First Mennonite Church
June 13, 2021
Repentance: Gateway to the Kingdom of God
Text: Acts 2: 29-42
The call for repentance is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, especially from the voices of the prophets in the Old Testament. Every time Israel drifted away from the covenant, the Lord sent his prophets calling Israel to repent, or to turn back to the Lord. God called his people to turn to him from idolatry, from doing injustice, and from neglecting to weak among them. Repentance is not only contrition or remorse for wrongdoing, but the palpable and concrete change of life. Repentance as described in the Bible is not only an emotional reaction to a guilty conscience. Rather, it is the conscious act of changing ones behavior or way of living, with the pursuit of pleasing God. According to the Bible, repentance is the act of turning away from sin with the purpose of following the will of God. That was the message we find in the New Testament as well.
The Book of Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament is the story of the nascent Christian church, after Jesus ascension into heaven. Following in the footsteps of the prophets of old, John the Baptist and Jesus, the apostles also emphasized repentance as the entry point to the community of Christ’s followers.
Our passage this morning is part of Peter’s address to the people who had gathered, amazed and confused by the way the Holy Spirit was being manifested in the disciples.
As for Peter, his preaching reflects the wondrous effect the Holy Spirit made in his life. Peter had always been the vocal and impetuous disciple of Jesus. He was always the first to speak or to do so on behalf of the twelve. However, often times Peter spoke with either his heart or mind being disconnected from to his mouth. He was once earned Jesus’ harshest rebuked, “Get behind me Satan.” However on this day, Peter, with his heart burning with holy fire, spoke with power and great eloquence that I would guess astonished his friends it was Peter speaking. Peter not only quoted Scriptures so lucidly, but he interpreted the person of Jesus in light of prophesy. He not only defended the behavior of the disciples, but he also laid responsibility on the authorities for the death of Jesus. Peter went beyond than only explaining the earthly life of Jesus, but also described Jesus’ glorified position after his ascension. “He is exalted and sitting at the right hand of God,” Peter affirmed.
Peter addressed his audience, from the highest official to the common man and woman. He urged his audience to turn to God. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” Peter charged.
We are told that the audience was moved by Peter’s sermon to the point that they were anxiously asking, “Brothers, what should we do?” The people were made aware that their participation in the death of Jesus was unjust and out of envy. They were also made known that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ followers evidence of God’s continued presence among them.
Peter had a straightforward answer for those inquiring on what to do: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
So once again, we are reminded that at the heart of the gospel message is the call to repentance. John the Baptist called for repentance. Jesus began his ministry by calling people to repent. In Mark chapter one, verse 15, Jesus proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
That was the same message Peter gave his audience: “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.” We need to remember that Peter shared the Hebrew concept of repentance. Repentance involves five key elements.
- Recognition of wrongdoing
- A feeling of remorse or regret
- A desire to desist doing it, to turn away from sin
- Confession of sins
Peter’s sermon brought awareness to his audience about their misstep regarding Jesus. They unknowingly participated in the death of Jesus. Therefore, Peter called his audience to recognize there wrongdoing.
Upon hearing Peter, verse 37 tells us that the audience “was cut to the heart.” They felt remorse for what they had done.
Then Peter’s audience were desperately asking, “What should we do?” They wanted to desist going against Christ. They wanted to be reconciled with God.
And lastly, we are told that those who accepted the message were baptized, which according to the practice in the early church, confession of sins preceded baptism. The people confessed to God their sins and were baptized.
My dear friends, if there is any one among us who has not accepted the message of God’s love through his Son, that means you have been either oblivious of the ways God has been reaching out to you, or you have been resisting his voice. Today, I want you to know that there is salvation in Christ Jesus. You need to repent so that you may be forgiven of your sins. The apostle Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).
For those of us who have accepted the Lord, it is important that we take time to ponder about our life and your actions before God. It is important that from time to time we ask God to search our heart and allow him to raise awareness in us about the path we walk and the idols of the heart. Maybe God wants to show us thing for which we need to repent.
Let us be reminded that God will never be appalled over the way we might be living. God will never be surprised, no matter what he might find in us. However, that does not mean that God’s Spirit is not grieved. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, if we open our heart to God, he certainly will rejoice with us. There is a promise to everyone who opens the heart to the Lord. There is a promise to everyone who repents before God. Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” God gives new life to everyone who repents. God recreates life through repentance. Let us open our heart to the Lord. Amen!