Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
Different translations into different languages can make for some awkward transitions. In Japanese, “times of refreshing” is put at the beginning of verse 20, starting a new sentence. That is very inconvenient either for preaching bilingually, which I do, or interpreting for someone else, which I have done many times. However, I like the connection indicated in the English word order, even though the sentence does continue to the end of verse 20. That connection, as I see it, is that repentance brings the removal of sins, but that in turn brings times of refreshing. Just about everybody is looking for times of refreshing. However, the general population certainly isn’t doing so by repenting of their sins. On the contrary, many people seek refreshing through overtly sinful activities! There are of course physical factors that feel refreshing, with good rest, nutrition, and exercise, but such things don’t touch our fundamental need for a right relationship with our Creator. It is historically verifiable that every revival, that is, a major move of God in society, has involved repentance. It is also true that personal spiritual renewal requires repentance. We may not have wandered into “gross sins,” but we have allowed ourselves to become numb to the things of God, and so lose the intimacy with Him for which we were created. That calls for repentance! We’ve got to remember that repentance isn’t just recognizing you are in the wrong, it is changing direction and starting over. The Japanese term for repentance says that explicitly, but in English we often lose sight of it. Here, Peter makes sure we understand by saying, “Repent and turn to God.” Turning to God is inseparable from genuine repentance.
I’ve tried false repentance several times myself, and it never works. I have learned the hard way that I can’t just regret the consequences of my actions, but the actions themselves. I have to recognize, “that was wrong,” and not just “that hurt.” Often God allows pain to help us recognize that things are wrong, but the pain isn’t why they are wrong. Paul made a blanket statement that can really make us squirm: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) I have a lot of growing to do in that area! Any activity that doesn’t trust God to be God is inherently sinful, because it makes Him out to be less than He is. By extension, anxiety is something to be repented of, and not just pushed aside. Few things are as debilitating as anxiety, so repenting of it and choosing to trust God is refreshing indeed. I will never be perfect as long as I am in this flesh, but I can repent and draw closer to God step by step, as the Holy Spirit points out areas that need it. This upcoming trip provides all sorts of opportunities to trust God, as well as to be faithful in obedience as He shows us what to do. Right now I am at a very high stress level, and that shows I need to repent!
Father, thank You for this strong, clear reminder. I do ask for clear guidance today and tomorrow as we pack and take care of various loose ends. Thank You for each thing You’ve enabled us to take care of already. May we remember Your promise, and walk in Your perfect peace indeed. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) Thank You. Praise God!