A key verse about renewal is Romans 12:2.
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Today we will look at three areas we need renewal.
I. Renewing Ourselves (or Our hearts) in Christ
Often we pray for revival. We ask God to bring revival in our church and our country. We ask God to save our family members. But it has to start with us. You can’t bring to others what you don’t have yourself. If we want a church that reflects the image of Christ, we must have individuals who live like Christ.
There are several aspects of renewal that we will look at here.
A. Born Again
Titus 3:3-5 – For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 3 is the reality that we were born into. It is not a pretty picture. We were born into sin. We are described as “foolish, disobedient, slaves of our passions and pleasures,” creatures of “malice and envy.” In other verses, people are described as “dead.”
A dead person cannot save himself. If a person has drowned and is sinking in the water, it is not enough to throw him a life ring and ask him to grab on. In a sermon by Voddie Bauchum, he said, “dead people can’t grab!”
What is needed is for someone to jump in the water, drag the person out, and perform CPR. In our case, we need someone to breath into us spiritual life because we don’t have any of our own.
We are not like a plant that just needs to turn over a new leaf. It is not enough to say, “I will do better.” Or “I will try harder.” It is not about having more will-power, more books, or better influences.
We are dead and we need life. Jesus said that we “must be born again.” We need spiritual life that only God can give.
At creation, when God created man, he first formed man from the dust of the ground. Adam was a pile of dirt, nothing more. No amount of will-power or desire on Adam’s part could bring about life to that pile of dirt. Adam needed an outside force to give him life. God provided it. The Lord breathed into Adam the breath of life and only then Adam became a living soul.
That is what we need. We need an outside force to make us clean, to impart spiritual life, and to give us a new heart. That is what Titus 3:5 shows us the Lord does.
He washes us (regeneration). That is the cleansing from Him. And He renews us through the Holy Spirit. He gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).
None of what we will talk about in the rest of the message will be possible if you have not experienced this initial renewal in Him.
If you have never experienced that cleansing from Him, then I would invite you today to do so. Rather than making new year resolutions, ask God to make you a new you in the new year.
If you have received new life in Christ, we need to live in that power and in that reality.
B. Actively Putting Off the Old and Putting on the New
We are recipients of the cleansing and renewal that the Lord brings to us. But that does not mean we are passive or have no role to play. Scripture makes it clear that we are to be active in this process.
Ephesians 4:22-24 – To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
The phrase “put off” and “put on” shows that we have a decision to make.
After salvation, we have a new reality. There is a new you. You have already been renewed. But the old flesh is still there. Each day and many times during the day you have to actively decide to live according to that new reality. You have to actively depend on the power of the cross and choose to say “no” (put off) the old self and put on the new.
Once there was a king who adopted a pauper. The pauper became a prince. He was given a place within the palace. He had a kingly inheritance. He had the rights and privileges of being a son of the king. The king even gave him new clothes. His reality had changed. Yet each day he woke up, he still needed to decide what set of clothes to put on. Would he live like the prince that he was? Or would he go back to his previous way of life?
God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. – CS Lewis
Being renewed is a continuous process. It starts at salvation. But sanctification doesn’t happen in an instant. Each time you decide to follow Jesus (putting off the old and putting on the new) your new self is a little stronger and your old self is a little weaker.
God is the one renewing and changing us. At the same time, we are to take an active role in this process.
Application – What is something that you need to put off this year? Perhaps it is a remnant of your old self.
• A certain kind of music or media
• Unedifying speech
• A bad habit
What is something that you need to put on?
• Quiet time
• Encouraging words
It is possible. If you depend on the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can be renewed. I hope at the end of the year people look at you and see a new you.
C. Renewing in knowledge
Colossians 3:10 – And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
I was talking with my son this week and he said, “you are what you eat.” You have probably heard that saying before. And to some extent, it is true. Food is fuel for your bodies. Your body turns that food into fat, muscle, bone, blood, etc. Eat lots of unhealthy and processed foods and you will likely be unhealthy, inflamed, and overweight. Some studies even showed that eating more spicy food leads to aggression.
On the other hand, if you eat healthy food (fruits and vegetables, things God made), you will generally be a healthy person. Daniel and his friends ate healthy food and their demeanor and countenance looked better than their counterparts.
What you take in physically affects you physically. And what you take in spiritually affects you spiritually.
We are to be “renewed in knowledge.” Before Christ, we only know the things of the world, worldly wisdom. After we come to Christ, we have the beginning of wisdom (the fear of the Lord.) Yet there are so many things we don’t know yet. We are immature. We need to study. We need to learn.
The same is true physically. I don’t know about your kids, but mine weren’t born mature. This past week in our family devotions, we read the verse in John 8:50 where Jesus said he did not come to glorify himself. We talked about this for 20-30 minutes, discussing our appearance, competing in sports, winning, seeking praise, etc. At the end of that time, I asked my youngest daughter, “what is one way you cannot seek your glory?” Probably the question was too hard. She said, “share my toys.” Interestingly, she answers almost every question with “share my toys.”
That is good. That is a good start. She has some knowledge. When we come to the Lord, we are like that. We have some knowledge, but it is limited. If we want to grow, we need to learn more. We need to expand our minds.
And that means, we need to fill it with truth from God’s Word. As we fill ourselves with the knowledge from God, it will renew us from the inside out. We will start to think differently. Our opinions about common practices in our lives and around us will change. Our worldview will change. We will have more discernment. Our ideas about right and wrong will change.
Application – 1 Peter 2:2 – Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.
If you want to be renewed in Christ this year, you need to increase your knowledge of Him. There are a lot of possible applications. Memorizing the word, reading Christian biographies, watching sermons. But I will give you one simple key one. Set a Bible reading plan for the year.
D. A New Lens
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
When God created the world, He declared that it was “very good.” Everything was good. People included. Their minds were completely pure and righteous.
When they sinned, their minds became corrupted along with everything else. It changed how they thought. It changed how they looked at each other (they felt ashamed and embarrassed). It changed how they looked at God (they tried to hide).
Our mind is the filter through which we look at the world. An unredeemed mind cannot comprehend the things of God. His mind is enslaved to sin and the world (1 Corinthians 2:14). Satan knows that the real battle is in the mind. The world knows this as well.
Governments around the world therefore want to get children early and then control how they think through a certain type of education. Media is another tool that is used to influence people’s minds.
A mind that is not redeemed cannot see anything wrong with the world’s ideas. Without Christ, people’s minds will descend every deeper into depravity.
We see it in the world all around us.
Rather than a renewing, it is continuous degeneration. Think about it. In every area the world seeks to appeal to the flesh, people want more and more and their desires are never satisfied.
• Thrill seeking. Roller coasters today are way more ambitious and over the top than 50 years ago. Movies are louder, wilder, crazier.
• Pleasure seeking. It is a bigger industry with more options and more money than ever before.
• Lust. Immorality is growing rampant. When people start down this road, they will never be satisfied. It takes more and more to excite them and hold their attention.
This continuous degeneration is described in Romans 1. It is both corporate. Entire groups are going farther than ever before. And it is individual. A person who is not having their minds renewed, is having their minds decayed.
There are so many aspects of wrong thinking that are common in society.
• Live and let live.
• Look out for number 1.
• As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it is OK.
• Truth is relative and changes over time. Your truth and my truth are different.
Wrong thinking is not only a problem in society at large. It creeps into the church, often unnoticed.
Among evangelicals in the US:
• 52% say that people are basically good.
• 58% say that God accepts worship of all religions. (7% higher than 4 years ago)
• 55 % believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.
• 78% believe that Jesus was created by God the Father.’
• 51% believe the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality does not apply today.
• 44 % say that Jesus was a great teacher and not God.
These stats show that many church-goers are not following Romans 12:2 and renewing their minds. They are looking at these issues through the lens of secularism rather than the lens of Scripture. Romans 12:2 says, “do not be conformed to this world.”
This world is under the influence of the prince of the power of the air, the devil. It is fallen and corrupt.
When the world espouses a certain view, we should examine very closely to see what God’s Word has to see. And in most cases, we should run. When I was growing up, I often heard my father say, “if most people in the world are doing it, it is probably wrong.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 – We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Part of renewing our minds is first recognizing all the lies from this world and then destroying those deceptions, first in our minds, and then in our families, church, and community.
Renewing the mind is a little like refinishing furniture. It is a two-stage process. It involves taking off the old and replacing it with the new. The old is the lies you have learned to tell or were taught by those around you; it is the attitudes and ideas that have become a part of your thinking but do not reflect reality. The new is the truth. To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. To the degree that you do this, your behavior will be transformed. – Charles Stanley
As your mind is renewed, you will hate the things that you once loved and love the things that you once hated.
Application– What glasses are you wearing?
II. Renewing Our Fellowship in Christ
Isaiah 43:18-21 – Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
This was originally written for the Jews near the time when they were going to be judged by Babylon for their centuries of sin and idolatry.
God was reminding them that the judgment was temporary. He was also reminding them that things were going to be different. Even when they came out of exile, they would not go back to the same situation as before. They should not live in the past. They should not spend their time dwelling on the past or what they had before.
They are told, “remember not the former things.”
God was going to do something new. He says, “do you not perceive it?” It was their job to pay attention and look carefully so that they would not miss it.
The new thing was not going to be the same as what was done before. Now the Jews did end up missing it. When the New Covenant came, they did not perceive it. When the Messiah came, they did not recognize Him. Instead they were always dwelling in the past and looking at their own ancient rules and traditions.
They tried to put Jesus into the confines of the Old Covenant. But it didn’t work. Jesus told them that they couldn’t put new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17). Because of their focus on the past, they missed the blessings of the present and the future.
And why does He do this?
Isaiah 43:21 says that He does so that we might declare His praise. We do that directly to Him and also as a testimony to other people around us. We are not renewed only for own sakes (though that is a great blessing), but for His sake to give praise back to Him.
Perhaps during Covid years things changed for you, your church, or your fellowship.
Should you go back to normal?
In our fellowship, Covid and Covid restrictions (in China) turned into a blessing in disguise.
One of the biggest blessings was the chance to meet often in small groups on Sundays instead of only in the large group.
From the very beginning of the early New Testament church, house churches were the means of believers meeting together.
And there are many benefits of meeting in small groups in homes.
• The practice encourages volunteers to pitch in and serve. People can help with food, cleaning, and set up each week.
• It promotes closer and warmer fellowship. Getting to know people and making friends in large churches can be hard. In contrast, the limited size of the body, plus the fact that it is meeting in a home, means more natural, personal fellowship.
• It promotes accountability. The anonymity of large groups means people can show up or not, obey or not, and no one may notice. In smaller, home fellowships, believers are more likely to keep each accountable by asking questions. It allows the members to get deeper into each other’s lives. Those who join are more inclined to be active and engaged.
• The fewer numbers mean that a larger percentage of people can lead. In many small groups, different people led the discussion time, which is a good way to be equipped to lead a group.
• Home churches are more flexible, organic, and reproducible.
• Because of the closer fellowship and accountability, it is more likely that believers’ lives will be transformed by the Scripture. Close friends will encourage and challenge each other to live out the Word in their marriage, family, and workplace.
• Meeting at homes saves money that can be spent on fulfilling the Great Commission. Some churches put a lot of focus on facilities. These cost a lot of money and some churches go into debt for them. While meeting in a large building is not wrong, home churches are more efficient from a financial perspective.
If you look at the past three years, you will see that He did make a way in the wilderness. He did bring water for us in the desert. Even with all of the restrictions and lockdowns, He was faithful. Not on of His good promises failed.
New often means stretching us beyond our comfort zones. Something that is stagnant is not being renewed. Being renewed means change.
It is not enough for us to be renewed as individuals or even as a body. God does not want us to be inward focused, but outward focused.
As we are renewed in the image of Christ, we can go into the world and bring that renewal to our community around us.
III. Renewing Our City/Community With Christ
As we are renewed and our fellowship is renewed, we can go out from there to bring the renewal that Christ offers to the community.
Isaiah 52:7 – How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
We are called to bring good news to the community we live in. Our family. Our workplace. Our schools. Our neighborhoods. Our city.
What is life? There are various definitions. But one thing I read is that all life is capable of reproduction. God designed life to reproduce. If something (say a tree or a plant) does not reproduce, it is likely dead.
Are you alive spiritually? If you have been renewed in Christ, He has called you to reproduce. One of his first commands to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. God wants us to do the same thing spiritually.
If you are being renewed, the natural outflow of that is that you will bring that new life to those around you. Everything that is alive reproduces.
We cannot hope to bring anything good to the world unless we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and transform us. And at the same, if we are being transformed by Him we will have a heart of love for those around us. We won’t be able to just do our own thing and ignore them.
While others still slept, He went away to pray and to renew His strength in communion with His Father. He had need of this, otherwise He would not have been ready for the new day. The holy work of delivering souls demands constant renewal through fellowship with God. – Andrew Murray
Application – How are you going to bring the good news to your community in the coming year?
Here are three possible suggestions.
• Open your home to others. Invite people over and show hospitality (not only believers, but also unbelievers from your work or neighborhood or sports team, etc) If you don’t have a home, instead invite people out to eat.
• Pay attention to God’s work in your life and regularly share testimony with others.
• Start inviting your non-believing friends to some activities (soccer, frisbee, museum, hiking, etc.). Make a point to talk about spiritual things with them before, during, or after. If they are open and willing, share the good news.
Do you have beautiful feet?
Here is a new year resolution for you, make sure that you have beautiful feet by the end of the year. Take the good news to others.
A beautiful picture of renewal is found in Psalm 1.
Psalms 1:2-3 – but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
A tree planted by water becomes healthy and tall, bears fruit and provides shade to give nourishment to those who are nearby. Then it sends seeds far away.
As I was preparing for this message, I spent a bit of time researching seeds. I didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently most people take seeds to be something on Minecraft these days. The top 8 results about seeds were all about Minecraft.
I am not talking about those seeds. I am talking about the ones God made.
Here are just a few of the seeds He made.
• Seed heart. Pod. Can float.
• Cocoa De Mer. Up to 18 kilograms.
• Orchid seeds. 24 billion times lighter than the Cocao De Mer. Can float hundreds of miles. 1 capsule with 4 million seeds. Can land on and grow in trees.
• Wild oats walking seeds.
These are just a few examples. God uses even nature itself to teach us that life means reproducing and that we must pass on the spiritual life He has given us to others.
So what kind of a tree are you?
The secret to a healthy tree is good nourishment, water and the sun. The secret to renewal is to drink from Jesus, the living water. You cannot achieve renewal on your own. It is not as simple as turning over a new leaf. You must come to the source of all life. And ask Him to renew you now. You can use the following verse as a model for a prayer to ask God to renew you.
Psalms 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.