Acts 17: 27-31; 2: 37-39; 3: 19-21
2 Kings 5: 1-14
I would like to address you personally, dear friend, in the glad tidings. I wonder if you have found the key to blessing yet. There is only one way to get God’s blessing. God has chosen it and everyone needs it. The question I ask is, ’Have you got it?’. The three passages I read in the Acts each refer to this word, “repentance”. If you have never repented, you have never begun on the path of blessing. It is a big word, and it can have a very profound effect on the life of anyone. Now, I have to tell you, without it you are lost. These are not my words, they are God’s words. God would address you today personally. Have you ever been conscious at any point in your life that God has spoken to you personally? He would address you now, and what He is saying is, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Rom 3: 23. Dear friend, He does not want you to remain that way, but you need to accept the fact that you are lost, eternally lost, and, according to the first scripture we read in Acts 17, subject to the judgment of God. How serious a position to be in! Notice how accurate Scripture is. It says, “he has set a day in which he is going to judge the habitable earth”. In other words, God has marked a point on His calendar and He has said, ’That is the day that I have set when I am going to judge the habitable world’. The second thing God says is, ’I am going to do it in a particular way’, and that particular way is in righteousness, and He says, ’It will have a particular scope’ and you cannot exclude yourself from it. It also says, “by the man whom he has appointed”; so the Judge is also appointed. He is selected by God Himself and just waits the time to take up His commission, and that means that you will have to appear before Him for final judgment unless, of course, you come to God in repentance.
So that is what Paul says, “God ... now enjoins men that they shall all everywhere repent”. I like that word, “enjoins”. It is not a common word in the English language, but it is of particular effect. It means that God will come very close to you - come just beside you; and God has done that in Jesus. God has been manifested in flesh -
O wonder of His universe!
God has come down to the very sphere which He has created, and He has come alongside men in the Person of Jesus, and He is coming alongside you tonight, but not as a Judge. The day has been fixed when He will judge the world but the very One who will be the Judge is the One who has gone into death in order that He might take your place, that that judgment may not fall upon you. Wonder of wonders, dear friend, the way into the blessing - so that you do not come into judgment - is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way is through repentance. Now what I understand by repentance is not just that you are sorry for what you have done; it involves that, but it is far deeper than that. Repentance is that you take sides with God against yourself about your whole history; so that you begin to think about the things that you have done in your life the way He thinks about them, and see the awfulness of them before a holy God. You say, ’Oh, I thought God was a loving God. How could He bring man into judgment?’ It is true that God is a loving God but you cannot accept God just in His love. If you accept God in His love you must accept Him in His holiness too. Therefore it is an absolute necessity if God is to have your company that you must repent, and that means there is some point in your life where you come to that for yourself. Do you want it? Would you like a blessing?
It is a wonderful thing to have peace with God, to know that the judgment that you deserved has been taken on by Jesus. That is called substitution, and if you accept the work of Jesus, and you have faith in Jesus, that will be true for you. God cannot ask for the penalty twice. So if Jesus has borne the penalty of your sins you will never have to, John 5: 24. He cannot ask for it twice because He is a righteous and a holy God. What a wonderful thing the gospel is! I would like to appeal to you, dear friend. He would enjoin men everywhere to repent. He would draw near to you; He would draw near to you in the gospel. He would use every means at His disposal to appeal to you. “Him who knew not sin he has made sin for us”, 2 Cor 5: 21. The One who was holy, undefiled, who knew not sin, in whom sin was not, was made the very thing that He hated. We think of the way Jesus recoiled from being made sin. He says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt 27: 46. We can understand that men rejected Him and forsook Him. What a sorrowful picture, “all left Him and fled”, Mark. 15: 50! But He says, ’My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’, the One who was so pleasurable to Himself. It was because God had made that blessed Man the Sin-bearer. Can you measure it? I do not ask you to measure it. God does not ask you in the gospel to understand it. All He asks is that you accept it. He makes it as simple as that. Oh, dear friend, if God made it complicated He would exclude some, and the gospel is for everybody. Have you received it?
I have just been impressed lately that repentance is always connected with something else. If you repent, according to this scripture, you will be free from judgment, and it says God has given “the proof of it to all in having raised him from among the dead”. Now, dear friend, do you believe in the resurrection? I have to tell you that it is the key to the gospel that God could not leave a Man who had satisfied Him in regard of sin still in death, and the power of God in all its concentrated energy came down into that grave and raised Him from among the dead. Why? Because in every way He had satisfied God, and God had every satisfaction in His work. The proof of it is that He raised Him from the dead. The proof that God had such satisfaction in Jesus is that He not only raised Him from among the dead but received Him into heaven. He “ascended up above all the heavens, that he might fill all things”, Eph 4: 10. The attestation of the satisfaction of God not only in the work of Jesus but in Jesus Himself is that He says to Him, “Sit at my right hand until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet”, Heb 1: 13. What a wonderful thing it is; the heart of a Man beats in heaven. He is there today. He is a Saviour God and has come out in blessing towards you because of His work. The word in the Scriptures is “propitiation”. It is a big word but it means that God has been satisfied in regard of sin and that He has come out in favour towards His creature in all the fullness of the blessing of His heart, in the grace and the fulness of His Person not holding your sins against you but forgiving them. Do you deserve it, dear friend? What you need and the sinner can ask for is mercy, and mercy is dispensed by God in perfect righteousness and in richness because God is rich in mercy, and He is rich in grace. Do you know God? Do you know God in that character? Do you fear God, or are you going on in fear of the retribution of God for your sins? Oh, dear friend, you can be freed from your guilt; you can have a clear conscience now, simply by accepting Jesus as your Saviour, as if there was no other sinner in the world. Jesus died to take your place. Will you accept it tonight?
In chapter 3 Peter says to the Jews, “Men of Israel”, v 12. He addresses the ones who had been guilty of casting Jesus out saying, “Crucify, crucify him” (Luke 23: 21), and he says, “And now, brethren, I know that ye did it in ignorance, as also your rulers; but God has thus fulfilled what he had announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer”, v 17, 18. What a wonderful thing that the grace of God should come to the Jew. In the very place where man did his worst, God comes out with His best. That is characteristic of God. He comes to you when you do not deserve it, when you are an enemy of God. Oh, dear friend, do you realise that? Your sins have made you an enemy of God. They have brought you into distance from God and yet God would approach tonight in Jesus because He is satisfied in His work and He wants to bless you. He wants your company. Oh, dear friend, He does not only want to forgive you your sins, He wants your company. So Peter says, “Repent therefore and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins”. That is beautiful, is it not, “the blotting out of your sins”? They are effaced from God’s memory for ever. That is wonderful, that God in His mercy has the power to forgive and to forget. When we talk about forgetting it is a sign of our weakness, but with God it is a sign of His power, that He can positively decide to forget all your sins, to wipe the whole slate clean. You say, ’That seems too good to be true’. So it does, my friend, but it is still true that God can do it. It is called in Scripture, “justification”, washed whiter than snow, Ps 51: 7. Is that not wonderful? Well, he says, “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”. What is your life like? Are you miserable, downcast, fearful, sorrowful? Repentance will bring you the times of refreshing that will come from the only place where it is possible, from the presence of the Lord. It is a wonderful thing “the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and he may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you”. I know this was particularly for the Jew. If they had repented their Messiah would have come, but they rejected Him, and they even rejected the testimony of the Spirit through Stephen. When the gospel comes as under Paul it comes from the glory and it no longer speaks about bringing refreshing to the earth, but speaks about bringing persons to glory, “bringing many sons to glory”, Heb 2: 10. Wonderful thing! There is an advance in the gospel, not only the forgiveness of your sins and times of refreshing, but He wants your company; He wants you to be a son before Himself.
Hence this other scripture I read. “And Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptised, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. You see that word, “repent”. It keeps coming in because that is the key to opening up your blessing, for having taken sides with God against yourself, it opens the floodgates of blessing. It says, “and be baptised”. You say, ’Well, why would I need to be baptised?’ It is so that you are publicly seen to be disassociated from your previous conduct. That is the first point of baptism. It brings you through the waters of death and brings you out onto new ground, and, as accepting that, you are totally disassociated from any past history. That is the viewpoint of baptism. But, he says, “and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. You notice the little word, “and”. Repentance is not a thing alone in itself. It brings you into something else. We have spoken about freedom from judgment and times of refreshing. We are now going to speak about something else, the gift of the Holy Spirit. You say, ’Well, this is going to be a radical change in my life’. I trust not only that will you be forgiven your sins but you will live a new kind of life where God is the Centre of it instead of yourself. You say, ’I need a new power’. God has foreseen that. Because Jesus has been glorified, God has sent His Spirit that He might be in you and with you. The Lord says to the woman in John 4, it “shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life”, v 14. Dear friend, if you have repented and found remission for your sins, do you enjoy it? To enjoy the forgiveness of your sins, to enjoy the presence of the God who gave it to you, there is only one means, and that is the gift of His Holy Spirit. You need something inside, the One whom the Scripture speaks of, “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”, 1 John 4: 4. Dear friend, do not dally with the world. It has great power and influence and it is possible to be a believer and still be entangled in the world. The devil is not so concerned if you are a believer so long as you do not enjoy it in the presence of God, because his whole intent is to rob God. So he would tie you in knots and the more you struggle, the tighter the knots get. What a wonderful thing it is, the gift of God’s Spirit, “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”. So if you open your heart and ask for the Holy Spirit and God gives you the Holy Spirit, you will have a power that is superior to all that is around. All those knots will lose their hold upon you and you can become as free as a bird. It is a wonderful thing the gift of the Holy Spirit. Scripture speaks of it as God’s “unspeakable free gift”, 2 Cor 9: 15. We all like free gifts but there is nothing to be compared with the gift of His Holy Spirit, and once you receive Him, He will never leave you. Something may come in to bring a shadow over your life and the consciousness of His presence may be hindered in you, but He will never leave you. Throughout eternity He will be with God’s people, those who have believed on Jesus. He will be there that they might enjoy eternity, an eternity of bliss with God. Do you look forward to it? The One who is “to judge the habitable earth in righteousness” is the One who is coming for those who believe. Wonderful thing, He is going to return and He is going to take out of the world every one who has faith. “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air”, 1 Thess 4: 16, 17. What a meeting that will be! Dear friend, will you be amongst them? Do you want to be amongst them? What a moment that will be when the Lord Jesus receives every vestige of what is His own for Himself to be with Him for eternity. I am looking for that moment. Are you? You say, ’Well, I am conscious my brethren are, conscious my brother is, conscious my sister is’, but are you? Nobody else can make the transaction for you. It is intensely personal. You must, for yourself, repent,
I will speak briefly about Naaman, sufficient to say that one poor maid had intense faith. What had never happened as far as I can see in history before, she proposes for her master: that he should be free from his leprosy. Leprosy speaks in Scripture of the working of sin in us, the powerful present working of sin, and she proposes that Naaman should go to the prophet and receive his blessing. What did he do? The first thing is the king of Syria sends him to the king of Israel. There is only one way, “for neither is there another name under heaven which is given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4: 12), and that is the name of Jesus. Blessed be His name, what a Saviour! Eventually Naaman says, “I thought”. Dear friend, if you have been held up in coming to repentance, it is because at some point in your life you said, “I thought”. ’I thought tomorrow would be a better time’, ’I thought I would have my foot in the world first’, ’I thought I would do this first’ or like Naaman, ’I thought he would do it this way’. You may think that your way is best but God is the arbiter of His own affairs. He has arranged the way of salvation and there is no other way. You have to seek God on His own terms and I tell you something, when you accept God on His own terms, the burden rolls off. You feel freed from the burden of your sins and you are conscious that your conscience is clear as before God. So Naaman goes away in a rage. You see, he brought gold and silver: he thought he could buy salvation, he thought there was something that he could do. We think maybe that something without repentance is a way to blessing. How many times have persons drawn alongside you and said, ’Dear friend, are you saved?’. And you say, ’I wish they would not keep asking me that question’, but they ask you because they have your soul welfare in mind and they want you to come into the richest of blessings. So they draw near to him and they say, “My father”; very gracious, “My father, if the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?” And he goes down and he plunges himself seven times in the Jordan. You can see him now, a great man in Syria, and God had given deliverance to Syria by his hand. He must have been a brilliant warrior and you can imagine him going down with all his armoury and all his medals into the Jordan, first time, second time, third time, fourth time, fifth time, sixth time, seventh time; he finally comes out. What it represents, dear friend, is that he accepts God on His own terms and he finds a complete cure. It says, “And his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child”. A baby’s skin is so soft and tender. If you look at my hands that have done years of labour, there are scars, cuts and hard skin, and I expect a military man would be much the same, but it says, “his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child”. What man cannot do, God can do; He can make a complete change in your life.
Do you want it? If you want it, dear friend, you can have it and God would enjoin you tonight to repent. May it be so for His Name’s sake.
24th February 2009