That is the punch line for a joke about a minister who wanted to save his church some money by painting one of its buildings with watered-down paint. When the job was finished, there was a huge down pour which washed all the paint away. Then there was a voice from heaven that said, “Repaint and thin no more!”
Obviously, for you quicker people, this is a reference to the phrase “repent and sin no more.” Many believe this phrase is in the Bible, but it isn’t. Some may find this confusing and cite the passage about the man in John 5 who was healed by Jesus and then revisited by our Lord and told “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (v.14). Jesus did not tell him not to repent anymore, but to stop doing the things that may have contributed to his sickness in the first place.
Also, some may reference the woman who was caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by the Pharisees to see if he would be faithful to the law in requiring her death. You probably already knew that it was actually a set up to trap Jesus because she alone (not the couple) was brought to him, which in itself was a violation of the law. Jesus talked the Pharisees off the ledge of stoning her by pointing out that they were not in a moral position to be her judges. Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). How do you think she would have understood this? Would she have heard him say that she no longer had any need for repentance in her life? Would she have concluded that for the rest of her life Jesus expected her to be sinlessly perfect? OR, do you think she would have understood these words as strong encouragement from Jesus to be done with this adulterous relationship and to change her lifestyle completely?
In many respects this has happened to each of us who has experienced the grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. Like the lame man and the woman, we have been shown mercy and saved from the firing squad of God’s righteous judgment. The punishment for our sin was suffered by Christ and “by his stripes we are healed.” Yet, he tells us “to be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5). I do not believe that this holds out for us the expectation of sinless perfection, but sets the course and direction of our lives to evidence a Family likeness in showing mercy to others. (Check me out on the context.)
Nowhere does Jesus ever say “repent, and sin no more.” The reason is because repentance is not only the first word of the gospel (Matthew 4:17), but it is also one of the key characteristics (the other is faith) of the Christian life. You will not stop repenting as a follower of Jesus until you stop sinning. And when do you think that will be? When I talk to people about living as a Christian, I not only emphasize a continuing need for trust in Jesus but also a continuing need of a repentant heart—a lack of which will be apparent in our marriage and in our relationships both inside and outside of the church. The same gospel that saves us also sanctifies us.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to unpack this concept or repentance. We will look at what isn’t, what it is, and how it affects our relationship with God and others. Stay tuned, and by the way, don’t water down your paint this summer (if it ever comes) just to save a few bucks.