stale, impatient, dissatisfied? You know what to do…
When I think “repent” I think of broken-ness and sin;
I think of feeling guilty for the mess I’ve gotten in.
I often think of standing there before the Righteous Judge,
Afraid that in my sentencing, from judgment He won’t budge!
I think about repenting, (I confess it has me stressing),
Forgetting that the Prodigal Father loves to offer blessing,
And loves to throw away my guilt to offer me refreshing!
When we approach the Father with a heart of true repentance,
Remember that He longs to put refreshment in your sentence.
No matter where you’ve run from God, if you will just repent,
He’ll offer you His open arms, and you’ll be glad you went.
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