I know how to turn a handle on a grain mill. As a matter of fact, as big, heavy and fancy as our mill is, it didn’t even come with a manual, just a simple flyer with a blown-up picture of its component parts. Building a two-story barn…well, that is something I don’t know how to do. Even with well-laid architectural plans, I’m going to need some help. Better yet, I’m more suited to being the help, not running the show.
As it stands, my husband and I are the barn-building helpers, working with some friends with whom we share a cow who needs a roof over her head. Against great odds, the ground has been cleared, the foundation poured and set, and the frame is going up. I am deeply enjoying the process, observing how each part is crucial to the integrity of the structure as a whole. It would not be an overstatement to say that each piece is individually handled, individually measured, individually cut, and individually leveled.
The aspect of a large structure remaining plumb is critical. “Plumb” is vertical, and must be in direct relation to the foundation, which is horizontal. If each piece is not plumb to the foundation, the entire structure would be off balance. In fact, the degree to which a building is off becomes magnified as the structure rises. Picture any angle that is not a right angle, where two lines meet at the vertex (the point) and they are close. But once you set off from that point and continue on in a straight line, you can see that the lines grow farther and farther apart. Imagine that difference in a large edifice and you can see a building that won’t have a sound future.
But what does a builder do if he knows the foundation is flawed? Our foundation is a concrete slab, prepared as well as possible, but with a slight bias, a leaning to the southwest. You can see it when it rains—water pools in one corner. Fortunately for us, our foreman, Darren, is skilled in construction and has all the necessary tools to complete the project successfully. As we worked to connect the vertical posts to the second floor foundation (the 2 x 4’s that lay horizontal to the ground floor and will hold the remainder of our barn) we used a transit, a three-legged instrument designed to correct the flaw of our unlevel concrete foundation by making sure that from there on up we were well-balanced. I can’t explain the mathematical exactness of it to you, but I get the point: With a biased foundation, the whole building would continue to follow that bias to its eventual collapse, but correcting those imperfections and putting our barn back on track would lead to a beautiful, solid structure that will endure for years.
God’s Word compares structuring our lives to constructing a building.
1 Corinthians 3:10a:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.
God chooses to communicate to us through examples in the physical realm because the concepts and principles that apply in the physical are equally valuable in the spiritual. Thus we receive the warning that follows the above verse:
1 Corinthians 3:10b and 11
(10b) But each one should be careful how he builds.
(11) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Our Lord himself, while on earth, gave the same pre-caution:
Matthew 7:24 and 26
(24) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
(26) But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
People in real estate point to the importance of “Location, location, location,” but in construction what is important is “Foundation, foundation, foundation.”
But what if the foundation is off? I know in my own life I have years of improper practices built on thoughts originating either in my sin nature or from the world. Often, I’m not even consciously aware of the foundation from which I’m operating! Let’s deviate from construction analogies for a moment to consider a sewing analogy. I had a friend, a sister in Christ, who was a wonderful seamstress. She specialized in darning, repairing a hole in fabric with such skill that you could no longer find the error amongst the original in the fabric she restored. One day she marveled over a beautiful cashmere coat I owned. As her eye moved over the pattern, she commented on the caliber of quality.
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“Well, do you notice how the pattern stays the same on the coat all the way across, even connecting the folded collar and the hanging arms? The seamstress who sewed your coat took the time to line the pattern up even on the parts that run at angles. Except for this bias,” she pointed. The part to which she referred was the pocket. In order to stand out, the maker of the coat had taken the same cloth and the same pattern, but attached it at an angle to the rest of the material. That, in sewing, is called a bias. To make an analogy of it, whenever our thoughts run at an angle against what someone or some majority consider to be the usual direction, this is also called a bias.
From a worldly point of view, God has a bias. That is because God’s thoughts and ways run against the pattern of those of the World. Actually, our sin nature has a bias against the ways and thoughts of God. This nature, sin, is so powerful that Paul wrote by revelation “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Rom. 7:15). God understands our makeup, and yet He holds us accountable for what we do, having given us the tools necessary for success: His Son, His Word, and His gift of holy spirit.
Getting back to the concept of building, our sin nature gives us a biased foundation upon which to build the life that God and the Lord Jesus would have us live. Make no mistake about it, there is not a person alive who is not a builder by the simple fact that he or she is alive and is drawing breath. How can we be sure our life will measure up and be plumb? How can we be sure that when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment we can be proud of the edifice we have constructed? Enter God’s transit: The Word of God. By it, we are able to know what is plumb and squared and right, that which will stand solid as we continue to build upward.
In practical application, each time you encounter a situation in life you check your thoughts against those of God, handle them individually, making sure each is level and plumb with the truths in God’s Word. God’s Word is Truth, defined as that starting point acknowledged as true and right, upon which all other systems are built. As Truth, it is God’s point of view that is the only “bias” that is not actually a slanted view. As the Originator of thought and practice, all other divergent thoughts and practices set themselves at an angle to His. When we live according to Truth, the outcome will be solidly structured as the way of God is made manifest. Following God’s “bias” usually incorporates the idea of dying to our own ways. It takes a practiced approach.
In God’s Word we see copious examples of how to adjust our compromised foundation and set it right before God.
(20) You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
(21) Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
(22) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
(23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
(24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
(25) Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
(26) “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
(27) and do not give the devil a foothold.
(28) He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
(29) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
(30) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
(31) Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
(32) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Wow—what would the fabric of our lives look like if we removed our biases and lived out these verses? What a beautiful and appealing structure the Body of Christ would be to the world! And yet, there is even so much more!
We each must examine our lives and the foundation upon which we are building. When jealousy or selfishness show up, remember, we are accountable for the beams we set in place. Do we want to continue to follow those lines? Or would we rather get out our transit, the Word of God, and reset our lives? Faced with such emotion, restructure the direction that foundation is being built upon by putting on the mind of Christ:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Each time we defeat our biased foundation with the Word of God, we are building an enduring work of truth, and we are setting before us a wonderful eternal life filled with rewards!
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
(12) If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
(13) 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.
(14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
(15) If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.