Renunciation is the act or state that allows a person to renounce (deny, oppose, separate from, condemn) an action, thought or characteristic. As such, renunciation is an active, violent and complete “turning against” some undesirable entity. In spiritual usage renunciation is connected with the concepts of conviction, contrition, repentance and spiritual warfare.
In monastic life renunciation is a beginning step in maturity and sanctification. Usually the term renunciation is applied to an attitude of intolerance to the immoral or elicits desires found within an individual. That is, the individual renounces their inner “wrongness”. This concept can be contrasted with an individual’s detachment from licit or morally neutral desires.
So, for example, individuals who dedicate themselves to God and His kingdom will yet find within themselves continued wrong desires. All humans can access “the old man” (the sin nature) within themselves regardless of their devotion and intention to serve God. Commonly experienced wrongness would include desires such as lust, hate, envy, self indulgence, rebellion, etc. One of the first steps in freedom from these sins is the step of renunciation.
To help in understanding this concept, consider this analogy: a tribe of people are fighting in a war. They withdraw into a fortress, erecting fences and barriers. Nevertheless, at times the enemy keeps breaking through the boundaries. They have a “zero tolerance” to this enemy. They make no provision for this enemy to enter. They are vigilant in resisting invasion. They discipline themselves, building endurance and strength. They are serious and remove from themselves attitudes that hinder their effort. They discipline members of the tribe and drive out anyone who is not totally dedicated to winning the war. These people would be displaying the attributes of renunciation.
Now, in the above example there would be much more to be done before the war could be won. They would need further help to win the war. For example they would need better weapons, help from outside the fortress. They would also have to learn endurance. Nevertheless, a person fighting a spiritual war has to start with an attitude of renunciation. They must still add many things. For example, prayer, dependence on God, deliverance, inner healing, repentance, community, worship, and whatever else was necessary. But an attitude of renunciation is an important element in Christian perfection.
In summary, in Christian growth renunciation is a necessary step in obtaining victory. Renunciation, however, does not in itself free the person from sin. Many aspects of sanctification are beyond human will power. See stage two of monastic purification.