The Cleansing of Naaman

The Narrative Lectionary points us to 2 Kings 5:1-15, the story of Elisha healing Naaman of leprosy.  This story has several great elements. Following are some initial thoughts on the text for the week. 

Naaman is painted as a great man who is an effective commander of an army. He has experienced victories for the King of Adam and was “a valiant solider”. Even so, we may never have heard of Naaman except for the one thing he did not want to be known for. He had leprosy. Outside of this text we do not read of Naaman, except in one New Testament text I’ll mention later. We do know that Naaman was married because it was a young Israelite slave girl who told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Samaria who could cure him of leprosy. 

Great and powerful men approach the problems of life like great and powerful men. They make treaties. They offer wealth and they make deals. Naaman takes a letter from the King of Aram, gold, silver, and  clothing to the King of Israel. The King of Israel reacts with fear and is afraid that he is the next target of the victorious King of Aram. 

When Elisha hears about this situation he has the King of Israel to send Naaman to him so “he will know that there is a prophet in Israel“. 

There’s a lot of chest beating in all of this. Powerful successful king of Aram sends his valiant commander to the King of Israel with a bunch of gold and silver and stuff. Everyone’s trying to outdo one another and demonstrate who is the greatest. So Elisha really does let the air out of Naaman’s balloon when he sends a messenger to tell him to go wash seven times in the Jordan in order to be cleansed.  Naaman’s pride is hurt and he huffs and puffs about a messenger being sent, and about the instructions. 

Again servants (slaves) play a role in this story by suggesting to Naaman to just give it a try. What does he have to lose? The cleansing was effective!  Naaman humbles himself to go to Elisha and he says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

This is not the end of the story but it’s the end of our text for this week. Gehazi the greedy glut chases Naaman down later, lies to him, and ends up getting in trouble. But that’s another sermon. 

How to approach this text … there are several possibilities.

There is a Pride / Humility theme here. Naaman and the two kings sure think highly of themselves. But it is only when Naaman humbles himself to wash in the muddy Jordan that he experiences healing. How many times have we allowed pride to keep us from obedience, only to find later than when we submitted to the Lord life got a lot better?

There is a theme here about the power of the humble.  The powerful valiant solider has two slaves to thank for being freed from leprosy. How many times does God use the humble ones of the world to make a huge difference? Jesus  even identifies himself with ‘the least of these’. 

This is Elisha’s story. Although the story has some very interesting characters, this is a story about Elisha. It comes between the story of the widow’s unending supply of oil (2 Kings 4) and the amazing story of Elisha opening the eyes of his servant to see that “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 5). It is important to Elisha that the King of Adam know that “there is a prophet in Israel”. Indeed, this is Naaman’s confession at the end. So the sermon of the week could center around Elisha and what we know about him and how he functioned in God’s story. 

It is an episode that demonstrates the power of obedience. I remember many years ago preaching a sermon on obedience using this text. I believe it was entitled “Six Dips Won’t Do!“. After six dips in the Jordan, Naaman still was not cleansed. In what ways is our obedience falling short of God’s will, resulting in a lack of blessing? In relation to this, a friend preached a sermon using the KJV language when Naaman was incensed that Elisha didn’t come out and perform some great ceremony for him. He said “Behold I thought” (vs 11). Perhaps on the day of judgment we will recount for the Lord what we “thought” was really true. I don’t recommend that exegetically, but you could stir the dust homiletically. 

The sermon could be about the element of leprosy, which is an excellent analogy for sin – but I don’t think it has center stage here in the text.

How did Jesus use this story?

One Sabbath day Jesus claimed to be the Messiah in Nazareth. This raised quite a stir. In talking about this, he remembered Elisha and Naaman. 

Luke 4: 24-27 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

Although the drought affected many in Israel, Elijah and Elisha were ministering to those outside of Israel. Why? They were receptive – willing to hear from the prophets. Israel was not. This message was met with such rejection that the people tried to kill Jesus right then and there.

If we take Luke’s account as a cue, the story is really about God who responds to all who are willing to have faith, even if the ones who should have faith fail to do so. In which category do we find ourselves?

The Narrative Lectionary includes a gospel reading at Matthew 8:2-3:

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Yes, Jesus is willing. Elisha was willing. God was willing. I pray we will all find ourselves the recipients of every good gift that our willing God desires to give us.

Thanks for reading. You can join in a conversation on the weekly text and see resources posted in my Facebook group called Narrative Lectionarians

 

 

The Last Place I Looked

This is the next entry in the 2018 Blog Tour. It’s a great article by Dr. Mark Adams, a minister in Corpus Christie, Texas. I know you’ll enjoy it. JED

It Was in the Last Place I Looked

One of my least favorite expressions follows an anxious search for keys, wallets, and phones. Having scoured the house, the office, or the last place someone visited, when they find what they’ve been seeking, they might exclaim, “Wouldn’t you know it? I found it in the last place I looked for it!”

My inner response is always, “If you’ve already found it, why would you continue looking?” Nobody ever says, “Hey, now that I have my car keys in hand, I’m going to check a few more places to see if they’re there, also.” While there are aspects of our Christian journey that involve a continual seeking and searching, such as a deeper understanding of God’s inexhaustible love and mercy, there are some things that we should stop seeking the way that we had before we were Christians. Here are three things that Christians can stop seeking. 

1. You can stop seeking people’s applause and approval.

The great goal for which all Christians are striving is to stand in the presence of God, and to hear God say, “Well done!” We earnestly seek God’s applause. In Christ, we are confident that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This frees us to live out of our joy and appreciation for the love God has poured on us with lavishness. 

Likewise, it matters to us that people can see the good things that we do because of our faith, and even if they don’t join us, they can still glorify God because of what God has done through us. We care that people will assume things about God because of what they see in us. 

Even so, as Christians, we need not seek people’s applause and approval the way that the world does. If your sense of self-worth and happiness derives only from what people think and say about you, you’re going to be drinking from a water source that will generally leave you thirsty. People are fickle. They can love someone one minute and turn on them the next minute for a variety of reasons these days, and the function of the always-present smartphone combined with social media only exacerbates and hastens the problem. If you subject your wellbeing to the hands of people who are chasing after popularity of their own, no matter how much you’ve been liked or admired, you’re still going to have to keep seeking their approval.  

Do you understand that God loves you as his own, irrespective of any other factor you could think up or present? Even if your walk involves the occasional stumble or tumble, you rest safe in the Grace of God whose love for you existed even before you did. You can stop seeking people’s applause and approval because God has the final word, and God loves you dearly. As he demonstrated in Christ, he would rather die than try to imagine Eternity without you there.  

2. You can stop seeking to establish your value through your own competence.

I struggle with anxiety if I feel underprepared for a situation. I work on my sermons and classes far in advance. I try to study every angle of something about which I believe people might ask me. I’ve always worked hard to be a resourceful person, to whom people feel they can turn if they need knowledge and insight. Sometimes, this can become an idol.

Your idol may not be an idol of knowledge, but there are probably other ways you try to establish your worth through what you can do. Are you the person who can get things done? Are you the person who always directs or volunteers in a certain way? Are you the person on whom everyone has to depend when they need a certain thing? 

It is one thing to be a valuable asset because of your love for the greater community. It is another thing to share your gifts and talents, but to have strings attached for what you expect in return. It is a blessing to be able to share, to give, and to inspire. But when we must be seen a certain way because of what we can do, we have stopped relying on God for our sense of worth and have settled for an idol, who will leave us unsatisfied. Your gifts are yours for the building up of the body of Christ. Use them for the good of others, and stop seeking to establish your worth through what you can do, rather than through the way God has valued you.

3. You can stop seeking to prove your worth through your possessions.

Christians in the West have a hard time letting go of our cultural tendency to buy things for their status rather than for their usefulness. Name brands, vehicle sizes and features, and a variety of clothing and personal ornamentation do and will continue to grab the world’s attention. It is this tendency, I believe, that Paul is addressing when he warns about the importance of dressing with modesty. Even though he would probably be in agreement with our general aversion to dressing overly “sexy,” Paul is concerned that when a person shows off their value through what they use to clothe themselves, they necessarily exclude and demean the poor among us who have no ability to succeed in a contest of possession acquisition. 

Let us not forget that those of us who have been baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ. Jesus is our brand. Jesus is our identity. Jesus is our greatest treasure and our highest hope

Before you make your next purchase, you might ask yourself:

  • Is this valuable for how it is useful, or for how it will make people see me?
  • Does my displaying of this item potentially alienate someone who can’t afford one of the same? 
  • Do I get uneasy at the thought of people not seeing me as successful for wearing a lesser brand?

Until we stand before God, may we always seek God with a holy hunger. May we never exhaust our desire to learn and embody God’s love. But for now, let’s remember that we’ve already found what matters most. We can stop worrying so much about what other people think about us. We can quit trying to prove how strong we are on our own. If we were really so strong, we wouldn’t have needed a Savior. We can stop distracting people from a treasure of ultimate worth by obsessing over things we know we’ll be donating to Goodwill next year. One of the many ways Jesus lightens our burdens is by helping us to release what we no longer need to seek. 

 —————————–

Dr. Mark Adams is the preaching minister for the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married to his wife Carolina, whom he met when the two of them were students together at Harding University. He is also a graduate of Lipscomb University. You can learn more about Mark at his website: https://kingdomupgrowth.com and you can follow him on Twitter @themarkadams.

The W’s of King Solomon

The Narrative Lectionary points us to 1 Kings 3:4-9 (10-15), 16-28 this week. The gospel text is Matthew 6:9-10. The following are some initial thoughts that may or may not make it into Sunday’s sermon!

1 Kings begins with an elderly and ill King David. “David was about seventy years old (cf. 2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 2:11), which was remarkable in an age when most people, even royalty, did not live beyond their forties” (Whitworth). David’s son, Adonijah, said to be ‘very handsome’ and next in line for the throne, declared himself the heir to the throne and began to prepare by assembling his own small army and supplies. There is evidently political intrigue here because Nathan the prophet meets with Bathsheba and asks, “Have you not hard that Adonijah…has become king, and our loved David knows nothing about it?” He advises Bathsheba to ask King David to name Solomon as King. Which he did … and gave him some instructions about who to kill and who not to kill. These are brutal times and I don’t pretend to understand their thinking nor the bloodshed that secured Solomon’s place on the throne. But there it is.

Solomon was a builder. He was building the temple that the Lord refused to allow David to build. He was building his palace. Wiersbe says he spent seven years building the temple and thirteen years building his own palace (1 Kings 6:37-7:1).

Solomon was a strategist. He built alliances with the kings around him and secured those alliances by marrying daughters of the kings. 

Solomon was a worshiper. 1 Kings 3:3 says that “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David…” If the verse ended there, we would be so impressed. But it does go on to say, “…except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” More than that, he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar at Gibeon. I’ll admit there is something here I do not understand about Solomon worshiping both God and idols and at the same time God desires to bless Solomon. Perhaps it is an issue of God looking at the heart. Were Solomon’s offerings at the high places simply to placate those with whom he had alliances? I don’t know. I do know that the text says that Solomon has a love for the Lord. Weirsbe suggests that since the temple was not yet constructed that Israel worshiped Jehovah at these temporary shrines.

Solomon was a dreamer. Like some before him, God communicated with him in a dream. The sequence in 1 Kings 3:5-14 indicates to me that (in his dream state?) Solomon was already a man of some wisdom. Before his God-given wisdom was granted, he made a very wise request of God. I doubt that most people would make the request that Solomon did. If this is still when Solomon is young, I wonder if he is overwhelmed with the leadership duties placed before him at the moment? Since we know how Solomon’s story plays out, we know that he lives a lifestyle of opulence and excess toward the end of his life. Yet, Ecclesiastes indicates that at some point he realizes the pointlessness of this kind of life. There are many dreamers in the world, but few that have the power, wealth, and divinely-given wisdom to chase their dreams. 

Solomon is a man of justice. The story in vs 16-28 is iconic as we consider the wisdom of Solomon that it demonstrates. 

Wiersbe says that, “Solomon is mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Old Testament and a dozen times in the New Testament. He’s listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:6-7) and is cited as an example of splendor (Matt. 6:29; Luke 12:27) and wisdom (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31). He is identified as a builder of the temple (Acts 7:47). One of the colonnades in the temple was named after him (John 10:23; Acts 3:11, 5:12).”

Solomon’s name comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which means “peace,” and during his reign the kingdom was at peace with its neighbors. (Wiersbe)

There are two “W”s we know about King Solomon: Wisdom and Women. Ironically, he didn’t have much of one when it came to the other. 

About Solomon’s Wisdom, Whitworth makes several observations:

*Has to do with prudence or ‘common sense’.

*A wise moan is one who seeks God and thus wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

*Wisdom is not just a desire to please God. It also entails knowing what is pleasing to God in a given situation and how to do it skillfully and for his glory. 

*The wisdom that God gave Solomon was neither automatic in nature nor irrevocable. “Instead, this wisdom was a product of God’s divine presence in Solomon’s heart as long as the king sought the Lord through his word.”

*The king was free to follow or ignore the wisdom of God at any time. 

Tony Merida offers Six Interrelated Dimensions of Biblical Wisdom

*Wisdom has a worship dimension. The fear of the Lord is the starting place for wisdom.

*Wisdom has an insight dimension. Wise people have insight into spiritual truth (Prov 4:6-7).

*Wisdom has a discernment dimension (Prov 16:21)

*Wisdom has a moral dimension (Prov 14:16)

*Wisdom has a justice dimension (Prov 1:3; 2:9)

*Wisdom has a skill dimension (Prov 8:30)

No one can doubt the downfall of Solomon was his view and use (abuse?) of women. In this, he walks in his father’s footsteps. With hundreds of wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3), the excess of his reign is matched by its downfall.  “…and his wives led him astray.”

This text and the stories in it are some of the best known accounts in the life of Solomon. In my series this month I’ve been talking about living faithfully for our Faithful God. When Solomon was faithful to God, wisdom prevailed and things went well for him. It was when he failed to trust the truth that God entrusted to him that his fall began.

When we read Ecclesiastes it is easy to see that upon reflection Solomon could see how the mistakes of his past – being caught up in the meaningless things of life that had caught his attention – were his downfall. His words still ring true today as we hear so many voices and have so many attractions – listen to God and love Him above all. 

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil. 

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 

You’re welcome to join in a discussion of the text along with resources in my group Narrative Lectionarians on Facebook.

Resources:

How to Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years by Michael Whitworth

Be Responsible: Be Good Stewards of God’s Gifts by Warren Wiersbe

Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings by Tony Merida

Sermon Notes and Audio as it turned out HERE.

 

The Lost Art of Rest

The Lost Art of Rest

You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. — Exodus 31:13b, 14a

Rest is medically, mentally, and spiritually vital for human health. But it is also rejected by an overbooked, overscheduled, and overconnected culture. In both the modern workforce and entertainment/sports pursuits there is seldom a quiet moment for reflection. When is the last time you were quiet and in a quiet room? To illustrate how completely we reject rest, just think about your first reaction when someone calls and wakes you up from sleep. The first thing out of our mouth is a denial that we were sleeping, as if that were some kind of drug addiction we were trying to hide from all our family and friend.

Moses, the great lawgiver, was instructed by God about Sabbaths. In some churches it is common to talk about Sabbaths. In Churches of Christ, not so much. It is often regarded as a component of the Old Law that Jesus never commanded for New Covenant believers. In addition, the Hebrew writer suggests that our Sabbath will be fulfilled when we enter into eternity. So, I grew up basically hearing about the Sabbath only as it related to the Jews and more often than not, the Pharisees.

In college, however, I preached for a small country church. I still have fond memories of the fine folks there, but in my young and sometimes arrogant perspective I scoffed at their Sabbath keeping. Now, granted, it was a kind of personalized Sabbath practice. Playing cards, going fishing, or working on your car were all frowned upon. Sitting back in a recliner after eating too much at a Southern country dinner table and watching wrestling on the television, however, was perfectly acceptable. Anyhow, I did encounter a kind of Sabbath keeping in my younger preaching years. I seldom see that any more.

Sabbath observance was a command of the Lord and one of great consequence. Before Moses was born, the Sabbath was established on the seventh day of creation when God rested. So it predates the Law and it is connected to the identity and reality of God.

The Sabbath was a sign. God tells Moses in our text that the Sabbath was a sign for the generations to come, so it was to last a long time. The Sabbath is a signal that we understand that God is the most important person in our lives and we dedicate time to growing closer to Him… not by working harder or studying deeper or praying better. Just by being with Him.

The Sabbath was so that the Israelites would know that God is God. He gets to make the rules about how we live our life. But more than just rule keeping…

The Sabbath was to remind us that God makes us holy. So it’s not Sabbath keeping that makes us holy, it is our identity with a God who rested. It is our trust that He will provide even if we do not exhaust ourselves in work and play on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was not to be ignored, at the penalty of death. Ok, we might just say at this point that God takes rejection of his word and will seriously. This might be a good place to revert to the idea that the LAW of Sabbath is an Old Covenant law, but the practice of Sabbath is an eternal principle. I know, that’s convenient. 

The Sabbath was to be regarded as holy. It’s all about holiness. More on that later.

The Sabbath command was written by the finger of God. It wasn’t Moses’ invention, but a Divine principle from our Creator. 

I think it is fair to say that if we fail to keep the Sabbath we do not expect to be stoned or for God to strike us down. In the Covenant of Grace in which we live we are not going to rely on precision obedience as a savior. But there is a deeper lesson beyond the law. God’s command to observe the Sabbath was not capricious. It had depth and significance… and I think we can see the result of the loss of Sabbath in our world.

It would be a sad rejection of grace to try to do what the Pharisees did – to establish what movements constitute ‘work’ and then try to do everything but those items. But to celebrate the Sabbath, there might be some ways…

*Reserve a day to rest or at least half a day once a week. I know, trying to schedule rest seems like an oxymoron but if we do not do it intentionally, then the cries of a thousand things that “have to be done” will drown out our purposeful Sabbath.

*Talk to God about your inability to sit still in His presence without making mental lists of the things you’re going to do once this forced Sabbath has come to an end.

*Holiness is the theme of Sabbath. God’s holiness is to become our holiness. What are we doing to become a more holy people? Trusting in our Abba is important. Do you think that He would ‘rest’ on the seventh day, declare that day holy, require all of Israel to stop working on that day, if it were not beneficial? Do you think if we just worked harder at it we could be a holier people … or is it that by putting down our tasks we can focus instead on renewal and faith? Charles Swindoll wrote, “To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”

*Talk about Sabbath. It’s a weird message. No one is talking about taking a weekly respite from the flurry of the world’s call. It will bless others to know there is a practice that can bring them peace and holiness, even just for a short time.

*Be kind to others. If you will embark upon the Sabbath practice, you can be assured that others will not. Even devoted Christians will often fail to heed the call to purposeful rest. It’s not our job to look down upon them or to judge them. No one obeys any command or practice perfectly.

*Don’t say “I can’t”. I know there are some reading this who are saying to themselves that the commitments and obligations of life make Sabbath keeping impossible. I can relate. Again, no one does it perfectly. But let’s be honest. Many of the things that are filling up our frantic days are put there by ourselves.

*A word to parents and families. Our inability to say ‘no’ to our children and the many activities available to them, and the fear that we/they might miss out on something great if we withdraw for a bit, is killing our families. How many of us are teaching our children to forget Sabbath because we allow them to fill up almost impossible to keep schedules? Has family time disappeared? What are the greatest values of our lives? If we value holiness, closeness to God, mental clarity, and bodily strength then we should value Sabbath.

*Be kind to yourself. That might mean not beating yourself up on not being a very good Sabbath observer. Remember, we’re not trying to perfectly keep a law, we are trying to live in rhythm with a principle. It might take some practice. Your Sabbath practice might start with an hour and grow from there. It might not be on the ‘seventh day’ but might be another time when you can devote yourself to quiet and peace. I know I continue to struggle with this.

Sabbath is out of fashion, a relic of a time and pace of life that can’t compete with our connected and conflicted world. Our calling is not to live up to the call of the world, but the call of God. Rest, friend. Unashamedly and in connection with God, seek Sabbath.

“Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. Tears shed there bring cleansing. God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.” ― Thomas à Kempis

Thanks for reading. JD

Photo Credit:
Aaron Burden

The Picture of Humility

humility1342815489_1_image1At a recent Sunday Evening Devotional we did a study of humility and in the course of it ran across some passages that serve as portraits of humility. Interspersed in these passages I included some quotes from Andrew Murray’s awesome book called Humility: The Beauty of Holiness. (Interestingly, it is available FREE today for your kindle HERE.) We begin with a description of humility from Murray:

“Humility is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.”  -Murray

The first portrait of humility has to do with something we associate with everyday living.

Humility as Clothing

1 Peter 5:5-6 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.” – Murray

Humility as a Yoke

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“The highest glory of the creature is in being a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be everything.” Murray

Humility as a Prayer

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” Murray

Humility as a Roadmap

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy  and to walk humbly with your God.

“Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.” –Murray

Of course the greatest picture of Humility is Jesus. He noticed the ones no one else did. He touched the ones no one else would. He blessed the ones others wanted to send away. 

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.” -Murray

“Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.” –Murray

Thanks for reading, JD.

The Gift of Renewal

The Gift of Renewal

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” – Lamentations 3:22-24

Renewal means to begin again or to replenish, to revive, to recover. I know I’m not alone in seeking renewal from the Lord. We can find ourselves spiritual depleted by worry, grief, anxiety, anger, or a host of other things. Where do we find the strength to revitalize our spiritual life so that everything else falls into place?

Our struggles with sin, finances, others can leave us tired and weak.

Our addictions and habits can rob us of happiness and freedom.

Our enemy can convince us that we are not making any progress.

Our sin can become more important to us than our Savior.

Life can wear down our faith. 

Renewal in our hearts is vital for our ongoing relationship with God. The Scriptures point us to some truths that can bring a new and renewed energy to our service to God. 

Renewal Comes From Repentance. There’s no escaping the truth that our own sin, left unattended and growing in our hearts, can rob us of our spiritual vitality. Once David confessed and turned away from his sin, he could feel free to ask God to renew a steadfast spirit with him.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51:10 

Renewal Comes From Hope.  When we are spiritually drained it’s hard to see hope on the road ahead. Sometimes even our best efforts to lift the spirits of a dragging faith are of no effect. We can give up. But don’t give up! There is help and hope from God! Keep your focus on God who will come through with the strength you need.

“…Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Renewal Comes From Our Thoughts. How many are struggling to experience renewal while still trying to live life according to the ways of the world? The world and all of its promises of joy and peace is under the control of the Enemy, and therefore can only bring us heartache and pain. We need to revisit the way we think about things. How does God view this world? How does Jesus want us to see things? What would happen if we focused on His will rather than our own?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Renewal Comes From Perspective. We can lose heart when focused on the material world in front of us at this moment. Our bodies, our world, our lives will ultimately come to an end. It’s the inward person we are that not only exists but also grows daily. The Bible acknowledges that there will be troubles; suffering is a distinct reality. What will we spend our time contemplating … the troubles and hurts or the promises and joys that Christ brings? Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 

Renewal Comes from Rebirth. There is a spiritual renewal that doesn’t come because we’ve worked hard enough or done enough to deserve it. In an act of grace God saves us and sends a renewal by the Holy Spirit. If you have not been baptized, this washing and renewal awaits you. If you have been baptized, then the Holy Spirit lives within you … is poured out into you … and we need to ask Him to supply the renewal we need.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…” Titus 3:4-6

Renewal is needed and available.

Here are some action points:

*Seek Gods’ help in prayer for renewal of your commitment.

*Make a specific list of sins that need to be focused upon so that you can repent of specific sins.

*Seek out someone to pray with you for specific areas of life. Look for someone who can hold a confidence and someone who is a person with a committed prayer life.

*Baptism is an important acknowledgment of your submission to God and trusting Him to do what only He can do … remove your sins. If you haven’t been baptized yet, seek out someone you trust to help you with that process.

Thanks for reading,

JD