Peter preached a powerful message to the people in Jerusalem and their hearts were stirred when they heard God’s Word and recognized their sin. Peter instructed them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
What does it mean to repent? True repentance results in sorrow, remorse, and regret over sin. Only the sacrifice of Christ’s blood can forgive. But repentance is the only way to know true healing and rejoicing. There is no other way to enter the peace and rest of Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the fruit that results from repentance:
“Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Repentance and trust in Christ’s redeeming blood result in total remission of sin, and that means pardon, forgiveness and freedom from sin’s power. Human compassion alone cannot convert anyone’s soul. It reaches only the flesh, unable to touch the deep places of the soul. This truth is at the very core of the gospel. You see, repentance leads to forgiveness — and forgiveness must lead to rest and rejoicing.
The burden of sin — the memories and hauntings of past sins — must not be carried beyond the cross. All mourning over past sins, all self-imposed humiliation, must be cast into the cleansing fountain of Christ’s blood. Ultimately, there comes a time when all who follow Jesus must hear him say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
If you are fighting against a besetting sin, a stronghold of Satan, consider these four things:
Be sure you believe that the Lord still loves you. You are still under his grace and mercy.
Repent, asking the Lord to produce godly sorrow in you.
Receive God’s love, and rest in his promise to forgive you.
Believe his New Covenant word to you: “I will be merciful to you, and forgive all your sins. And I will work in you what is well pleasing to me.”
God has sent you the Holy Spirit, who knows how to deal with the enemy and free you from all bondage. He is the still, small voice that will guide you and empower you through all your battles.
“Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Paul described to the disciples what would take place when Christ returns: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:16-18).
The ancient stoics believed the world went through fixed periods of time. In their minds, at the end of each period the world was destroyed by a great fire. Then the earth was restored precisely as it had been, so that things began all over again and resumed just as they had before.
In other words, history repeated itself over and over. The same stars followed in the same orbits, and the same lives were lived again, with the same friends, the same concerns, the same experiences. Everything was restored each time, not just once but in perpetuity. Human beings were bound to an eternal treadmill from which there was no escape.
The apostle Peter’s words cut directly against this thinking when he said that, according to God’s promise, Christians are to “look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Moreover, he says, if we believe God’s Word, we can know that history is racing toward the day of the Lord’s coming, when “heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (3:12).
As followers of Christ, we should not be consumed by daily news reports or events taking place in our lives but, rather, on the coming of our Redeemer. Our world certainly is in great turmoil, but Jesus said, “They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:27-28). He was talking about where our focus should be.
Jesus is coming soon so keep looking up!
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you” (John 14:27).
We know Christ was capable of anger and at times he was moved to tears. But mostly, he led his life on earth as a man of peace. He had peace with the Father, peace in the face of temptation, peace in times of rejection and mockery. He even had peace during storms at sea, sleeping on the deck of the boat while others trembled with terror.
The disciples had heard men call their Lord a devil and religious leaders pointed to him as a fraud. Some groups even plotted to kill him. Yet, through it all, Jesus never lost his peace. No man, no religious system, no devil could rob him of his peace.
All this must have caused discussion among the disciples: “How could he sleep in a storm? What kind of peace is that? And how could he be so calm when that crowd was about to throw him over a cliff? People mock him, insult him, spit on him, but he never fights back. Nothing disturbs him.”
When Jesus promised these men the very same peace, the disciples must have looked at each other in wonder: “You mean we’re going to have the same peace that he has? This is incredible!”
Jesus said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (14:27). In this same scene, Jesus promised to give the disciples the Holy Spirit. Christ explained, “The Holy Spirit will guide you through what you’re going to face. He will be your friend and he’ll enable you to experience this peace I give to you.”
Jesus had just taught these men, “I go and prepare a place for you [and] I will come again and receive you to Myself” (14:3). But Jesus’ pledge to come again didn’t lift their spirits. I can imagine Peter saying, “Who needs a fancy place to live? I need a job. I’ve got a family to feed.”
Jesus knew the disciples needed the kind of peace that would see them through any and all situations. And he is telling us, just as he told them, “You will need my peace to endure what’s coming. Get it now, before things get worse. My Holy Spirit abides in you, so ask him for my peace. He has promised to anchor your soul in every storm.”
We are seeing calamities on a scale never before witnessed: hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, national unrest. Fear and despair abound on every side and even the most skeptical commentators say we’re already seeing the beginning of World War III.
What can God’s people do to move his heart in these troubled times? Surely the church is not powerless. The prophet Joel said, “‘Now, therefore,’ says, the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart’ … Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:12-13).
All the Old Testament prophets called God’s people to corporate prayer. Jesus himself declared, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer’” (Matthew 21:13). The fact is, world history has been shaped by the prayers of Christ’s church.
The Holy Spirit was first given in God’s house, at the Upper Room. There the disciples “continued with one accord in prayer” (Acts 1:14). We’re told that Peter was released from prison by an angel, while “many were gathered together praying” (12:12). Corporate prayer had been made continually for Peter’s release.
Clearly, God releases much power because of the prayers of his church. Thus, the call to such prayer cannot be underestimated. We know the church has been commissioned to win souls, to do charity, to serve as the gathering place for God’s Word to be preached. But first and foremost, the church is to be a house of prayer — this is its primary calling.
“If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
But the power of prayer isn’t reserved for large gatherings alone; we can find it in the intimacy of our own homes. Jesus practiced and recommended closet prayer to his disciples. “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). The homes in Jesus’ culture had an inner room that served as sort of storage closet, a place where they could pray in secret, so this concept was easy for them to grasp.
Jesus set the example for private prayer: “In the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray … He was alone there” (Matthew 14:23).
A lot of us have a mistaken idea of what “being in God’s presence” is. We tend to think of it as a feeling, an emotion or a supernatural moment. All of these can accompany God’s presence, but they don’t define it. God presence is simply himself, his being.
With the Holy Spirit residing in us, we always have God’s presence — and that’s an incredible thing. Paul says: “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
In Old Testament times, the Lord made his presence known by rending the heavens or manifesting himself through a pillar of fire or a cloud of smoke. When Jesus came, it changed how we experienced God’s presence. Through Christ, we actually got to see the presence of God. Jesus’ life revealed exactly what God is like — how utterly full of love, grace, mercy, power, truth, and righteousness he is. The Son of God came to earth as an exact representation of the heavenly Father’s nature.
Even more incredible is that through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, a transformation takes place when we accept Jesus: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
To have God’s nature in us means we don’t have to try to be holy; we are holy, by virtue of his presence in us. We don’t have to try to be acceptable, we are made acceptable by him. We don’t have to try to be good; we already are good by his divine nature, which resides in us through his Spirit.
Jesus bought you a life free of shame and fear. You can live with abandon without hindrance or condemnation. That’s why Paul exhorts, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).