Introductory Note:

Here are three entries from Renovaré’s From the Inside Out Journal. The first comes from section 4: What is the Gospel?, the second from section 5: How Do People Change?, and the third from section 6: How Do I Follow Jesus? 

Each section includes questions to help you consider God’s invitations for you. The full journal can be downloaded as a pdf for free when you register for our free course From the Inside Out, or can be purchased as a wire-bound journal here.

Renovaré Team

The Good News of the Kingdom

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 
MARK 1:14 – 15, NRSVA

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! 

Thy kingdom come — not mine. Thy will be done — not mine. 

The kingdom of God has come near.” This is the gospel that Jesus repeated everywhere he went. God’s kingdom includes all that falls under his authority and is faithful to his purpose. Everything in heaven already conforms to God’s perfect will. But on earth, his kingdom is wherever he is received as King. We can choose the reign of God (where his way is done) or we can choose another kingdom (where our own way or some other way is done).

Look at the life of Jesus. He is proof that life under God’s authority and faithful to his purpose truly is the good life — a life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Our self-rule, on the other hand, is not. And yet our own kingdoms are so hard to leave behind!

Thankfully, the good news of Jesus isn’t an impossible ideal. The gospel of the kingdom comes with power to change. Whatever rules over us can be overcome as we follow Jesus. He is the way,” or the path, that leads us into the good life (John 14:6). He makes it possible for all who accept him to turn into this kingdom.

Reflect Journal

  1. The line from the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” makes more sense in light of the gospel of the kingdom. Do you think of this as a future-tense prayer or something we’re meant to ask for and receive now?
  2. Write out Dag Hammarskjöld’s paraphrase: Thy kingdom come — not mine. Thy will be done — not mine.1 Try expanding on this in your own words. For example, Your rules, not mine. Or, How you want it, not how I want it. 

Is Change Possible? If So, How?

Jesus replied, Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 
JOHN 3:3 – 4NIV

The way to God is the way of all-encompassing inner transformation. 

Change for the sake of change is not the goal of spiritual formation. Loving, worshipful life with the Trinity is the priceless treasure. And yet to experience that life, we have to change. Jesus says as much to Nicodemus — No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).

Your main barrier to life with God is yourself. Anything that you let control and direct you is your god and your ruler — stomach, temper, addictions, fears. As long as you live under the reign of tyrants like these, you can’t fully enjoy and obey the one true God. Transformation is not a spiritual hoop to jump through; it’s just the fact of the matter that unless we change, we stay in a holding pattern of destructive self-rule and self-focus.

Leaving all of that to enter God’s abundant life takes nothing short of a miracle. You need a new outlook. You need renewed ideas, desires, and choices — a complete rebirth of your spirit. Jesus says that a new spirit is absolutely necessary, and that he has come to offer that new life to the whole world (John 3:16 – 17). Nicodemus asks what we’re all wondering: How … ? We can’t literally start from scratch!

Jesus answers, Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Your Creator is also your Re-creator — the one who forms a new spirit within you. But unlike your physical birth, being born again in spirit happens only by your own choosing and your active cooperation.

Reflect Journal

  1. Read in John 3 the full account of Nicodemus — a learned teacher of the Scripture — who is confused but eager to understand the good news of Jesus.
  • What do you find encouraging about Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus?
  • Is any part of it frustrating?
  • Without trying to completely solve this complex conversation, make some notes about what you hear in Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. What parts of this news sound good to you? 

Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

We must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. 

You aren’t free and ready to do God’s will if your own preferences reign supreme. There will come a point when your own kingdom comes into conflict with love of God and neighbor. This is exactly what Jesus invites you to crucify. Whenever your will comes into conflict with God’s will, the choice to follow him rather than please yourself is a movement deeper into his kingdom.

In Jesus’ parable recorded in Matthew 13:31 – 32, he remarked that God’s reign grows like a mustard seed. A mustard plant is miniscule at first but matures into a tree that gives shelter and shade. This parable is Jesus’ way of teaching how conversion from your kingdom to his kingdom happens. Complete obedience in your life — the total rule of God’s kingdom — is made up of one small surrender after another. Conversions from self-gratification to obedience might seem like laughably small movements— sharing a treat you’d been looking forward to; holding back a sharp word; passing up an opportunity to brag; smiling and talking with someone when you don’t feel like it. As you submit to the Lord one after another of your appetites, opinions, and ideas, each small gesture waters the little seed of God’s kingdom in you.

Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus urged in Luke 9:23Keep dying to your kingdom and keep reawakening to mine — as many times as it takes for every single part of you to be an eternal YES to God.

Reflect Journal

  1. Disciplines that disrupt your regular strategies for getting your own way can help crucify the impulses that hold you back from freely loving others and doing God’s will. This might look like some form of fasting, or planning to let others have the last word for a whole day.
  2. Take some time to journal about what habits or desires hold you back from doing God’s will as easily and readily as Jesus did. What little crosses might God be leading you to schedule into your coming week? 
  1. Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings (New York: Ballentine, 1983), 142. ↩︎

Taken from the From the Inside Out Journal, edited by Grace Pate Pouch and Brian Morykon. Adapted from The Reservoir, a Renovaré resource for spiritual renewal, and from the content of the Renovaré course From the Inside Out, with additions by Grace Pouch and Brian Morykon. © 2024 Renovaré

Image: Hand of God, fresco from Sant Climent de Taüll, Catalonia, Spain. 

· Last Featured on January 2024