About a month ago my wife asked me to paint the bathroom. I did not disagree with this notion as the unattractive wallpaper that had been there since we moved in 14 years ago was beginning to peel and reveal an even uglier wallpaper underneath. The bathroom is small so I figured that it was time to "knock it out" in a couple of days. As most of my friends know, I am not a painter. I don't have the patience required and usually hire the job out to the professionals. This time, however, I decided it was time to take matter into my own hands. I was going to do this!
I soon discovered that very few home projects are as simple as slapping paint on the walls. I had to research what to do with the wallpaper. It came down to a choice between peeling it off or painting over it. Either way, neither option can be done easily in a couple minutes. Once I started the process of painting this bathroom, I learned very quickly that this was not going to happen overnight. I discovered that it takes oil based primer to seal the wallpaper from the wet joint compound we were going to apply to the wall. I also learned that I needed a water based latex primer to go on top of the texturized compound so that the paint would not be absorbed by the compound and lose it's sheen. It's the sheen of the paint that makes the wall look beautiful in the end and while I hate all the steps involved in painting a wall, I know that they are important in achieving the look I want.
This experience is such a parallel to the spiritual journey God has me on right now. I know God brought me and my family to The Village Church for a very important purpose. I am his project.
God understands what it takes to create His likeness in a human soul. He did not leave it up to me to complete this project. The natural response is to slap paint on the walls of my soul with religiosity and good works and bypass the necessary steps. Let's face it, primer and joint compound are boring. Paint is exciting! No one goes to the home improvement store to "pick' out their primer. When we choose paint, we are choosing color. We are looking for fresh, new, and exciting. It is the paint that catches our eye and stirs our senses when we walk in to a freshly painted room. But as professionals will tell you, every element beneath the paint has a big impact on how the paint adheres and how it ultimately looks.
The Christian faith is very much like painting a room, but our fallen nature would prefer to bypass the gospel primer and exchange it for the sheen of self-help. We want to have stronger marriages and manage our finances better, but as my pastor Matt Chandler has said, "We want his stuff, but not Him." Very few are interested in the foundational work that must be done. No one wants their ugliness exposed and peeled away. No one really wants to pay the price of reconciliation and repentance. They want pure hearts but are not willing to let the surgeon's scalpel circumcise their hearts. In short, most people do not want the gospel.
There is no shortcut to being conformed to the image of Christ. There is peeling, scraping, and priming before that coat of paint is ever applied. The Cross is the joint compound, the Gospel is the primer, and the painter is God Himself.