Over the course of more than 30 years of work in the field of Christian apologetics, there have been a number of times that I felt drained and in definite need of spiritual renewal. Sometimes in ministry you are so busy trying to help others that you fail to give appropriate attention to your own needs. And it is easy as a scholar and apologist for me to overemphasize the intellectual side of life and to underemphasize the spiritual side.
The Christian gospel, with its accompanying world-and-life view, is a vibrant and robust belief system that can nurture and sustain those who affirm its truths and follow its dictates. In Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis notes the need that even Christian apologists have to be spiritually nourished by their faith: “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”1
Let’s then briefly explore what a path of spiritual renewal can consist of—but to do that, we must begin with the Christian concept of grace (Greek: χάρις [cháris], God’s unmerited favor).
One of the unique features of historic Christianity is that it is a grace-oriented faith or religion. Christians are saved by divine grace and are strengthened and sustained in a life of faith by that same source of God’s unmerited favor and power. So the place to begin in talking about spiritual renewal or sanctification is with the idea of God’s grace.
As we discuss spiritual renewal and growth in the Christian life, a couple of critically important Scriptural reminders are in order:
- We are saved by grace, not by works.
- Saving grace motivates the believer to pursue godliness.
Here are arguably the two clearest passages in the New Testament teaching that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and that when a person experiences saving grace, that person will be motivated to pursue a godly lifestyle:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people trehat are his very own, eager to do what is good.
I mention both the importance and motivation of grace because it is easy to fall into two pitfalls when it comes to spiritual renewal. Hopefully, the emphasis on grace will keep us from a works-righteousness legalism (the belief that good works save the person) or antinomianism (the belief that holiness is unimportant in the life of the believer).
12 Points and Practices of Spiritual Renewal
What I humbly recommend in terms of spiritual renewal and growth in the Christian life are the following 12 points and practices:
- Prayer: Strive to make prayer a foundational part of your life (including daily confession, repentance, petition, and thanksgiving).
- Scripture: Regularly read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture.
- Church: Attend church weekly and receive God’s grace in Word (Scripture) and Sacrament (Communion).
- Reading: Read and meditate on spiritual classics (such as works by Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, Owen, Packer, Hoekema, Toon, Lewis, etc.).
- Filling: Call specifically on the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to constantly fill you, empower you, and impart the Spirit’s fruit in your life.
- Counsel: Consider meeting regularly with a pastor, counselor, psychologist, or physician to discuss areas of specific challenge (including problems of mind, body, and spirit).
- Meetings: Consider attending Christian-oriented meetings concerning relevant addictions or issues (such as alcoholism, overeating, gambling, pornography, marriage problems, etc.).
- Warfare: Practice sound biblical and doctrinal principles concerning spiritual warfare.
- Thinking: Replace negative and sinful psychological self-talk with sound principles of Christian theology, worldview thinking, and logic.
- Beauty: Listen to spiritual hymns and songs, reflect upon Christian art, and appreciate the natural world.
- Virtue: Seek to unleash and exercise the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in your daily life.
- Forgiveness: Review the Protestant theological principle of law-gospel (God’s law condemns sin, but the gospel declares forgiveness in Christ) and accept God’s ongoing gracious forgiveness and love, even in the face of repeated struggle with sin and failure.
Feed on the faith! Call on the Triune God to grant you grace, repentance, faith, peace, love, and strength as you pursue spiritual growth and renewal to the glory of God.
Reflections: Your Turn
What kinds of things have served to renew you spiritually? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
- C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: HarperCollins, 1958), 7.