WS Update: Repentance and Newness

February 21, 2022

Throughout the Bible, we find the theme of newness at important junctures. For instance, God tells Israel, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). Why? “See, I am doing a new thing!” (v.19)—there was a new exodus coming for the exiled people. 

It’s one thing to remember the past, it’s another thing to get stuck there. Alec Motyer writes, “The past can teach…but it must not bind. The gaze must be ever forward to what God will yet do. It is not that the Lord would go back on or rewrite the exodus revelation but that the Lord’s people should live in the present reality of the exodus God.” Israel had to learn to live with the exodus God, not reminisce on the exodus as a bygone divine favor. 

We can summarize this openness to newness with the biblical concept of repentance. Alan Hirsch summarizes repentance as not only a change from erroneous or destructive ways to God, but more broadly a paradigm shift, something mind-blowing that leaves you transformed. As Oliver Wendell Holmes puts it, “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” 

In their book Reframation: Seeing God, People, and Mission through Reenchanted Frames, Alan Hirsch and Mark Nelson further unpack repentance, drawing on Jesus’ core message of calling others to repentance in view of the kingdom of God arriving:

We learn from Jesus that those who have eyes to see and ears to hear are those who, by God’s grace, have been able to let go of such limited frameworks and to perceive the world anew under the condition called faith. It’s no different for us today. We need to have our perceptions cleansed and transformed if we are to be able to see and understand the truth. 

They go on to add, “The Scriptures teach us that no spiritual progress is possible without humility. Humility requires us to admit that all we know is NOT all there is…Engaging with true repentance has always been a challenge for the stubborn human mind, but even more so in our twenty-first-century ‘echo chambers,’ in which our beliefs are amplified and reinforced within our closed networks.” 

May the church in NYC, including our own community, be a site of both repentance and newness, that we might echo Jacob: “The LORD is certainly in this place, and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16).

Frederick Douglass Houses

Connect with and serve our neighbors living in the Frederick Douglass Houses by giving out food to the community. Come be a part of building relationships with and loving our neighbors in the West Side!

Coming up

  • Sign up for New at RWS, Feb 27 : If you’re new to Redeemer West Side, we welcome you to come learn more about our church and get connected to community.
  • Access our Lent page: Know about dates and times, Lent devotional and more.
  • Don’t Walk By registration now open!: Serve uptown neighbors this year during Saturday, April 9! The launch site will be The Salvation Army on 540 Lenox Ave, and Team Leader, outreach, hospitality, and more volunteer roles are needed. Connect with neighbors living on the street!
  • Teach ESL on the Upper West Side: The Open Door empowers immigrants to reach their full God-given potential to successfully integrate, participate and contribute to the well being of our society. Make a difference in the lives of adult immigrants by teaching in-person ESL classes weekly on the Upper Wide Side!