Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Daily Renewal (2 Cor. 4:16)

I snapped this during my morning run. 

As I ran, a thought occurred to me: No one outruns aging. In a sense, that was also the message of the verse I studied in my morning Bible time, 2 Cor. 4:16. 

Here Paul contrasts:

  • The outward man with the inward man
  • The physical with the spiritual 
  • The body with the soul
  • Decay with renewal

Interestingly, in the Greek, both verbs are in the present continuous tense because both processes -- the outward decay and the inward renewal -- are going on continually. Note that the first process is unavoidable and inevitable. However, the second process is not. Renewal has to be sought and has to be cultivated. Indeed, inner renewal becomes all the more necessary because of our outward, physical decaying. 

As we grow older, we have to come to to terms with this. The older we get, the more keenly aware we are of our own mortality. At the same time, as followers of Christ, we can experience daily grace and renewal. Think of the manna in the Old Testament. God supplied manna every morning to the children of Israel in the desert, so that the manna had to be gathered daily and none could be kept overnight until tomorrow. Likewise, God offers us a fresh supply of grace every day. Thus Paul says, "Just as our outer nature is wasting away (decaying), so our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (Greek: day and day). And so we feed on the manna of heaven day after day after day as we open God's word, be it at home or at Bojangles or wherever. 

And what is the result? It is truly amazing. Here's how the first part of verse 16 is rendered in various translations:

  • We faint not (KJV)
  • We do not lose heart (NIV)
  • We never give up (NLT)
  • We never become discouraged (GNT)
  • We do not despair (NET)
  • Nothing can daunt us (Phillips) 

When I tell people that I plan to run forever, I am of course using hyperbole. We all stop running at some point. I understand that. Everyone faces illness, injury, and other obstacles. Eventually these setbacks will lead to our deaths. In the meantime, the most important thing is to maintain our spiritual vitality. From the moment I turned 16, God instilled within me the most fanatical desire to read his word. I almost couldn't stand it. I thought the Bible was going to go out of print one day. I feared someone would come and take away from me all of my Bibles. I devoured God's word. Everywhere I went I had a Bible with me so that I could open it and see what God was saying to me. Feasting on the manna of God should be the most exciting, most stimulating part of our day, or at least one of the most exciting. If you want to end up a theologian, that's great. Study the Bible that way. But I'll let you in on a little secret. There's all the difference in the world between just reading the Scriptures and letting them come alive in your life. So before you even open your Bible, ask God to do something for you. Just pray a simple prayer: "God, may your Holy Spirit reveal the truth to me. What have you got for me this day? Not yesterday, not last year, but TODAY?" Let's try that, shall we? 

Thank you, Father, for what you're doing in the heart of every person who reads this blog today. Thank you for loving us. May each of us have a renewed determination to spend time every day in your love letters, the Scriptures. Make your presence so real and so near and so dear as each one of us realizes that our own Bible is a personal love letter from you. Thank you. Amen.