When they were come together, Gall cleared his throat and poured out into their ears and hearts, mellow words entreating them to turn to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who would reveal to poor lukewarm human nature the approach of the kingdom of heaven. Then in the sight of all he raised the images of their gods and threw them into the lake.
- The Anonymous Monk, Life of St. Gall, German, 8th century
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent…”
- Acts 2.37, 38
This is one of my favorite stories in the annals of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800 AD), because it embodies so much of the Celtic Christian approach to doing the business of the Kingdom.
Columbanus and his group, departing Gaul and heading for Italy, had paused alongside a Swiss lake to rest and minister as they might to the locals. Soon they found themselves among many pagans at one of their worship sites on the shores of the lake. Gall stepped forward to minister the Gospel with sweet words of grace, calling his hearers to faith in Jesus and repentance from dead works.
Then, as if to dramatize his message – and perhaps, help them on their way to faith – he hoisted their idols over his head and threw them into the lake.
Here’s a template for our lives in the world. Live and proclaim the Gospel with kindness, clarity, sweetness, and passion. Declare Jesus to be the resurrected Son of God and Lord of the Kingdom, offering to poor benighted souls the righteousness, peace, and joy only He can give. Hold out the promise of forgiveness and life and the hope of glory, and invite whosoever will to come and believe.
But believing in Jesus comes at a cost – into the lake with all your vain idols!
When Gall and Columbanus, his mentor, and all the other Celtic Christian preachers, urged their hearers to repent, they meant it, and they were prepared to aid them on the way by dramatic means – in-your-face confrontations, throwing idols into the lake, refusing to go along with political agendas, accepting persecution and exile, yet always demanding spiritual earnestness and moral improvement, now.
Such men would not be welcome in the pulpits of most of our churches today, much less the public squares of our secular towns and cities.
Peter, echoing Jesus (Matt. 4.17), knew that the first order of business in entering the Kingdom and receiving the Gospel is that we repent.
The first order, and the ongoing order of every day of our lives.
Repentance is both a general disposition – a willingness to be done with sin – and a particular practice – actually turning specific sins over to the Father, throwing our idols into the lake, and being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.
We must repent to enter the Kingdom, and we must repent to make progress in it.
When repentance is called for, we should welcome it humbly and with rejoicing. For repentance is a work of God’s Spirit, Who graciously convicts us of sin, plainly advises us of the right path to travel, and kindly warns us that our Father disciplines those who refuse to heed His Word (Jn. 16.8-11).
What idols are you holding on to still? Complete comfort and convenience? Wealth and possessions? Your sense of needing to be the center of everyone’s attention? A Christian faith that’s all about convenience rather than work?
Throw them into the lake of fire now, lest they drag you down into it on that coming Day!
Do you know the practice of repentance? When was the last time you remember repenting of anything? We will make no progress in the river of life until the idols of the flesh are in the lake.
Learn repentance. Then repent daily as you seek the Kingdom of God as the defining priority and passion of your life.
1. Why do we need to repent of our sins? What happens if we don’t repent?
2. What are sins of commission? What are some examples of sins of omission?
Psalm 51.7-13 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!
Create in me a clean heart; renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
Teach me, Lord, to repent, and help me to do so as often as it is required. Empower me to seek Your Kingdom today as I…
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Bispham, p. 15.