Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How's Your Infrastructure?

“So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezek.13:14)

What with broken levees (think New Orleans) and collapsed bridges (think Minneapolis), a common complaint today is the seemingly poor condition of our country’s infrastructure, meaning the underlying foundation and basic framework of our public works, buildings, and transportation facilities, etc. But as important as these things may be, they will not contribute to the downfall of a nation like a rotting moral infrastructure will. As Alexis de Tocqueville, renowned French political thinker of the Modern Age concluded of early America, after a nine-month visit, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” And lest there be any doubt as to the source of this goodness, he also wrote:

“Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions…I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?—but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”

No amount of wealth, beautification, or contrived ecological balancing can make up for moral decay. A nation is, first and foremost, people; and the condition of their hearts provides the truest picture of its stability.

But what of you and me? Do a glowing complexion, trim body, and lively step only hide a crumbling spiritual condition within? In the case of bridges and levees, it takes a catastrophe to see just how weak the inner workings are; and in the case of a Christian, it is usually a tragedy or disappointment that gives us a true glimpse of our own spiritual flimsiness. When, as they say, push comes to shove, are we the ones being pushed and shoved?

What makes a good infrastructure anyway? I may not be an engineer, but I do have some common sense. I know, for instance, that any structure needs at least three things: a good foundation, good building materials, and good maintenance. Those who are true children of God by faith in Jesus Christ have a sure foundation (1Cor.3:11) that is capable of withstanding every storm that arises. “But,” says the apostle in the previous verse, “Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”

Those whose Christian lives are primarily surrounded and bolstered by emotion, without benefit of theological structure or character building instruction, will always be vulnerable to the battering winds of doubt. “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge,” says Peter (2Pet.1:5). Devotional reading is fine—necessary even—but it will never take the place of diligent Bible study and disciplined living, when it comes to spiritual maturity and steadiness. The Word of God is the history of redemption and the instruction manual for life, as well as a love letter from God.

Finally, even the sturdiest of structures needs regular maintenance. We often talk about the danger of stagnating in our Christian lives, but the truth is, we are either going forward or losing ground spiritually. This is what Jesus meant, I think, in His explanation of the parable of Seed and the Sower, when He said, “For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath” (Mark 4:25). As I have written elsewhere, “Hearers of the Word (v.24) are continually receiving what God has provided for their spiritual growth; however, non-hearers are not only deprived of nourishment for new growth, but any spiritual gain they made in the past, is soon depleted.” Those “branches” whose connection to the “Vine” is merely life-sustaining, don’t just fail to grow, they soon wither (Jno.15). “Spirituality is about the nourishing and tending of personal faith,” writes Alister McGrath, in his little book, Beyond the Quiet Time. True Bible spirituality is fixed on Jesus Christ, and is nurtured and maintained by a growing relationship with Him.

When the enemy comes in like a flood (Isa.59:19), will your spiritual levee hold? and will the bridge of your faith stand the heavy burdens of life? In short, how’s your infrastructure? Without a doubt, it’s the most important question you’ll be asked today.

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