Posted tagged ‘Renewal’

No one needs the gospel more than me.

March 11, 2010

This morning, I enjoyed another meeting with two young men of Grace (my A-team) at Panera talking about being faithful to apply the gospel to our own heart.  If I truly know myself, we will be quick to confess that the worst sinner in the room at any given time is me.  Therefore, there is no one who needs the gospel more than me.  This may sound really selfish, but faithfully preaching the gospel to myself is actually what enables me to share it faithfully to others.  When my heart is renewed in the gospel and utterly satisfied with all that God is for me in Jesus Christ, then the joyful overflow of the gospel’s work will enlarge my affections for the lost and loose my tongue to share of the amazing mercies found in Him.

The gospel should never be like that computer file stuck in your hard drive that has not been accessed in over a year so that it is impossible to find.  Instead, when the gospel is retrieved time and again on a regular basis, it be readily accessed to share and for others to “download” for themselves.  If we believe that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) we cannot limit that transforming work to a brief period at the beginning of a Christian life.  For those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation in an ongoing basis as we see more of God’s excellencies, expose our sinful depravity, and increasingly exult in the glories of Jesus Christ who is for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Let me give you a personal example from this morning . . .

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Gospel Renewal Through the Fear of the Lord

September 16, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I started up a series on gospel-centered renewal, and I want to continue thinking through spiritual renewal that is gospel-nourished.  One of the things that has struck me of late is how the Scripture connects “the fear of the Lord” to metaphors or direct references to life, sustenance, and satisfaction.

Before I do, I want state by way of premise that I believe the “fear of the Lord” is the outworking of the gospel as stated in the new covenant promise (Psalm 130:4; Jer. 32:39-40).  Apart from the gospel’s work in a believer, it is impossible to know the fear of the Lord and thus impossible to experience the realities depicted in the verses below.

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Leadership Retreat Feedback

September 5, 2009

This past week, the pastors of Grace hunkered down for three days for our leadership retreat.  Just a couple of days out of it, the meetings are still fresh on my mind.  I think we all agreed that it was really productive, but I also believe it can always improve and be done better.

I am convinced of the importance of such retreats for personal renewal, team building, ministry assessment, and vision casting (among others).  Conferences are good to aid in some of this, but they are no replacement for a retreat that deals directly and comprehensively on the local church and the men called to serve in a leadership capacity.

Below is the template I created and that we ran with this past week (I stripped it down to remove details).  I am providing it to get your thoughts, suggestions, examples, or any other ideas on this matter.  I want to serve my fellow pastors and church at large by helping us develop the best retreats possible in the future.  Any feedback you’d be willing to provide is great appreciated, and if you would care to share docs, you can email me at timmybrister[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Renewal Through Remembering

August 13, 2009

I’m continuing my series on gospel-centered renewal with excerpts and commentary focusing on how we experience renewal in the Christian life.  If our union with Christ is the heart of renewal, then we should also consider the main arteries from which such nourishment and vitality comes.

Today I want to encourage you to consider how remembering the works of the Lord bring renewal in the Christian life, and in particular, I want to pull from the book of Psalms. There are times in our lives where we are hungry and feel empty, thirsty and cannot find water to satisfy being parched, downcast in spirit and seemingly walking in perpetual darkness.  When your life feels like it is being wasted away, what do you do to find renewal?  You remember who God is and meditate and all that He has done, specifically in the gospel.

In Psalm 42, we find the psalmist panting and thirsting for God where his tears have been his food day and night.  The refrain of this psalm reveals the nature of his struggle, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5, 11).  The answer to this question is hoping in God by remembering what He has done.  Verse 4 explains:

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4

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We do pant for this.

August 8, 2009

On March 24, 1878, Charles Spurgeon prayed over his congregation, and included in that prayer are the following requests for renewal:

“O Lord, give us more and more to have the new life, yea, and to have it more abundantly, for this is one of the objects of His coming.  May the new life always rule us, may we walk by its power, may we have strength through its influence, may we be elevated by its energies, may we be indeed entirely subjugated, as to our own entire manhood, to the control of the Holy Spirit through the new-born life.  We do pant for this.”

– Charles H. Spurgeon, The Pastor in Prayer, 31.

Jonathan Edwards on Continued Transformation and Renewal

August 7, 2009

In his book Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argued that one way distinguish truly gracious affections from others is that they are attended with a change of nature.  When the soul has a spiritual understanding of the excellency and glory of divine things, such understanding brings the supernatural effect of transformation, or a change of nature.  Because this conversion not only imparts “light from the Sun of Righteousness” but also becomes “a luminous thing” by partaking of the nature of the Fountain of their light.  To put it another way, Edwards says “the saints not only drink of the water of life that flows from the original fountain, but this water becomes a fountain of water in them, springing up there and flowing out of them.” What Edwards is illustrating is the continual renewal that comes from participating in the glory of divine things through the transforming power of the gospel.

As I have been developing a theology of renewal in recent weeks, I want to post the following excerpt from Edwards quite pertinent to the discussion.  Check it out.

“As it is with spiritual discoveries and affections given at first conversion, so it is in all subsequent illuminations and affections of this kind; they are all transforming.  There is a like divine power and energy in them as in the first discoveries; they still reach the bottom of the heart, and affect and alter the very nature of the soul, in proportion to the degree in which they are given.  And a transformation of nature is continued and carried on by them to the end of life, until it is brought to perfection in glory.  Hence the progress of the work of grace in the hearts of the saints is represented in Scripture as a continued conversion and renovation of nature” (270).

Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Will Be Made New

August 5, 2009

:: The Series ::
I Have Been Made New (Justification)
I Am Being Made New (Part 1) (Sanctification)
I Am Being Made New (Part 2)

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:5-10
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

What we often fail to consider is the eschatological hope of renewal in the glorification of the saints–the future tense of the gospel.  As those who enjoy the good of the gospel through repentance-driven renewal, we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth” according to His promise (2 Pet. 3:13).  We who have been made new through the promise of the Father in the new covenant, purchased by the Son in His death, and applied by the Spirit in His regeneration, are awaiting the day where we will be changed so that mortality will taken on immortality and corruption will taken incorruptibility (1 Cor. 15:52-54).

This is only possible because the “second Adam” brought new life where the first Adam brought death (Rom. 5:12-21).  Where sin brought death and condemnation, grace brought life and acceptance in the beloved–and it is this reign of grace that will persevere to glory and usher us into His presence.   Paul tells that the first Adam was merely a living creature, but the “last Adam” is a life-giving spirit because of whom those bearing “the image of the man of dust” will also bear “the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:45-49).  This is a picture of the progressive renewal of the image of God in man through the application of the gospel in apprehending our union with Christ which satisfies the heart of the one who treasures Jesus.

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Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 2)

August 3, 2009

:: The Series ::
I Have Been Made New
I Am Being Made New (Part 1)

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Colossians 3:5-10
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

According to Scripture two things are happening simultaneously.  Outwardly, we are “wasting away” while inwardly we are “being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).  This body Paul calls a “jar of clay” has in it “this treasure” of the gospel of the glory of Christ.  And it is because of this treasure that we both experience “momentary afflictions” and one day “an eternal weight of glory.” Without the centrality of the gospel, neither of these realities would be known.

Beholding Christ and Being Made New

The way in which we are being made new is seen in 2 Cor. 3:18 which says:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This little verse packs glorious truths of how we are being made knew and what God is making as the Potter upon these jars of clay.  The means of renewal is “beholding the glory of the Lord.”  Sounds quite abstract, doesn’t it?  But Paul makes it plain what, rather who, we are to behold in 2 Cor. 4:4, 6.  We are to behold (vs. 4) “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” and again (vs. 6) “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  The gospel is the eternal spotlight on the glory of Christ, so if we want to know the glory of God, we must look supremely upon the face of Jesus Christ.

The effects of beholding Christ is that we might be renewed (transformed) into the image of God from one degree of glory to another.  We are being transformed because this process of being made new is so glorious that we cannot handle it but in degrees!  The image of God marred by sin is be recreated in the new man being perfected for glory.  Paul tells the church at Colossae that they have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10).  The image which God is committed to renewing comes from the knowledge found in the gospel which leads us to see and savor Jesus Christ who is our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

What this means for you and me is that renewal in the Christian does not come by growth steps but by gospel sight.  It is not what we do for Jesus but what we see in Jesus that brings us into greater conformity to His image.  A failure to center your life on the gospel and embrace the supremacy of Christ has tragic implications because this is precisely the means of renewal we need to experience the eternal weight of glory that awaits us.  Each degree of glory in our daily renewal and transformation are like birth pangs when we shall be like Him fully, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

And oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 1)

August 1, 2009

Picking up where I left off, I want to draw out the continuous nature of gospel renewal through the ongoing work of sanctification.  Behind these posts is the central theological motif that our union with Christ is the fountainhead of all genuine renewal in the Christian life, and therefore we should center our lives, churches, and ministries on the gospel of Jesus Christ and experience its satisfying and strengthening work from beginning to end.

Justification and Sanctification

We are made new by the justification of God where the new covenant promises of the Father are fulfilled in new and living way of Christ’s atoning death through which we experience regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  This work of renewal continues as those who are being saved continually repent and believe the good news which is forever theirs in Christ Jesus.  God is committed to perfect a people for Himself by reversing the curse of sin through the Fall as His people are changed into the likeness of Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).

In justification, we are made a new creation in Christ by the sovereign work of God in bringing those who are dead in trespasses and sin and making them alive (Eph. 2:1-5).  The continuing work of this resurrection power is seen as “the old passing away as all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17b).  We are being made new (sanctification) only because we have been made new (justification).  Those who seek renewal upon spiritual performances and not the gospel are trying to be made new without having been made new, thereby replacing justification with sanctification.  This deathly treadmill is a cycle which does not breed new life but new despair in the heart of those whose hopes are in what they can do for God rather than what God has done for them.

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Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Have Been Made New

July 29, 2009

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).

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