December 18, 2017

The Season of Renewal

A. J. Gordon

This message was preached more than 100 years ago, yet the truths it offers are poignantly applicable today.

We grow spiritually through constant mortification of the natural man and constant renewal of the spiritual man. A good illustration of this is the process of grafting, which Scripture refers to several times. Here is a gnarly tree, which bears only sour and stunted fruit. From some rich and perfect stock a scion is brought and incorporated into a branch of this tree. The husbandman’s efforts are not directed to the culture and improvement of the old stock, but to the development of the new. Instead of seeking to make the original branches better, he cuts them off, here and there, so the sap and vitality they are wasting in the production of worthless fruit may nurture healthy fruit. In the same way we can produce spiritual fruit: “Put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9) and renew “the inward man … day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16).lfwe are to cope with the powerful enemies confronting us, we need divine renewal.

Daily renewal

“Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3) is the prayer which the Saviour taught us. And yet He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The bread of the Word is what we must feed upon to enjoy a daily increase in the life of God. It is a trite admonition but nevertheless true. Divine growth must follow the divine birth. If we were “begotten by the Word of Truth,” we must be renewed daily by the same element. Too few really credit the power of the Word to build holy character; thus, too few diligently read the Scriptures. We know that the food on our tables reappears in stalwart muscles and alert minds. Then why does it seem incredible that the Word of God, daily received and inwardly assimilated, can reappear in spiritual power and holy efficiency?

The regeneration of the Spirit is followed by a long life of eager and humble feeding on the Spirit and the Word of God. Can the daily newspaper, the light romance, and the secular magazine build up the fibre and tissue of genuine spiritual character? These things are not wrong in themselves, but when we think of the place they hold in modern society, and with how many Christians they constitute the largest share of daily reading, we find reason for concern. As the solemn necessity is laid upon the sinner of choosing between Christ and the world, so is the choice pressed upon the Christian between the Bible and literature-that is, which shall hold first place. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). We quickly attend to our body’s fatigue and hunger at the close of day. But how many days have we known in which we have no relish for the Word of God, no deep, inward craving aft.er that meat of which the world knows nothing? Do we become so alarmed at this symptom that we hurry to seek its cure?

None of us, “by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature” (Matthew 6:27). But how many, by taking in God’s great thoughts, feeding on them and inwardly digesting them, have added vastly to their spiritual stature? In the life of a Christian, some long-neglected but freshly revived truth marvelously quickens and builds up the soul. Its newness creates a strong relish in the believer and imparts a mighty impulse to his spiritual growth. How true this has been of such doctrines as “justification by faith,” “the witness of the Spirit,” and the “coming of the Lord.” The revival of these doctrines has constituted distinct eras of reformation in the Church, but has also· marked eras of renewal in the individual soul Such is the vivifying power of truth; so does it come in to repair the waste in our spiritual life, to build up new tissue, and to put new blood into our heavenly man.

The same may be said of prayer and meditation-they have mighty renewing power. They quicken our life and multiply within us the joy of the Lord, which is our strength. In these days, when the prayer closet is neglected, when Christians find their edification largely in the public services, in the music, art, and eloquence of the sanctuary, and so little in the still hour of communion, it is quite hard to believe that the greatest enjoyment is possible in solitude with God. But if we tum to the Scriptures, we find an answer: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). When we ask Him why He has given us this wonderful privilege of prayer in His name, He replies, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). No wonder that Christians who set aside time for prayer can exclaim, “My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:5-6).

Times of refreshing

No real growth and development in the Christian life is possible without daily renewal. But there is still another kind of renewal essential for Christian growth. “The times of refreshing … from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19), which the Scriptures promise, hold out a blessed and assuring hope. This expression, of course, has literal reference to the return of the Lord from glory and His joyful reunion with His Church. But even now there are seasons of extraordinary communion with the Lord, when, through the Holy Spirit, He is pleased to manifest himself to the soul in such power that they may be called “times of refreshing.”

In churches today, cold and glittering formalities are taking the place of that holy tenderness which pleads with God with “strong crying,” and warns men “night and day with tears.” What servant of God has not had sorrowful experiences of this condition? Then it is that pastors and brethren should seek for a spiritual refreshing from the Lord’s presence. The ordinary tenor of spiritual life will not answer now. The power of God must be laid hold of-special power for special weaknesses and needs. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3). He can renew what he has begotten, and restore the joy of his salvation to those who have backslidden into the “joy” of this world.

We are not to seek the times of refreshing so only we ourselves may enjoy the holy luxury of communion with God. If we do, we will not receive them (for even spiritual blessings we may ask and not receive), for we are only asking to consume them upon ourselves. There is an intimate relationship between the season of renewal in the heart of the individual believer and the time of reviving in the Church. If two harp strings are in perfect tune, you cannot smite the one without causing the other to vibrate; if one Christian is touched and agitated by the Spirit of God, all who are like-minded in the Church will be moved by the same divine impulse.

Who can question whether or not it is profitable for us to wait upon the Lord with prayer for the renewal of our spiritual strength? Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken you by His mighty power, so that you may “put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).


Adoniram Judson, Gordon was born in 1836 in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Named after the first American missionary, Gordon was saved at age 16. After completing his education at Brown University and Newton Theological Institution, he began a long and fruitful pastoral ministry. Gordon pastored the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston from 1869 until his death on February 2, 1895. Through fervent preaching and a strong separatist stand, Gordon saw numerous persons accept Christ and grow spiritually.

Gordon edited the Watchword, a paper devoted to restoring faith, hope, and charity, from 1878 to his death. He also established the Boston Missionary Training School in 1889.


This article was published in Faith for the Family, July/August 1975. It is republished here by permission.


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