As we begin a new year, something I look forward to considering with you is our understanding of spiritual renewal. This dynamic of spiritual renewal is, I believe, the greatest need, especially for today. My desire is to set spiritual renewal within the context of our Christian faith, so that we think first of being spiritually renewed in Christ, and through the power of his Holy Spirit, we are both related and united to the will of God. Granted, this sentence is loaded. But don’t forget we pray: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The point is, and I will try and make it again and again over the course of this year, that spiritual renewal informs and shapes all aspects of our life — our mind, heart, soul, body, and how we relate one to another. It originates in the spiritual world. Renewal is first, an inside job.
For example, many today are talking about anger. We see anger all around us but be assured anger begins within. This is nothing new. We can go back to Cain and Abel. No question about it, unchecked anger leads to violence. Recall the woman who committed adultery. Remember the Pharisees who were ready to stone her to death. These guys were angry. Jesus literally drew a line in the sand saying, “he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Look again at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus speaks of anger spiraling out of control from lust to adultery followed by divorce and breaking oaths (Matthew 5). By the way, there is no anger in the Kingdom of God. There is no place for worry or stress and certainly no violence. There is no such thing as lust or adultery within the realm and reign of God’s love.
In my previous blog, I wrote that renewal is more than reinventing oneself. When we reinvent ourselves, we still are led by our self. It means that we want, or at least try, to get our own way. We are bound by our self-centeredness.
Christian renewal has little to do with our self. It has more to do with self-denial. Self-denial is not about self-hatred or self-contempt. It is not constantly beating-up on ourselves and telling ourselves how bad we are, and condemning ourselves over being guilty of this, or that. Self-denial is a form of humility that simply breaks the chain of thought that deludes us into thinking we are the point of reference. Self-denial means the world does not revolve around us.
News Flash! We, are not the center of the universe. If you wonder where the world would be without you, don’t worry. Psychology labels such thinking as egocentric. Jesus was a bit more graphic by calling us to “take up your cross and follow me.” That’s all. That’s it. In a nutshell, taking up our cross of self-denial and humility is the beginning of spiritual renewal.
Often, this begins with letting go. Surrender. It is simply a way of laying down the burden of being the smartest man or woman in the room, always having your own way, having the last word, coming up with the answer before the question is even asked. We let go the burden of self-importance and we pick up the cross that leads to new life.
In fact, here’s the deal. When we drop our self-centeredness, we gladly respond to the call of a centered-self in Christ.
Do you hear the call?