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Psalm 119:67

Before I was humbled I went astray, but now I keep your word.

Acts 9:3–4

As Paul was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

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Sometimes we may really need our comeuppance; we may need to be thrown to the ground and asked, “Why are you doing this?” But that does not often happen. More often we are able to go our way with impunity, living as we please and holding to our own particular biases and favoritisms.

Truly, however, we all need to fall to our knees in true repentance and contrition, for we all hold to ugly biases, favoritisms and prejudices. The worst of these spring from convictions of righteousness, and the justice of our cause. We strain against the restraints of judgmentalism, and prejudice only to discover that in our pride for being open to all we have actually embraced a more ugly discrimination: we judge others as more judgmental than ourselves.

Let me illustrate:

The Sunday school teacher was teaching the children the story of the Pharisee and the sinner praying in the temple. She told the children how the Pharisee was proud of himself and bragging to God about his way of life, “I thank you, God, that I am not like this sinner…”. The sinner was sorry for his sins and prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

The Sunday School teacher said, “Let’s thank God now that we are not like that Pharisee.”

And we’re thankful that we’re not like that teacher. Ugh!

Jesus taught that the sinner who begged for God’s mercy went home justified. He leaned on God’s grace. He didn’t need to be taken down; he already knew he was down. What about you? Do you need God’s word of grace and forgiveness? Or do you need to be called to repentance? When we discover the depth of our own culpability we will surely repent. Thanks be to God that calls us to himself even before we realize we are in such desperate need.

Acts 2:37, 43

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” …

And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.

Manoir du Poul

Nearly 25 years ago I attended the National Conference on Small Groups. This was a gathering of the most insightful people in the then-nascent small group movement. The speakers were insightful and thoughtful. We learned about the challenges of building small groups within a congregation, as well as the blessings that come when people develop intimate ties in gatherings of 6-12 people. One speaker, however, said something at the beginning of her presentation that has stuck with me all these years.

This sweet sister from the Roman Catholic Church began her presentation with these words: “Renewal always begins with repentance.” That truth is on bold display here in the events of the first Christian Pentecost. After Peter brings a no-holes-barred call to account for the death of Jesus, the people are cut to the heart and ask, “What shall we do?” Peter’s answer: “Repent and be baptized…” His answer was simple but profound. They responded – at least 3000 of the people did, and they were added to the number of Jesus followers on that day.

While the call to repentance is vital for the church, it seems we tend more toward the promise side of the equation, and emphasize the Good News almost to the exclusion of the call to repentance. Peter’s words to those who asked were ladened with Good News promises: forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, available for all – young and old alike. We must never lose sight of that.

But the need for genuine repentance remains. When was the last time you were cut to the heart; filled with sorrow over your sins, humility, and brokenness before God? I don’t think that needs to be a tearful and traumatic, “what-shall-we-do” experience every day, nor even every week. But, honestly, when was the last time you were deeply touched by the message of the Law of God? When was the last time you realized that if there is no grace of God there is no hope for you.

I’ve been there once or twice. But I might honestly protect my heart from such deep sadness more than I should. I an thankful to God for his mercy to be sure. But renewal begins with repentance. I need that daily. How about you?

 

Acts 2:37-47

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying,“Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day,attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.