Editor's note:

Lest we be lured into the trap of empiricism the world has laid, Richard Foster joins us today to remind us that we are actually citizens of an invisible spiritual realm as well.

If you’re in a season where the fact that your outer self is wasting away really hits home, be of good cheer. Our gracious God invites us into a ever-renewing spiritual reality that we can bet our lives on.

—Renovaré Team

A kind of theme verse for us at Renovaré is the great words of 2 Corinthians 4:16, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (The word translated “renewed” is “renovare” in the Latin Bible.) I like this passage for many reasons. I like its tenacity—“we do not lose heart.” I like its realism—“our outer nature is wasting away.” I like its optimism—we are “being renewed.” I like its progression—our renewal occurs “day by day.” But, most of all, I like its focus on the spiritual and invisible nature of the undertaking to which we are to give our lives. Let me fill in this last point a bit.

The Invisible Nature of the Spiritual 

Renewal, in this passage, is concerned with the inner, spiritual nature of the person. Now, the outward person we can see, but the inward person we cannot see. Spiritual reality, for the most part, is invisible to human eyes. Just below this theme verse Paul notes, “we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen”, and a little later he says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (4:18 and 5:7).

It is important for us to understand the invisible nature of spiritual reality so we can resist the trap of giving definitive significance to the material. God, for example, is invisible. I am always moved by the power of the second of the ten commandments which forbids us from making “graven images” of God. This commandment is directed specifically at the temptation to make the physical ultimate. It is a temptation we face almost daily in our interaction with contemporary culture, saturated as it is with an empirical mind set. “God is Spirit,” declares Jesus, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). In writing to young Timothy, Paul breaks forth into doxology; “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

God’s Great Graciousness

Now, the invisible nature of God is part of his great graciousness. You see, we have this perennial project of hiding from God. But God is so big that we could not hide from him unless he hid from us. God could have set up reality so that every morning we would wake up staring into the face of Omnipotence. But, instead, God cooperates with us so that we can hide from him. He has arranged spiritual reality in such a way that we cannot see it unless God wants us to see it. And God does not want us to see it until we want to see it … want to see it with all our hearts … long for it like the deer longing for flowing streams (Ps. 42:1).

Seeing the Invisible

And when we cry out with every fiber of our being, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God,” then, in time, there comes a seeing that is beyond sight. We enter into the experience of Moses who “persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). We begin to see a spiritual reality that others do not see. And we trust in that reality, betting our lives on it.

This is what the Bible means by faith. Faith involves an entering into the knowledge of the invisible, spiritual world and a living on the basis of that knowledge. And as we do this with regularity and persistence we will discover that “our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Originally published in July 1993.