The In-Between Years - Part 15

Series: The In-Between Years

August 23, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years — Part 15

Before we get into the message today, I’m please to announce that starting Sunday, September 6, we’ll begin phase to of our regathering plan provided the numbers continue to improve in TN.

That day the 9AM service will open for those other than 60+, but masks will still be required for everyone attending. We are doing that in the hopes that our 10:30 service will open up as we have more and more returning to on campus services.

That day also we will bring back the singing! No more concert style. I know Pastor Rob can’t wait.

That day too we will fire back up KidsView in 10:30 service for those who register.

We are excited to get one step closer to being back to normal. Thank you for your patience and understanding. This hasn’t been easy for any of us.

 Look for more details in this week’s email and on our web site.

We’ve been looking at Peter’s answer to the most important question ever asked when it comes to the gospel, “What shall we do?” It was asked by the crowds who witnessed the outpouring of the Spirit at the birth of church and were pierced to the heart by Peter’s message.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 (ESV)

Before we could understand what Peter’s answer is, we looked at what it isn’t. It isn’t a formula. It wasn’t meant as an equation for salvation. Instead, it gives us the essentials of the salvation experience. The principles involved.

Today let’s start unpacking what these essentials are by looking at the key word, at least from our perspective: repent. Once you understand that, the rest falls into place.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of repent I think of a guy holding a sign that says “Repent you sinners or perish!” In fact I literally saw that one day on the square in Springfield.

When I hear the word repent I also think about a a preacher in a suit and tie sweating hard as he shouts at the congregation, “Repent so that you might not know the flames of hell!” I had a preacher like that when I was a child. 

Repent in modern thinking is no doubt an almost exclusively religious term that carries an accusatory tone. There seems to be a lot of judgment in it, as if it’s charged with God’s wrath.

But when you look at repentance in the NT, in the Bible, you get a different story.

Repentance is heavily emphasized by the gospel writers.[1] Only three chapters in to the gospel of Matthew we come across it…

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Matthew 3:1–2 (ESV)

John the Baptist arrived on the scene preaching a message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. And then Jesus carried on with the same…

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Matthew 4:17 (ESV)

Mark only mentions repentance three times but, like Matthew, does so in passages that refer to the central message of the same key figures, John the Baptist and Jesus.

4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Mark 1:4 (ESV) 


14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:14–15 (ESV)

Luke, however, places gives the most attention to repentance, more so than any other NT writer. Study the Greek word for repent or repentance and you’ll discover it’s found almost 60 times, with roughly half of those occurrences in Luke’s gospel and Acts.

Luke takes the Jesus’ and John’s proclamations —  repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand — and fleshes them out.

When Jesus eats with Levi the tax collector, the Pharisees were deeply offended. Jesus says…

31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31–32 (ESV)

Repentance in that context doesn’t seem so charged with wrath, does it? Jesus is having dinner with a guy who’s supposed to be the recipient of God’s anger. Yet he’s there in his house in the hope he will repent.

In Jesus’ parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son we learn…

7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:7 (ESV) 


10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Luke 15:10 (ESV) 

That too doesn’t square with the context in which we’ve come to see repentance. And then, as Luke closes out his gospel with the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension, we see this…

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  Luke 24:45–47 (ESV)

Some of Jesus’ last words include an exhortation to go about proclaiming the offer of forgiveness in exchange for repentance as if it were good news or something. No hint of a guy with a sign here.

And then we come to our Acts text. Peter didn’t hurl repentance at them. He didn’t use it as a weapon. He presented it as the answer to their question, “What shall we do?” It was the remedy for their situation. 

So as we study repentance today, let’s try to get that guy holding a sign out of our heads and look at the most important word in our Acts 2:8 text with fresh eyes.

Let’s begin by examining the word on its own. The OT Hebrew word translated as repent means to turn back, as if you’re going away from where you started and then decide to do an about face. This is why by the time of the NT, repent “had taken on a meaning in Jewish thought of a return to God.”[2]

We see this in Acts where repenting and turning back go together. Peter, in another sermon, calls upon the hearers to…

19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  Acts 3:19 (ESV)

Paul in his defense before King Agrippa said that he…

20 …declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.  Acts 26:20 (ESV)

Turn back to God. We can understand how a Jew would see repentance that way. As God’s chosen people they notoriously turned away from God time after time only to return when things went badly for them. That cycle repeated itself over and over until God finally raised up pagan nations to conquer them and carry them away to exile. Jesus’ mission as the Jewish Messiah was to call the Jews to repentance, to a turning back to him with the offering of forgiveness both individually and as a people.

But what about us non-Jews? We know we’re included because Paul said before King Agrippa that the message of repentance was for us too. But how can repentance mean a turning back for us?

Even though we are not God’s chosen people like Israel we are still God’s wayward children. Adam and Eve, the first son and daughter of God, are the father and mother of us all. In them we have all like sheep… 

6 …gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6 (ESV) 

God is calling all people, all tribes and nations, to repent, to turn back to him, their loving creator. He wants us all to be part of his forever family.

So one aspect of repentance is turning back to God. Another is found in studying the Greek word used for repent(V) or repentance(N) in the NT. It had the original, secular, pre-Christian meaning of changing one’s mind or regretting an act.

John and Jesus and Peter saw repentance as a change of mind about how one’s life is oriented. It involves regret, some call it godly sorrow as opposed to general sorrow. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth…

9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  2 Corinthians 7:9–10 (ESV)

Repentance involves a recognizing of our sinfulness, our need for saving, and realizing God is the only one who can save us. That’s exactly what we see happening in Acts 2.

But repentance is even more than this.

I showed you how Matthew, Mark, and especially Luke emphasized repentance. But I didn’t mention John. The Greek word for repent isn’t found in his gospel. In fact, there’s not a single Greek word in John that translators could even use the English word repent for.

John doesn’t have Jesus calling on people to repent. If you remember from last week, he has him calling on people to believe as the answer to the same question posed in Acts 2:38, “What shall we do?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  John 6:29 (ESV)

John, at the end of his gospel, does the same…

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  John 20:30–31 (ESV)

So what is it repent or believe? It’s both. Repentance involves belief and belief involves repentance. It wasn’t that John left repentance out, it’s just that he referred to it in a different way. They are more or less the same thing.

Jesus said…

15 … “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Mark 1:15 (ESV)

Paul declared that he had…

21 [testified] both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Acts 20:21 (ESV)

Repentance is turning towards God (and away from ourselves and the fallen world we live in). Repentance is a change of mind about how we’re oriented. Repentance is deep sorrow over our sin. Repentance is believing in, having faith in God who promises to save you if you call on his name.

I appreciate how CS Lewis describes repentance.

…it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.

Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole’. This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.[3]


38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38 (ESV)

From our perspective, repentance really is the most important word in this verse because once repentance comes, everything else falls into place.

Repentance on our part brings forgiveness on God’s part made possible through Jesus living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died. When your sins have been wiped away, that makes way for the gift of the Spirit where God actually takes up residence in you, making you a living temple. And baptism, that’s a sign that you have made your choice, you have chosen a side. You are now a part of God’s kingdom.

It kills me that the world perceives repentance as charged with God’s wrath; that the image of repentance is a man holding a sign hurling accusations at passersby. It kills me even more that we Christians perpetuate it.

Nothing reveals the heart of God when it comes to repentance like what Jesus said in Luke 15. Jesus is God!

10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Luke 15:10 (ESV)

God isn’t holding a sign. He’s anxiously waiting for you to turn to him, to repent and know the joy and peace of having your sins forgiven. He’s waiting for you to surrender. To lay down your arms and call on him.

[1] Lunde J. (1992). Repentance. In J. B. Green & S. McKnight (Eds.), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (pp. 672–673). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] DiFransico, L. (2014). Repentance. D. Mangum, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, & R. Hurst (Eds.), Lexham Theological Wordbook. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity (pp. 56–58). New York: HarperOne.

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