“Would you teach me how to paint?”
Yes, I would teach her how to paint. It would be fun. Besides, if she thought I had talent worthy of passing on, how could I let her down? Flattered by the question, I put my heart and soul into it.
A few others joined my hopeful student and we began the lessons around the kitchen table. But it wasn’t long before I realized painting itself was much easier than teaching someone else how to paint.
For one thing, I began in the middle. Whenever I took art lessons, the instructor always started with exercises: spheres and boxes, color-mixing charts and basic principles of perspective and composition. I thought it was boring and not necessary. So, I started my students with actual paintings. Learn to do by doing was my motto.
They were so eager. In fact, they couldn’t wait until Thursday nights. They started new masterpieces at home and brought the latest canvas to class —for me to “fix.”
It was then that I realized my error. Most of those works of art needed radical surgery more than a daub here and a change of color there. Even if the drawing was correct, the composition was all wrong, or the colors muddied from improper mixing. Sometimes the perspective on farm buildings was so off, it was difficult to tell silos from chicken coops. Many times, I stifled my initial reaction, “Toss them out and start over!”
Actually, life is a canvas and all of us are artists. As we pick our colors, we hope the picture will be lovely, but a slip of the brush and what would have been a masterpiece falls far short.
At that point, do we want just a quick touch up? A daub here and some texture there? Toss a bit of rose-color into a strained relationship. Put a bright sun over top that gigantic personality flaw. Maybe a blob of cadmium yellow will brighten things up. But it doesn’t work.
Jesus, using a different metaphor, said, “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wine skins.
If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wine skins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new skins.” (Matthew 9:16-17)
The religious people in Jesus day painted their lives with fancy external rules but forgot one important basic; many may look on the outside and applaud the bright colors, but God looks on the heart.
While He wants right application externally, He’s first interested in basic composition and a correct perspective on the inside for “out of the heart flows all the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Don’t be content with daubs of superficial righteousness. A splash of color here and there could not fix their problem, nor can it fix ours. Although we are created in the image of God, we are in a sin-marred condition. The painting is ruined. The canvas needs total restoration.
The Master Painter invites, “Come, let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, I will wash you white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Then He takes His powerful brush and begins applying the basics: the life of His Son within, a hunger for the “milk” of His Word, and the promise of answered payer. Upon the solid foundation, He layers truth; line upon line, transforming the canvas, renewing the way we think talk and act, working all things together for our good, until the image of His Son can be seen on our soul, until the portrait is perfect.
What happens if we refuse the basics and want only the surface paint? He demands new skins for new wine. Without His work on the inside, what we do on the surface won’t make the picture perfect.
How we fair on that final adjudication depends on our present willingness to turn canvas, composition, brushes and colors over to Him.