Two little boys met one day to play together for the afternoon. As is often the case with children it had not been long before one of them was hurt. The larger of the two boys had offended the rights of his smaller playmate.
Instead of voicing his complaint the boy’s response was to distance himself from the one who had transgressed. He withdrew some distance and sat there by himself, manfully winking back the tears that were ready to pour out of his eyes. After a little while the larger boy became bored with his solitary play. He called to his friend, “Hey Georgie, come back. I’m sorry.” Georgie did not respond to the invitation at once. Instead he said, “What kind of sorry? Is it the kind that you won’t do it again?”
That little boy knew that their relationship could not be repaired until there had been true reconciliation. And that relationship could not be mended unless there was true repentance.
When it comes to our relationship with God, the same holds true. Last week we saw that Christ proclaimed himself to be the Restoration of Israel. By healing the lame man He publicly proclaimed that he had come to give us eternal life. But the breach in our relationship cannot be fully mended until we fulfill the work of repentance.
And that is what this passage is all about. Having clearly demonstrated Christ’s saving power, Peter calls the people to embrace it for themselves. And he tells them (just as he tells us today) that the way we embrace it is through repentance. For Christ gives life to the penitent.
But of course if we are going to repent, we must realize our need for it. That’s why peter begins where he does—by telling the crowd they were guilty of murder.
I. Its necessity
You might notice too that Peter does not beat around the bush either. He doesn’t mince any words. In verse 13 he says, “You handed God’s Son over to be killed. You disowned him. You asked for a murderer to be released and you put in his place an innocent man—one who Pilate had seen fit to let go.” You really get a sense of the wickedness of their actions by the repetition.
I really like what Calvin says on these verses. He said that “it was impossible to bring them truly unto God, unless they were first brought to the knowledge of their sins.” He continues, “Men must be so stricken, that being brought to know their guiltiness, they may earnestly fly unto the remedy of pardon.”
Really, that is the main reason why we do not see many conversions in our day. People are not running to Christ because they do not see the need to do so. They don’t see themselves as guilty sinners because their sins are so rarely exposed from the pulpit.
I was just talking with the men this week at Bible study how we live in a Mr. Rogers culture. Nobody wants to be offensive. Everybody just wants to be your friend. As a result, ministers do not bring God’s word to bear on the hearts of the people. The preaching we hear today is so wishy washy that it rarely has anything to do with sin.
But before we can enter into a right relationship with God, we must first realize our guilt.
Now you might say that no matter what you’ve done in your life, your sins are not as bad as these men. I mean, ‘they killed the author of life.” But don’t be so rash. On the one hand we must remember that every sin against God is evil in his sight. So that alone should be enough to sober us up. But even if you were not there—even if you did not lay a finger on the body of Jesus, would you not have done it?
What is sin but a stubborn rejection of God? It is an open rebellion against Him. So every time we commit a sin we are basically saying, “I want nothing to do with you, God. I wish you were dead.” Don’t think for a minute that you are any different from these Jews who crucified Jesus.
As a matter of fact, Peter’s choice of words throughout this message seems to allude to Isaiah 53—the famous passage of the Suffering Servant. Peter calls Jesus God’s servant in verse 13. Then in verse 18 Peter reminds his audience that the prophets said that the Christ would suffer. So he is probably alluding to Is. 53. I would like you to turn back there for a moment. I want to submit to you that you are not just like them in that you would have killed Jesus. I think that we can say more. Read with me verses 2-3.
“He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Notice the first person “we esteemed him not.” Isaiah put himself in the shoes of the murderers. Even though he lived 700 years before Christ, Isaiah admits that his hands were guilty of Christ’s blood.
Now, not only do I think that we would have done the same thing as those Jews, I believe I can say on the authority of God’s word that we were all accomplices to the act—just like Isaiah. We might not have been the ones who handed him over or hammered the nails into his wrists, but we were right there approving of it all. They were merely our representatives, doing what we would want them to in our place.
Do we need to repent? You better believe we do. His blood is on our hands.
But as we think about our need to repent, let’s remember our encouragement to repent. For as we look at this sermon Peter not only points out its necessity, he also points out its possibility.
II. Its possibility
In verse 18 Peter says that God had predicted the sufferings of Christ in ages past. And if we use the allusion to Isaiah 53, we can remember that Isaiah 53 goes on to say, “He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.” The prophets tell us that even though Christ was to suffer at the hands of sinners, he was to suffer on behalf of sinners. He was going to be the one who would make satisfaction for our sins.
All the while Peter is picking on them for their sins, he is reminding them that God was sovereign over their sins. God took their wicked actions and used them to bring about His plan of salvation. So the very deed that would condemn them is the very deed that would be used to redeem them!
It is almost as if you walked into an artist’s studio and spilled all the paints onto a canvas. All of them run together, but they come out to create a beautiful picture.
That’s how the cross is. It is a mess of sin, but in the midst of all that sin there is a glorious offer of salvation.
And as these men are being overwhelmed with the sinfulness of their actions, they can at the same time hear of God’s incredible mercy and his willingness to forgive.
And you can see why that is so important. When you become aware that you are guilty of being condemned, you can be sorry for what you did. But if you do not see a way out—if you do not see a way to be delivered from your sins, you can fall into despair.
That is how it will be for those who have not repented on the day when Christ comes back. They will see that the Day of Judgment has come and they will know there is no escaping it. They’ll run to the hills, try to hide in caves, and even ask that the ceiling would collapse upon them to escape it. The despair that they experience will be horrendous.
But that’s not the case right now. We do not have to despair because forgiveness is possible right now. That’s because right now Christ offers us mercy and gives us the opportunity to repent.
But if we are going to repent we should know something about its nature. I mean it is one thing to know we need to repent and that it is possible to repent. But it won’t mean anything if we don’t know anything about how to do it.
III. Its nature
We find something of the nature of repentance in verse 19. Peter says, “Repent and turn to God.” Really Peter could have just said “repent.” But he breaks it up into two parts so that you can see something of the two sides of repentance. On the one hand repentance has to do with turning away from sin. And on the other hand it has to do with turning to God.
The word repent comes from the Greek word that means “to change your mind” or “to think differently.” Repentance means we must think differently about sin. That is to say, instead of being happy about it and delighting in it, you sorrow over it and are grieved by it. Repenting means that you have come to the point where you actually hate that which you formerly loved. As a matter of fact you hate it so much you turn completely away from it.
I’ll never forget my first experience with Limberger cheese. Do you know what Limberger cheese is? For those of you who don’t know, it is a cheese that stinks. I don’t think I can describe how terrible it smells. But people eat the stuff. To me it would be like biting into a fresh piece of skunk meat. But I didn’t know that at first. When they asked me if I wanted some Limberger cheese I said sure. It sounds great. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese. But when they brought it out, I had a change of mind. We were down in the basement of the house. So we were in a somewhat confined area. And I felt like I could not escape the odor. The odor was so bad I had to leave the room. I couldn’t even stand to watch anyone eat the stuff. My stomach lurched at the thought of putting such a thing in my mouth.
That’s one side of repentance. It is beginning to think of sin as so odious, that you must turn away from it.
The other side of repentance is turning to God. When you repent you turn away from sin and you turn towards God. That is to say, you pledge your love and obedience unto God. So, that which you were formally running away from you are not moving toward.
There is a town in a remote region of Canada named Wabush. And for a long time this town was completely isolated from the rest of the world. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only on one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave—by turning around.
That’s the idea of repentance. We are on a one way road away from God. In order to get back to God we must first think differently about the way we are going. We must then turn around and begin living a new life in the direction God wants us to go.
And you see what will happen if you do. Peter doesn’t just call these men to repentance. He immediately tells them what the consequences will be if they do.
IV. Its consequence
He points out that there are three consequences of repentance. The first of which is that their sins would be wiped out (v. 19). This has to do with the guilt of our sins and that we will no longer be held accountable for our actions.
In our evening studies I usually use a white board to write upon. And oftentimes I will draw on it. And everyone who has seen that knows that I’m no Picasso. The pictures that I draw are pretty bad. But when I am done with the picture I take the eraser and wipe out the drawing. It is no longer there. It can’t be seen anymore and I can’t be held responsible for the drawing anymore. You can tell someone that I did this terrible picture, but they have no way of proving it because they can’t see it.
That’s the idea here. When we repent, God wipes away our sins. We are no longer held responsible for our sins because God no longer sees them.
The second consequence Peter mentions (v. 19) is that “times of refreshing” will come. This has to do with the misery of our sins. Whenever we sin we experience the pain that comes as a result of our sin. Some sins hurt us emotionally (like a broken relationship or hurt feelings). Some sins make us sick. Some sins disrupt others and can affect whole communities or economies. But when we repent God brings restoration to those areas of our lives that have been broken.
We can think about that passage in James 5 that talks about healing. The passage tells us that if we are sick we should have the elders come and pray for us and anoint us with oil. It says that if we do that we will be healed. A lot of people jump on that. They are more than ready to break out the oil and use it like a witches’ spell. But they forget the next part of the passage. It goes on to say, “if he has sinned he will be forgiven.” And it gives us the command to “confess our sins to one another.” The affliction seems to have come as a result of sin. The healing (the time of refreshing) hinges upon one’s repentance.
In other words, God’s judgments/ his punishments will be reversed or relieved when we honestly turn to him.
The last consequence Peter mentions is found in verse 21. Peter says that “Jesus will one day come to restore everything.” This has to do with our future. We will experience the completion of the work of salvation, when heaven and earth are made new.
Remember when I used to live n Hammond. There was a rundown house that we would pass every Sunday on our way to church. I believe the place should have been condemned, it was that bad. But someone purchased the property and began to restore the building. They jacked up the building and tore out the old foundation, with new cinder block. They put in new windows and put some new shingles on the roof and some new vinyl siding on the exterior of the building. The building looked like it had been redeemed. I’m sure that whoever moved into that house was quite pleased with what they got. It looked like a brand new house.
That is what will one day happen to this planet. Christ will one day come back and restore everything. The shack we call this earth will experience a complete overhaul. And those of us who have repented of our sins will have the opportunity to inherit that new creation. .
If you have not yet repented of your sins, you are currently living a life that is opposed to God. And you must not simply presume upon Christ that he is going to save you. No. Your relationship must be restored through your repentance.
Fall down before him. You know that you must do it, you have his blood on your hands! Know that he is willing to restore you. Do not let another moment go by. Grab hold of him, tell him you are sorry, confess your sins and leave them behind. Begin to walk in the newness of life.
And you can be assured that the promise is to you and to your offspring and as many as are far off. The promise was to Abraham that one of his offspring would indeed restore the people. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. And he will restore, if you turn to him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.