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Posts Tagged ‘renewal’

A New Beginning

August 3rd, 2016

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh … Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through our Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18,24-25)

Authentic Christianity demands honesty. Honesty is the first step we must take to be saved – we must admit our need to our self and to God. Honesty is the first step we must take for renewal after we are saved – for when things begin to go wrong in our hearts we have begun to live in deception and not in the truth.

But honesty alone is never enough. It is one thing to be honest enough to admit that the ship one is on is sinking. It is another thing to get on the lifeboat. Honesty should lead also to faith in Christ. The apostle asked, “Who will rescue me?” and he answered affirmatively, “Christ will rescue me!”

Many efforts to come to Christ have fallen short, simply because they came to people rather than to God. Some have come only to the community of faith thinking that would be enough. I recall the testimony of a young businessman called out of the competitive world of finance into the ministry. Uprooting his family he moved them all to seminary, thinking he had found a spiritual Eden. He soon discovered that rather than finding a new way, he had simply come to the same old way in a different setting. There was as much ego and self-seeking there as in the bank where he worked earlier.

We decide to get active in a church and find that the attitudes of the world have also infiltrated the people of God. Everyone is struggling with something – and most often it is simply the fallen human nature, the “flesh” that Paul wrote about. Those who are sincere are often pulled down by others who are not sincere.

A new beginning cannot be merely the same old beginning in different clothes.

The true new beginning in life through Christ is always about coming to him personally, and surrendering our hearts and lives to him. It can never be to merely come to a community, or to a new philosophy, or to a new ethic. Christianity involves all of these things – a new outlook, a new family, a new hope – but these are the results of his work in the world, the fruit but not the root.

The new life is found in him, in coming to him like a prodigal son returning to his father, like a lost sheep letting the Good Shepherd find him and draw him close to his heart. God said to Israel, “If you return … to me you should return” (Jer. 4:1). And he says to us, If you will come to new life, then you should come to me. Paul wrote that the Spirit forms in our mind an understanding of Christ as a person.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

Through the gospel God gives us the witness in our hearts of a specific Person, Jesus Christ who calls us and to whom we come. Come always to him, keep coming to him, speaking to him, trusting in him, for he is the one who gives true life. The new beginning is found in him.

Authenticity in the Faith , ,

Turning Back to God

July 26th, 2016

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out… (Acts 3:19)

Today let me share some biblical principles about conversion and spiritual renewal. These apply both to a lost person becoming a Christian and to a saved person being spiritually renewed. Christians need to be renewed from time to time. We need periodically “times of refreshing” from the Lord (Acts 3:20). Some Christians are involved in doing things that they know are wrong, and they need to repent and return to God. Some have gradually drifted away and have become cold in their hearts. They are on the edge of some serious unholy actions, but at this stage they are simply less excited about their salvation than before.

Conversion means change. In order to be saved or renewed we must repent of our sins, and repentance means more than mere sorrow for having sinned. It means more than wishing we had not been caught. It involves shame but it is more than shame alone. It means to stop going in the wrong direction and to start going in the right direction.

When we speak of conversion we mean something deep within our hearts has happened. God has given a witness to us through his Word. His Word makes us “wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15), and without a clear and relevant message from God we cannot be converted (Rom. 10:17).

The Spirit also is active in the process of conversion. He convicts the human heart of our need of forgiveness, and of the offer of new life in Christ. He impresses upon us the urgency of the matter to where a person, who had given no thought to God or righteousness or his own sins, is suddenly convicted and knows in his heart of hearts that he must repent then and there (John 16:8-11).

We must also have someone to break the chains that Satan has put on our hearts. Satan is a deceiver, so this is mostly done through preaching the truth about Christ, yet there must be some means that comes from outside of ourselves that prevents him from stealing the Word from our hearts before it can take root (Matt 13:19).

But beyond the work of God there is a mysterious part that we must play ourselves. We are commanded to turn, to be converted. Though we cannot turn without the message from God and without the Spirit of God, there is still something that we are called to do. We must willfully choose to reject sin and to choose Christ.

Some people use the expression, “Let go and let God!” But I believe this statement misrepresents scripture and suggests that God will just hypnotize us when he wants us to get right with him. The Bible, however, calls us to specific action, to turn from sin and turn to Christ. It does not tell us to merely wait until the mood strikes, but to respond immediately to the call of God to draw near him.

Augustus H. Strong, in his classic Systematic Theology wrote:

Conversion is that voluntary change in the mind of the sinner, in which he turns, on the one hand, from sin, and on the other hand, to Christ. The former or negative element in conversion, namely, the turning from sin, we (call) repentance. The latter or positive element in conversion, namely, the turning to Christ, we (call) faith… Conversion is the human side or aspect of that fundamental spiritual change which, as viewed from the divine side, we call regeneration. It is simply man’s turning. Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 829

The scriptures recognize our part in this matter of conversion just as they recognize God’s part. God turns us to himself. For examples, we read: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation…” (Psalm 84:4), and, “Bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God” (Jeremiah 31:18). And there are many other scriptures we could call on for evidence of God’s work in our salvation.

We also read that people are encouraged and exhorted to turn to God as well. For examples, “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my Spirit to you” (Prov. 1:23), and, “Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel” (Isaiah 31:6).

God is the Author of a new heart and a new spirit, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10). But people are commanded also to make for themselves a new heart and a new spirit, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

The point is that we should not just sit and wait for God to do what he has clearly commanded us to do. We cannot repent without God’s enlightenment and conviction in our hearts. But we are commanded to then do the work of repentance and conversion ourselves, as he enables us.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double minded. Be afflicted, mourn and weep, let you laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10

Daily Devotions, Spiritual Recovery , , ,