Gospel Refreshment Through Repentance

Have you ever had CPR? I understand that the experience of being “dead” is intense, without any consciousness of what is happening to you. We take our lives for granted until something dramatic happens, like a heart attack. And I have heard that after a heart attack or equally intense interruption, one’s physical life is esteemed. I was profoundly affected by my pastor’s sermon introduction last Sunday. He talked about how people devalue important things and take them for granted. “This is something Christians do sometimes…they take the gospel for granted. If we really understood the gospel message we would be astounded every day. We would start every day on our face praising God for the good things He has done for us in Christ and the salvation that we have…We need the gospel to save us. We need the gospel to sanctify us. The gospel is the door, the way we come in but it’s also the pathway of faith. It gives us gospel confidence, gospel power, gospel righteousness… CPR…we all need cardiopulmonary resuscitation, gospel style.” (1) I like his analogy. It’s not an exact one since those of us who are already in Christ don’t have faith that dies. But it’s close enough since we have faith that we often take for granted, devalue, and which becomes quite faint. We need the gospel to refresh us, which it does when we repent. Our sins are erased (at least for a time), and we are refreshed by Christ.

The Necessity of Repentance for Refreshment

“The absolute necessity of repentance is to be solemnly charged upon the consciences of all who desire that their sins may be blotted out, and that they may share in the refreshment which nothing but a sense of Christ’s pardoning love can afford. Blessed are those who have felt this…when sinners are convinced of their sins, they will cry to the Lord for pardon; and to the penitent, converted, and believing, times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.” (2) This is Matthew Henry’s commentary on our passage today: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21) In my first devotion of the year, I cited this passage and asked, “Will we take these words to heart, though it might cause us pain to see our sin?” (3) I ask now, “Will we repent as often as necessary to destroy our sins, to be refreshed, enjoy and serve Christ?” Having been recipients of Christ’s atonement, having repented initially by God’s grace, to have our “sins blotted out,” we now can look for “…times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus…” (vs. 19-20) Ironically, our most effective refreshment comes as a result of remembering that we will all be accountable on the last day (described in verse 21). 

“When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…[meaning] seasons of spiritual refreshment, joy, and peace, through the great and precious promises of the Gospel, and by the application of the blood and righteousness of Christ, to such penitent and converted sinners; which refreshment and comfort come from the Lord, and are accompanied with his gracious presence: or else seasons of rest, and deliverance from the violent heat of persecution; which was the case of the saints at the destruction of Jerusalem; they were not only saved from that ruin, but delivered from the wrath of their most implacable enemies. [And of the new world to come]…’ better is one hour of refreshment in the world to come, than the whole life of this world.’” (4) What will make the new, eternal world so much better if not the utter absence of sin and suffering that results from sin? There is no better way to access some of that blessedness now but through confession and repentance, resulting in God’s forgiveness and its refreshment. And this repentance is not only for individuals. “Times of refreshing (a mark of the messianic age), [refers to] people [who] are ‘refreshed’ in their spirits when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them. This ‘refreshing’ comes also to the world in general as it is affected by believers who are changed by the power of the Spirit.” (5) I know without a doubt that much of the improvement in my Christian character is a result of consistent daily confessions and desire for repentance, based on Bible study. But now, God calls me to a broader view of repentance. We all have the opportunity to extend our understanding of his Word. The people around us will be divinely affected by our gospel refreshment.

Remembering Judgment Day For True Refreshment

“There is nothing which doth more prick us, than when we are taught that we must once give an account. For so long as our senses are holden and kept in this world, they are drowned, as it were, in a certain drowsiness, that I may so call it. Wherefore the message of the last judgment must sound as a trumpet to cite us to appear before the judgment-seat of God. For then at last being truly awaked, we begin to think of a new life. The sum is this, that Christ, who is now unto us a Master, when as he teaches us by the gospel, is appointed of the Father to be a Judge, and shall come in his due time…there is a double prick, wherewith the faithful are pricked forward when as they are told of the last judgment…For the life of the godly is full of miseries. Therefore our hearts should oftentimes faint and quail, unless we should remember that the day of rest shall come, which shall quench all the heat of our trouble, and make an end of our miseries. The other prick whereof I spoke is this, when as the fearful judgment of God causes us to shake off delicacy and drowsiness. So Peter mixes  in this place threatenings with promises.” (6) What John Calvin calls “threatenings” I call warnings. Scripture is replete with them, for our benefit. Verse 20’s, “that he may send the Christ appointed for you” is a reminder that Christ will return  as Judge, not Savior. But here is also the good news of Christ’s future transformation of the world “until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (v. 21)

Seeking Christ Now

Christ is present in heaven now and provides His Spirit to attend to us. “We must seek for Christ nowhere else save only in heaven, whilst that we hope for the last restoring of all things; because he shall be far from us, until our minds ascend high above the world…Therefore, if at this day we see many things confused in the world, let this hope set us upon foot and refresh us, that Christ shall once come that he may restore all things. In the mean season, if we see the relics of sin hang on us, if we be environed on every side with divers miseries, if the world be full of wasting and scattering abroad, let us bewail these miseries, yet so that we uphold with the hope of restoring.” (7) Paul writes in Romans 8:22-25, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” “Haven’t you known times when Jesus became so real and the gospel so vivid that your whole spirit, soul, and body were revived? If you want times of refreshing, times that make life really worth living so you can say, ‘Oh, it is good to be a Christian,’ turn from sin and follow close to Jesus.” (8) Lord Jesus, help us to repent as often as necessary to destroy our sins and be refreshed; to enjoy and serve you as we anticipate your glorious return. Use our repentance to administer gospel CPR to us. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” (Psalm 51:7-8)

Related Scripture: Psalm 51:1, 9; Isaiah 43:20-56; 44:21-23; Mark 2:7; Luke 1:69-75; 24:26; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8:18-25; Colossians 2:11-15; 

Notes:

  1. Taha, Allen, Sermon on Romans 1:16-17, https://www.trinityboerne.org/sermons/sermon/2021-04-25/staying-with-the-gospel)
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Acts 3:19-21., https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/acts-3.html
  3. Colvin, Joanne, “—God’s Gift of Repentance,” January 1, https://divinewisdomforchristians.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1293&action=edit&calypsoify=1&block-editor=1&frame-nonce=82e7761970&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwordpress.com&environment-id=production&support_user&_support_token&in-editor-deprecation-group=1
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Acts 3:19-20,  https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/acts-3.html
  5. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Acts 3:20, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  6. Calvin, John, “John Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible,” Acts 3:20, Bible Learning Societyhttps://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/acts-3.html
  7. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 7, “Grappling with Sin,” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

April 29, 2021

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