Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19(NLT)
Everything God did in sending prophets, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, his miracles, his teaching, his crucifixion, and resurrection, point to this sentence Peter speaks…repent of your sins and turn to God! This is the theme of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
The words “repent” and “turn” are so tied together it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Repent (in Greek) means to have a turning in the mind – a change of thought, so as to act differently. Turn is a Greek compound of two words indicating a conversion from what is to what once was.
Peter is encouraging the listener to do what is impossible, twist time back to where they left-off their relationship with God. To “repent” is to come back to God in mind AND actions.
Years ago I saw a cartoon drawing of a young George Washington, head-down in shame, holding his axe, and standing next to the cherry tree he’d just chopped down. George’s dad was speaking to his young son: George, I’m glad you can’t tell a lie, but if you don’t stop cutting down these trees there won’t be a cherry left on planet earth.
Repenting is an inward feeling of remorse for having travelled the wrong pathway, but is also accompanied by a change of heart to do right in the future. It is a turning away from your old life’s direction; it’s like when a soldier does an about-face to turn around 180° to face the other way. It’s not a dance – it changes the soldier who has been marching East back the other way; he now travels West.
And that is the nature of repentance – a heart and mind change that leads to a change of actions, which eventually reforms the character and habits of the person.
A few centuries ago the church mourner’s bench was a familiar sight; these days it is largely gone with the horse, buggy, and 8-trac tapes. The bench was a place where newly repentant persons sat in church, as a sign that their heart and mind had changed. It was there they sat before being allowed to join the church membership, as a testing ground to make certain their conversion process would “take”.
We have seen it over and over in nearly forty years of ministry – a supposed conversion in the emotional moment of revival; the weight of sin is convicting, the Spirit is moving, and an invitation is given by the preacher to come down to the front and be saved. The next night the new believer is baptized and in three weeks’ time they’re serving on six committees, teaching Sunday School and nominated for the Board of Elders. Another two months pass, and you wonder why they don’t come to church anymore.
Fact: Many “conversions” are head and heart genuine, but, as easily as you can repent, or turn…you can also repent again, turn back away from God.
John Wesley called it backsliding, and it is as real as original sin.
Seasons of revival are necessary for the Christian, and for the church. Church folk may indeed be saved, but we are far from perfect in our character and actions; we need times of refreshing to turn back to God.
Don’t forget, Peter’s sentence, now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away, was spoken to good church people, leaders of Israel, not the criminals. They had lost their way…and it led to Christ’s crucifixion. God help us!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!
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[i] Title Image: By takomabibelot (Repent (National Mall: Washington, DC)), via Wikimedia Commons