In verse 19, Peter mentions two outcomes of genuine repentance. The first is that the penitent person is forgiven all his sins. They are all blotted out of God’s precise and accurate record, a record that remains precise and accurate after they have been forgiven. One of the most surprising features of church life today is how quickly we lose the sense of wonder at being forgiven by God.
Pardon of sin is a most wonderful blessing. The reaction in our hearts should be the equivalent of the response of the lame man to his healing – walking, leaping and praising God. Our pardoned souls should be celebrating the grace of God, and it is a form of exercise which develops our other spiritual muscles because it leads to a sense of thankfulness and a sense of devotion.
Peter mentions a second consequence of repentance in verse 20: ‘times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.’ This experience of refreshing will be true of each individual who repents; into their hearts, the Spirit of God will flow, bringing to them, among other blessings, a sense of peace, delight in God, the joy of adoption into God’s family, and an anticipation of heaven.
This experience of refreshing will be true of congregations in which people repent. When a sinner turns from their sins to Christ, the people of God sense that heaven has come to earth. The lack of this can cause a congregation to become spiritually flat. Of course, we can pray for this blessing, but the evidence that our prayers have been heard is the arrival of the blessing.
These words also remind us that lack of repentance is one reason, perhaps the reason, why we do not experience times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. In one sense, it does not matter what sins we are guilty of, if we do not repent of them. Sins of pride are just as effective in stopping divine blessing as are sins of immorality. Our response as individuals should be to ask God to search us, to convict us of our wrong attitudes and actions, to lead us to repentance, to give us the blessing of times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord.