Rebirth and Renewal
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of
righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing
of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through
Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4-6)
The prefix “re,” according to my Oxford American Dictionary, means “once more; afresh; anew.” It implies that something is being done a second time. So in the verses quoted above we have reference to a “rebirth” and a “renewal,” both of them happening for a second time.
The biblical story of rebirth is in John 3 and the discussion between the religious man Nicodemus and Jesus whom he approached with some serious life questions. To him Jesus said, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:3-6). As the discussion continues Jesus clearly makes a distinction between physical birth, which brings a person into the present life, and spiritual birth which addresses the sinful rejection of God’s gift of life which the Apostle Paul called spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-3). So “rebirth” has to do with being made fully alive both physically and spiritually by acknowledging and accepting the truth that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”(John 3:16).
But birth and rebirth are only introductory words. The birth of a baby is certainly to be celebrated but it marks just the beginning of life. There is much more to come. Renewal is about the process of life, the growth from infancy to maturity. It is the journey of learning to live aright. It comes with many starts and stops and restarts. Renewal is a continual process not a once-for-all decision.
The biblical story of rebirth is noted by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome. After devoting eleven chapters to his theological explanation of mankind’s call from sin to salvation he writes, “Therefore, I urge you in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2). It is the process of transformation, of the Spirit of God gradually but definitely changing us in our thinking and our character until we become “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). That is, we begin to think and act like Jesus.
Rebirth and renewal is what the church is all about. We are those who have been reborn as a result of trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus to give to us forgiveness of sin and life eternal. We are now in process of being changed into Christ’s likeness as we walk together through this life, learning through the ups and downs to encourage, assist and sometimes to carry each other through this journey of renewal. We are also in light of our rebirth and renewal to become illustrations and spokespersons for the grace of God to a dead and dying world. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Every year in the month of September our church “reminds” ourselves of our need for “rebirth” and “renewal.” We do so by holding a Covenant Renewal Sunday and pledging ourselves anew to be “committed to God, accountable to each other, and involved in Christ’s transforming work in our world.” This year, in addition to renewing our covenant during Worship we will follow that by celebrate our connection together and enjoy a community picnic at the church organized by our Fun Committee. (After all, covenants and commitments should be cause for celebration and for fun!) Do plan to attend.
See you in Worship.