“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
It was a great moment in my preaching career. It took place several years ago and many miles away. I had preached a blistering sermon on why business as usual was no longer an option for the church. I cited statistic after statistic, made point after point, piled on conviction upon conviction of why people needed to repent. It was a powerful moment. One woman afterwards offered the comment to me, “You really stepped on our toes today…and we needed it.”
The change I proposed was that people would attend Bible class as a high priority. Nothing wrong with that at all. People should attend Bible classes as well as worship regularly. It simply wasn’t enough. And the next week’s dramatic uptick in Bible class attendance all too quickly ebbed away…to business as usual. My sermon proved to be a bump in the road for the business as usual bias (called homeostasis – the tendency toward relatively stable equilibrium of physical as well as relational systems). How I wish it had been more long-lasting!
What of Peter’s sermon to these people – God’s chosen people (cf. v. 26)? It is a message so much for us today, God’s people. In the church. Of the fold. Believers. Notice with me the sweetness of the opening words:
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Refreshing comes from the presence of the Lord. We realize and embrace that presence by repentance.
I notice, however, that the call to repent is not covered in a cloak of gentleness or offered in minced words. Peter concludes, “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” There is an offering of blessing to be sure. But the message is clear: wickedness is present and to be abandoned. For those folks it was likely the foolishness of believing that they were just fine; that business as usual was not only acceptable. Business as usual was the way things ought to run. There was no need for refreshing or repentance. There was no blind eye toward their sin; they were just fine. So they thought. Thankfully Peter uncovered their need and pointed them to their true need and God’s provision through Jesus.
I believe there is a message for us today. Somehow to embrace God’s call to repent from the heart is a call for us each day. That daily repentance brings us to places of refreshment and blessing. The wickedness of our sinful nature will always point us toward complacency, life-as-usual, blind eyes toward our own sin. But God invites us to places of refreshment in his presence and grace. What does that mean for me today? And for you, dear reader?