Dr. George O. Wood, head of the national church in which I serve, a man who is head of 30,000 ministers and 11,000 churches, offered this homely observation. “If a church’s restroom is clean, it says that the leadership is taking care of the small things and everything else is probably going well, too.” (Road Trip Leadership, GPH 2011) He ought to know, he visits a lot of churches! More than once when visiting a restaurant after making a trip to neglected, dirty restroom I have had some reservations about eating the food, wondering how well the kitchen is cleaned, too.
A well-ordered life that reflects beauty never ‘just happens.’ Order must be created by choice and sustained by effort. That applies equally to clean restrooms and holy hearts. Neglect of the hidden, the small, the detail of life reveals a problem. It might be lack of time because a person is carrying too many responsibilities. It could be distraction by crisis. It could be lack of self-discipline. Most often, it is because of an immaturity that says, “If nobody says anything, I don’t have to perform to a high standard.” Part of maturity is the ability to self-regulate, to set and reach goals without being monitored. Grownups do what they ought to do without being told.
The foundational truth of the Gospel of Christ is grace, a gift of God. We cannot save ourselves from sin, nor can we earn the favor of God. Believing that, some mistakenly conclude that they have no responsibility for the development of their soul. Habits that are inconsistent with a Spirit-filled life remain in place. Dirt remains in the corners of the soul. Deep disciplines that provide the freedom to say “yes” to the leading of the Spirit are never learned. Paul upbraided the Christians in Corinth for their failure to mature. His words need to challenge us to tend the details of our discipleship. “When I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NLT)
Chronologically, they should have been all grown up, but they were still babies, still making messes! It was not a faulty foundation or an incomplete Gospel that caused their prolonged infancy. It was their failure to step up and accept the responsibility to grow. This is more than tragic. It has eternal consequences. Paul reminds them and us that God’s inspection is rigorous. He will take note if we have ‘cleaned the corners.’ “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-14, NIV) If we spend our days building a life with inferior material, the fiery glance of our Lord will burn it all away that there we will stand naked before Him.
Disciple, are you drifting along through day after day? Is the dirt of sin accumulating in the corners of the back rooms of your soul? Are you refusing the correction of the Spirit, ignoring His invitation to go deeper, or are you saying yes to the Spirit on a daily basis? Maturity is not reached in a single leap. It is gained by the choices made one day at a time. Pay attention to the dirt in the corners. Deal with it through confession where we find forgiveness. Bring those habits to the Lord and, with the Spirit’s strength, wrestle them into submission. Choose to worship, to trust, to obey.
The word from the Word is a call to beauty. Let’s do it!
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness … (so that) you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11, NIV)