Spiritual Renewal from the Inside Out

a-tale-of-two-cities.jpgIt was the best of times; it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…

Thus begins Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities. These words serve as an appropriate summary for the latter years of the life of King David in Israel. How could it get any better? Military victories expanding the borders of his kingdom were the norm. Worldly treasures abounded; gold reserves were measured in tons, not ounces or pounds. While he was not permitted to build the Temple, because he was first a warrior-king, David did supply his son with a bulk of the resources for this undertaking.

During the spring-time of one particular year, when kings usually go out to war, David stayed home, enjoying the comforts of his palace home. When he was walking on the rooftop of his palace one evening a beautiful woman named Bathsheba, who was bathing nearby, caught his eye. David’s unchecked lust for Bathsheba led him to commit a number of sins—the list of which we will not recount now.

What I would like for us to consider is this: During the days which followed, inwardly David was sinking deep in despair. We know this because he composed some of his most self-revealing psalms during this time. Excerpts from them follow:

Psalm 6:1-6

1 LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.

2 Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.

3 My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?

4 Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?

6 I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.

Psalm 38:3-8

3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.

4 My guilt has overwhelmed me
like a burden too heavy to bear.

5 My wounds fester and are loathsome
because of my sinful folly.

6 I am bowed down and brought very low;
all day long I go about mourning.

7 My back is filled with searing pain;
there is no health in my body.

8 I am feeble and utterly crushed;
I groan in anguish of heart.

When it comes to spiritual renewal, we can learn a great deal from David’s experiences. In this post we will consider one overarching principle and two practical steps suggested by David’s experience. These will benefit us in a remedial sense and in a preventative sense.

Let’s look at the overarching principle first. It is: Godly sorrow works repentance, (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:10).

To see this underscored listen, once again, to the words of David:

Psalm 32:3-5

3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

David’s deep sorrow produced a change within. However, part of the story is missing in David’s account. What produced this sorrow which led to this change of heart? Simply stated, David was confronted by God’s Word concerning his sin. After telling David a parable which shed light on the selfishness which drove his actions (2 Samuel 12) and David’s own judgment regarding the heinous nature the abusive self indulgence described, Nathan turned to David and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). Shortly thereafter David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam 12:13)

Psalm 51:3-4

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

Thus we see that David’s godly sorrow led him to repentance and salvation. A couple of additional readings make this clear:

Psalm 51:1-2

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 32:1-5

1 Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.

2 Blessed are those
whose sin the LORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes this same principle in his correspondence with the Corinthian Christians regarding the change of heart on the part of the one he had written about previously. He stated:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” —2 Corinthians 7:10

Now, let’s consider the two practical steps which will help us experience the renewal that comes from within. Simply put, we must stop pretending and start depending!

1) Stop Pretending…

…That it doesn’t hurt, even if we become adept at masking the pain with meds or manic activity.

…That it doesn’t hurt others, even if we have become skilled at justifying our choices on the basis of situational ethics.

…That it doesn’t hurt God, even if we become desensitized to what really matters to God. (See: 1 John 2:15-17 and James 4:4)

When we have stopped pretending, we are ready to embrace the idea that God alone through the power of the blood of Christ and inner working of the Holy Spirit will produce in us the renewal we so desperately desire. Perhaps Eugene O’Neill had something like this in mind when he wrote:

Man is broken. He lives by mending.
The grace of God is the glue.

2) Start Depending…

Before we look at the details on this point, let’s look at how David’s words give us insight into very idea:

Psalm 51:7-17

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Deliver me from bloodguilt, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

Like David, we must completely yield our lives to God. Therefore, we need to start depending on…

…the light of God’s Word, Psalm 119:105

…the power of Christ’s blood, Ephesians 1:7

…the inner working of the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 3:13-21

…the full armor of God, Ephesians 6:10ff.

…the value of fervent prayer, Philippians 4:6-8

…on the strength we derive from one another, Hebrews 3:12-13.

Renewal from the inside is not just another way of thinking about this topic. It is the only way for renewal to take place in our lives.

Each of must open our hearts wide to the Lord. If need be, let godly sorrow have its way with us, so that repentance and salvation might follow. And, as we continue to travel down this road, let’s remember to (1) Stop pretending and (2) Start depending!

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Discipleship Training, Following Jesus, Leadership, Life, Preaching Notes, Spiritual Renewal. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Spiritual Renewal from the Inside Out

  1. dojo says:

    It has always been interesting to me that David didn’t seem to have such remorse until he realized God knew what he had done. Sometimes I think our pretending includes thinking that we have “pulled one off”. We think nobody knows what we have done or how we have been thinking. But that is a pretense we must strip away before we can repent.

    Thanks again for a great post!

  2. k.reyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    As always, a very PENETRATING post. I do have a few questions however: David never forsake Bathsheba (though he did lose his firstborn son…..); so in light of your post, it is in repentance that God works his healing power of love and not in forsaking something that is “wrong?” I mean I can see, for instance, giving up my love for chocolate and calling that holy (this is just a loose example) all the while still lusting for dear, sweet chocolate in my heart. So God is looking at our heart’s intent rather than our actions, correct? Secondly, in this millisecond world, there is not a day/moment that goes by that I haven’t ‘grieved the spirit’ in some way. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time (large family) to hide out in my prayer closet and confess – realistically I’d have to spend practically all day in there!! So how can I stay connected to the Vine even in the midst of the fray?

    Peace!
    K.Reyes

  3. k.reyes says:

    oh ps.

    The meds help control manic activity, but the cycles still remain – (being bipolar and all….:) It is just one of the many ways God continues to remind me that He’s in control and I am not – on a daily basis!!
    peace – K.

  4. k.reyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    I know this isn’t the correct place to post this, but I just read through your posts on Fiction and the Power of Words – great posts. I, too, am a HUGE fan of Francine Rivers. I especially loved The Last Sin Eater (I loaned out my copy and never received it back, hmmm……) Curious to know if Mr. England read it and if the two of you had a chance to discuss???? I’ve read everything except the latest series of hers regarding the men of the Bible. I like her larger works – richly woven, meaty and satisfying!! I started reading Angela Hunt because of Francine’s comment that she loves Angela’s fiction. Ms. Hunt writes allegorically (did I spell that right?) – very interesting technique…..so fun to find another avid reader. Fiction also calms my mind, focuses me and allows me to go to sleep!

    Peace, K. Reyes

  5. K.Reyes:

    You asked about a couple of things. First, “…I mean I can see, for instance, giving up my love for chocolate and calling that holy (this is just a loose example) all the while still lusting for dear, sweet chocolate in my heart. So God is looking at our heart’s intent rather than our actions, correct?” It is my sense that you are on the right track with your thoughts about repentance. Thayer says that repentance “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” I’ve often heard it said that genuine repentance is a change of heart (the spiritual mind) that leads to a change of direction. Where we often have difficulty is in translating the ideal that we embrace in our understanding into the real world in which we live. In such circumstances we can be genuinely remorseful over having committed a sin and very determined not to yield to temptation. However, as willing as the spirit my be, the flesh is still weak. So, sometimes we yield. Sometimes we get out of step with the Spirit. Sometimes we put down the shield of faith.

    Your second inquiry had to do with “…this millisecond world, there is not a day/moment that goes by that I haven’t ‘grieved the spirit’ in some way.” Here, it is my belief that we must take solace in the words of 1 John 1:5-2:2, especially 1:7, where the Scriptures say, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all [every] sin.” God looks at our hearts and sees which direction we are headed. If we are walking in the light, we are headed His way and the blood us Jesus cleanses us every step of the way!

    Hope this is helpful!

    BTW, thank you for the kind words about the articles on the power of story. Even though I don’t have time to focus on this as I would like, these days, this is really where my passion lies. I haven’t heard anything from Greg about whether or not he’s read The Last Sin Eater yet. He’s been quite busy of late. Maybe it will work its way to the top of his must read stack soon.

    Grace and peace to you,

    -bill

  6. kreyes says:

    Bill,

    First of all, thank you for taking the time to respond to my inquiries…..there always seems to be a list of endless thoughts and questions regarding my faith journey, rolling around in my head! I felt especially comforted by the words of 1John 1:5; words I am certain that I will write down in my prayer journal. As for the first question, I guess more specifically, I have experienced situations where I have resisted temptation (not yielded) in the flesh, but still longed for it in my heart. I was thinking of Jesus’ words concerning the sins of our heart and not just our actions. I am reminded of Paul saying that he despises what he does yet seems unable to stop doing it!! I have felt that similar pang/dilemma. As always, a beautiful posting.

    Peace, K. Reyes
    ps Will have to set a future date to blog about The Last Sin Eater….fascinating story!!

  7. I’ll look forward to your post(s) re: The Last Sin Eater. Like you, I loaned my copy to someone who has yet to return it. I’ve read it through three times now. Probably will do it again soon, which means I’ll need to buy another copy. God bless, -bill

  8. Bill I do like how you think. I am encouraged each time I come. What’s more is I learn too.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine
    http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/

  9. Greg England says:

    I find it so very interesting that David was guilty of two sins of which there was no forgiveness! Adultery and murder. So he says he would bring sacrifices but there are none to bring. In an incredible act of desperation (faith … works only out of our despair and utter helplessness for if we can control a situation in / of ourselves, then faith is not present) he goes far beyond God’s law and pleads for mercy. And God grants it! Talk about encouragment!!

    Have you ever considered a much lighter blog? Your blogs give me so much to think about, I have to take time during the day to sort of chew on them. Thanks for your thoughts, for shaing them, and for the depth.

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