The Spirit’s Work of Regeneration and Renewal

EMILY DARNELL|GUEST

I recently enjoyed a morning hike to a waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. As I hiked closer to the stream, the rushing of the water drowned out all the other noises of the forest. I could no longer hear the birds singing to one another. I sat down to take in my surroundings and a passage that I had just studied came to mind, a reminder from the LORD of His work in me.

Titus 3:5-7: He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in  righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing  by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Regeneration and Renewing

The pouring down of that waterfall helped me ponder the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. This passage in Titus is one of two New Testament occurrences of the word “regeneration.” The original audience would have pictured water baptism, which is the outward sign pointing to the inward reality of the Spirit’s washing, and of our cleansed conscience (Hebrews 9:8-14). In Old Testament sacrifices, the sprinkling of the blood symbolized cleansing; water now symbolizes the cleansing that is ours in Christ.

The Spirit does the work of regeneration. As He does, the voices surrounding us urging us to just try harder, or the accusatory voices using the Law to conjure up old guilt, begin to fade away. The Spirit washing us by regeneration is the beginning of our new life, the beginning of His rich work in us.

In addition to regeneration is the Spirit’s work of renewal where He makes all things new. He doesn’t patch us up, fix what is broken, or strengthen us to remake ourselves; rather, He makes us anew, born again. He takes Christ’s work on the cross and applies it to each of us so that we might have abundant life and growth in Him (see Colossians 3:10).

“…whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…” This statement displays the richness of the Trinity. “No one comes to the Father but by Me,” Jesus said. The Father gives the promised Spirit to the Son to pour out (Galatians 3:14; Romans 5:1-5). The Spirit is poured out upon us more richly than the rushing waterfall upon the creek.

Recognize Your Need

While regeneration is a finished work, throughout our days we will need His ongoing work of renewal. This is no shortcoming that we ought to overcome; rather this is the reality of being God’s child. As I wrote in my devotional book, “…but the feelings and thoughts we have in these times are misleading, and instead of seeking renewal we run away, or think we simply need ‘me time.’ 1 Timothy 6:12 would direct us otherwise, commanding us to fight! Fight for the joy and satisfaction and eternal life that is only found in Jesus. We do not need a break from it all, we need to get deeper into our life in Christ. We ought not try to merely run away from our lot in life. Instead we find a secluded place [Mark 6:30-32; and sometimes this secluded place is really just our kitchen sink, while we wash dishes…] in order to seek His grace in the midst…”[1]

Seek His Renewal

One of the best ways to seek renewal is to return to passages of Scripture that have become precious to us. Psalm 19 reminds us that He uses His Word to restore our souls. In John 15 Jesus invites us to not only abide in His words, but to also let them abide in us. We can occasionally set aside our regular Bible reading plan and spend a season soaking in a few chapters over and over. Having recently studied Titus, and memorized Titus 3:1-7, this passage became precious to me, and available for meditating on while I was out in the woods.

We also seek His renewal in our local church body. Scripture uses the “body” analogy to help us realize Christianity cannot be lived out alone. We need to “encourage one another” and be encouraged by one another. We can seek out other sisters with whom we can dig into Scripture, pray together, and refresh one another’s faith (Romans 1:12).

And finally, we enjoy His renewing work by taking heed of that last phrase in Titus 3:5-7, “we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” If hope is truly our anchor, then as we live in this world full of shifting ideologies competing for our allegiance, a world that will be easily shaken (Hebrews 12:26-29), let us cling to our anchor of hope rather than looking for renewal elsewhere. Let us turn our thoughts often to that hope, and eagerly await Him together.

[1] excerpt from Emily Darnell’s book Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ, pg.73

About the Author:

Emily Darnell

Emily Darnell lives in Virginia with her husband and children. She teaches a women’s Bible Study, and plans events at her local church. She enjoys homeschooling, adventuring with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains, gardening, good books, and good conversations. She is the author of “Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ.”

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