Philippians 1:4-6, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
For nearly a hundred years a beautiful mural of Jesus had held pride of place in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church in Borja, Spain. The "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man) painting, was completed by Elias Garcia Martinez in the 1930s. A well known master painter. A priceless work of art.
But in August of 2012, an 80-year-old church member named Cecilia Gimenez took it upon herself to touch up the painting. She was right about one thing: the painting needed some work. After decades of moisture buildup, the painting had started to deteriorate, and the colors had started to fade. So Cecilia initiated her do-it-yourself restoration project.
Despite her good intentions, it didn't turn out well. The New York Times said that it was "probably the worst art restoration project of all time." A Spanish blog called it "the restoration that turned into destruction." And a BBC article said, "The delicate brushstrokes by Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint. The once-dignified portrait [of Jesus] now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic."
But Cecilia was quoted as saying, "We've always fixed everything ourselves in this church." Not wise. Art restoration is possibly one of the most delicate and demanding tasks a person could attempt. Only a master can fix a masterpiece. Some projects in life are just beyond a do-it-yourself approach.
We are all restoration projects. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden we have been part of the most massive and delicate restoration process imaginable--the restoration of us to God. When Jesus came to bring that restoration process to a historical climax he came as an example of the the Master’s perfect picture of man. From then on we all are to be restored to his image, or as Romans 8:29 tells us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Jesus is the ideal to which we all must be conformed. To be restored to his image is an art restoration project of the highest order. It is the project of a lifetime and not even Paul had thought he had achieved it. He said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). If Paul has not achieved perfect Christ-likeness neither have we. But we are promised the project will be completed when in 1 John 3:2 it says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” And God will be faithful to complete this project in us.
The key, then, is in realizing that this is not a do-it-yourself project. Only a Master can restore a masterpiece. The Pharisees thought they had done a good job. From the outside they did look good. Yet, Jesus said to them, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27b). This project is an internal restoration. Once the inside is restored then the outside will naturally appear clean. I do not believe we can change ourselves from the inside out. That is why we have the Holy Spirit. His job is to work from the inside out to restore us to the Master’s image of Jesus Christ. Submit to the work. Undergo and endure the sometimes painful, sometimes delicate, sometimes subtle, but always transforming touch of God. Trust Him. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Prayer: Father, we long to be like our big brother Jesus. We want to walk so close behind him that it will be hard to tell where he ends and we begin. Transform us, restore us, into his image. We trust that You are working and are faithful. You will complete what You have begun and we long for that day. Lord Jesus, come quickly. In Jesus name, amen.