Blessings of Repentance
by James Harvey
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:19–20).
This verse is a beautiful description of the Christian life. Repentance is changing our minds about sin and turning our lives back to God, through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is foundational, for as John Calvin emphasized, we could never turn back to God unless we were sure that He would receive us. Christ’s perfect life on our behalf and sacrificial death in our place reconciles us to God (Rom. 5:18–19). Our gracious Father in Heaven sent His beloved Son on a mission to reclaim us. What wondrous love from our Father. What incredible sacrifice from our brother Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit makes our hearts new that we may behold Christ as our Savior. Once that happens, faith is the inevitable fruit, repentance the inevitable consequence.
Peter says that when we repent, our sins are “blotted out.” The term means to wipe away. In ancient times, ink letters written on papyri didn’t soak in but remained on the surface. You could wipe them away. Does the stain of your sin seem indelible? It is not. The blood of Christ has wiped your sins as far as the east is from the west. You are clothed in perfect righteousness. You are free. Sin no longer reigns.
This blotting out of sin is foundational to experiencing times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. God is love. It is His nature to bless. With the barrier of sin being removed, we dwell secure in His life-giving presence. How quickly we forget that our Father stands ready to bless us, to grant rest to our weary souls and to fill us with His Spirit. He invites us to cast our cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). When we act contrary to our new nature and commit a sin, He invites us to confess. He assures us that He will “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This cleansing from unrighteousness doesn’t refer to our righteous status before God, which is irrevocable (Rom. 8:1). It refers to removing the stain upon our spirit that an unholy act leaves behind.
The times of refreshing that we experience now from the presence of the Lord are a down payment on a future glory (Eph. 1:13–14). Peter says that our repentance toward God in Christ will result in Christ’s returning from heaven for us. What an encouragement for weary souls. When our Lord returns, we will be transformed to be “like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26). There are sorrows, losses, and crosses that will be fully rectified only by the final reward in glory. But thanks be to God that He provides times of refreshing to sustain us along the way.