God Renews and Strengthens

Jesus Christ is our redeemer. But we were not redeemed just to save us from Hell. Christ’s redemption is not just for the future but for the here and now.

In 1 Corinthians 3:3, the apostle Paul makes a compelling statement:

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?

The implications are startling. The unredeemed—the “worldly” as Paul calls them—are “mere men,” meaning by comparison the redeemed—Christians—are more than “mere men.” All human beings have limitations, but as Christians we are able to tap into a limitless spiritual reserve of power to help us live our lives in believers in an unbelieving world.

1. God is our strength, Isaiah 40:27—31; 41:8—10

a. Strength, 40:27—31

A common problem among the people of Isaiah’s day is a common problem among Christ’s people today: the perception that God is afar off. When injustice abounds and we are surrounded by trouble, it’s easy to forget the truth about God:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? (Isaiah 40:21)

This is God’s way of gently rebuking His children for not trusting in His sovereignty. God is supreme over all the earth, including all those who live on it. There is nothing that happens anywhere on the earth that goes unnoticed by the Lord. No human being is allowed to do anything not allowed by God. He alone has absolute control over human existence and there is no power in the universe that can challenge Him in this.

This is a truly majestic view of God, and such a magnificent God never fails to comfort His people. A series of questions and statements helps us grasp the grandeur of God and the strength that is ours through a relationship with Him:

Is our way hidden from God? (vs. 27, 28) If God knows, numbers, and shepherds the stars in the heavens, how can He not be mindful of His people? God’s children do not live at the whim of fate, nor are their rights disregarded. The fact is, God is an everlasting God who never sleeps and never lacks insight.

God’s strength is unfailing. (vs. 28b, 29) God upholds the stars but He also supports His weary people. He who is never weary has ample strength to share with those who need it.

God has unlimited insight. (vs. 28) No one can plum the depths of God’s understanding and knowledge. This reminds us of what James wrote:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

God supplies supernatural strength. (vs. 30, 31) It’s natural to grow weary for all kinds of reasons. Even the strongest and most ambitious person will eventually grow old and get tired. But supernatural strength is reserved for God’s people, who are far more than just “mere men.” This super-charged, supernatural strength is available only to those who “hope in the Lord.” It doesn’t come automatically when you need it, it comes when you put your full hope and confidence in God to supply it. The context makes it clear that this strength is given for a purpose: to live a holy life for God.

b. God’s presence, 41:8—10

In the context of Isaiah, the election of Israel in the person of Abraham represents the pledge of its deliverance in the coming crisis. In Cyrus’ day, the people of Israel would be living in exile in Babylon, which itself was about to fall to Cyrus. God’s exiled people were filled with fear. This was perfectly natural, given their circumstances. But God gave them encouragement.

The most encouraging aspect of these verses is the persistent use of the personal pronoun “I” of God’s presence. God promises to do all kinds of things for His chosen people. Israel is referred to as God’s servant, which seems to indicate that this election was not to be an unconditional salvation but a special call to service. If this be true, then Israel, like believers, bear a responsibility:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall… (2 Peter 1:10)

But God’s presence is a guarantee that Israel, and believers today, will not fall. Strength comes from the divine presence.

2. Made righteous in Christ

a. It’s a gift, Romans 6:17—23

Before our redemption, we were slaves to sin. Our redemption freed us from that awful bondage. However, freedom from sin does not mean we are free to live as we please!

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (verse 18)

We were once subjects of sin, but now we have become subjects of righteousness. This is a real paradox! We have been freed from sin and are now living in perfect freedom, able to serve righteousness. We are now able to live for God.

This is important because before we were redeemed, we were enslaved to sin and our wages would be death. But now, in our freedom we are made able to serve God in righteousness. And in return for our service, we are given, not wages earned, but a gift: eternal life.

b. It’s a life of righteousness, Colossians 3:1—8

As Paul makes clear to his friends in Colosse, the Christian life is a life “hidden with Christ in God,” but it is still a life lived out on earth, in front of everybody. So it’s important for the faithful believer to not only pay attention to his inner spiritual life, but also to his outward life as he seeks to clothe his faith in front of his fellow man.

Christians ought to live lives that reflect the grand spiritual reality of resurrection.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1, 2)

We have the promise of God’s help in living a righteous life, but we have a duty to “set our hearts on things above.” That means we ought to strive for heavenly things. The center of our lives, the focus of all we do, must be Christ and doing what brings Him glory. We are hidden in Christ—He is our safety and protection—but we must accurately represent Him on earth in our conduct, behavior, and attitudes.

3. Renewed in the inside

a. Renewed to reflect God’s image, Colossians 3:9, 10

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Living a righteous life means living a life that Christ would live if He were back on earth. One thing Christ wouldn’t do is lie. Grammatically, Paul tells his readers not to “lie to themselves,” suggesting that if you lie enough, pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the difference between the truth and a lie.

The “new self” is renewed “in [true] knowledge of its Creator.” The thought here is that the “new self” never grows old, tired, or bored, but is constantly renewed the more it learns of God. “Being renewed” is written in the present tense, meaning this spiritual renewal is constant and ongoing. It doesn’t happen at a meeting on Sunday night.

b. Renewed for glory, 2 Corinthians 4:16—18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It’s a fact of human life. Minutes after we are born, we begin to die. Life is the process of dying no matter how many pills you take, or how many greens you eat. Paul acknowledges this, but instead of declaring this truth in a defeatist, depressing manner, Paul is upbeat and positive! Yes, our bodies may be dying, but inside our spiritual self – our true self – is being renewed all the time. The weaker our physical beings become, the stronger our spiritual beings become. This is a profound thought. We are far more than what we can see with our eyes. Our essential person is the side of our being no man can see, and if you are a Christian, we have the promise that our essential person will never die, never grow old, never become weak or worn out.

In fact, according to Paul, God allows outward afflictions to do good things in our lives. It’s not that all problems are good, because very often our trials are the result of bad decisions we may have made. But there are things that happen to us for “no” apparent reason. When this occurs, we can be sure God is doing a work in us.

Paul gives believers a vital piece of advice: stop paying attention to what you can see. We are not to fix our constant attention on the things we can see around us. These are the things that are passing away. This includes our bodies, by the way. There is an obsession with health these days; just look at all the clinics and pharmacies in the average American town! But the Word advises us not to be overly concerned with things that are passing away. This, of course, does not mean that we shouldn’t try to live healthy lives. It’s hard to serve the Lord when you’re sick all the time, after all! But the point is, believers ought to be aware of their spiritual selves and the necessity of paying attention to it.

The truth is, everything changes in our world. Nothing ever stays the same. Cities change. Bodies change. The climate changes. Nothing stays the same or lasts forever. But we do, spiritually. So let’s pay attention to our new life, hidden in Christ. Let’s be aware of the special strength that is ours that enables us to live lives of righteousness that glorify God.

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