I did some touch up painting in my kitchen and laundry room last night that was long overdue. After all, the first coat of paint went up almost six months ago. But to my credit, waiting a long time to finish paid off; in the meantime, a few scrapes and nicks had emerged that also required a brush full of paint.

Interestingly enough, the added touches of paint actually made a big difference. Both rooms took on a new freshness and cleanness that I was really hoping for. After all, who wants to cook or do laundry in filth.

But a coat of paint doesn’t actually mean the kitchen is fresh and clean. In fact, the kitchen is one of the few rooms in my fixer-up house that needs a total overhaul. The cabinets are old and warped. And though paint makes them look better, the doors still don’t close right and the shelves are sticky from years of use. And a little paint in the laundry room did nothing to fix the outdated plumbing and the old well system that still occupies the back corner. That’s going to be a big project my dad and I will tackle in a couple of months.

For a hundred reasons like time, money, and know-how, I can’t always take care of the problems in my house as soon as I notice them. Sometimes I just have to slap a coat of paint on them and hope I have the resources to deal with them later.

This system works ok for my house. It doesn’t work so well for my soul.

Unfortunately, I often try to take care of sin problems in my life the same way I dealt with my kitchen and laundry room. A little extra Bible reading, attending a prayer meeting, volunteering to make a meal for a sick friend, and I’ve temporarily masked over the idolatry, fear, or lust in my heart. To look at me, you’d never know that I need a total renovation on the inside.

The pharisees were pros at this kind of living. Jesus called them “white-washed tombs.” He said they looked good on the outside, but inside they were full of dead men’s bones.

This season of Lenten reflection may reveal sin in many areas of our lives. It may seem impossible to deal with them all right now. But unlike my touch-up job in the kitchen that hadn’t gotten too much worse for the waiting, sin covered over in my heart will multiply and infect others around me.

To fix my kitchen in a lasting way, I need to remove all the old cabinets, appliances, and flooring, and start over. Some things in my kitchen could be salvaged–the sink, the refrigerator, the stove–but even those need to be rearranged. Mostly, I need new tile on the floors and new cabinetry. This would truly make the kitchen a fresher, cleaner place.

This is the real work we need for our souls as well. First, confession and repentance for all that has to go. Second, guidance and wisdom from the Spirit on what can stay and what needs to be added.

“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 from The Message