Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Staying alive: An application
“…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…”
I’m so glad I didn’t have to get myself born. The very thought of it makes me tired.
I’m relieved that every aspect concerning my physical birth was outside of my responsibility. I had nothing to do with the fact that I was conceived. I didn’t contribute a single thing to my growth in the womb. I didn’t help my mother labor and deliver. All I did was emerge, blinking and yowling.
Now staying alive is another matter. Here I do bear some responsibility. I have choices to make, problems to solve. I notice that I’m putting on a bit of weight, so I need to rethink my diet and maybe add some exercise. My energy is dragging so I read up on supplements and try to get to bed earlier. I’m feeling down, so I call a friend and put on some music.
But is it all up to me? Fortunately not. I don’t have to remind my heart to beat. Not even once. I don’t have to count my breaths to make sure I’m getting enough oxygen. Even the steps I take to improve my health aren’t the only ingredient. No, God has designed my body to stay alive, even in less than ideal conditions.
Regeneration and Renewal. Stay with me here. I think all of us would agree that our spiritual birth was utterly a work of God. We had no part in causing it. We have been born again by the will of God, not by any human will. (John 1:12) Specifically we have been made alive by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). God, by his Spirit, brought us blinking and yowling into his kingdom. We had nothing to do with it.
But staying alive, spiritually that is, feels like another matter. We know we have certain responsibilities. And, as women, we take those responsibilities very seriously, and even urge them on those nearest and dearest to us: I must, I mean, MUST stay in the Word, pray, be in fellowship, worship, and serve in order to sustain my spiritual life!
Then we go about these “means of grace” as if they were the end in themselves. We do them, and urge them on others, as if our life depended on them.
But renewal, not just regeneration, is a work of the Holy Spirit.
For instance. Take marriage for instance. I don’t know any other area of our lives that feels more constantly in need of renewal. Oh my. We need not just help, but new life for:
- keeping our vows
- minding our tongues
- warming our hearts
- cooling our anger
- restoring our respect
- renewing our joy
There are means of grace to put into practice, for sure. But we pursue every means of grace as a means. The actual work is completed by the Holy Spirit. So we pray. And the Spirit tidies up our requests and presents them to the Father. We open our Bibles, and the Spirit speaks the specific truth we need to hear. We seek counsel, and the Spirit uses the gifts of the body to minister the help we need.
And mysteriously, not mechanically, not merely cause and effect, our marriage is renewed. Day by day, step by step, the Spirit of God, who gave us life, sustains the life he gave.
Where do you feel the need for renewal?