Spiritual Renewal Pt. 2

Last week, we defined Spiritual renewal as: living each day with a functional belief that all the promises of God in the Gospel are true—and relevant. They touch and shape our lives where it matters. They intersect with reality and bring hope.

In his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, George Hunter III wrote: 

Western Christian leaders usually focus on the ‘ultimate’ issues, as they define them, to the exclusion of the lesser issues; indeed, they often consider middle issues ‘beneath’ them! When Christianity ignores, or does not help people cope with these middle issues, we often observe ‘Split-Level Christianity’ in which people go to church so they can go to heaven, but they also visit, say, the shaman or the astrologer for help with the pressing problems that dominate their lives.

His observation is spot on, in my opinion. We in the west love talking about the ultimate issues like guilt and forgiveness; and dying and going to heaven. But those middle issues elude us—those “pressing problems that dominate our life,” like doubt, assurance, fear, anger, depression, addiction, and loneliness. Reminds me of a song:  

They say You live in hospitals and trenches 

And towers in the sky 

But I'm not dying or fighting any wars 

Except on the inside 

And I am looking for the well that won't run dry 

The rest that weary thoughts cannot deny 

When You wrap Your arms around me 

I can walk away or face the emptiest day 

The words I find impossible to mention 

Are written on a star 

They say that I can find You in a flower 

But I need You in the car.” 

That Caedmon’s Call song has always resonated with me. Can your Christian faith help you face the emptiest day, or is it useful only at hospitals and in trenches? Do you have a functional belief in God's promises? Are you able to apply them to all of life—all your problems, issues, sins, struggles, and sufferings? 

Jesus once told a crowd of religious leaders, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly…I am the good shepherd.” I can’t think of a better summary of spiritual renewal than that: Living the good life with the good shepherd. The word abundant means extraordinary and remarkable. In a word, complete. Jesus meant living life to the fullest, leaning into his promises. We covered the first promise. Here are the other three.   

2. In Christ, I am free from the bondage of sin. Jesus broke sin’s power over us. It’s dead. We are no longer its slave. Paul said it like this: 

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.…For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace… you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God. —Romans 6 

Jesus liberated us from sin’s tyranny. It no longer holds dominion over us. We can “walk away” from temptation. We have a new master. We’ve been released. Luther said, “It is easier to speak of the freedom that Christ has purchased for us than it is to believe it.” 

We will struggle with temptation for the rest of our life, but that is not a signal for defeat. To struggle is not to surrender, it’s to engage. We’re soldiers. We’re called to put sin to death—to kill it!  Sin is a conquered foe. Don’t let it return to power.

Christ triumphed over our sin, and because of our union with him, his victory becomes our victory. We’ve been crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and raised with Christ. We are free from sin’s tyranny and dead to sin’s power. We are alive to God.

3. I am not alone. I have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within me. Do you sometimes feel alone, weak, and vulnerable. In Christ, you’re not. You have an “advantage.” That’s the term Jesus used to describe His going away and sending the Holy Spirit to us.

In John 14-16, Jesus prepared his followers for life and ministry without His physical presence. The takeaway from that family talk is this: He will still be spiritually present with his followers in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will equip them for witness and move the world to accept their message. He will comfort and guide them. He will grant them assurance. He will give them gifts of grace to edify the church. He will fill them, seal them, convict them, and help them in prayer. He will not leave them helpless. 

We can rest in this promise from the lips of Jesus: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever… You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” —John 14.  

4. I have authority in spiritual conflict. We are not at the mercy of the enemy. Our hands are not tied. His are! Satan suffered loss and defeat at the Cross. Not us. 

Paul wrote of Jesus, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in the Cross” —Colossians 2:15. The Cross was a public defeat for Satan and his legions. The war was settled, but the battle rages on.

We fight against the world, the devil, and the flesh. But we are not without armor and weapons. Neither are we in ignorance of Satan’s methods, strategies, and devices. Believers encounter the forces of darkness in four ways: temptation, deception, accusation, and assault.  

But Jesus said to his followers. “I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” —Luke 10. And Paul told the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” —Romans 16:20.  

Satan’s days are numbered, literally, and we have authority over him. Plenty has been written on spiritual warfare, and honestly, some of it has not served believers well. 

Here’s how the Bible calls us to engage the enemy, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” —James 4:7. 

Richard Lovelace said of those simple instructions:  

Once the activity of Satan has been detected in any situation, unusual caution or elaborate rituals of exorcism are not necessary to handle the enemy forces. The Bible says simply, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The first phrase here might be translated, “Order your lives under God.” In effect, it means that a Christian should come fully into the light of Christ’s redemptive provisions for him as he opposes the forces of darkness, laying hold by faith of every dimension of strength with which his union with Christ endues him. 

What’s he saying? No need to burn sage, call a priest, perform some mystical ritual, or live in fear. Jesus defeated Satan. Period. Our hope is this: we belong to Christ. We are his property. And he left us with the weapons we need to stand against our enemy. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” —Ephesians 6.

In Scripture, the church is on the offensive, and the blows she receives from Satan come from a retreating enemy. Our enemy's head has already been cut off—like Goliath’s. So we don’t have to fear the Philistines or flee from their invasions.

Those 4 promises are for you, believer. Embrace them. Celebrate them. Remember them. Believe them! They have been given to you exclusively through the merits of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection. 

So when you wrestle with thoughts like: I don’t belong. I’m weak. I’m a victim.  I’m alone. I’m helpless. I’m a mistake. Unleash those Gospel promises on those lies. May the Lord renew you as you continue to believe the gospel—all of it.