Spiritual Renewal: Renewal Means Rediscovering the Gospel (I)

(This is a continuation of our study on spiritual renewal. You can find all of the posts here.)

“Revival occurs as a group of people who, on the whole, think they already know the gospel discover they do not really or fully know it, and by embracing the gospel they cross over into living faith.” 
-Tim Keller

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

Lesson: The movement toward true spiritual renewal is always a movement back to the gospel. It is not first the morality or the outward religious observance of Christians that goes into decline. That comes much later. It is a loss of passion for and personal appropriation of the work of Christ, the mercy of God, and the good news of salvation by grace alone. We lose the gospel, and then a few generations later the deadness that results finds its full expression in institutional collapse and moral decay.

In this text we find the apostle Paul praying for the church in Ephesus. He has spent the first two and a half chapters of his letter proclaiming just this good news: that before time began the Father predestines us for adoption as sons, that while we were still dead in our sins God graciously made us alive with Christ Jesus, that we have been reconciled to the Father through His blood and are likewise reconciled to each other.

What is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians? It is that they would apply this gospel message to themselves. That “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” that they “may have strength to comprehend… what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s grace, and that they would “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

The essential, easily missed key to this prayer is to realize that Paul is praying it for Christians. It is the saints at Ephesus that need to understand and deepen their appreciation for God’s love.

This is the gospel. In the life of Christ, the law was perfectly satisfied and the power of sin and Satan was undermined. In the cross of Christ, we are fully and freely forgiven, our debts paid and our slavery ended. In the resurrection of Christ, we are invited into and empowered to live transformed lives. All of this is done not because we deserve it or that we might earn it, but simply so that we might turn from our sins and open our hands and receive it as our own.

All great seasons of renewal in the church begin with these truths. We continually forget them and need to be reminded of them. As we rediscover them and appreciate their beauty, we will begin to find springs of spiritual life welling up where once we thought there was only stone.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for the mercy You have shown us in Jesus. Thank You that, though we are sinful rebels, He sought us and saved us. Thank You that in love You reconciled us to yourself, paying blood for our salvation. Thank You that in victory You broke the grave open and are inviting us into life. Teach us to stand on these truths and to walk in them, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN