Imagine we are standing with the huge crowd that has gathered around Peter and the disciples on the day of Pentecost. We are at the Temple Mount. The Holy Spirit has come in full force with fire and wind, rumbling and lots of commotion.
Three thousand-plus of us have gathered around, and we are all hearing the disciples speaking in our own native tongues. What a sight to behold! Peter stands up and gives a doozy of a sermon, and as he finishes:
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “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 2:37-38)
“They were cut to the heart.” This seems an appropriate response when one hears the truth of the gospel. “Cut to the heart” shows you did not just hear the words, but the truth penetrated your heart. Your otherwise comfort-seeking, lukewarm heart was assaulted, and conviction stirs you to respond as the people did:
“Brothers, what shall we do?”
I want you to notice what Peter does not say in response to their question. He does not say, “Do something. Do anything. Just get busy working for God!”
No, he says, “Repent.”
Repent? As in: Say I am sorry for my bad habits and sinful actions, and then try to stop doing them?
Well, yes, but that is a very limited idea of repenting.
Repentance means to change direction, but with a strong undercurrent of coming … Home. Coming Home to Jesus. Coming Home to your Heavenly Father. Coming Home perhaps to a place you have never been before.* Repentance means getting off your current path and getting on God’s path.
There are only two paths in life: God’s path and all the other paths. Only one path leads Home. God’s path is a Holy Spirit led path. All the other paths can be distilled into either Self’s path or the Culture-led path.
The path on which I typically find myself when I have drifted from God’s path is either my Self’s path or the culture-led path. Both of which have led me into a ditch on too many occasions to count.
How to know if you are off God’s path? Ask yourself this excellent question:
Is where you are going where you want to be when you get there? (Andy Stanley)
How to know what path to choose?
This is what the Lord says:
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
Is that not beautiful? Please read it again and let it soak through into your soul.
Because yes, God’s path will lead to rest for your souls.
I will finish with C.S. Lewis’ observation on repenting:
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’re sorry, realizing 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 … is what Christians call repentance. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity)