When I was 19, I heard a sermon on the concept of theological regeneration, and it literally changed my life. There are very few times that I can pinpoint a church sermon that impacted me enough that I remember it over 10 years later (except those hellfire and brimstone ones *shudder*), but this one shifted the way I view the world and live my life on a soul level.
Theological regeneration sounds boring af, I know, but bear with me. I promise it’ll be worth it. At least for me it was.
Regeneration means rebirth or renewal, so in a biblical sense, it’s being “born again”. I’m sure that you’ve heard this term, even if you’re not of the Christian faith. The word regeneration (Palingenesis in Greek) is only used twice in the Bible, but the concept is used multiple times – anytime that Paul talks about “renewal of the mind” or Jesus mentions “the renewal of all things”, we’re seeing regeneration. The Resurrection itself is regeneration.
See, it’s not the individual aspect of this concept that was a revelation for me (I grew up in church and have heard about being born again since I was born the first time); it’s the cosmic matter of regeneration. It’s macro-regeneration. It’s renewal and rebirth and resurrection on a large-scale, worldwide level. It’s thy kingdom come. It’s on earth as it is in heaven. A massive restoration.
Let me tell you what I mean. You’ve heard of the concept of rebirth in Christ, right? If not, I’ll run you through Christianity 101. When we become a Christian and accept Christ as our savior, our bible tells us that we are made into new creations. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). It’s one of the markers of our faith. We accept Christ and then we become more like Christ (also known as sanctification).
In this life-altering sermon that I heard when I was 19, though, the concept of regeneration expanded further outside of ourselves and to the world around us.
2 Corinthians 5:20 goes on to say that we are ambassadors of Christ; therefore, we are ambassadors of His Kingdom. To put it more simply, we are tasked with the job of bringing Heaven to Earth. Becoming more like Christ doesn’t just mean our souls are healed and renewed; it means that we heal and renew everything around us. We’re in the business of restoration. Restoration in nature. Restoration in relationships. Restoration in health. Restoration in everything – big and small.
Jesus brought heaven down to earth in the healing of the sick. He raised the dead. He turned water into wine. He was a carpenter, so he made things and restored things, even in the most mundane ways. He calmed storms and fed thousands. He spent His time down here restoring Earth as it was meant to be before Adam and Eve blew it. He gloriously and brazenly turned everywhere and everything he touched back to Eden. Death into life. Ashes into beauty.
As humans, we love seeing beautification. I’ve been obsessing over Queer Eye lately, and I – along with a zillion other people – lose my mind once I see the final makeover. If you’ve never seen it, 5 gay guys called the Fab 5 completely makeover a person who is usually stuck in a rut. They help them with fashion, grooming, design, culture, and food. It’s so satisfying to watch because the transformation that happens is exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to regeneration. The person on the show is stuck and usually dresses frumpy, needs a haircut, has a messy house, etc. but these men blow in like a big gay tornado and bring this person back to the person they are supposed to be. It’s a beautiful thing and it gets me every time. I love it.
We all long for it. We all long to return to Eden; for Heaven to come to Earth. That’s why we get so emotional when Simba returns to Pride Rock and the rains fall, bringing fresh grass and water and life. That’s why we love watching Beast turn back into the Prince. That’s why we watch Fixer Upper and love seeing before and after pictures of people once they’ve lost weight and gotten healthy. Heaven is perfect and beautiful and, whether we realize it or not, our souls long to return to that. When things get cleaned up and restored, something clicks back into place in our hearts. It feels like home.
One of my favorite things in studying the cosmic matter of regeneration is how it opened my eyes to people doing the good, noble work of regeneration everywhere and in their own personal ways. A homeless man in Minnesota cleaning up the shore of a stretch of the Mississippi River (without anyone knowing it until they found him cleaning with a giant trash bag one day). A barber in New York giving homeless people haircuts for free. A couple planting 2 million trees over a span of 20 years in Brazil. A farmer here in Albany, planting food gardens and teaching others how to plant them as well. Every business that is bringing life back to our city. Every church and nonprofit that is serving our city in any way. And of course in the creative acts! God is THE Creator, so it’s no surprise that bringing heaven back to earth will involve creating things of beauty. Painting, gardening, writing, singing. I’ve been putting a lot of fresh flowers around my house because it reminds me daily to restore Earth to its original, beautiful, glorious, sacred state in any way I can.
I could write a book about regeneration (and, honestly, I plan to one day) but I’ll end with this. Jesus doesn’t just talk about the resurrection of those who follow him; he talks about the renewal of all things. All things will be renewed. All things will be restored. When we take part in restoring things in this world, we are doing Kingdom business. On Earth as it is in Heaven. Let’s get to work.