“And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers , A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you..” Acts 3:17-22
If I may ask, what is the most refreshing thing you can imagine or think of? As faces differ so also will the answer to the question. For some people, it might be a bottle of Coke! For others, perhaps, it might be a glass of cold water. Yet for others, it can be good belly laughter, singing from the heart, strolling or walking along the beach etc. The list is endless!
However, of all the refreshing experiences we can ever think or find - nothing can compare to the renewal of the mind and of the spirit that is found in the presence of God. It is a Biblical fact - proved, tried and tested. Indeed, we can continually be refreshed, if we cultivate and keep the right relationship with God.
Nevertheless, the question is, how can maintaining a right relationship with God affect our lives? This we shall see from the living word of God by the help of the Holy Spirit as we examine Acts 3:17-22. Embedded in this passage are some thoughts that if recognised and gleaned together will result in a condition of a refreshed spirit and soul.
Worthy of note in the passage is the mention of ignorance. Vs. 17 says first of all, “through ignorance you did it”. Ignorance in whatever form, be it spiritual or physical is a barrier to a state of being refreshed. It was such an issue that God says “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. Whenever the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable. The first thing Peter emphasised among the people was the extent of their ignorance in relation to the identity of Jesus, His purpose and what is previously written about Him. There is always a kind of refreshing, liberty and fulfilment whenever the power of ignorance is broken in any area of one’s life. The Scripture says - the truth you know will set you free. It is my prayer that the power of the Holy Ghost will put to flight every iota of ignorance in our lives.
Another thing pointed out in the passage is the issue of sin. Vs.19 says “Repent….” To repent means more than to feel sorry for the bad things we have said or done. It involves a determination “to change”. Embedded in repentance is an attitude of a sober mind and a sober reflection – remorse. It is demonstrated by turning away from that which is offensive to God and turning to God. It goes beyond a mere emotional response. It is a realisation back up by action in the right direction.
Ultimately, true and genuine repentance always results in a desired change. This scenario was well played out when Peter preached to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost. Notice their responses in Acts 2:37 “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” What can we do about our “ignorance” as expressed in the way we have treated God via His Son? Peter gave them the answer: “Repent, let God change your life, and receive His forgiveness”. This shows that repentance will lead to a realisation, and a realisation will prompt a call for action. This action however, will bring about a “conversion” and the benefit of such a conversion will be “times of refreshing” from the presence of the Lord.
All disobedience is sin! I pray that we will recognise our ignorance, repent and turn away from our crooked ways so that times of refreshing will flow into our lives like never before.
Another fact mentioned is to be converted. Vs.19 says, “and be converted.” It is not enough for us to turn away from sins; as we turn away from sin, we must turn to God. Nature abhors vacuum. Many people who have at one time or the other desired times of refreshing from God’s presence but without same might have omitted the basics demand as revealed by Peter - admitting our own disobedience and turning away from it.
When we turn away from sin and turn to God - conversion, He has promised not only to cleanse us of our sins but to bring spiritual refreshing. Turning away from sin may initially appear painful as it is hard to break away from old habits and to give up certain sins. However, by the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.
Whenever there is sin in our lives, there is automatically, a kind of wall or barrier that brings a separation between us and God. It was so with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But the truth is, even when and where we have failed and sinned against God, His love for us is still intact. However, He loves us so much more than to allow us to remain in that condition of sin. The Scripture says “He chastises those Whom He loves”.
Also in the passage is the place of recognising and trusting Jesus - V.20 says “He will send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus.” Jesus had already come and lived, died, and rose again. However, He remains the one Who was, Who is and Who is to come. The scripture says “He is the same yesterday, today and forever”. The best way we can demonstrate our reliance on Jesus is as instructed by Moses “the Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Consider the line of Peter’s message to the people – If they will repent and turn to God, then, will God send His Messiah to them. The evidence of turning to God is demonstrated in the way we trust and obey Him.
It is of paramount importance that we are not just hearers of what Jesus says, but most importantly, doers of what He says. If we cultivate the habit of staying close to Him, we will develop the habit of hearing Him and by the help of the Holy Spirit; we will receive the grace to do whatever He instructs us to do.