There was a small church that struggled to keep the lights on and pay their pastor, but they faithfully managed both year after year. One day, one of their faithful members noticed how badly the church needed painting, and came to the pastor with a generous offer. “If we can raise the money to buy paint, I’ll volunteer my time to paint the church.”
The pastor agreed, and they took up a collection the next Sunday and purchased one gallon of new paint. The volunteer knew that wouldn’t make it around the whole building, so he added some water. He started painting, and miraculously the paint seemed to be going further than anticipated. Nevertheless, he needed to add some more water to have a chance. When he was 90% done, he decided that if he could just add a little more water, he could finish the job. He did, and proudly went to the pastor with his accomplishment. “What do you think?” he asked.
The pastor looked around at the building, paused, and said… Wait for it… “Repaint. And thin no more.”
Advent is a season of preparation for Christ’s coming – both his coming at Christmas and his return at the end of time. Churches that observe advent often read the stories of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus’ first coming. His message was a message of repentance. Interestingly, in the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ first recorded words sound almost identical to John the Baptist’s. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent, and believe the good news.”
Do you see repentance as good news, or as preparation for good news? Is it more like the medicine you’re required to take to heal, or the clean bill of health itself? When we properly understand it, I believe repentance is not merely laying the ground work for the good news of the gospel, but part of the gospel itself. By the grace of God, we can change. The grace of God not only forgives our sin, but prevents much of it as well.
There’s a world of difference between the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the evil spirit’s condemnation. Repentance speaks to behavior. Shame attacks our identity. Condemnation steals our hope, because the enemy is a thief and a liar. Conviction gives us hope, because on the other side of the cross is an empty tomb; after the death-to-self of repentance, new life is born. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit, instructing and empowering us to change behavior. Condemnation tries to tell us we’re hopelessly lost and can never change.
Repaint, and thin no more. Repentance should put a smile on our faces!
Merry Christmas! Unwrap the gift of repentance as you prepare room in your hearts for Jesus to be born again. Joy to the world!