Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Have Been Made New

I believe one of the defining theological marks of my generation is a passionate commitment to the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel for all of life.  Some of this could be understood as a corrective to a truncated or shelved gospel, but I am more inclined to believe that God is awakening His people to see all of life through the lens of the gospel and apply it to every area of the Christian experience, from beginning to end.

Along these lines, I want to share how renewal in the Christian life is grounded in the gospel as those who have been saved (justification), are being saved (sanctification), and will be saved (glorification).  In terms of renewal, it could be stated that I have been made new (justification), I am being made new (sanctification), and I will be made new (glorification).  In this post, I will address justification and follow up with subsequent posts to round out what I hope to be a robust understanding of gospel-centered renewal.

Justification says, “I have been made new”

To a rebellious, hard-hearted people, God promised to make a new covenant (Jer. 31:31).  This was a covenant that would be everlasting and established by God not only dwelling among His people but in His people.  It is a new covenant in that God promises to “give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them” (Ez. 11:19).  Not only will they receive a new spirit, by God continues with giving them “a new heart” (Ez. 36:26) thereby removing the heart of stone and grant a heart of flesh.  To put this in New Testament terms, God saved us “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5).

Unlike the sacrifices of old which were repeated and could never “make perfect those who draw near” (Heb. 10:1), Jesus offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins by which He has perfected for all time those who come to “the new and living way” which He opened up for through His flesh (Heb.10:12, 20).  Only though the purchase on the cross can sinners be made new, that is, have new life.  And this newness is secured by an accomplished mission which has continuing effects in bringing renewal until the work of Christ is brought to completion (Phil. 1:6).

Union with Christ is the fountainhead of Christian renewal, and insofar as we appropriate and experience all that it is to be “in Christ,” we will appreciate the immeasurable riches of God’s grace towards those who believe.  And this is precisely the reason why any and all lasting renewal emanates from the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Simply put, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  This is the heart of the Christian experience.  We are made new by promises made by our Father, fulfilled by our Savior, and applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit.

The countervailing approach to renewal in the times of the early church was the practice of circumcision.  Paul encountered a faction in Galatia who thought that it was necessary to find renewal outside the gospel.  He frankly asks, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh (Gal. 3:3)?  At the heart of his letter was the defense of justification by faith alone.  If circumcision is accepted, Paul says “Christ will be of no advantage to you” (Gal. 5:2).  At the conclusion of his letter, Paul left his readers with the following words, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).  We who have “begun by the Spirit” have been made “a new creation” in the work of God justifying sinners on the basis of Christ’s merits alone appropriated by faith in His finished work.  To go anywhere else to be made new is wasting our lives with broken cisterns that cannot hold any water.

Justification says “I have been made new” because God has given a new spirit and a new heart through a new a living way in the substitutionary death of His Son.  We have been saved by the regenerating and renewing work of the Holy Spirit which amounts to nothing short of a new creation in Christ.  The blood of the new covenant will never lose its power, and because we have been saved to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25) by its Mediator, we can come to Him for renewal as one who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).

It makes sense, then, to hear Peter preach the gospel and call sinners to repentance attaching the results of justification and renewal/refreshing thus:

“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:19-21).

In the second part of gospel-centered renewal, I want to continue by show how the present tense of the gospel (I am being made new) reveals the reversal of the curse and renewal into the image of Christ to which our sanctification finds its course.

Explore posts in the same categories: Gospel, Justification, Renewal

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5 Comments on “Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Have Been Made New”

  1. Chris Bonts Says:

    Good word Tim. I am glad you are addressing this topic. In my opinion, this issue is one of the most misunderstood among Christians – the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel. Even for those of us who get the point, the application of that truth to ministry is often difficult because there are so few examples from our past. The idea of the gospel being central to every sermon, for example, and not just the conclusionary call for commitment at the end of a sermon was not a skill taught to me in any of my preaching classes.

  2. […] Provocations & Pantings Trusting God :: Treasuring Christ :: Triumphing the Gospel « Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Have Been Made New […]

  3. Tom Hicks Says:

    Hey Tim,

    I would actually want to distinguish carefully between regeneration and justification, since regeneration is an internal work of the Holy Spirit.

    Certainly regeneration produces the reflex-act of faith, which alone is the subjective means of justification.

    But, justification itself is the objective divine legal pronouncement of “not guilty” and “righteous” solely on the basis of the righteousness of Christ (in His perfect obedience, death, and resurrection) imputed the moment a person first believes.

    What do you think?

    Blessings in Christ,

  4. Tom Hicks Says:

    By the way, I see that you say: “God justifying sinners on the basis of Christ’s merits alone appropriated by faith in His finished work.” Amen!

    I just probably wouldn’t say, “Justification says “I have been made new” *because* God has given a new spirit and a new heart through a new a living way in the substitutionary death of His Son.” I would rather say, “Justification says “righteous” of a believing sinner because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.”

    But, I’m sure you believe that; so, I’m probably nit-picking.


  5. […]  I Have Been Made New 2.  I Am Being Made New (Part 1) 3.  I Am Being Made New (Part 2) 4.  I Will Be Made New 5. […]

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