Repentant faith is a scary/beautiful phrase ~ turning away from sins and turning towards God. I love the way one person explains it: “Repentance is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ.” (Tish Harrison Warren). True repentance is a way of life ~ like the steady rhythm of a drumbeat.
A woman returned home from an evening of church services and was startled by a burgler. She yelled "Stop! Acts 2:38!" The burglar stopped in his tracks. The woman calmly called the police and explained what she had done. As the officer cuffed the man to take him in, he asked the burglar: "Why did you just stand there? All the old lady did was yell a scripture at you." "Scripture?!" replied the burglar. "She said she had an Ax and Two 38's."
I love the joke because it actually has some truth. Repenting is like an AXE… the AXE of the H.S. I highlight the word repent because this is the application of Peter’s Sermon. It is still the day of Pentecost when the Lord sent the H.S., nothing will ever be the same. Last week I spoke of how the coming of the Spirit is a one time event that initiates a new way of following in obedience to Christ…The H.S. is like the power of the wind, like the cleansing work of fire and results in praise. The disciples began to speak in languages so that those gathered in Jerusalem could hear the disciples praising God in their own languages…
Today’s scripture is Peter delivering the first sermon, speaking to those that want some clarification as well as skeptics: READ Acts 2:12-13. In this first sermon Peter
- first describes how they are witnessing a fulfillment of prophecy of old, that God will send his spirit. READ Acts 2:17-18, 21.
- Peter then goes on to describe the life of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection READ Acts 2:22-24.
- Peter then shows how the Spirit is the link to the continuing ministry of God READ Acts 2:32-33.
I’ve circled REPENT as the key word because this is the all important application. The scripture says that in response to Peter’s sermon the people were “cut to the heart” and they asked, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Here comes the Axe and two 38’s of Peters thundering reply in Acts 2:38. REPENT and be baptized. Baptism is a sign of the repentance.
REPENT is a huge part of faith. Repentant faith. Over the years a huge frustration as a pastor has been people wanting to be baptized but haven’t wanted to change their life… as far as I can tell. I am no person’s ultimate judge, only God knows the heart, but I’ve been given this crazily awesome and frustrating honor of talking with people and helping them sort out their spiritual needs. What do I do when people have taken what seems to me to be clear decisions of certain lifestyle choices, patterns, that seem contrary to the Bible? I judge nobody’s heart, but I know what I read in the Bible and I know what I see with my eyes. It’s humbling because we are all sinners, so who am I to make such decisions, yet when people make deliberate choices to not honor God… I don’t want to list examples because if I do that will be my conversation the next 3 months and I’ve been through all of it so many times I am exhausted.
Repent is the first word in response to the practical question asked of Peter:, What do we do? Have we lost the idea of repenting in our Christian convictions? This is nothing new. Many of the O.T. prophets spoke about the need to repent, and many were ran out of town for it. One of the great problems of repenting of sins is that so often we don’t even recognize our sins, we rather enjoy In my Bible reading this week, I read in Ez. 18:21: “If the wicked person repents of all the sins he committed, keeps my laws and does what is right; then he will certainly live and not die.” “ It isn’t fair” the people tell Ezekiel… “is it my ways that are unfair? Or your ways that are unfair” God responds through Ezekiel (18:19) I love the last words of Ez. 18:30-32 which describe the essence of what it means to repent: Therefore, house of Isra’el, I will judge each of you according to his ways,” says Adonai Elohim. “Repent, and turn yourselves away from all your transgressions, so that they will not be a stumbling block that brings guilt upon you. Throw far away from yourselves all your crimes that you committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit; for why should you die, house of Isra’el? I take no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” says Adonai Elohim, “so turn yourselves around, and live!
This is repentant faith. Let God be your judge. One of the criticisms of today’s church is we are too judgmental. At times it’s true! I’ve noticed most of the time, those who say Christians are too judgmental, also ignore God’s judgment. They like the idea of nobody passing judgment on them, including God. God says, “I will judge.” Accepting God’s judgment is the essence of repentance. One person said it this way: “…siding with God against self.” (Todd Nibert). Let God’s judgment guide you. Repent he says, turn yourself around, ‘receive a new heart and a new spirit.” This is the purpose of Pentecost. This is way forward as Jesus sends the Axe of the H.S. to guide us.
Repent is an action word, not feeling sorry, not wishful thinking. Many want to repent of addictions, destructive behavior, quit viewing pornography, being so negative… but until the behavior/pattern stops, they haven’t repented. Feeling guilty isn’t repenting. Here’s a silly joke, it sounds like this man repents but in the end he hasn’t:
A man woke up in the morning deeply repentant after a bitter fight with his wife the previous night. He noticed with dismay the crate of beer bottles that had caused the fight. He took it outside and started smashing the empty bottles one by one onto the wall.
He smashed the first bottle swearing, "you are the reason I fight with my wife".
He smashed the second bottle, "you are the reason I don't love my children".
He smashed the third bottle, "you are the reason I don't have a decent job".
When he took the fourth bottle, he realized it was unopened. He hesitated a moment and said "you stand aside, I know you were not involved".
We’re good at hiding our sins, the clutter... a family has a cluttered house, never completely out of control but stuff where it doesn’t belong. They have a system to hide the clutter. If somebody calls asking to stop by to visit, it doesn’t take much to run around like crazy and shove the clutter in the closet. Is that a clean house? No. It’s an illusion. Just don’t look in the closets!!! I’m good at hiding many of my sins. Just don’t look in my closets. To repent is to clear away the clutter….
Another good way to get rid of our sins is to redefine them. I know a man who is judgmental for particular behaviors he finds offensive in others, but he seems oblivious to his own glaring sins in different areas. Maybe that person is me and I don’t even know it.
Repentance is hard in today’s world when it is popular to point finger at others: politicians, protesters, counter protesters, even the church wants to point to others for why we aren’t growing, more relevant… I get tired of the blame game. pointing fingers at people of a certain race, or economic class, or the church’s fault… The way forward: Ask the Lord to send the wind & fire of his Spirit, renewed to praise Him…
I love the words to an traditional Shaker Song from 1848, “Simple Gifts”…. I posted the video on the FB page for people to listen… but because of limitationsIn the chorus are the words Turning, Turning till we come out right. what is described is a life of repentance….
'Tis a gift to be simple / 'Tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right / It will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right
(Here’s an added verse: Kathy Sobansky:)
"tis a gift to be simple /'Tis a gift to be free
For the proud are cast down deeper than the sea
The first shall be last and the last shall be first
And the meek at last shall receive the earth
The wise person will see Repentance not as a single one time event, but rather a way of life, like the rhythm of a drumbeat, turning, turning till you come out right… Martin Luther had it right when he wrote the first of the 95 thesis nailed to the Wittenberg door: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, … willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” …
To make repentance a way of life is not easy. One person’s thoughts: “... the transition from lost to found is never an easy one. It is never easy to be a prodigal son -- or daughter. It is never easy to say, 'I will arise and go to my father ...' (Luke 15:18, 19). This is never easy, because it is not until our situation becomes completely hopeless that we can humble ourselves to the extent of admitting that such a gross mistake was our own.” ~ Robert L. Short,
Repentant faith means constantly asking God to change you… some of my heros in our community are a few people I know who have been going to AA for decades (no names of course, but they wouldn’t really care because they have a story and are quite comfortable in their skin), I’ve been honored over the years to go to AA meetings many times for sobriety celebrations… in the earlier meetings I visited I was surprised to recognize a few people that I had no idea they had a history of alcoholism… in a few cases (no pun intended) their active problem was 25-30 years ago, but they concluded it was good for them to continue and good for others…
Repentance is meant to be a way of life… repentant faith…. like the person who continues on in AA for decades, a steady drumbeat. When Peter spoke of the H.S., the life of the Lord, the cross, the resurrection and said He is the one sent by God, the Bible says the people “were cut to the heart”. “What shall we do” they asked. Peter’s first word: REPENT. This is the beginning of new life in Christ, to turn, turn is a way of life, like a drumbeat. Continuously ask the Lord to renew your heart and minds and show the better way of living… that is repentant faith, faith that isn’t just looking for the benefits of being a Christian, but men and women that are continuously renewed by the H.S.