26 April 2011Acts 2:36-41
"For the promise is for your, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our calls to him." (v. 39)
Have you ever been in a position where the true consequences of
your words or actions has dawned on you, and the burden of
responsibility has hit hard - you feel your heart suddenly jump, or
sink, with embarrassment or regret? 'Cut to the heart' is a good
description. And there was something about Peter's great sermon on
the day of Pentecost and the convicting work of the Spirit which
convinced many in that crowd that Jesus was in fact their Messiah.
It was not a con man or rabble-rouser who was executed, nor simply
an innocent man wrongly murdered, but rather the one God had sent
who hung on the cross that day. The crowds on that Friday did not
actually crucify him, but they would know their part, as any do who
witness evil and let it go unchecked - worse still to be handed a
choice and to let a guilty man go free in his place (Luke
23:1-25). Cut to the heart. That was how many felt when the
penny dropped. 'Gutted', we might say today.
"So, what could be done?" they asked. And Peter gave an answer which applies to all who have sinned and realised the error of their ways; an answer not specific to that crowd, but for all who want a new start: "Repent" (verse 38). In other words, turn back. Don't just say sorry, but turn towards the God you have rejected; aim to follow in God's ways. Make some changes; resolve to amend the ways and attitudes which led to sin. Repentance can sometimes be a long, hard process - Peter never said it would be easy, but neither did he say, "There's nothing you can do - live with it" (which is the answer so often given today). And he gave them a new option: Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ - the sign of a new life washed in God's grace (a sign that holds true whenever you were baptized). And all of this somehow enables the forgiveness of God and the life of the Spirit to flow in - a gift by and of God's amazing grace. It is a promise, Peter told them: a promise not just for them, but for their children; not just for that generation, but for all time: a promise of renewal and hope for all who hear that call of God. And not just for the families of those gathered in Jerusalem that day, but for all who were far off...
Peter started off his speech (Acts 2:17-21) by pointing to the signs of the times: the 'end times' were being heralded with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit - and this would be a time when Israel's blessing became the blessing of the whole earth (just as God promised to Abraham (Genesis 22:15-18)). Thus Peter could open up the resurrection message to all, and Israel's Messiah became the world's Lord ("God has made him both Lord and Messiah" (verse 36)) - none need be excluded. And when he put it like that, about 3000 believers were added to the group. Not bad for a day's work!
Peter was keen that none should be excluded from God's promise. Where in our churches or society do we see people being excluded from God's blessing?
What is the link between repentance and Baptism? And how can we help those who have been baptised very young to live lives that are 'turned to God', or to realise what their Baptism might mean for them today?