“None of us has enough inner strength to last a lifetime. We simply can’t make it,” wrote my friend and preaching colleague Gary Henry in his Daybook Enthusiastic Ideas.
“If we are to keep going, we must be ‘renewed’ fairly often. And this process must take place deep inside of us,” Gary opined.
Our preaching and writing theme this year speaks to the issue of renewal, which we want to introduce and define in each blog post this week.
If we are to make renewal real, if it is to become more than just a catchy slogan, then we must get deep inside ourselves. We must begin with three very important, fundamental steps.
#1 Believe that renewal is realistic.
We may dismiss this talk of renewal with excuses like, “I’m too old to change.” Or “I’m too set in my ways.” Or maybe, “I’m fine just the way I am.”
The concept of renewal implies that we’re growing. The Bible commands that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). When does that stop? When we’re 40 years old? 50? 60? 70?
When I was a student at Florida College, one of my Bible professors, Homer Hailey, was in his mid 60’s. His Bible knowledge was legendary. He could quote scripture for an entire class period. Occasionally, some of us preacher-boys would get carried away and call brother Hailey a scholar. He would always say, “Boys, I’m a student. I’m still learning.” Indeed, he was. As many of his books and commentaries were written in his 70’s, 80’s and even his early 90’s.
Growing and learning, of course, involves change. God wants us to change. Becoming a Christian requires change when we repent of our sins and are baptized into Christ. We put off the old person of sin, and are “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). But this transformation is not fully complete upon primary obedience. It is a lifetime process.
#2 Decide what you value.
Values are the basic, fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate our attitudes and actions. They determine what is really important to us. Values describe the personal qualities that we choose to embody. The character we develop. The person we become. Hyrum Smith says, “Whatever your particular governing values may be, they are represented by the clearest answers you can give to these questions: What are the highest priorities in my life? And, Of these priorities which do I value the most?”
Is it possible for us to give lip service to our spiritual values on Sunday morning, but fail to live by them Monday through Saturday? As one writer observed, “It is unlikely you will become the person you want to be if the decisions you make conflict with your values.”
This is where we must honestly ask, “Are my values based on my relationship with Christ?” His Word? And His standard for my life? A good place to sort out what you truly value is to read and reflect on The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Are you seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? (Matt. 6:33).
#3 Quit talking about being better, and focus on specific changes.
It’s easy to talk in general terms and say, “I want to be a better Christian.” Really? Then, what would that look like? What would make you a better Christian? Where are you falling short? What habits do you need to give up? What disciplines do you need to develop? Are there areas of your life with weaknesses that require attention?
The apostle Paul exhorts, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). This is an exercise, as Gary expressed it, that “must take place deep inside of us.”
Renewal is not a yearly event. But a daily process. Paul said that our “inner nature” can be “renewed day by day” (2Cor. 4:16).
As Pulitzer Prize author Pearl S. Buck expressed it, “Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.”
Let’s renew in ‘22.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman