“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… ” – Acts 3:19
“Times of refreshing” sounds really inviting. It is a time of renewal, where strength is restored and a person is stimulated or revived. Sadly, in this day and age, we tend to seek refreshment through entertainment, vacations, food, etc. Aren’t we really just seeking an escape from stress or avoidance of pain? Once the chocolate wears off and the movie is over, the bills are still there waiting for us. The relationship problems still need to be dealt with. In essence, our methods of refreshment aren’t refreshing at all. They are merely a temporary stay of execution.
The Holy Spirit is offering refreshment through repentance because many of us are in pain. All of us carry around the pain of our past actions: times we have violated our consciences, our values, our commitments, or our devotion to God. (Romans 3:23) This pain or sorrow is from God and it leads us to the repentance God requires of us, if we let it. (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)
True and lasting refreshment comes from the Lord. However, there are conditions. You may be thinking, “Oh, wait a minute! God loves unconditionally. He takes me as I am!” It’s true that he loves us as we are, but he doesn’t expect us to stay the way we are. Many of God’s promises are accompanied by conditions. For example:
- I will never know the truth unless I hold to his teachings. (John 8:31-32)
- I can’t remain in God’s love unless I obey his commands. (John 15:10)
- I must love God more than my mother, father, son or daughter and take up my cross every day or I cannot follow Jesus. (Matthew 10:37)
- I can’t have eternal life unless I lose my life for Jesus’ sake. (Luke 9:24)
- I cannot be a disciple of Christ unless I give up everything. (Luke 14:25)
So we see conditions are Biblical. Let’s take a look at the conditions required for us to obtain refreshing. According to Acts 3:19 (above) I must repent and turn to God. So repentance and turning to God appear to be the conditions. The Holy Spirit that carried Luke along as he wrote this passage (2 Peter 1:20) is not being redundant. Repentance and turning to God are two different things. They work together but they are distinctly different.
Repentance is the Greek word, metanoia. Parts of this word may look familiar to you. “Meta” is a prefix still used today which means after. It is used in such words as meta-human, meta-critic, and metamorphosis. After the state of being human there is the meta-human or superhuman being. When all the critics have given their opinion, there is a meta-critic score. After a caterpillar goes through many small changes, the results are a metamorphosis.
“Noia” is a form of the Greek word “nous” which means “intellectual perception or the power to arrive at moral judgments.” It is used in some words like hyponoia, hypernoia and paranoia. When you are trying to think of something and “draw a blank” you have hypo-noia. When your mind is racing you have hyper-noia. When you are irrationally fearful or suspicious, you have para-noia.
So metanoia denotes a change in perceptions and judgments or mind-set. What Peter is commanding the crowd as a condition to refreshment is to change their world view, mind-set, or thinking, then turn to God. Peter is not just commanding obedience here but he is urging us to change the way we think and feel (or change our heart) about God, about His Word, His way of life, the kingdom, and the Holy Spirit. Then Peter urges us to turn to God in our actions.
This has always been the case. God has always been more concerned about your heart. When he sent Samuel to anoint David, he informed Samuel, “…man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The eyes of the Lord range throughout all the earth to strengthen the hearts of those who are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) When Hezekiah received envoys from Babylon that inquired about God’s miracles, “…God left him to test him and know everything that was in his heart.” (2 Chronicles 32:31)
Feeling sad is not enough. We apologize over and over again but without the heart or mind-set change, well, nothing changes. This repeated apology is worldly sorrow. We feel the pain of the consequences: being caught, exposed, or embarrassed. We may even cry or sincerely tell God that we want to change. What we are really praying for, is relief not refreshing. Then, over time, we return to doing the same things we have always done. (Proverbs 26:11)
It’s like getting a speeding ticket. You get pulled over on the I-25 driving 75mph in a 60mph zone. You play dumb when the officer asks why he pulled you over. You pray you just get a warning after the officer takes your license back to his car. After you sign for the ticket your face is downcast, you are angry, or depressed (which is anger turned inward.) You pull away from the curb driving 55mph, thinking to yourself, “60mph is the limit. I guess I shouldn’t exceed it.”
Five minutes later, you notice elderly people pass you in their Grand Marquis and you think to yourself, “Well, I can at least go 60. That is the limit after all.” Five more minutes pass by and you are being tailgated and passed by people giving you dirty looks. You think to yourself, “Well, I can at least go the flow of traffic. That’s acceptable.” Within another few minutes you are right back to driving 75mph in a 60mph zone. No change. If we carry this course of action to its inevitable end, we pay exorbitant insurance fees, get into accidents, and eventually we experience the death of our driving privileges. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
If we embrace the sorrow that God has intended for us, instead of avoiding pain, we can have permanent and lasting change. Paul paints a clear picture of what this change looks like in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. When we realize our sin, and we repent:
- There is an earnestness. It means that we are serious about the change.
- There is an eagerness to clear ourselves. (We ask questions like, “Brothers, what shall [I] do?” (Acts 2:37)
- There is an indignation about our sin. It’s the same feeling Jesus had when he cleared out the temple. (Matthew 21:12)
- There is an alarm. It’s a heightened sense of awareness and self examination.
- There is a longing. It’s a desire to be reconnected to God because sin separates us from him. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
- There is concern. This is often translated zeal. It’s a relentless fervor or motivation to be intentional about change.
- There is a readiness to see justice done. It’s like Zacchaeus’ offer to pay back four times what he had cheated people out of. (Luke 19:8)
Spiritually, when we address their sin in this way, the Holy Spirit says that we are innocent in the matter at hand. God sees that heart and brings us to times of refreshing. For baptized disciples, this refreshing is the assurance of our salvation which brings peace and joy. (Psalm 51:12) For those of us who are seeking God, the Holy Spirit sends people into our lives that lead us to salvation and subsequent rejoicing. (Acts 8:26-39)
Where is your heart today? Have you been obeying God out of obligation or are you in love with God? Do you want to put a smile on the Lord’s face today or are you just hoping to stay out of trouble? What is your motive for worship? Is it gratitude or entitlement? Do you just want to give it all for him or just make it to heaven?
Wherever your heart is at today, you can repent or change your mind-set about God, His word, His way of life, the kingdom, and the Holy Spirit? If you are unsure how to change, ask someone who has “[taken] the plank out of [their] own eye” (Matthew 7:5) and times of refreshing will be yours. To God be the glory.