A time for renewal

Globally, we have entered a period of change.  Life has slowed to a crawl in many respects, and questions linger regarding when or whether things will return to normal.  As we endure these changes, it seems an opportune time to explore the principle of renewal and the changes that we can expect God to bring us as we follow him.  Let us pursue God’s renewal for us as we progress through the uncertainty which lies ahead.

2 Cor. 4:16-18

Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

One of the sweeping themes of scripture is the juxtaposition of the natural and the spiritual.  Our faith is reliant on what the spirit knows and yet the eyes have not seen.  We are in a constant battle to reconcile what we believe with what we experience, and we are brought to the place of standing on spiritual truths regardless of what we see in the natural.  It is an epic battle that continues as we live in this world, and it is clearly displayed when we compare the body and the spirit.  While the physical body surely will come to an end and even begins to degrade from the moment of that first breath, our spirits can be renewed continually.

The breakdown of the physical body over time can be a concern for anyone, but God assures us that this is inconsequential compared to what is happening to the Christian’s spirit.  Instead of dying day by day, our spirits are already living out eternity.  From now until we are glorified we see growth instead of degradation.  Where the physical body is certain to die, the spirit that belongs to God is certain to live eternally.  This is possible because our Father renews us daily.  When the spirit feels weak or tired, it can be completely renewed.  In fact, it can be restored to even greater than it was.  This is God’s spiritual renewal, that we would daily increase.

Eph. 4:19-24

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

In order for us to experience spiritual renewal, there are two things we must know.  First, we must know what it means to be spiritually renewed.  Here, Paul tells us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. This is the place of thinking, the house of knowledge and understanding.  To be renewed in our minds means that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide how we perceive and respond to the world around us.  We really want to have the mind of Christ instead of chasing what the world considers to be knowledge and wisdom.  Spiritual renewal is a conscious effort that we make to engage God.  It is not some passive process that comes upon us.  We play an active role in this daily change.

Second, we must know what it looks like when the renewal process is not happening.  This passage gives us an illustration of those who have forsaken spiritual renewal.  They pursue all kinds of evil.  They have given up knowing the things of God for knowing the things of the world. Those whose spiritual growth has been stunted will regress back to the old self.  Theirs is a life that aims to satisfy the flesh and the corrupt mind.  When we stop engaging the Holy Spirit to renew us, we do not simply stand still spiritually.  We actually go backwards.  The Spirit of God and the kingdom of God are constantly progressing.  If we forsake God’s renewal, we turn back to becoming who we once were.  When we see the old self begin to surface, that should be our indication that we have experienced a break in this necessary process.

Rom. 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

This spiritual renewal that occurs in the mind is truly transformative.  It makes complete sense that someone conditioned to think like the world must go through a process to learn how to think like God.  It is not natural for sinful man.  This is something we must learn, and it is something we must practice.  The natural consequence of this transformation is that we begin to develop the mind of God.  This means not only that we begin to view the world the way He does, but also that we begin to know what He knows.  This is a method He uses to lead us through these lives.  If we have the mind of God, and we can think the way He does, then we can begin to discern the path we must take here.

This passage is incredible in that it tells humankind that we have the capacity to know the will of God in our lives.  We are able to live without confusion.  We need not roam aimlessly with no idea of where God wants us or what He wants us to do.  We actually have the capacity to know his will with certainty.  Sometimes this will be in a specific sense.  God may impress upon us to do certain tasks, and we will know that because our minds are in line with him.  Other times his will is more general.  When we think like God we then move like him.  We naturally stay away from that which He hates, and we move toward operating in that which He loves.  In this sense, knowing God’s will can be as simple as being generous to the one who is in need.

Isa. 40:28-31

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to him that hath no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Living in this world can make us very weary.  We are working against the grain here.  An entire system has been hijacked to bring mankind to destruction.  When we work for God, we should expect opposition. Fortunately, we are not expected to operate in our own strength.  If we were to do that, we certainly would feel only weariness.  Instead, we have the privilege of being able to tap into God’s strength to renew our depleted resources.  Whether the issue is physical, mental or spiritual energy, God can fill us back up even to overflowing.  He is a bottomless, eternal power source.  We need not concern ourselves with whether He can perform this function for all of us because there is no limit to his provision of power.

The great promise of this passage is not simply that God will renew our strength.  The great promise is that He will renew us so that we no longer grow weary.  We only need wait on the Lord.  This renewal is about his purposes and his timing.  Perhaps we do not see fulfillment of this promise today or even tomorrow, but that does not negate its truth. If we wait on the Lord, we will get there.  We need not grow weary of doing his work.  We need not grow faint of running this race.  Our Father is able to keep us perpetually charged for the work we must do. He only asks for our attention and availability.  If we give those to him, then He is able to fulfill this promise.  Oh, how powerful the Church would be if we each would simply wait on the Lord for this strength!

Psa. 51:9-12

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a willing spirit.

We cannot forget that God’s spiritual renewal is a cleansing that we need.  Without it, we are blemished and unsightly.  Remember, those who are not spiritually renewing are reverting back to the old self.  We do not want to be cast away from God’s presence because He cannot set his eyes upon our iniquity.  We want continual spiritual renewal that restores us just as we were restored through his salvation.  It is then that we can enjoy being in his presence.  As much as the mind must be renewed, so must the heart.  Our desires and motivations must be purified so that we are willing spirits in the hands of God.  This is where He reshapes the heart of man to feel as He feels.

Thinking like God is only part of the puzzle.  We must also have God’s heart.  This is what drives our desires and our love for others.  This is what determines whether we have compassion on our fellow man.  The mind of God knows that which is sin; the heart of God breaks for it.  A spiritually renewed mind can convey the things of God to the one who does not yet believe.  A spiritually renewed heart makes that a compassionate and loving interaction rooted not in the relaying of facts but in the goal of sparing a soul from eternal separation from its creator.  This heart desires for the iniquities of others to be blotted out as well.  When God looks at this heart, what He sees is the heart of his Son.

Following God is all about transformation.  We cannot afford to stand still in any respect.  If we want to please God and serve him, we must be working with him to be renewed daily.  There is no slowing down. There are no days off.  We have precious little time here in this world to prepare for what is to come.  We need not grow in leaps and bounds every day, but we certainly must make progress.  Sometimes that progress is as simple as making sure that we commune with the Father daily.  Other times that progress will manifest in a spiritual gifting we never knew we had or the occurrence of a miracle.  The point is that we must consciously pursue our spiritual growth daily if we are to leave the old self behind.