We consider ourselves “good” people, because of things we don’t do. No one could fault the Athenians in Acts 17:22-34 for doing all the good things. Yet Paul said they needed to repent. The first step in any relationship with God is repentance. The word means “to turn around.” We are to be genuinely sorry for our actions. But being sorry is not enough. We must move from where we are, and go in a new direction, to experience repentance. The Prodigal Son found himself in a pig pen. He was sorry for what he had done. But he didn’t stay in the pig pen—he got up, got out and went home.
We need to take note of the immediate, joyful response on the part of his father. He ran to meet his son and embraced him. When we move toward God in real repentance, God immediately moves to meet us.
Part of our regular worship experience should include a time of repentance and restoration, both as individuals and as a body of worshippers. As “good” people, we have more need for repentance, because we often refuse to see just how sinful we are.
After Paul preached the good news about Jesus to the Athenians, some sneered, some wanted to know more, and a few believed. When the gospel is preached, there will always be some who will be completely indifferent, some who will be curious, and a few who will repent and believe. It is interesting to note that this is one of the few places where Paul was apparently unsuccessful in founding a church, and also one of the few places where there was apparently no opposition to his preaching.
- Paul said he tried “to be all things to all people.” What do you think he was trying to be to the Athenians?
- Why is it so difficult for some people to intellectually admit their need for God?
- Why is goodness not just the absence of evil? Why is indifference and apathy just as bad as opposition to either good or evil?
- Look for other characters in the Bible like the Prodigal Son, who went through a time of repentance. What events caused their “turn around”?
- Is there a specific time in your church’s worship service for confession and repentance? If so, how do you make use of it? Do you always feel a need for it? Try writing a prayer of confession for yourself.
- Look for stories in the media where wrong-doers blame others or events for things that happen to them. Is this ever a valid excuse?