Renewal. What a good word for 2021. We are ready for renewal after we emerge from the pandemic, of course. But considering renewal leads us to its deeper theological meaning.
In English, we make a distinction between renew and new. New means brand new, or something that has never existed before. We use renew to describe something that already exists that is being improved.
In commercials, they say something is "New and Improved!" It can't be both--It must be one or the other!
However, the Hebrew Bible does not make a distinction between renew and new. The Hebrew word ChDSh (chadash) can be translated “new,” “repair,” “renew,” or “rebuild.” It also is the same root for “month” or “new moon.” The ancients saw each month as a cycle of the moon which brought a new or renewed day.
God was not afraid to take what was broken, used, old, or bad and renew or repair it. It was then considered ChDSh.
In Genesis 1-2, Yahweh created the earth as new. After the flood God has continued to renew his relationship/covenant with people. In the prophets, God promised to return Judah and Israel from captivity to repair and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. This was described as a “renewed heavens and earth,” “renewed or repaired covenant/relationship,” “renewed Spirit,” “renewed life and resurrection,” and “repaired city of Zion,” (Is. 65:17-25; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek.37:1-14; Zech. 12). As Isaiah 40 shifts from judgment to restoration, Yahweh describes the process of renewing the people in exile as childbirth, healing from sin, forming a new city, and restoring nature (Isaiah 40-42).
Renewal and repair have always been the work of God, especially for those seeking forgiveness, healing, and transformation.
Unfortunately, the Greek word for new (kainos) failed to capture the diverse meanings of ChDSh. We have typically understood many passages in the New Testament gospels and letters to refer to “new” as “brand new” or “newly created.” In the book of Hebrews the writer tells the audience to listen and trust Jesus, who is the author of a “renewed covenant” (Heb. 3:7-11). Rather than interpreting this with New Testament context, we can understand the letter to state that the old covenant was broken when the people disobeyed God; yet Jesus offered a chance for forgiveness and renewed the relationship/covenant…by giving his own blood. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus served a meal as a sign of this “renewed relationship through his blood” (Luke 22:20-22). Same relationship, same God, same humans…but repaired by the sacrifice of Jesus. The Apostle Paul encouraged Christians to be “renewed” by repenting of their sin and transforming their lives into the image of Jesus (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:17-5:20; Col. 3:9-10).
Through the resurrection of Jesus, we are “repaired,” “renewed,” and “rebuilt,” to live to the glory of God.
Same person, same relationship, same God…but rebuilt to live a different life.
Those of us who have planted churches understand this concept. We do not plant brand new churches, we learn from the best and rebuild ministries to serve those who live in our contexts. We preach and teach from old texts that repair lives both young and old. We reestablish relationships with people who remember the Jesus of their past, but who have lost touch with their first love and Savior. We guide people to see Jesus and reignite their passion through the Holy Spirit. Church planting restores relationships and lives in the image of the one who created all things new and repairs them when they are broken.
What will 2021 hold for our Kairos network? We hope that this year will bring change and healing. All kinds of people are asking all kinds of questions.
I encourage you to join us in considering renewal.
Easter 2021 will be April 4. What a perfect time to share how the resurrection of Jesus rebuilds lives. Your people, your community, and you personally need to experience repair.
I challenge you to dig through the Biblical text, look for themes of renewal, repair, and rebuilding. Share them with us, your churches, your family, and your community.
“Behold I renew all things…” Rev 21:5