Home Renovations, Waffle House, and Spiritual Discipline
My wife and I don’t watch a great deal of TV. But, when we do, it’s typically a home improvement show. Yes, I’ll admit it, I like HGTV.
There’s something deeply satisfying about watching a home be transformed from a place that likely should be demolished to a place a family will happily live in for decades. And, given Maddie and I are currently in the throws of our own home remodel, it’s encouraging to see that a house really can be made new again.
Something that consistently amazes about the homes we see on these shows, and our own home, is just how quickly a structure can weaken and break down. A house that fails to receive regular and consistent maintenance will crumble within a few short decades, while a house that does receive consistent care and attention can stand for centuries.
That is to say, a house’s default is decay. Interestingly, you and I are much the same. When we fail to regularly and consistently maintain ourselves by practicing spiritual disciplines, we too will crumble.
To unpack this reality, we’ll look at Romans 12:2 which says:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Recently, I heard a pastor use an illustration that connected Waffle House and the dangers of being conformed to the world.
When you go into Waffle House and order an All-Star Special, there’s a part of Waffle House that leaves with you. No, he wasn’t talking about the rapidly digesting food that sits like a brick in your stomach, he was talking about that sheen of butter and syrup that attaches itself to your skin and clothes for the rest of the day.
While I’m certain we’ve all at one point or another been aware of the Waffle House sheen, there’s another sheen that we all experience that is far more subtle and certainly more dangerous. Whether we realize it or not, our views of morality, the way we think about what is right and what is wrong, identity, etc. are all influenced by the teachings of the world. Because we live in the world, it’s unavoidable.
In Romans 12:2 when Paul says “Do not be conformed to this world…” the assumption is that in our unregenerate state (pre-salvation) we ARE conformed to this world. Paul then follows that statement up by telling us we need to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
Studying the Bible systematically would teach us the very same thing. Romans 3:23, for example, says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Meaning, our default is to drift toward sin rather than toward righteousness. John 3:18 teaches us that apart from Christ, all are condemned already. It wasn’t that Christ came into the world to condemn the world, but instead to save the world (John 3:16,17).
When you placed your faith in Jesus, the reality is that you were made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). You were transformed from death to life (Ephesians 2:1). Through faith in Christ, you have been given the Holy Spirit, adopted into God’s family, and are viewed as holy and blameless because of Christ (Ephesians 1). And, none of this was your doing. It was ALL a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).
Yet, when saved, we have the responsibility to participate alongside the Holy Spirit in the process of being made more and more like Jesus over time. While the Bible is abundantly clear that God is sovereign over our salvation, it is also abundantly clear that we are accountable to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Once again in the words of the Apostle Paul, we need to train ourselves in Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).
The primary way in which we participate in this renewal alongside the Holy Spirit is by submitting ourselves to the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Doing so, however, requires a commitment to growing in spiritual discipline.
In my own life, and in the life of others, I’ve seen this area of the Christian life neglected. The reason for this neglect may stem from a lack of awareness of its necessity. Or, perhaps because we’re too afraid to get into a ‘works’ mindset. Whatever the reason, practicing spiritual discipline needs to become part of our everyday rhythm of life, not an afterthought we consider from time to time.
To continue the home renovation and Waffle House illustrations, every broken home that is ‘made new’ still needs maintained. Without consistent care and attention, it will eventually return to a state of decay. The same is true for you and me. While Jesus has made us new by the power of His Spirit, our Biblical command to train in godliness (spiritual discipline) is like going home, showering, and changing after a visit to Waffle House to remove that butter and syrup sheen.
To say it plainly: we need to read the Bible daily in order to renew our mind from conformity to the world to conformity to God. If this does not happen, our default will be to return to a state of decay resulting in a shipwrecked faith (See theological note at the end of this article).
For example, our ‘default’ view of sexuality is going to be given to us by the world. Only by going to God’s word will we receive a renewed and right view of sexuality. My un-renewed mind would tell me that life is about me and what I want. A mind renewed by God’s word is going to tell me that life is about glorifying Him over self. A mind conformed to the world would say that the more popular I am the more successful I am. A mind renewed by God’s word would say that I must decrease and Jesus must increase (Read more on that here).
The antidote to spiritual decay is the practice of spiritual discipline.
“…be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The result of studying God’s word diligently is that we know the will of God in our lives, we know the truth, we know reality, and therefore we can fulfill our ultimate purpose to glorify God in all things, serving in this life as instruments in His hands pointing people to Christ.
Without discipline, we’ll rarely, if ever, study the Bible. As a result, we’ll stay conformed to the world instead of being conformed to Christ which may indicate we never knew Christ at all.
Discipline, however requires habits that impact our day to day. For me, that means going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. I know that the best time for me to get personal, quiet time in God’s word is before our kids wake up. What that requires is desiring to know God more than I desire to veg out and watch another TV show. You’ll have to determine how that applies to your own life.
It also requires submitting any authority I might think I have to God. I don’t know what is right and wrong, God does. I don’t know what’s best for my life, God does.
And lastly, it requires me to ask the Father to send his Holy Spirit to grow in me a desire for him, a passion for his word, and discipline to read, study, and apply His word to my life.
(Theological Clarification: In this article, I don’t intended to say we can lose our salvation. Theologically I would say that if someone strays from the faith it indicates that this person was never of the faith in the first place (1 John 2:19)).