I know it is time to clean out the shed behind my house again . . . but I probably won’t do it. That little shed, which serves as the storage space for random things that will not fit in the closets in my house, has slowly become the messiest 10×10 spot on planet earth – an area that would make an extreme hoarder blush – yet I keep finding excuses not to clean it.
Here’s the real reason for my hesitation: I’ve already done it! Allow me to explain.
About a year ago, I opened the door to my shed and flinched at the mess. This time, instead of just tossing what was in my hand on top of the pile, I thought, “I need to clean this place up.” So I did. I blocked off an entire day, piled everything from the shed in the yard, swept it thoroughly, and then carefully moved everything to its proper place in the building. For the next two weeks, I peered in the door nearly every day just to admire my handiwork. My shed looked great.
But then . . . well . . . I stopped admiring. Instead, sometime in the first month following the-great-shed-clean-out-day, I carelessly tossed something in the door and walked away. Soon after, I tossed in something else. Before I knew it, within six months of my efforts, I opened the door and found that my shed was once again in a state of disorder. In fact, it was worse than before. And this time, I just can’t find the energy to go through it all again.
The problem with my shed, of course, is that that I want to change my shed, but I do not want to change my habits. I want to be clean, but I refuse to stop being dirty!
In Matthew 12, Jesus said that some people have that same attitude when it comes to their lives. They look at the mess they have made and feel disgusted. They want to be clean. They want order and direction. In that moment, lots of times, these people momentarily turn their eyes toward God and find “religion”. Sometimes, they even walk the aisle of the local church and ask to be baptized. For a moment, they look and feel like they have gotten their spiritual house in order.
But here is the reality – a person who goes to Christ for REFORMATION will soon be back to his old habits, and the mess will quickly become as bad (or worse) than ever. In Jesus’ parable, the man swept his house clean of the one demon who lived there, but soon found that seven more had moved in! What a familiar story for many people – folks who come to Christ hoping to “tidy up a bit”. These people often give up on Christ after they discover that “religion” didn’t work like they hoped.
In the New Testament, Paul teaches that God is much less interested in personal “reformation” than in TRANSFORMATION. “If anyone is in Christ,” he wrote, “the new creation has come: the old has gone and the new is here” (1 Corinthians 5:17).
Paul’s point is just this – a relationship with Jesus Christ is about more than what you clean and straighten and REMOVE from your life. A relationship with Christ is all about what (or WHO) goes INTO your life. A person who repents of his sin and identifies with Christ (through baptism) receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, who takes up residence inside Him. That means that God is living (and guiding) inside of His people. . . and they are both immediately (and continually) transformed).
That doesn’t mean, of course, that we will stop making messes. It does mean that we strive to follow God’s leading and become more like Him. It also means that we are sensitive to our failures and eager to go to Him for cleansing. In other words, God makes us aware of the mess, and He shows us how to clean it AND avoid it in the future.
So what about you? Have you come to Christ looking to “make some changes” in your life, or have you come to Him bowing before your Savior and Lord, asking Him to have mercy on you and make you a new creation? Have you been trying to reform some areas of your life . . . or are you willing to be transformed by Christ. The answer that to that question is the difference between a temporary “fix” and a brand new life.