by Eugene Higgins
The English language (particularly the brand of it that is slaughtered in this part of the world) has always struck me as a Rube Goldberg type of native tongue. We cobble words on to it here, attach them there, rivet them on in another place, hammer them in with excessive usage, linking all their variations with a gossamer thread of a relationship. We take perfectly good nouns and turn them into horrendous adjectives (I’m looking at you, “impactful”) or distort them into annoying verbs (“google” this if you don’t believe me). Samuel Johnson would be driven mad! Attempting to count how many words are in this salmagundi of a tongue is as arduous a task as keeping track of the world population. The English Language Maternity Ward keeps churning out new family members at a bewildering rate of speed. Also, like a proud parent pulling out pictures of the older kids, English has a way of reminding us of words born a few years ago that are suddenly and rapidly growing up before our very eyes.
Such is the case with the word “infodemic.” Rather than its having had a natural birth, this monstrosity of a word is a clone. As you might have guessed, it comes from two fine, upstanding parents who deserved better and should never have wed – “information” and “epidemic.” “Infodemic” refers to the blizzard of information, facts, fake news, misinformation, disinformation, urban legend, and speculation – all mixed together – that can so rapidly bury us because of the global reach of modern information technologies. The word was born in 2003, but it has had a resurgence (growth spurt?) due to the present virus.
Of course, this situation complicates the already arduous task of sifting through all the verbiage to discover the truth of any issue. Far from merely annoying, this can be dangerous when it is misinformation about a health issue. It brings to mind the words Mark Twain purportedly said: “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” If he feared that a typo in the 19th century could kill you, imagine what would be his terror today at the tsunami of supposed authoritative news and information inundating the Internet!
Since this is characteristic of the age in which we live, it may be beneficial to consider the wonderful Bible word “renewal.” When you went to bed last night, how did you feel? Burdened? Anxious? Fearful? When you woke up this morning, how did you feel? Depressed? Energized? Joyful? Sad? (Tired?) Have you given any thought to what affects your joy or peace?
There are many things that influence our moods and attitudes, but Proverbs 4:23 counsels us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” In the OT, the word “heart” is one of the richest, most robust of words. It refers, in some passages, (as it does in Proverbs 4:23) to our inner being, the totality of our inner nature – the center and seat of our feelings, affections, will, and intellect. This is to be guarded at all costs because the “issues of life” (our actions, attitudes, thoughts, predilections, decisions) flow from it. And this is the very thing that is assaulted constantly, daily, perpetually, and unremittingly; and it is done so by means of every form of communication and all the media-muscle the world and your enemy can employ: radio, television, Internet; messages from Hollywood, Madison Avenue, Wall Street; literature, magazines, billboards, and news items. Not living in a hermetically sealed safe-room, I realize that all of us need to use a number of these mediums, or consult these sources, many times throughout the day. However, while you may listen to the Refuge Series or other online Bible messages for a few hours, you are also listening to a whole different set of sermons preached by the world for endlesshours. And you listen to it, for the most part, with your guard down, unaware that anyone is tinkering with your thinking. As a result, slowly, imperceptibly, but also incrementally, all of this has an impact on our freshness, warmth, joy, energy, and ambitions as a Christian. You may strive to be selective in what you see, hear, or read, but escaping from its reach seems impossible, “for then must ye needs go out of the world.” What then is the remedy? It is:Renewal
One of the words used in the Old Testament for renewal conveys the thought of renewing and “repairing” the damage inflicted by someone or some thing: In 1 Samuel 11, Samuel called on the people to join him in Gilgal to “renew the kingdom.” The previous chapter had ended with the ominous signs of disunity. Samuel’s remedy was a renewal of the fealty and loyalty of the nation to its new king. Asa renewed the altar (2 Chr 15) and Joash “repaired” the house (2 Chr 24). In both cases renewal was necessary because previous rulers (Abijah and Athaliah) had been evil. David prayed that God would renew a right spirit within him following the spiritual damage he had incurred through his sin, (Ps 51). Later, in contrast to his aging, the Psalmist wrote that God renewed his youth like the eagle’s (Ps 103) and spoke of God’s renewing the face of the earth by the continuance of life (Ps 104). Jeremiah, amid the desolation of a sacked city, prayed that God would turn His people to Himself and renew their days as of old, “repairing” the damage done to the nation by the enemy (Lam 5). The world often “damages” our spiritual health. How much we need to be renewed!
In the NT, one of the words used for renewal occurs only four times, twice in its noun form (Rom 12:2 and Titus 3:5) and twice as a verb (2 Cor 4:16 and Col 3:10). The word means “a complete change for the better”; “receiving new vigor or strength.” Here are the verses:
- Tit 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
- Rom 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
- 2 Co 4:16, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”
- Col 3:10, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.”
Renewal (noun): The importance of renewal can be seen in Titus 3 and Rom 12. The Titus passage states that it required regeneration (rebirth) and a renewal by the power of the Holy Spirit to change us from all that we were. (It is not saying that the Holy Spirit was renewed to us but that we were renewed by Him). Rom 12 indicates that it is the daily renewing of our minds that preserves us from being conformed to this world and living like “those who go down to the pit.” Notice that the command “be ye transformed” is not “transform yourself.” Scholars tell us that the command is in the passive voice, as though Paul were saying, “allow yourself to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Jeremiah 18 depicts change as occurring from without, caused by external forces, like the hands of a potter shaping a vessel. In the New Testament, the change comes from within, as the Spirit of God works in our hearts to cause a metamorphosis. Paul says, “Let Him!”
Renewing (verb): In 2 Cor 4, Paul contrasts the outward man’s “changing for the worse” and the inner man’s being “changed for the better.” There was so much to discourage, weaken, and drain Paul as his aging and battered body was constantly enduring hardship. What enabled him to say, “We faint not”? What kept him from giving up, losing heart, throwing in the towel? Something was happening on a daily basis that gave him fresh heart: his inner self was being renewed “day by day.” Wuest translates it: “Our outward self is progressively decaying, yet our inward self is being changed into a new kind of life day by day.” Col 3:10 explains that this is constantly being effected by the increasing knowledge of the Lord Jesus and our conformity to Him.
I found it amusing to read about a woman who was shopping in a department-store and noticed that the clerk behind a complaint desk smiled at everyone who talked to her. She kept her voice low and pleasant, even when irate customers spoke rudely to her. The shopper was amazed at the way the woman maintained her composure. Then she noticed the clerk’s dark earrings. On one, in white lettering, was inscribed, “in” and on the other, “out.”
Of course, the trouble with “in one ear and out the other” is that in between those two “ear-gates,” at least for most of us, is our brain and likely that mysterious thing called our “mind.” Thoughts and ideas cling to us like Velcro and it is our mind, our “heart,” that we need to sedulously guard. One Christian writer has pointed out: “Every generation of Christians faces unique challenges … The challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries.”
So if you have been feeling “down,” depressed, anxious, or fearful, try this: Turn off Fox News and turn on Philippians or First Peter or First John. Instead of looking for current info from the BBC, CBC, or CBS, try to see beyond today; spend a few moments looking off unto Jesus, looking not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. It will be like a breath of fresh air to spiritual lungs choked with the noxious fumes of a pernicious age. You’ll sleep better, feel happier, and think clearer. Trust me – I didn’t read it on the Internet.
“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).