The response of those listening to Peter’s explanation of what had happened on the Day of Pentecost was remarkable. We are told, ‘they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”’ (Acts 2:37) Peter’s response was clear: ‘Repent and be baptised, 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 2:38) The first step in our response to God’s word always has to start with repentance.
Repentance means a complete turnaround, a volte-face, turning to go in completely the opposite direction to before. None of us finds this easy, for we are so used to going our own way (Is 53:6). I see this daily in my little granddaughter, who at two years old could be named Little Miss Independent! She hates having to hold my hand on walks outdoors, even if there is lots of traffic around; she hates being dressed by other people, even though her attempts to dress herself frequently result in clothes put on inside out and shoes on the wrong feet! But our independence has led us away from God, and God always calls us back. (Luke 3:3, Matt 4:17, Mark 6:12, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30, Rev 2:5) This is most vividly enacted in the Parable of the Lost Son, when the younger son finally comes to his senses and returns to his father (Luke 15:17-21), only to find his father running to embrace him and welcome him home.
Repentance is not something which occurs only once in our lives. Every time we wander away from God, lured by the enemy’s lies, we have to turn around to return. The benefits of repentance are outlined by Peter here, though: the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). David spoke of the restoration of joy (Ps 51:11-12) which repentance brings. None of us likes admitting we are wrong, but it’s foolish to continue down a path which only leads to destruction. The people’s response led to massive change and spiritual renewal. If we want to be refreshed and renewed spiritually, we too need to repent.