By Nick Sigur
Renewal is not well understood, not generally and, sadly, not by “Christians.” A word study may be helpful.
Renewal is a noun. Looking to the dictionary, it can be an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption, e.g. “a renewal of hostilities.” Synonyms include: resumption, recommencement, continuation, and re-establishment.
Another common definition of “renewal” is the action of extending the period of validity of a license, subscription, or contract, e.g. “the contracts came up for renewal.”
One dictionary even provides: (among charismatic Christians) the state or process of being made spiritually new in the Holy Spirit. It’s great that the dictionary acknowledges that renewal is a special, maybe THE special thing for the follower of Jesus; but it doesn’t help explain what it is or how it works.
For those looking for, expecting, maybe experiencing what they believe is “renewal,” the definition is critical. For me, the only definition that works is: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.
Too often we consider “renewal” to be an instance of resuming a state. We believe we had it all together, but somehow it slipped away. Our cure is to return to doing what we did before. We look to more prayer or bible reading or “good” works. We know we can “do” better. That’s not renewal; that’s a return to the law.
Likewise, we often consider renewal to be the extending of the period of validity of a contract. After all, didn’t we have a deal with God. I “let Him into my heart” and He “fixes everything.” When everything isn’t fixed, we begin to check the fine print of our “saved” agreement. Too often we thought we were dealing for our “best life now.” When the new car, unearned advancement, or miraculous healing of our immature relationships doesn’t work, we whip out the contract and study the fine print.
If we turn to Christ in less than a state of despair, our renewal will never be what God intends. If we look at “salvation” as nothing more than getting that “heaven or hell” issue resolved, there will be no life change, since there is no sense of a need for it. If we looked to God to upgrade our lives, to move us to First Class from coach, to give us the life “He always intended and we always deserved,” we will drown in the inevitable disappointment real life provides.
We must come to Christ recognizing that we need to replace or repair something that is worn out, run-down, broken. If we don’t think our lives are beyond self-repair, we will always slip back into trying to fix things ourselves.
This is why I love prison ministry. The incarcerated have little realistic choice but to recognize that their lives are broken beyond self-help or repair. It may be more difficult for free men to recognize their absolute inability to control their own lives and their absolute need for Jesus, but without that recognition there is no renewal and no new life.