“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’” (Acts 2:37-40).
Upon hearing the gospel that Pentecost Sabbath, the heart-pierced crowd cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). A moment prior, they were milling about, concerned with food and accommodations and the events of the festival, oblivious to the misery of their spiritual state, and unconcerned for the things of God.
The Holy Spirit always prompts a need to respond in a gospel-pierced heart. When the gospel of grace pierced their hearts, their world changed. Their physical, social, and religious concerns melted away in the searing heat of conviction. They had a consuming need to do something, but what? We do not instinctively know how to respond to the gospel. The Holy Spirit must teach us what to do.
That day, Peter, under the Spirit’s guidance, told them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39). We each come to Christ because no one can do it for us.
To repent (“metanoeo” in Greek) means to turn around and go in the opposite direction; but it’s more than changing an opinion about something. Judas felt bad for betraying Jesus. He had changed his mind about having turned Him over to the Pharisees, that is, he felt remorse for the deed (“metamelomai”), but he did not repent. Unfortunately, many people experience remorse for sins, who never truly repent. They may feel bad for having gotten caught or even for having done something foolish, but unless their heart changes toward God, their sin remains.
The repentance that the Holy Spirit produces in the newborn believer is life-changing. It brings about a new focus, passion, and resolve to the whole of life. When we repent, we die to sin and self and live to God. More than simply provoking regret, repentance breeds a love for God and a consequent disdain for our sins. We may still succumb to temptation, but we’ll have no peace with it. We cannot abide long in our sins. If we’re truly born again, love for Christ will compel us to spurn our sin and return to fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Sin no longer brings the pleasure it once did, only heartache.
Spirit-born repentance isn’t momentary, either. It becomes the believer’s life. Nor is it burdensome, but life-giving. When believers sin, we sense God’s displeasure and return seeking the Father’s favor. The child of God hungers and thirsts to be close to the Father in the fellowship of Christ, for there is no life outside of Christ, only the outer darkness.
Christ’s disciples love His appearing because, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2). When Christ appears the last time, it will be to gather His church to Himself where we shall rejoice in His glory for all eternity. Every last stain of sin will be fully and finally removed. We will stand complete in Him.
To “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23:6); that is, to have a place Jesus has prepared for us in the Father’s house (Jn. 14:2), is the confident hope of every believer.
I pray that you may know the gift of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.