18 Jan RENEW: Trading our shame for new life
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
We crave fresh starts. Especially this time of year, right? We dream, we set goals, we make new plans, we resolve, we feel renewed. But the truth about renewal is that we cannot be renewed without forfeiting or shedding a part of ourselves. Look at the cycle that God created throughout nature. There’s a whole season devoted to shedding the old followed by another devoted to renewal and new life. Trees shed their leaves in autumn and prepare for new blooms in spring. Shedding and Renewal…it’s a critical process. If the process of shedding and renewal is so critical to the cycle of nature – allowing for growth, maturity, and the bearing of fruit – is there perhaps something that we too can learn from this process that would be critical for our own cycle of growth? And furthermore, if the gift of new life and renewal is seen throughout nature….would not our loving Father gift the same opportunities to His children whom He loves and who were made in His image? This process is not only necessary for our spiritual growth, but it’s also an incredible gift that gives way to fresh starts and new life within our souls. It allows us to shed the trivial, to be purified, and to press deeper into a more meaningful relationship with God. This is the ministry of reconciliation.
Unlike nature, our shedding and renewal process is not clock-work. It doesn’t just happen – it is a choice. We have to want it. And in order to get it, we have to choose to shed our old waste that burdens us. However, our “old waste” does not always feel like a burden; instead, it often feels comfortable. We hang on to it, because without it we feel naked, lonely, and scared. Much like a tree in winter. But without the shedding of leaves, a tree cannot cultivate new blooms or bear beautiful fruit. This shedding, in a spiritual sense, is repentance. John Piper describes repentance as “the change of attitude or behavior that results from the feeling of remorse over the sin.” He continues, “I think it would be wise to say that godly regret is the first step of repentance. And repentance follows and completes the change of heart.” In turn, Piper is stating that remorse and regret lead to a renewed spirit. That’s not exactly what comes to mind when I think about being renewed. But Paul writes to the Corinthians on this as well, “I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance… For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Because repentance is a choice to shed the old and accept a renewed spirit, the first step in this process involves remorse, guilt, regret and grief over our sin. Worldly grief over sin leads to shame, anxiety, and fear, and ultimately to death. But godly grief over sin through repentance leads to growth, renewal, peace, and new life. This grief over our own sin is God prying at our heart to give way to new blooms so that we may grow and bear fruit.
As believers, the Lord refuses to let sin and shame rule our life. It is only a matter of time before He gently tugs on our hearts and sheds light on our sin; to the point where it feels uncomfortable and causes feelings of remorse, regret, and even guilt. This is conviction – and it is a beautiful thing. It is a call from God to be renewed. A call to draw near and grow closer to Him. The response to this conviction is not to feel shame, but regret, leading to repentance. Choosing to ignore it can only cause worldly grief which leads to shame and death. But choosing to bring our “old waste” and regret and giving Him that burden?…That is repentance which leads to new life. This is the gift of Grace…that we can find beauty from ashes and that we can be renewed day after day after day. His mercies never end!
“I continually remember (my sin and affliction) and have become depressed. Yet, I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”