Signs for the Need for Renewal

Signs of the Need for Renewal April 28, 2019 Romans 6:4
We are still in the midst of the allergy season, aren’t we?  There are signs and symptoms for allergies. Running nose. Watery and itching eyes. Sneezing
When we experience these symptoms, we do something about it if we can, so we have quality of life.
The focus of the message this morning is going to look at signs and symptoms about our relationship to God so we can have a strong healthy spiritual life.
Romans 6:4 states, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” 
The word walk is imagery for how we live daily.  Paul was writing to Christians and reminding them their baptism symbolizes the new way of life to live because Jesus was raised from the dead.  
Don’t miss this point – Paul wrote those words to Christians who were living more like they were before they were baptized in the deadness of sin and disobedience.  So, Paul reminds them the same power that raised Jesus to new life is present with us renewing, recharging or re-energizing us so we stay out of the deadness of sin and live/walk in a new lifestyle.  
I recently read an article by a Jesuit priest whose name is Fr. Robert McTeigue.  (Four Signs You Might Be Spiritually Dead.  Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ) He named signs or symptoms where people might be spiritually dead.  I really like the categories he gave because they are
simple and practical.  I want to take his four areas and use them to help us consider whether these are areas where we need spiritual renewal.  The four major points I am about to cover are taken from his article and they are listed in the bulletin.
Lack of Effort/No Effort Father McTeigue use the description of “no effort.”  I would add a different but similar word, “intention.”  Is there intent and effort on our part to live what we know about Jesus?  • Effort, intention takes making choices, sometimes making sacrifices, giving up something so that we experience the power of God to work more effectively in us.  
We often pray for God to be with us; but the problem can be we lack consistently making effort or being intentional about being with God.  
When the consistent effort and intention is absent then for me that indicates something that is driving the lack of intent and effort and I believe that to be apathy.  Apathy is that lack passion, love or hate, agreement or disagreement. The familiar words from Revelation, chapter three where Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea apply here. Jesus warned those believers about their spiritual condition of being lukewarm.  He complained that they were neither hot nor cold regarding the things of God.  
Maybe you see that lukewarm-ness in your living, that lack of intent and effort about the things we know are important to Jesus. 
Lack of Compassion/No Compassion –  The second symptom is a lack of compassion.  I have had a couple of funerals to conduct in recent weeks.  One of the things I often emphasize at a funeral is what can we trust God is doing when someone dies.  I stress God is present with compassion to those who are grieving.  I point out how Jesus showed compassion on more than one occasion when he was present with people who had lost a loved one.  
Compassion for those who are hurting is a godly attribute.  Read Matthew 25 and be reminded how Jesus praised those who had compassion and helped people who were suffering, and he condemned those who ignored those who suffered.  A lack of compassion fits us if we find ourselves doing nothing more than offering a response of “gee that’s too bad” when we could make a difference.  A Lack of compassion for others is a sign we need some renewal. Not only can we need renewal if we lack compassion for those who hurt but also regarding wrong doing and injustice. Father Teigue said, a lack of compassion reveals itself if “In the presence of sin, there is no indignation for the rights and dignity of God. Consider Saint Augustine’s haunting observation about: “Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.”    We know we need renewal when see behavior around us and in the news that angered Jesus, defies scriptural truth; but we are not bothered.  
Lack of Learning/No learning  Third, how is our hunger to consume understanding about God, about our selves in relationship to God?  I love how Father McTeigue expressed this symptom with two key categories, a lack of desire to learn more about God and our sin.
He writes, “When you love someone one you ask, tell me more.  Jesus said I am the way and the life do we ask for him to tell us more and what is the message to God, if not?  Why don’t we ask God tell me more?”  
Why don’t we ask God to help us learn more through the preaching of sermons, through message of songs, through the content of scripture? • What about those problematic passages that we just don’t get or even don’t like?  No need to politely act like we understand and believe.  
• Do we ask Jesus to give us wisdom beyond what interest us?  Many times, we ask God to tell us more as it relates to our suffering; but does our desire to learn and understand end there?
How long has it been since you have; • read a book on spiritual matters,  • participated in a group study with others to study matters of God,  • dug deeper on a topic you heard about through a sermon or a current issue in the news?
Lack of Repentance/No repentance The longer I live, the more I am convinced that the mature Christians aren’t just the ones who get the answers right more often than not, mature Christian faith is also about living a lifestyle of repentance.  Renewal is needed when we lack repentance of our sins and lack seeing repentance as key to growth; instead of a step we take when we fail, or the last resort when we get caught in our sins or mistakes.
Paul’s words that we opened with “walk in newness of life” was said because the apostle Paul wanted the believers to know there is always a need to turn away from that which is not godly.  Read the entire sixth chapter and you’ll find Paul was correcting a distortion. The distorted understanding was since God gives us grace for our sin, sin all you want so you can have more grace.  The distorted view was like a spiritual version of the never-ending pasta bowl offer at Olive Garden.  Eat all you want, and we’ll bring you more.  Paul’s teaching to walk in newness of life is a way to remind us we always have aspects of who we are that needs repentance so we can be mature as followers of Jesus, so our lives look more like him.
I was reading in the book of Mark yesterday morning.  It was a story from chapter three where Jesus saw a man with crippled hand.  This took place on the sabbath day, the day when there were strict rules of what you could and could not do in order to keep the sabbath dedicated to
honoring God.  Jesus asked some religious leaders whether it was okay to do good or not on the sabbath, to save a life or kill.  The religious leaders refused to give an answer one way or another.  Mark writes “They were silent.  Jesus looked around at them with anger; he was grieved with the hardness of their heart…” Jesus healed the man.  
That story really hits all four points or symptoms.  The religious leaders made no effort to help, no effort to learn, had no compassion and lacked repentance when the truth was starring them in the face and asking them for a decision. 
A lack of repentance means we settle for sin and we settle for our lives to be and look no different than the non-believer, or non-church attender and worst of all when we have been exposed to God’s light of truth.    
Renewal Can Begin with Worship
Chances are we see at least one of these symptoms stronger in ourselves than the others.  Being catholic, Father McTeigue suggested those reading or hearing his sermon should attend confession as much and as willing as they we’re to receive communion.  
I would suggest for us, one solution to start seeking renewal for these symptoms of spiritual deadness and that is to begin/start to focus on one thing and that is our worship of God.   We could pray and confess our failures to God and that is good.   Some might try fasting.   Some might try and jump-start their renewal with an action step of changing their ways or doing good things for others.  
But over the next couple of weeks we are going to look at the topic of worship. Because while worship can be defined as our actions of giving honor to God, worship is also how God actively moves in our hearts/minds to grow us as his people/followers/community of faith.  
As we honor God and as we focus on God, God acts upon us.  Think about that great passage often used from Isaiah 6 where Isaiah the prophet went into the temple during a time of national grief over the death of King Uzziah, but experienced God in a powerful new way.  Isaiah went into the temple to grieve; but received a deeper calling to serve.
See, I believe that if we come here for worship and we weren’t drug here, we’re here just because were going out to lunch afterwards or any other hidden agenda, but we really came on some level to seek God, experience God or to connect, then remember this, God has been already working on our hearts/souls or otherwise we would not have any reason to be here. The great Christian preacher and writer, A.W. Tozer once said, “We pursue God because and only because, he has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” (Worship Evangelism, Morgenthaler, p.89)
A dog hunts when it smells a scent; but something first had to leave the trail of scent for the dog to track. Or as Jesus once said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draws them.” John 6:44 
I can identify with all four signs or symptoms.  I need renewal.  I don’t think the renewal, the renewed walking in newness of life comes by only confession or promising to do better because that’s “self-improvement efforts.”  Spiritual renewal is God’s to give by the power of His Spirit moving in me/us.  We’ll begin next Sunday to seek renewal through a deeper focus on the role worship plays in growing as his disciples and giving us the vision to be his church.   

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