When a New England man buys a new machine, he immediately wants to know which parts he will need to replace soon, and which ones will last beyond his lifetime. The big problem in this region nowadays is that these same people who apply that good sense and prudent stewardship to their possessions are not geared to thinking that way about themselves– that is– about body and soul. The soul lasts forever; the body does not. Look at American culture, especially as it is lived out in the Northeast, and you will see that the cultural norm centers around the vain imagination that our bodies last forever, and our invisible souls don’t even exist…or, if they do, they are irrelevant and their destinations unknowable. All the focus of daily life is on the temporal, not the eternal. Most people in this region today spend all their time working for what they cannot keep beyond the grave, worrying about status and appearance, and worshiping what is fleeting.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16, the apostle Paul advises us, “So do not lose heart. Though our outer self is deteriorating, still our inner self is being renewed day by day.” If that is true, then we ought to be very interested indeed in what renews our inner self– what builds up our soul. The faithful Christians that settled New England had no such vain imagination. They knew that the body must be cared for and nourished, but that the soul would live for an eternity– in glory or in torment. They placed the greater emphasis of Christian living squarely on what matters: that the inner self would be renewed day by day through things like prayer, Bible study, worship, and acts of mercy. Through these joyous activities, a believer lays up treasure in Heaven, feeds the soul, builds up the kingdom, benefits others, gives God the glory.
Each day the outer self deteriorates a little more. Over time the effect is obvious.
Gracious Lord, let us all invest our time in the renewal of the inner self.