A dictionary definition of renew would be something similar to “make new; restore freshness, life, or quality” or “to make spiritually new.” When the Bible speaks of renewal, it sometimes refers to the physical renewal—rest—that is required for our bodies to continue functioning at their best. God Himself instituted a day of rest for His people every week (Exodus 34:21), and Psalm 23 speaks of a physical rest only God can provide. Physical rest and renewal are a requirement of our imperfect bodies. While physical renewal is important, there is another important type of restoration found in the Bible—spiritual renewal.
Spiritual renewal is only possible in the life of a believer. When God created the first couple, they had a perfect relationship with God. But when they disobeyed, the relationship was broken and could not be restored except through the blood of a sacrifice. Eventually, God sent His own Son to die on a cross and rise again so our relationship with Him could be renewed (John 3:16). Before we come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17). But, when we choose to follow Christ, we die to sin, and our broken relationship with God is renewed (Romans 6:11; Colossians 2:13). We ourselves are renewed as well: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Although we will not reach perfection until we are in heaven with the Lord, the Holy Spirit immediately begins the work in our lives that will be completed that day (Philippians 1:6).
Renewal is a continual process for the believer (2 Corinthians 4:16). As believers are still prone to sin, it is important for renewal to become a constant practice as we seek to live lives that reflect Christ. Believers are called to be set apart from the worldly culture around us, to live in the world but not be of the world (John 15:19; Ephesians 4:17–24). We are God’s holy people (1 Peter 2:9) and must not embrace the values of the world around us. This is made possible by the renewing of our minds: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). The renewing of our minds is possible through reading and meditating on God’s Word; it is through the Word that we are sanctified (John 17:17). Believers have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:11–16), so we can see the things of the world as He sees them. When we habitually focus our thoughts on Christ and “things above” (Colossians 3:1–2), our minds are aided in the process of renewal (Romans 8:5).
There is another spiritual renewal available to believers, and that is one of spiritual rest. Salvation in general is likened to “rest,” as we trust in Christ, not our own works (Hebrews 4:1–11). We also need rest and spiritual renewal day to day, just like our bodies need physical rest. This “soul care” can only happen when we focus on God and rely on His strength to sustain us. “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” (Psalm 54:4). Renewal is always available. When we sin, we can receive forgiveness (1 John 1:9). When we lose our joy, we can pray to have it restored (Psalm 51:12). When Jesus was on earth, He often withdrew by Himself to pray to God (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15–16; 6:12–13). Communing with His Father was a way for Jesus to “recharge” and get ready for the work He was doing. Jesus relied on God’s strength on the night before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:36–46). Followers of Jesus “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).
In Isaiah, the prophet promises God’s people that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Whenever we begin to tire spiritually, we should seek the Lord to strengthen and renew us, for it is His Spirit who will equip us to live for Him. Praise the Lord for Christ’s promise-filled invitation, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).