I am reflecting today on what it means to be “renewed”. If a person is renewed, he is a “new creature”, the “old has passed away, the new has come.”
We are admonished to
put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is in all. Col. 3:8-11
So, clearly, if we have been renewed in the image of Christ, we have a list here of specific behaviors that should not be characteristic of who we are: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lies.
In Titus we read:
to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. Titus 3:2
Additionally, in this passage, we are told to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, and show humility to ALL. This includes not just our friends, but our enemies. This includes people we live with (spouses to each other, parents to kids, kids to parents, sibling to sibling), people we work with (boss-subordinate and vice versa, colleague to colleague, customer to business and business to customer, etc.) This includes the stranger at the grocery store and the rude driver on the street. This includes the next-door neighbor. ALL means “everyone”. There is no one excluded.
Therefore, one of the signs of inward renewal, that is being reflected by the outer man, is how we speak and treat each other. In private, at home, we tend to show the areas that have not been renewed. Let’s be honest, we all know it to be true of ourselves. “Home” is the place we tend to shout, show our impatience, our rudeness, our anger, wrath, even filthy language. Our families can attest to the areas that need renewal, can’t they??? Of course they can! I’m speaking of myself, too. I need renewal, too. (And this just one area of our lives we can address– this is by no means an exhaustive list of what should define our character as an ambassador for Christ.)
My question is, what signs should I see in others to know whether they are truly being renewed? What should I see in myself? What should others see in me?
1) Change. I should see signs of change. The behaviors should diminish and– stop altogether. We may slip up, but these should not be the actions that are defining us and our character.
2) Humility. I expect to see humility. When we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, there is a humility, a deep regret. We may cry. At the very least, we are on our knees, and filled with shame at ourselves. And, even more, we are ashamed of how we’ve blasphemed our witness as a child of God. There is also repentance. The word repent means to “turn back”. So in repentance, I literally turn my back on the actions, behaviors, thoughts that are still worldly and not in line with God’s character.
3) Plan. I expect to see a plan of how the behavior is being addressed, to guard oneself against succumbing to the temptation of falling into the negative behaviors once again. For example, what am I going to do when I am faced with the temptation of showing anger? or impatience? or being rude to someone who is rude to me? Or (fill in the blank)? The plan should include practical steps (for ex., I will leave the room if I am too angry to respond; or, I will count to ten before responding, etc.). The plan should also include scripture that speaks to that specific issue. That scripture should be memorized, and meditated upon, so that it can be prayed, recited when needed, repeated, and so that it is “hidden in one’s heart” and can be recalled in the moment of need.
When my kids see their doctor for regular checkups, the doctor will check their growth charts, to plot their weight & height growth on a line graph. The doctor is looking for an overall upward trend. The day-to-day growth spurts aren’t seen, but over time, we should expect to see the kids growing. If the growth stops or starts going downward, then that is a red flag that something is wrong, because children should be growing. The doctor uses the data and chart as an outward measurement to make sure growth is occurring, to make sure the body is working properly on the inside.
For our spiritual lives, the same principle applies. Our outward behaviors (which we find listed in scripture) are like the line graph. We should be seeing a trend upward. Day-to-day, in the thick of life, we may stumble at times. But the overall trend ought to be an upward one. Our outward behaviors reflect the state of our inner man.
Of course, in order to see whether one is really renewed, the plan will have to be tested and put into action. You can bet that once conviction and repentance have occurred, that an opportunity will arise to put that plan into action. What else would be the point? If God’s aim is to perfect us, and renew us, and fashion us into the image of Christ, then the specific opportunities for such renewal will also come. Scary thought. But then again, if we are armed with the word of God, and are being led by the Spirit, we can walk through those trials– perhaps not unscathed, but hopefully wiser and victoriously.
I am leery of the person who makes claims, with words, but the behaviors and actions, over time, show no change. I have to wonder if such a person is truly being renewed on the inside. I have to ask myself that question, too, as I am reminded to “take the plank out of my own eye before noticing the speck in another’s eye.”
For myself, I can say to those who know me, I’m a work in progress. And so are you, my friend. So I try to walk with you with grace, mercy, compassion, as I hope you walk with me. Sometimes it’s really hard to work with one another, but we have a hope that lives within us– we know that through him, we can overcome!
Dear Lord, thank you for showing me this today. It’s putting my faith into action, and is a practical plan to work on areas that you reveal to me! Lord, your love for me is beyond my comprehension. All of this life, “the good, the bad, the ugly”, is for my benefit as your child and to give you glory. May my life give you glory!