I used to work at a place called Renovation Church. I think “Renovation” is a great name for a church because it describes the kind of work Jesus does in our lives. When we were in the process of finding. new name, we tossed around the name “Restoration Church” but landed on Reno because renovation is different from restoration. Restoration bringing us back to a previous, original, like-new state. We restore old ’57 Chevy’s, Grandma’s dresser, and vintage computers to their original condition, just like in their glory days. If we were to renovate instead of restore, the ’57 Chevy would have added antilock breaks and airbags, Grandma’s dresser would include USB charging ports, and my old Apple II would run Oregon Trail at speeds so fast that you’d miss it if you blinked. Just in case you missed it, you still died of dysentery.
Jesus renovates us, taking what was and making a new version. If he were to restore us, we would have all our hair (yes, please) and straight teeth, but our souls would still be full of sin. We’d look good but still be dying inside because we’ve been on the wrong track since birth (Psalm 51:5). Spiritual renovation is the goal, not just restoration. Indeed, Jesus does restore us, but not to an old version. We are a new creation (1 Corinthians 5:17).
One important consideration in spiritual renovation is the mess that this kind of work brings to our soul. When we choose to follow Jesus, we will undoubtedly find ourselves in the middle of a long and costly project. The cost is due to the self-sacrifice that always comes with following Jesus (Galatians 2:20). The length of the project will be lifelong, since this project is much more than just losing weight or taking on a new skill (Philippians 2:12). Spiritual growth is messy because it always brings major disruption to our lives. Friendships will change, because not everyone in our lives is bringing us closer to Jesus. The way we think about things will change, because it is our way of thinking that births everything in our lives (Philippians 4:8). Our free time will have a new feel because Jesus will pull us away from selfishness and toward serving others. The kind of media we consume will be challenged, since, as we all know, most media is garbage. It is fascinating that, in the process of curing our boredom, most of what we watch/listen to is poison to our souls.
We’re trying to re-grow grass on a part of our lawn that really took a beating from some earth moving equipment that had to travel from front yard to back for a home improvement project. The back yard has a brand new patio, but it cost us something, as the Bobcat frotloaders and concrete pumps left an ugly, grass-killing two track path that can’t be ignored. Now we have a better backyard but the byproduct of a trashed lawn. Yes… improvement is messy.
Back when I used to work for the plumbers, my job was to destroy an old bathroom before the pros came in and installed a new one. “Down to the drywall, or are we going to 2×4’s?”, I’d ask, because I needed to know how destructive to get without accidentally taking out a closet or kitchen. By the time the plumbers were done, the owners of the home had a new bathroom. If we did our jobs right, the solder joints were tight, the caulk on the sink sealed properly, and not a speck of dust was found in the carpet, walls, or household pets. We made huge messes, especially when the remodel included removing old tile and plaster. The end product was amazing, but, again… improvement is messy.
Spiritual improvement is messy, too. I use the word “improvement” to mean that we become more like Christ in how we think, act, love, and live. It’s not my goal to become the best Adam, but rather to become like Jesus (the second Adam, a happy coincidence). The mess can be a distraction or even a discouragement, and the enemy will use this to keep us from growing in Christ. But, like all meaningful change, we will have to do something different if we will be different kinds of people.
Don’t be surprised, then, that spiritual formation/improvement is messy and painful. Paul says that our suffering produces perseverance, and that this kind of drive and sustaining energy will lead to our character becoming more like Christ’s, and that this, dear friends, is the hope of the gospel.
“Wow, this is difficult and messy, but it’s worth it because I am in the process of becoming more like Christ” is the motto of every disciple. Don’t let the dead grass or the drywall dust in the air dissuade you from continuing to press on. In the end, our goal is to be found faithful with the gift of salvation that Christ has so freely and generously bestowed upon us. Difficult? Yes. Costly? You bet. Messy? Oh yeah. But… is there any better way to live? No.
Enjoy the renovation. It is your very life that God has given himself for.