We’ve just had our entire house repainted. It had been six years since the plaster-over-concrete walls had been done and they were in desperate need. Every room had significant peeling and cracking [leprous might be a good description]. In several places there were bubbly water stains from inside and outside leaks . I dealt with it by saying there was a certain charm to these crusty old walls. It was like living in Venice, Iliked to say [minus the gondolas and prosciutto and churches and renaissance paintings].
But denial only goes so far and we couldn’t ignore our unsightly walls any longer. So we endured the expensive, time-consuming, messy and highly disruptive project. [I’ll spare you the details but it was like living in the middle of a construction site.]
Except…perfection doesn’t last long. The painters weren’t even finished when a few patches of paint started to blister. There was not even one day where the entire house was completely flawless. The same thing happened before, but I hoped these painters had found a super glue-like paint that would seal the walls. Instead, I’m going to have to live with the perennial problem of old soft plaster and too much moisture from living on the coast. Already, the question is not if we are going to have to repaint the walls yet again, but when.
That sounds pretty much like my spiritual house where the interior walls are in constant need of attention. I confess [scrape off old paint], receive forgiveness [put on new paint], enjoy the smooth surface, and then realize in dismay, there’s another place that has gotten out of hand. It never ends.
The amazing thing about God’s grace is that when I take on the righteousness of Christ, all He sees are pristine walls. That’s such a wonderful state to be in, with all my offenses covered up. I too easily forget that and fall into the trap of thinking I have to keep my walls perfect so that God will accept me.
But it’s also possible to fall into the trap of cheap grace where confession becomes like putting on whitewash–a quick temporary fix that doesn’t get at the root of the problem.
What I really need are new walls. I need the decayed and broken areas in my life completely remade. I need to let the Holy Spirit transform me into a new person, changing the way I think and act. But like house painting, that’s a time-consuming, expensive and disruptive process. Accepting God’s gift of salvation only takes an instant, but being made into the image of Christ is an ongoing job.
However, it’s not something I do by myself. God doesn’t tell me, “Work hard at being better and you’ll eventually get there.” He knows I’m not capable of this. Instead, I need to open the door and let the Holy Spirit move in and set up shop. Then He can begin to work with care and tenderness, making me new from the inside out.
God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Living then in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Rom 12:3 [The Message]