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- Embrace the gospel as God’s ultimate solution for our guilt (new record), corruption (new heart), and all problems of life, personal and social (new world), and
- Walk in obedience to God by continually repenting and believing in the gospel in reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Personal Renewal Dynamics
In the last lesson, we learned that a biblical vision for renewal includes a vision for the renewal of individuals, churches, and communities through the transforming power of the gospel. Now we’re taking a deeper look at what the Bible teaches about personal (individual) renewal.
The key to personal renewal is understanding and applying the gospel as God’s ultimate solution to all problems of life. In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus teaches how to apply the gospel to our lives:
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
Repentance and faith are two dynamics of a spiritual combustion cycle that God means to be at work in our hearts at all times, renewing and changing us into the image of his Son. To experience the transforming power of the gospel, we must be walking in obedience to God by continually repenting and believing in the gospel in reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit.
To help us better understand what it means to experience personal renewal by living a life of obedience through ongoing repentance and belief in the gospel, let’s take a deeper look at the meaning of the gospel. Earlier we saw that the gospel is the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, is being redeemed by Christ and restored by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God. This is a broad, sweeping overview of the good news we are to believe.
But as we go deeper into the biblical meaning of the gospel, we learn how God redeems fallen humanity and creation in the person and work of Christ. The Bible teaches that this redemption is through the gospel events of what Jesus did in his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension to his heavenly throne. But the good news of the gospel is more than merely the proclamation of what Jesus did.
The good news is also about who Jesus is because of what he did. The Bible teaches that, because of what Jesus did, God affirms and declares who Jesus is – he is Savior and Lord. This means that as Savior, God has given Jesus the authority to bestow salvation. And as Lord, God has given Jesus the authority to require submission.
But the gospel is about more than the proclamation of what Jesus did and who Jesus is. The good news is also about the astonishing gospel promises God makes to all who will repent and believe in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. What are these promises God makes to all who will follow him by repenting and believing in Jesus Christ as the resurrected and ruling Savior and Lord?
As a broad overview, this is the good news of God’s promise to redeem and restore fallen humanity and creation from all the consequences of sin. But in a more narrow, specific way, this is the good news of God’s promises to make all things new for all who will follow Jesus in repentance and faith. This includes God’s promises of:
• a new status of forgiveness and righteousness before God to replace the old status of being under God’s just wrath and condemnation because of guilt,
• a new heart and a new Spirit from God, the Holy Spirit, to replace the old heart and old desires with new affections and desires that love God and others,
• a new community formed by the Holy Spirit from a redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth, called the Church, and
• a new world when Jesus returns to end all suffering, restore all things to God’s original design, and rule over his kingdom on earth with his people forever.
So what do we do to receive these remarkable benefits that God promises? We saw earlier that Jesus tells us to “repent and believe in the gospel.” When Jesus calls us to repent, he’s not calling us to beat up on ourselves or just clean up our lives. Instead, he’s calling us to a radical change of heart.
The Bible teaches that our root problem is not an external, behavioral problem. It’s a problem of the heart. And the reason our heart is not more transformed is because we have allowed our heart’s affections to be captured by idols that steal our heart affection away from God. In Scripture, an idol is something from which we get our identity. It is making something or someone other than Jesus Christ our true source of happiness or fulfillment.
The idols that capture our hearts today include things like approval, reputation, or success. For some it’s comfort, control, pleasure, or power. For others it’s possessions, sex, money, or a relationship.
Idols can be good causes such as making an impact, having a happy home, a good marriage, or obedient children. Even a good thing can become an idol if it becomes such a source of our identity that without it our life becomes meaningless.
However, repentance is only half of our responsibility in personal renewal. It’s the negative side of the transformation equation. So let’s look now to the positive strategy of “faith in the gospel.”
The reason Jesus commands us to “repent and believe in the gospel” is because faith in the gospel is the mysterious means God ordains through which the power of his victory as our King is meant to flow in and through our lives and our churches.
But believing in the gospel is not simply believing that the gospel events, affirmations, and promises are true.
Believing in the gospel involves allowing the gospel promises to keep leading us to draw near, by faith, to the One who makes these promises. Through repentance, we pull our heart affections off the worship of our idols, so that through faith we can set those same heart affections on the worship of the living Christ.
This involves renewing our minds and hearts by rejecting our beliefs in the lies of the evil one and the false promises of our idols. It means replacing our old beliefs with new beliefs in the multifaceted gospel promises of our new status, a new heart, a new community, and a coming new world.
Through our ongoing repentance and faith in Christ, God means for us to tap into the powerful victory of our King, so we will be transformed by his Spirit into true worshippers of God and authentic lovers of people.
At a great Jewish feast, Jesus called out to the crowd with a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (Jn 7:37-38). By this, the Apostle John tells us, Jesus meant the Holy Spirit.
Renewal begins when thirsty people start turning away from their idols, from drinking the contaminated water in their broken cisterns (Jer 2:13), and begin drinking deeply from the well that is Christ.
This well never runs dry. Here are the springs of personal, church, and community renewal among all nations.
In our next lesson, we’ll take a deeper look at what the Bible teaches about church renewal.
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