Acts 3:19-20 "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you."
Today's post will feature another post from guest blogger and a dear pastor friend of mine: Pastor Mark Dooley. Pastor Mark and I have had a wonderful friendship in both life and ministry since 2001. Recently Pastor Mark came and preached a series of revival messages at the church where I pastor. He pastors Leonardtown Baptist Church in Leonardtown, MD. I offer these sermons to the wider readership of this blog and pray that all who read them will be blessed and revived in their faith as I was in getting to hear them.
Sermon: Revive Us And Refresh Us, preached at New Hope Baptist Church, Watertown, New York
Tuesday Night 10/4/17
by Pastor Mark Dooley
Tuesday Night 10/4/17
by Pastor Mark Dooley
What’s the most refreshing thing you can think of? For some of you, perhaps it’s a coke (or soda, or pop, depending on what part of the country you’re from). For others, when you’ve been working hard and perspiring profusely, a nice tall glass of iced tea is just the ticket. Still for others, there’s nothing like cool refreshing water to invigorate you. In fact, water is refreshing in more ways than one. You can drink it and be refreshed, but you can also bathe in it or swim in it and be refreshed.
There are other things in life that are refreshing. Laughter’s refreshing. There’s nothing like a good belly laugh to keep you going. Singing can refresh you. How about an activity like fishing? Jesus did it, so it must be pretty important, right? Or perhaps some of the women are thinking that going shopping can be refreshing! Sometimes, just good hard labor is actually refreshing – especially if you sit behind a desk or at a computer much of the time. That’s true for me, and I’ve found that going home, getting on my riding lawnmower, and mowing the yard, then going and pulling weeds in my garden is actually very refreshing.
Well, of all the refreshing experiences we can find, nothing can compare to the renewal of the mind and spirit that’s found in the presence of God. That’s what we’re going to consider tonight. Tonight’s message is quite simple: We can be continually refreshed, if we will live in right relationship with God. But how does a right relationship with God affect our lives? I want us to consider a few thoughts from our passage that will show us how a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ can bring refreshing to our souls. Let me build this message tonight around three words.
1. The first word is Repent.
We must turn away from sin if we are to experience God’s refreshing. The first word of verse 19 is, “Repent.” To repent means more than to feel sorry for the bad things we’ve said or done. The idea of repentance includes remorse, but it also involves turning away from that which is offensive to God. It involves more than just an emotional response, but also moves the will into action.
True repentance results in change. It’s often pictured by the guard who marches in from of Buckingham Palace in London, or goes back and forth at the tomb of the unknown soldier here in our own country. I’ve been privileged to be at the tomb of the unknown soldier. If you ever get to go to Arlington National cemetery and see that, make sure you do it. The guard marches, taking 21 steps, an allusion to the 21-gun salute, which is the highest honor given to somebody in the military. Then, the guard stops and does a complete 180-degree turn, and goes in the opposite direction.
THAT is a picture of what true repentance is. It’s going in the opposite direction. The only problem with the soldier is that eventually he takes 21 more steps and then turns and goes back in the same direction he was going earlier. Biblical repentance though means to turn away completely from sin, never to return to it.
When Peter preached to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, here was their response in Acts 2:37: “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?’” The answer Peter gave them was “Repent” (Acts 2:38). Repentance is a call to action. It is a call to do something; to change the way you’re living.
All too often we want the benefit of salvation without the burden or requirement that goes along with it. Repentance is that requirement.
If there are men here who are struggling with pornography, you need to repent. That means you turn away from it. Stop the behavior. Put whatever safeguards you need to put in place to ensure that it stays out of your life. Even if it means doing something drastic like getting rid of your computer, going back to a dumb phone instead of a smart phone, then true repentance means you’re willing to do that. If there are women here who are flirting with another man at the office thinking it’s all innocent fun, it’s not. You need to repent. That means you stop that behavior immediately, even if it means cutting off all contact with that person or even taking the drastic step of quitting your job.
Why do I recommend being willing to take drastic action if that’s what it takes? Well, it’s because when unrepentant sin is left unchecked it will inevitably eventually result if much worse pain than the difficulty of the drastic action. When John the Baptist came preaching repentance, he didn’t cut anybody any slack, but he told everyone within earshot to bear fruit that was worthy of repentance. In other words, be willing to change the way you live, and God will forgive you and help you.
Let the repentance you proclaim be evidenced by the life you lead was John’s basic message.
This wasn’t just John’s message either. Jesus said in Luke 13:3, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Repentance is not an optional add on for the believer. You know what I mean by an optional add on, right? You get a new cell phone and you get the opportunity to “add on” all kinds of additional services. Parental controls? No problem, we can add them on. Unlimited international calling? Yes, we can add that on. Alert notifications? That’s another add on that’s available. All of these add on features come at an additional price, of course.
Repentance, however, is not something you add on for an additional cost. It is part and parcel of true salvation. Without true and genuine repentance, we will perish. Sometimes I believe we forget too quickly that Jesus is Lord of the universe. Too often we all too easily dismiss His word to us. Instead, we need to repent of our disobedience and be quick to say, “Yes, Lord, I will do whatever You ask me to do.”
If we’ll become quick to listen and quick to obey the Lord, we’ll find times of refreshing in our lives. All disobedience is sin. We should repent and turn away from the sin we’ve allowed into our lives, and the times of refreshing will begin to flow into our lives like cool refreshing water.
But in addition to turning away from sin, we must also turn toward our heavenly Father. It’s impossible to turn towards sin and towards God at the same time. So, we turn away from sin, but we also turn to God.
2. This leads us to our second word tonight: Return.
It is turning to God that brings true refreshing. Verse 19 also says we must “Return.” When there’s sin in our lives, we don’t want to face the Lord. We don’t want to be in church or talk about spiritual things with others because we know that all is not right. We often become like Adam and Eve in the Garden. We try to hide from God, because we don’t want to face the consequences of our actions.
However, may I remind you that God always knows what’s up? The longer we refuse to turn to God, the longer we’ll wallow in the sense of guilt and failure.
We’ve been looking at the Psalms primarily in our first three messages so far, this week. The Psalms are filled with the language of intimacy, in which the Psalmist asks to Lord to look on him favorably, or to make His face shine upon him. Now, let’s be clear about one thing: God loves us beyond what we can comprehend. Even when we fail and sin against Him, He still loves us.
This is what grace is all about.
However, God is not only a God of grace, but He is one of justice as well. He is holy, and He is righteous. He will not smile upon us when we sin against Him. The Bible tells us that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. So, if we refuse to turn to God, we can expect some loving discipline to come our way. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying: “God loves me just the way I am, but too much to let me stay that way.” There is truth in that statement.
God’s work in our lives is always for the better. At times, we may not feel like doing better or turning to God, but He has a way of drawing us back to Himself. When God is at work in our lives bringing conviction to us, the only proper response is to return.
It is when we turn our hearts toward God, that we’ll also experience times of refreshing in His presence. There’s nothing as refreshing as making things right with our Creator. Why is that? It is because we were created to have unbroken fellowship with Him.
That was what was so tragic about the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It wasn’t just that they disobeyed God (which in and of itself is bad enough). But even more tragic was that their fellowship with God was broken.
This is a huge misunderstanding that many believers have today. They think that their sin ruins their relationship with God and cuts them off from Him. When we belong to the Lord, we are eternally secure in Him. Think about it this way – does God do anything that’s not perfect? Of course He doesn’t.
That means that the salvation He gives us when we trust Christ is perfect. Salvation that can be lost isn’t perfect salvation; it’s only partial salvation, at best. So sin may cause us to lose our fellowship with God, but it will never cause us to lose our relationship with Him.
We were created to have fellowship with God, talking to and listening to Him. When we are in fellowship with the Lord, it is well with our soul. We will find that we are refreshed in such times because we are doing what we were created to do, which is to live in harmony with God.
Now, along the same lines, Peter tells this crowd that if they will repent and return to God, then He will send His Messiah to them. And this is really the heart of what Peter’s saying. How does a person turn to God? People turn to God by turning to Jesus, and having a close relationship with Him.
3. This leads us to the final word we need to consider tonight: Remain.
When we remain in Christ, we will experience seasons of refreshing. Verse.20 says that God will send “Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.” The NASB uses the term “may” here, but that’s not may as in “it’s possible, but not absolutely for sure.” This is rather a word of certainty which is why the King James translation uses the phrase “he SHALL send.” Jesus had already come and lived, died, and rose again at this point. However, Peter tells them that in addition to the times of refreshing Jesus brings in the here and now, Jesus is going to come back again to restore things the way they’re supposed to be.
This has, I believe two implications. First, there’s a future implication. We must believe that Jesus is coming again. Jesus is not just a good teacher who lived 2000 years ago and taught us some pretty cool truths to live by. He’s the living Lord of all who, one day, will return to reign. God WILL send Jesus. Put the stress on that word from verse 20 for just a moment. In this world, there are plenty of people who doubt the second coming. The Apostle Peter describes such people when he says, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers feel asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
The interesting thing is Peter was dealing with that in his day as well. For 2000 years now, people have been denying the second coming. We need to remain in the hope of His coming. We need to know that God does not lie. When He says the Messiah will one day return, the that means that one day, Jesus will come again. Jesus Himself told a number of parables that are recorded in Luke’s gospel that talk about His coming, its apparent delay, but also its inevitability.
People may mock and poke fun at those “silly Christians” who believe Jesus is coming again, but let me remind you that the world mocked and poked fun at Noah when he told them a flood was coming. They laughed, that is, until the rains descended. In the same way, people won’t be laughing any longer when Jesus comes again. We need to remain in the belief that His word is true when it says He WILL send Jesus.
But besides this future implication, there’s also a present implication. Verse 19b speaks of “times of refreshing” that “come from the presence of the Lord.” The phrase “presence of the Lord” is literally “the face of the Lord” in Greek. As one commentator put it, “All joy is pure from the face of the Lord, when He regards us with a look of mercy.”
Folks, if we want to experience revival, we not only need to repent and return, but we need to remain as well. We need to abide in Christ. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
What does it mean to abide in Christ, to remain in Him? It means we are daily spending time with Him. Are you daily reading from the Word? Do you have a regular plan by which you read the Bible and study it? What about prayer? Do you regularly talk to God? Our prayer life has to consist of more than meal time blessings and joining in with others at church when we corporately pray, if we are going to abide in Christ. What about fellowship with the body? Are you main associations with fellow believers, or is the only time you see other Christians when you come to church?
The Scripture tells us that as “iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Part of abiding in Christ is drawing strength from fellow believers and helping to encourage others in their walk as well. We need to remain in Christ.
I read about a little girl who saved up her money for weeks and weeks. She wanted to buy a pretty little plastic pearl necklace she had seen down at the store. At last, she had enough money to buy the necklace. She was so excited! Her father took her down to the store so she could purchase the necklace of her dreams. She brought it home and paraded around in it proudly.
That night, when her father came in to kiss her goodnight, he asked her, “Becky, can I have your necklace?” Little Becky looked at him with a frown and said, “No, Daddy. It’s my necklace.” He just smiled and kissed her and said, “I love you, Sweetie. Good night.”
The next night the same thing happened. Becky’s father asked her if he could have her necklace, and her response was the same: “No, Daddy. I saved and saved and bought this with my own money.” The father just kissed her and said, “I love you, Becky. Good night.”
On the third night, when he came in to kiss her goodnight, Becky was sobbing, with big alligator tears streaming down her face. She handed the necklace to her father and said, “Daddy, you can have it if you really want it. I don’t need it anymore.” Her father smiled and knelt down beside her and pulled her close for a great big Daddy hug.
Then, he took her necklace and slipped it into his pocket. As he did, his hand came out with a thin black box with a velvety cover. He opened it and held it out to her. Her eyes got as big as saucers as she saw a string of real pearls shining back at her. “Oh Daddy,” she said. “Thank you, thank you! If I had known, I would have given you my necklace the first time you asked.”
So, what’s the point of that story? Little Becky had a choice. She could keep her cheap plastic pearls, or she could trust her father who wanted to give her the real thing. What about you tonight? Are you willing to let go of what seems so important to you? If you will, I can assure you that God has something 1000 times more wonderful than what you’d be giving up. Let go of your plastic pearls, and trust Him to give you something far more valuable.
Maybe you’re holding onto some things in your life that are wrong. The only way God can give you what He has for you is for you to be willing to let go of the old life. As Peter said, “Turn away from sin. Turn to God, and you will begin to experience times of refreshing in your life.” Jesus will forgive you, and one day He will come back to this earth to give everyone the reward He has prepared for them.
What have you been preparing for? Life with Jesus for eternity, or just enjoying the here and now? The Lord gives times of refreshing in the here and now, but He has so much more in store for us when He returns for us. How about it? Do you want plastic beads or beautiful pearls?
If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, I believe He’s been waiting to catch your attention. He’s been involved in your life from before you were born. Now, He’s brought you here tonight, and He’s asking you to make a choice. Are you willing to let go of the old life and turn to God? If we confess our sins, God will forgive us. If we are willing to give up our way of doing things, God will show us His way of doing things, and He does all things well. He will give you a new heart, a new hope, a new life. He will save those who are not saved, and He will revive and refresh those whose walk has grown cold. How will you respond to Him today?
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