LCN Article
The Renovation

May / June 2016

Dexter B. Wakefield

When God renovates us, He cleanses our guilt, repairs our relationships, fixes broken hearts, replaces dysfunctional attitudes, reinforces good behavior, and renews our lives.

A popular genre of reality TV is the home renovation show. In these programs, the renovators purchase a “fixer-upper” that may be barely habitable, then undertake to transform it into a beautiful home. After they “count the cost,” they establish budgets and commit to a contract, which often involves major changes to the residence, often replacing decayed, broken or substandard features with much better new ones. The process usually involves unforeseen problems, extra costs and even personal conflicts, but by the end of the show viewers see a beautifully renewed house that some new owner would be very pleased to call “home.” Perhaps you have been through a renovation of your own home—as my wife and I have with ours—or have purchased a “fixer-upper” of your own. Making a fixer-upper habitable enough to live in, or even to re-sell, involves a lot of work.

Did you know that the Bible speaks of a renovation? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of God in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2).

The Greek word translated “renewing” literally means “renovation” [See Strong’s NT:342; “renovation.” Also see Thayer’s NT:342; “a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better.”]. When a “fixer upper” is renovated, it is renewed as a home.

To express “be transformed” in the scripture above, Paul used the Greek word metamorphoo—from which we get our word “metamorphosis.” For example when a caterpillar goes through metamorphosis into a butterfly, it goes through a major renovation and renewal as it is transformed. The transformed creature is different from the original one.

The Greek word meaning “renovation” appears again in a similar context. Paul observed to Titus: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).

In other words, we were in need of major spiritual repairs!

Paul continued: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4–7). The word “renewing” is anakainosis—a renovation done by the Master Builder, Jesus Christ our Savior, by means of the power of God, the Holy Spirit.

During the season of Pentecost, we remember the giving of God’s Holy Spirit and the great power for change in our lives that comes from Christ dwelling in us. God’s word often uses the analogy of a building being built or changed, so it can be helpful to look at His transforming work in this context.

A Process

If you visit a home with a lot of construction debris around, the homeowners might explain, “We’re in the process of renovating this area of the house.” A home renovation is not accomplished immediately—rather, it is a time-consuming process. It may involve repairing some old damage, or cleaning an area or even adding some space. A skilled renovator can change a house that is old and dying into one that is renewed and livable—and much more valuable to the owner. A renovated house is located at the same address, but it is different from the previous version.

Similarly, God’s Spirit dwelling in us changes us, and that continuing lifelong process is our ongoing conversion. So fruitfulness is important to God. Jesus explained why we must grow in our conversion when He said:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1–6).

According to Jesus—the Vine of which God’s people are all a part—fruitfulness and conversion have a lot to do with our ultimate salvation. Pruning and growth necessarily involve change.

Why Renovate?

Then why do we need spiritual renovation and renewal? Sin hurts! It injures spiritually, physically and psychologically. Sin pollutes us spiritually. It devastates individuals, families and relationships. It harms the sinner as well as others. Simply put, sin is bad for you! In the world, the deception exists that if a particular sin does not seem to be hurting anyone else, then it is OK. But there is no victimless sin! The one committing the sin is always harmed by it. Sin is toxic to the sinner! When God grants us the blessing of repentance, we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and the realization of our true spiritual condition can be a painful one. He makes us very aware that we need cleansing and renewal.

God is holy, and our sin polluted us spiritually and separated us from God. The prophet Isaiah said, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1–2). Yet it is in God’s nature to have mercy and to heal, and it always has been. The Apostle Paul explained, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’” (Romans 9:15–16).

Happily for us, God, in His mercy and grace, has made it possible for us to be cleansed and healed by the sacrifice of His Son, and we have a special remembrance of that great gift every Passover. Paul wrote, “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:26–27). Christ’s first appearance was to save us from the guilt of our sins. No one who is still profaned by that guilt can be resurrected to immortality in the Kingdom of God. When Christ comes a second time, the resurrection of the just occurs, and it will be for our salvation from death in the grave.

Each year, when we take the Passover, we remember that the Lamb of God was sacrificed to make it possible, by unearned grace, for us to be cleansed of our sins and for us to be reconciled with the Father.

The first great part of God’s plan of salvation is pictured by the Spring Holy Days and involves the good news—the gospel—of the grace of God. As the Apostle Paul said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (v. 32). That is good news indeed!

Our renovation begins with a complete cleaning out!

Counting Fifty

After “counting fifty” from the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we come to the Holy Day of Pentecost. On that day two millennia ago, the Holy Spirit was given in power, beginning the Church of God—and that power is still with God’s people today. First, it works with us, and then it works in us. If we want to have this precious Spirit, we must first obey God. The Apostle Peter said, “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).

Jesus had taught this to His disciples when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that [it] may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, [that] the world cannot receive, because it neither sees [it] nor knows [it]; but you know [it], for [it] dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:15–18).

When God calls us, His Spirit is working with us to open our eyes and ears to His truth. Our “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This seeing and hearing is a great blessing from God! “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16–17). God brings us to true repentance, baptism for the remission of sins and then we receive the Holy Spirit of God by the laying on of hands by one of His true ministers (Acts 2:37–38; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Once we have that indwelling Spirit, the renovation work can begin. And it is God who does it. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The Renovation Begins

Often, a house that is in need of renovation has suffered damage. It can look just fine from the outside, but inside it can be a real mess. Perhaps there has been water damage from a leaky roof, resulting in stains, mildew and rotted trusses. Or perhaps a foundation has sunk, resulting in cracks in the walls. It may be that some of the house’s mechanical systems are broken and dysfunctional. And it will certainly need a thorough cleaning from attic to basement!

In life, people suffer damages too. They may look fine from the outside, but inside, God knows that there are lots of problems. Everyone in God’s Church is a real “fixer-upper.” Fortunately, the Master Builder Himself will come and live in us to make the improvements.

What are some of the things that God’s Spirit does in us?

The Holy Spirit sanctifies! God sets His people apart as holy in several ways, and a most important one is by the giving of His Spirit. To the brethren in Rome, Paul wrote that he “might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

The Holy Spirit heals! God does not take away all the consequences of our past sins, but He does remove the guilt and begins a healing process. When God renovates us, He cleanses our guilt, repairs our relationships, fixes broken hearts, replaces dysfunctional attitudes, reinforces good behavior, and renews our lives. Jesus visited a synagogue one Sabbath and read a prophecy from the book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16–19).

The Holy Spirit leads! It leads us in a new way of life and helps us keep God’s commandments. This way of life is a blessed one, and the Holy Spirit is like a fountain from which we can drink daily; “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). Our job is to follow the lead of that Spirit daily.

The Holy Spirit transforms! One’s will is one’s power to choose. God is transforming our wills to be like His, so that we choose as He does. He wants us to obey Him from the heart—and, having done so, to be able to live joyfully in His Kingdom forever. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18). God’s transforming Spirit turns our hearts towards Him.

How Is Your Renovation Progressing?

“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:9–17).

The temple of our body must never remain defiled with sin. God knows that even with His Holy Spirit leading us to keep His commandments, we still make mistakes. Happily, in His mercy, God has a way to continuously keep this temple clean. The Apostle John admonished the first-century Church and us; “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [present: ongoing] us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.… If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse [future: ongoing] us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned [past], we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:7–2:2).

A New House Is Waiting

But even the best of houses does not last forever. Everything physical wears out, especially our bodies. The Apostle Paul explained that ultimately, God has a new, eternal body to be our habitation—which Christ brings from heaven when He comes. And His Spirit makes it possible. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Our immortality is something that Christ currently has in heaven and that we “put on” when He brings it at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:51–54).

Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 5:2–5: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

How we long to be clothed in that habitation! And it is His Holy Spirit that guarantees that Christ will give it to us.

The Apostle John tells us about this glorious future that God’s Holy Spirit makes possible: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).

The Apostle Paul continues the description: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18).

This Pentecost season, let us remember that it is the healing, transforming, renewing Spirit of God that makes these wonderful promises possible!