A few years ago, I was painting my daughter’s bedroom. Since my sister asked me to paint scenes with cows and chickens and things in my nephew’s room, I could hardly refuse my own kids when they came onto the scene.
On this particular day, I was painting a bit of grey for one of the barns in the scene on the wall. I didn’t have grey paint, so like any good painter, I just mixed some up from the black and white paints that I had on hand.
From my trial-and-error experience of painting my nephew’s room, I knew that you don’t mix black and white paint on a 1:1 ratio to get grey. If you do that, you get…black. So I poured out a bunch of white and a little dab of black to get the shade of grey that I was looking for.
Over the years, this struck me as a really good object lesson for how sin taints our lives. Only a little bit of black will taint a lot of white or, in more familiar terms: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
I was mixing my barn-grey and thinking of this analogy when I felt the Lord say to me: “Remove the black paint from the tray.” Having already mixed the paint together, I couldn’t see how this would be possible. So I turned back to the wall to paint the barn, dismissing the question. Surely, I was just taking the metaphor a little too far.
Something stopped me though. “Remove the black paint from the tray.” It was a little more urgent this time. So I tried to think about it a little more. If I could think of a way to remove the black paint, that would be a great object lesson to show to a Bible study or a youth group or something. It would be neat if you could add red paint to symbolize the blood of Christ and have everything turn white again. I was really stuck, so I turned back to the wall with a quick prayer saying that I was open to the answer if God wanted to show it to me.
“Remove the black paint from the tray!” By then, I was pretty sure this wasn’t just me. But I knew I was stuck too. The logical side of me knew that you cannot separate white and black paint by any process that I was going to figure out sitting alone in my daughter’s bedroom.
It was at that point that I really identified with the problem of my own sin. It’s a desperate situation. It seems like God asks us to do something that is impossible for us and then holds us accountable for not being able to do it.
I was careful not to say: “I can’t do this, Lord” since I was pretty sure that’s not what He was looking for. So I put down my brush and my paint and I prayed for awhile and I asked Him to show me how to remove the black paint from the tray, because I didn’t know how to.
Then, I just sensed His peace and He told me how to do it. I picked up the tray and a cloth and I wiped the whole tray clean. No more black paint.The reason why I found it so hard to see that simple answer was because I was fixated on salvaging the white paint. The black paint is the only thing causing the problem here. It’s the black paint that contaminated the white.
In my life, the white paint is everything that is good or noble about me. Things that I like. Things God could use. Gifts and talents. Everyone else likes that stuff about me too. It’s just this sin that contaminates everything. If I could get rid of the sin, all the good stuff will remain, right?
This is how I looked at myself. “Just help me get rid of the sin, Lord.” I’ll take care of the rest. But you can’t separate white and black paint. You can’t remove the leaven from bread. And you can’t redeem half a man.
To truly repent, we must hand all of our life over to Jesus. Even the good things that we want to defend. If Jesus puts them aside and asks us to do something that we’re not as comfortable doing, then that is what we do.
Do not miss Jesus for the sake of the things you like about yourself.
But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. Philippians 3:7-9
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Jews? So am I. Are they from the family of Abraham? Well, so am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a fool to talk this way, but I serve him better than they do. I have worked harder and have been put in jail more times. I have been beaten with whips more and have been in danger of death more often. Five times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers. I have worked and struggled and spent many sleepless nights. I have gone hungry and thirsty and often had nothing to eat. I have been cold from not having enough clothes to keep me warm. Besides everything else, each day I am burdened down, worrying about all the churches. When others are weak, I am weak too. When others are tricked into sin, I get angry. If I have to brag, I will brag about how weak I am. 2 Corinthians 11:22-30