Times of Refreshing

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Acts 3:17-20

Repent. It’s a crucial word in the Christian vocabulary. One reason we talk so much about it is that repentance is the one thing we all need to do in order to experience God’s love.

One afternoon in Jerusalem the apostle Peter turned to the apostle John and said, “Let’s go to worship in the temple.” It was 3 p.m., the time of the afternoon sacrifice, when by custom devout Jews would gather for corporate prayer in the temple courts. Peter and John decided to join the service.

During these first days of the Christian church in Jerusalem, as described by Luke in the early chapters in the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus still worshiped at the Temple with the rest of Jerusalem’s citizens. There was, as yet, no clear-cut distinction between Christianity and the Jewish faith out of which it was born. The early Christians met for their worship in house fellowships. In those Christian meetings Jesus’ followers listened to the apostles’ teaching, they prayed together and shared in the Lord’s Supper. But they also continued to participate in the Jewish services of worship at the temple. Wherever they went these first Christians witnessed to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to his power to save those who believed in him.

AT THE GATE CALLED BEAUTIFUL

As Peter and John were entering the Temple for prayer that day, they came upon a crippled man. This man, who had been crippled from birth, managed to survive by begging outside the temple. The beggar had staked out a good spot by the gate called Beautiful. Each day friends or relatives would carry him to this place and set him down beside the gate. There he would sit, asking for coins from the crowds of worshipers entering or leaving the temple. His tactics were simple: “Ask them for a hand-out while they’re feeling religious.” I imagine the beggar was quite successful. It’s hard to ignore the needs of the poor when you have just been in the Lord’s house.

Luke tells us what happened when this man encountered Peter and John on their way to worship.

He saw that Peter and John were about to enter. So he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, and so did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man watched them closely. He expected to get something from them.

Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” Then Peter took him by the right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. He went with Peter and John into the temple courtyards. He walked and jumped and praised God.

Acts 3:3-8, NIrV

When the beggar asked Peter and John for money as they passed by, he must have done it automatically, hardly looking at them. He didn’t expect much from those poor-looking fishermen. But Peter got his attention: “Look at us!” That startled the beggar. He looked up expectantly. He could already hear the coins rattling in his cup. But he was wrong. He was about to receive a far greater gift than he had ever imagined possible. “We don’t have any money,” Peter told the man. “But we do have something else to offer you.” In the name of Jesus Christ Peter told the man to rise and walk. Peter gave this beggar what he had – which was the name of Jesus, the power of Jesus to heal, and the life of Jesus, which gives eternal life to all who receive it.

Today, it seems to me that our spiritual power tends to be in inverse proportion to our physical strength or financial wealth. Rich and strong Christians (or churches) have a tendency to depend upon money, technology, and hired expertise to solve their problems. Such things aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, but relying on them can replace trust in God. When we no longer trust in God above all else, then neither do we experience God working in our lives in powerful and wonderful ways. The story is told of a pope during the Middle Ages who was giving a tour of the Vatican to Thomas Aquinas, greatest of all Catholic theologians. At one point, as they were gazing upon the treasures of the papal palace, the pope remarked with some satisfaction, “The church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “That is true,” agreed Thomas. “But neither can she say, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.’” You can trust in money, or you can trust in Christ, but it’s very hard to trust in both.

THE NAME OF JESUS

Peter trusted in Christ, and that’s why he could say to this beggar, “Rise up and walk.” As the poor man hesitated, Peter helped him to his feet. And then this man discovered to his utter astonishment that his ankles and legs were suddenly strong. This poor cripple was instantly and miraculously healed. He began to celebrate. Could you blame him? First he started walking. Then, pretty soon he was running and jumping all over the temple courtyard, testing his new abilities for all they were worth. Imagine how it must have felt for him to be leaping about after all those years, never having walked in his whole life! Nor did he forget to whom his thanks were due. Luke reports that as the man walked about in the temple courts he was continually praising God for his unexpected healing.

Not surprisingly, a crowd of the curious soon gathered, just as they had earlier on the Day of Pentecost when equally amazing things had happened. And just as he had done then, Peter took the opportunity to address this crowd of astonished onlookers.

The first thing he told them was that he was not responsible for healing this crippled man. “Why are you staring at us?” he asked the crowd.

“Do you think we have some power of our own? Do you think we were able to make this man walk because we are so religious? . . . You see this man, and you know him. He put his faith in the name of Jesus and was made strong. Faith in Jesus made this man completely well.”

Acts 3:12, 16, cev

Peter had no power in himself to do such a thing. He was neither a doctor nor a miracle worker. Nor was it some good quality in the beggar that merited the special favor of the miracle that was done for him. No, Peter wants to draw the people’s attention away from himself, away even from the man who was healed, and focus it where it belonged – on Jesus Christ.

Peter preached a sermon there, on the spot, in the temple court. It had the same theme as his Pentecost sermon: the glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Once again Peter plainly told the crowd how they had dishonored Jesus by rejecting him and engineering his death on a Roman cross. Jesus, despite his obvious goodness, had been treated like a terrible criminal. His death was not only horrible physically; it was unjust, shameful, degrading. When Jesus hung on the cross he seemed to be discredited, humiliated, a total failure. But Jesus’ crucifixion was more than just a tragic mistake, or even a hateful crime. It was also part of God’s plan of salvation. God had foretold through the Hebrew prophets that his Christ must suffer for the sins of the world. In the Old Testament he had promised to send a Savior to deliver people from sin, death, and Satan. On the cross God kept that promise (v. 18). Moreover, God raised Jesus from the dead. As much as people had dishonored him, God has highly honored Jesus, even more! All glory belongs to the Lord Jesus. All power and authority has been given to him. Jesus is the name above every name. Salvation, healing, blessing and life come through his name, through all that Jesus is and does – and only through him. That was Peter’s theme as he spoke to the crowd. It was the wonder of the gospel that moved him. That wonder is that God has turned the ugliness and horror of the cross into his gift of forgiving, redeeming love.

REPENT, AND TURN TO GOD”

That was the message Peter proclaimed to the crowd in Jerusalem. He didn’t just tell them all about Jesus and emphasize the truth. He told them how to respond to the truth. Here’s the climax of what he said:

“Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”

Acts 3:17-20, niv

Many of the people to whom Peter was speaking were guilty of a terrible mistake. God had come to them in the person of Jesus Christ, and they had rejected him. Worse than that, they had tortured him to death. But Peter realized these people were acting in ignorance. Jesus himself had prayed for them, even while he was being crucified – “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” God answered Jesus’ prayer. He would forgive those who turn back to him in humble repentance.

So, Peter urged the crowd to do exactly that. “Repent!” he told them, “Give up your sins, turn to God, and you will be forgiven” (v. 19). The people needed to recognize their responsibility. They had to be awakened to the reality of their own mistakes, sin and guilt. They needed to feel sorry for all their offenses. They had to ask God to forgive them. They had to renounce their sin, and believe in Jesus’ power to save them. Despite their religion, these people were far from God. Their greatest need was to recognize the truth about Christ and come to God through him. That’s our need too.

If the people would do that, Peter told them, three things would happen. First, their sins would be forgiven. “Repent, so that your sins may be wiped out,” he said. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, your sins too can be completely erased from the pages of your life. When you repent and believe in Christ, you are given a fresh, white sheet of paper to start a new life story.

Second, God sends his Spirit to renew and refresh. “Turn to God,” cried Peter, “that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Our lives can be so dry. Our spirits seem dead, crushed; inside we feel like dust and ashes. God seems far away. But, if we turn to Christ, whether for the very first or for the thousandth time, something wonderful will happen. We will feel the Lord’s nearness again. Times of refreshing and spiritual renewal come once more to our souls. Like the cool, refreshing rains after a drought, the presence of the Lord fills us with life again. He renews our spirits. He waters our parched and thirsty souls and brings hope.

The final blessing promised to those who repent is the Lord Jesus himself. “Repent . . . that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.”

It’s easy to miss those blessings from God. Most of us act in ways that drive us further away from God, rather than bring us closer to him. We ignore him. We focus on our own agendas. We lie a little, or cheat a little to get ahead. We substitute our mistaken ideas of pleasure for God’s idea of holiness and goodness. And then we wonder why we’re so unhappy, so dissatisfied with life. We grow dry and dead inside, yet we long to be refreshed. The solution is clear. It is close at hand. It’s right here, in front of us now. “Repent, and turn to God.” Seek Jesus Christ. Open yourself to his love, his life, and times of refreshing will come to you too.