Mike Barnes is on the board of Gateway Fellowship in Sacramento. He also happens to be in a men's accountability group with me and a couple other guys from Gateway. I never cease to be amazed at the depth of insight he brings to us at 5:45 a.m. Monday mornings over coffee in a garage at another friend's house. I trust you will be as blessed by his writing as I am. --Ray
The house we've been in for the last five years is showing its signs of wear and need for paint. Some areas are peeling, others are revealing cracks, and a few fascia boards appear to have the beginnings of dry rot. To delay treatment would likely allow greater damage, which in the long run would raise repair costs and increase the amount of work to be done.
I must admit, I tire just thinking about all the prep work needed to do the job right. The scraping of paint and gouging out of cracked and broken plaster, in addition to replacing, filling, sanding, and priming wood surfaces—all prior to painting—makes me want to sign a contract and write a check to someone else.
There is also the temptation to do it myself and just scrape a little of the surface issues away, lightly sand some rough spots, and then cover with a thick coat of paint (like those before us did). But, to do the job right we need to start sooner, not neglect the small issues, and fully prep surfaces even before applying the final coats of paint. To do it right means work.
When I started thinking about the needs and demands of the house, another ‘project’ currently underway came to mind as well: the one dealing with my heart.
In this current season, I am finding many cracks exist or are developing in what I thought was a pretty solid covering, hidden areas conveniently untouched for some time and perhaps showing some signs of decay are being tagged for removal, and also, thankfully, that it is a ‘project’ designed to reveal something greater, or rather Someone greater, in the end.
Like the home I live in, there’s work to be done in my heart. And similarly, it's better to begin, or at least allow, the work sooner, not neglect the small issues, and recognize that to do it right, there will be work involved. Unlike my home, I already have One committed to me in this maintenance project, One who ensures the job will be done right.
What is He scraping out of the cracked plaster in my heart?
Perhaps old habits of bad thoughts or thoughtlessness, or maybe actions and attitudes kept beneath the surface for many years, items deemed not appropriate with the ‘covering’ He provides. Or maybe He’s going deeply to eradicate legalism, pride, and covetousness so they will have few remnants that can weaken me. He seeks out areas, which if left untreated, cause decay, rot, and increasing damage in the house of my heart wherein His own Holy Spirit resides. (John 14:17)
The many chapters of the Old Testament devoted to the planning, preparation, and construction of the temple show us that God is very interested in the details of the materials used for the places wherein He resides.
Building and Materials
In I Cor. 3:9-16 Paul refers to us as God’s building. After describing our foundation as being upon Christ alone, Paul challenges believers to be selective with the materials they use to build upon that firm base (i.e., gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw). The foundation is clearly Christ and His work, but the materials we use are often determined by choice – choices we make daily in our decision and willingness to change. For me, it seems He’s already begun testing some of my materials by burning away a bit of the chaff now (I can smell the smoke almost daily!).
Peter echoes Paul about our using quality materials for this earthly temple in I Pet. 2:1-5 when he tells us to lay aside “all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking” – materials not appropriate for display in any temple. He continues to encourage us by saying that we “are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, [designed] to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The Master Builder
As I do with the house I live in, my focus is often on the exterior. I could try harder to do the right things and say the right things before others, but Jesus clearly taught us He is not as interested in the external image of this earthly ‘house’, but is focused instead on the inside of the cup (Mtt. 23:26), that is, the heart from which flow the issues of life (Prov. 4:23). A heart fully possessed by Him is no longer worried about maintaining a picturesque exterior, gleaming lifestyle, or perfect persona.
I once again admit I can tire when thinking about all the work needed within my heart. Ah, but unlike my wood and plaster house, I recognize He is at work in me both to will and work His good pleasure and these hard changes are simply the "working out" part of my salvation (Phil. 2:12-13).
His voice of truth calls out to the depths of my heart: Let Me come alongside and work with you in the unkempt areas, the decayed spaces in need of repair, and rebuild that which is lost. Let me truly be Lord of your life, in every corner, for I have purchased you with a price you cannot pay and for a glory you cannot construct.
Thank you Lord for loving me enough to help me see my need, going deep in your work within, and for being such a wise, gentle, and loving Master Builder who has set eternity in the hearts of your people.
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