We just returned from a family vacation to Las Vegas. Don’t judge. My husband had a convention there so it was a pretty sweet deal for my son and me to tag along. I spent the week marveling at many things but primarily at the façades. Every building is a testimony to something it isn't: the pyraminds and Sphinx, New York City, Paris, Venice, Rome, the circus, volcanoes and pirate ships, flamingo gardens and lion habitats, chapels and coliseums. I had to explain to my son that the word facade means “fake front”. He wanted to know what was behind them. Good question.
Switch gears with me for a second. I have a friend here at home who is one of the most faithful followers of Christ that I know. She and her husband raised their son in the church; one of those families who are there every time the doors are open. Her son came up (as we like to say) in the youth group at our church and was active to the point of committing to ministry as an adult and following that path in school. But that didn’t work out the way he expected it to. He married a girl who is hard after God. But that didn’t work out the way he expected it to either. Though I’ve given you the short-and-sweet I don’t have to be Michelangelo for you to see the whole picture I’m painting. Devoted family. Busy at church. Crumbling faith.
Now return to the idea of façades. The reason I didn’t have to paint an elaborate picture for you in the last paragraph is because we’ve all seen it. We may even be lulled into that false sense of security with our kids (or peers), thinking that as long as they are in church every possible minute, surrounded by Godly men and women mentors, busy doing the business of church, going on mission trips and working on service projects, volunteering at VBS, and tithing faithfully, they’ll be alright. They’re walking with God. But as a friend of mine pointed out to me not long ago, our kids (friends, peers, even mentors) can be good moral people, busy at church work and leading the charge, and still be headed straight to hell.
Now, I don’t think that’s the case with my friend’s son. What I think happened to him is he got Vegased. Even he thought that as long as he was busy doing church everything would be (would have been) alright. But when he stepped out of the church and into the world, the façade fell away and there was nothing real for him to hide behind. He had built a façade called works on a foundation of faith, but when tested by fire, the façade burned up and he was stripped right down to the bare bones of his reality. Exposed. Vulnerable. Incomplete. Unequipped. And mad.
My friend is praying for new construction to begin soon, but for now her son is a rickety shell of a lean-to and she’s praying against a stiff wind. But the beauty is that though his crumbling façade has left a trail of destruction a mile wide behind him, God can build something real on the foundation that was laid long ago now that the façade has been demolished.
I know you’re probably waiting for the “Well, Timmy” here, but I don’t really have one. That would require an answer that I’m still searching for. On the other hand, at the surface level this is something I’ve been talking about it for the last…well, seems like forever. Works don’t get you anywhere with God. All they do is build up a fake front that convinces everyone, including you, that you’re doing alright. But what I learned in Vegas is that if you look closely at a façade, you can see that it’s just a shabby imitation of the real thing.
“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. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15