Redefining #Blessed

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Our society is always changing.

And perhaps this is best represented in our weird tendency to redefine things. Particularly nowadays. It seems everywhere we turn, a previously unquestioned concept is experiencing a huge social reconstruction. I’m looking at you, marriage. Not forgetting the 63 genders you can now choose from. Here’s the problem:

We all want a say on how life should be defined.

We do it in more subtle ways too. For example, the hashtag #blessed has been used 77,000,000 times (on Instagram alone). And for many (not all) it appears to be a way of boasting whilst remaining humble. Win a sporting event. Pass that hard university topic with flying colours. Get a promotion at work. Be surrounded with friends and family. Live in a huge house. Such events seem to qualify our ability to say that we are blessed.

And so our culture has formed something of a silent creed. An unspoken but very loud anthem, drummed into the hearts of many. That to be blessed is to be subject of favourable circumstance. This is the lie we have smuggled into our internal dictionary.

And there’s a reason I say this is a lie.

To be blessed has become totally synonymous with gain in this life. But Jesus came to tell us those who lose their lives for his sake are blessed.

As always, my opinion means squat.

My greatest hope is to draw attention to the works and words of Christ. And as I understand it, Jesus seriously challenged our definition of what it is to be blessed. And he didn’t do this privately. He challenged it publicly. 

To a crowd of eager and expectant people, Jesus said some shocking stuff. Jesus defined the truly blessed people in life as being poor, hungry and thirsty, and persecuted to the point of death (Matthew 5:2-12). The crowds were not expecting that. Because it sounds like the complete opposite of being blessed. So we have to ask ourselves:

What did he mean by it?

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BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT 

The world says those who are rich and esteemed are blessed, Jesus says blessed are the poor and humble before him.

This one is so counter-cultural.

Because most of us spend our lives trying to be rich. Whether you realise it or not. We strive to be rich in money. Many of us aim for richness in achievements. Most of us long to be rich in our friendships. Rich in reputation. Rich in purpose. Rich in happiness. And so for the most part, we look to life’s many riches as our primary source of joy.

Well, Jesus uses the very first words of his sermon to tackle this issue.

Jesus has little time for those who use stuff as their primary pursuit of joy. He makes it crystal clear – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:2). Incredible! Jesus is extending to us the richest richness possible. He is literally ushering us into the Kingdom of Heaven. And get a load of this:

The only requirement to God’s kingdom is empty hands.

Those who fall at the feet of Jesus totally broken. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bankrupt. Those who fall at the feet of Jesus bereft of all pride and life’s riches, in passionate abandon of he who can satisfy every longing. It is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with everything.

Namely, himself.

BLESSED ARE THE HUNGRY AND THIRSTY

The world says those who have everything in abundance are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

We have so much stuff.

Food isn’t even an issue for us,  because every type of food we need is at the supermarket down the road. To hunger and thirst in the first world is pretty much a non-issue. But we aren’t let off the hook to easily. Because Jesus isn’t just talking about food and water here.

You see, when you hunger and thirst after something, it controls you. It dictates your movements. It becomes the very thrust of your life. In fact, you know you hunger and thirst for something when you cannot go one day without feeling the pain of its absence.

Because in the end, desiring the things of this world never truly satisfies.

Death puts a dramatic end to all pursuits of happiness. So the words of Jesus ring all the more louder: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus is saying we need to develop an appetite that won’t be satisfied by this world. Jesus wants the stomach of our soul to rumble.

Jesus wants our lives to be so changed, so controlled, and so dictated by a hunger and thirst for more of God. To the point where our reflex-reaction is to show people undeserved mercy, and to spill over with blood-bought purity and peacemaking. And it is to that calibre of people, Jesus promises to bless with eternal satisfaction.

Namely, more of himself.

BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

The world says those who are secure are blessed, Jesus says blessed are those who risk everything for his sake.

If the others haven’t blown you away, this one will.

Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Craziness! Nobody in their right mind considers being killed a blessing. Our image of the good life doesn’t usually include death. In fact, hundreds of surveys all come back with the same result – our greatest fear is death.

Yet, God welcomes us to be fearless in death.

How could Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after standing against the Nazi party and sentenced to the gallows, say with his last words “this is the end – and for me, the beginning of life.” How did Obadiah Holmes, arrested and whipped 30 times for holding a church service, turn around to his executioner and say “you have struck me as with roses.”

What made John Cardmaker, sentenced to death for his faith, walk up to the stake on which he was to be burned and kiss it. How did Kayla Mueller – after getting captured, tortured, sexually abused and killed (by ISIS) for defending the lives of children – say in her last letter “by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.”

Holding tight the words of Jesus, these people experienced death as gain.

This is what sets Christians apart from the world. We are blessed because through Jesus, the power of death is no more. Nothing can shake this. Not persecution, poverty, danger or death itself (Rom 8:35). And so we shout “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55) Because death doesn’t steal our joy.

It only advances it.

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THE MARCHING ORDERS

Our ability to say we are blessed should be primarily predicated on what God is to us. Not what God gives to us.

So go on. Use the blessed hashtag.

But Christian, make sure the world hears you loud and clear. We march to a different drum. We preach a different creed. It goes like this: Jesus is the root of my ability to say I am blessed. And so we count all else as loss except for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Jesus said it in the most explicit way possible. He wants us to desire heaven infinitely more than we desire earth. More than all of life’s riches. Higher than any vain satisfaction in this life. Greater than personal security. Worthy of our whole lives. 

So let the world hear it. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus. And so we live to advocate serious joy in Christ at all costs. We might face poverty, famine, or even death. But Jesus remains the strength of our hearts and our portion forever (Psalm 73:25-26).

Life uncertain. Hope secure. Blessed always.

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King Jesus

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Christmas is upon us.

Unfortunately, this news is greeted with mixed emotions in the 21st century. Not least because a modern day Christmas is crazy stuff. It is full throttle. Pedal to the metal. Flying on all cylinders sorta stuff.

And naturally, our priorities are angled towards other things. Amongst the stuff, we tend to drop God down our list of priorities.

In fact, a prevailing view in society today is that Christ has lost relevance. This is a vague objection often blindly asserted in public places. It is this mammoth misconception founded on the belief that because times have changed, we don’t need God anymore.

Hate to be blunt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

At Christmas we celebrate God putting us at the top of his priority list.

Christmas isn’t our busy lives stepping into God, but God stepping into our busy lives. Identifying with us. Sharing in our sufferings. Showing the deep love he has for us.

And if that doesn’t totally blow you out of the water, nothing will.

Christmas isn’t some watered down, lame fairytale we tell children before bed. We are celebrating the very presence of God here. God’s presence gives the world relevance. You’re unlikely to believe this if you don’t spend time seeking it.

And I’m going to show you why.

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At the birth of any baby, the first people invited to see the little dude or dudette are significant. VIP backstage pass sorta thing. It is usually reserved for close friends and family members.

We learn a lot about Jesus by the first people invited into His presence. God’s VIP list consisted of a poor couple, some lonely and inadequate outcasts, and three men sent by a corrupt king. A bit random to say the least. Not exactly hard hitting stuff.

Why were these people the first invited into the presence of God?

MARY AND JOSEPH

God called a poor couple from an average town, to share in the riches and deepest joys of his eternally worthy Kingdom.

The first people invited to the birth of Jesus was his parents. Go figure.

In the lead up to the first Christmas, the parents of Jesus would have been extremely excited and anxious. No other mother has a claim to fame quite like bearing the Son of God. And the build-up to this birth is still totally unrivalled.

Because this wasn’t your classic 9 month pregnancy. The arrival of some angels went a long way to confirming this wasn’t your average baby. Mary and Joseph would have been very aware of prophecies made about this baby centuries in advance.

The world had been expecting this champion for hundreds of years. 

So this was a huge calling. I can’t overstate the level of crazy this job description requires. But what is even crazier is that there was nothing particularly special about Mary and Joseph. They were just a poor couple from a dodgy town.

And yet, God promised Mary and Joseph that by accepting Jesus in humility and with joy, they would be used in an extremely powerful way for the Kingdom of God.

And they stepped out in faith.

THE SHEPHERDS

God called shepherds on the fringes of society, to a Good Shepherd who brings all people back to the centrepiece of civilisation

Back in the day, shepherds were pretty low on the social ladder.

In fact they probably didn’t even feature on the ladder. These guys often lived on their own, literally removed from society, as safety of the flock was at risk through the night.

So it is no surprise this is where history first records them. Tending to sheep and staying in the fields (Luke 2:8). A pretty boring arvo, until a host of angels show up announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. Went from 0 to 100 real quick.  

And the shepherds were initially terrified. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. I’d be shaking like a leaf. But after processing the news, the shepherds dropped their work and hurried into town to see this King.

Here’s the cool part. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). The shepherds didn’t bring anything. They just came as they were. Wearing stinky and torn clothes, unshaven and unqualified, no social standing whatsoever. 

And yet, God promised the shepherds that by accepting the call with nothing to offer, everything would be offered to them in return. That from the fringes of society, they would be brought back to the centrepiece of civilisation.

And they stepped out in response to his call.

THE WISE MEN

God called wise men from a corrupt earthly king, to an eternal King who rules with justice and fairness.

History records these wise men as being royal astrologers.

There guys were an image of the smartest minds of the day. And not just your average astrologers, the royal astrologers. A good reference on your resume to say the least.

These men are best known for their pursuit of a star. Namely, Jesus. And it’s pretty crazy stuff. These men followed a star, a ball of gas millions of kilometres away in the universe, which according to their intellect was stooping over Jesus (Matthew 2:2).

All of creation bowing down to this Jesus. Not your average baby. Heck, not many can claim to using the universe as a sort of traffic light. Directing everyone to himself.

Equally important to note is that the wise men were from eastern lands (Matt 2:1). This is significant stuff. Because to this point in history, God’s people were almost exclusively citizens of Israel. And yet these wise men weren’t even from Israel.

They probably didn’t even know the language. But you see, God reached out to these men in a language they understood. He used their knowledge on the universe, the very line of their work, and brought them to Jesus.

He met them where they were. God promised the wise men that by seeking Jesus, they would see King Jesus.

And they stepped out in pursuit of that promise.

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WRAPPING IT UP

Each of these VIP guests to Jesus proved one thing.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, smart or uneducated. Lonely or busy. Qualified or inadequate. From the king’s palace, a dodgy town, or not from any town at all.

God requires our response, not our resume.

The presence of Christ is revealed to those who step out in response to his call. This is the distinguishing feature of those called into the presence of Christ. Obedience rooted in faith. A response to the news of Christ, and the promise of serious hope and joy in him.

Who could pass that up?

We are all called into the very presence of God.

Practical application time.

To those who have accepted God’s call. Take a look at Mary and Joseph. Who despite being filled with absolute awe, still welcomed in the outcasts and the seekers. This season, look for ways to show the presence of Christ to those who need it.

To those too busy or smart for God. Take a look at the wise men. The royal astrologers, who despite having the mysteries of the universe to discover, still found time to seek the true King. This season, seek what Jesus really has to offer.

To those feeling removed from God and others. Take a look at the shepherds. The social outcasts, the lonely and weathered citizens of society, who were personally welcomed into God’s presence. This season, know that you are loved and welcomed by Jesus.

This is the awesome truth of Christmas. This is the awesome truth of Christianity. We are all called by the living God. Only one question remains:

How will you respond to Jesus?

Jesus: Really Satisfies

 

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Snickers have an awesome marketing team.

In one of their ads, an old man is attempting to pull off a big jump on his motorbike. Yes you heard me right. But the old dude is super confident about his chances. He thinks he has the jump covered. However, in a twist of events, old dude starts to lose control of his bike. He takes off from the jump but, you guessed it, he fails miserably. He face-plants into the ground.

Eventually a mate walks over and hands the old man a Snickers bar, because he “becomes a cranky old man when he’s hungry.” The old man angrily takes the bar, and after taking a bite, instantly morphs into a young man. He has become a new man. No longer hungry – he is back to his normal self and ready to hit the jump again. The commercial ends with their simple catch-line:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers really satisfies.”

I think a round of applause is in order. That’s the sort of advertising we turn the television on for. That’s the sort of commercial we all want in-between overs of the cricket. Inspirational stuff.

No I’m not a Snickers salesman in disguise. This is going somewhere. Stick with me here.

“I am the bread of life” – Jesus

Like the Snickers advert, Jesus claims to fill our deepest hunger. Jesus claims to be really satisfying. And Jesus used bread as his analogy of being satisfied.

I know. Disappointing stuff.

Of all the things to compare yourself with, Jesus calls himself bread. Boring old bread. Not the pizza of life. Not the cheeseburger of life. Not the snickers of life. The bread of life.

Shoutout to all you gluten free people out there. Sometimes I wonder what goes through your minds when Jesus calls himself the bread of life. You the real MVP.

The question remains: why did Jesus equate himself to bread?

Let’s get a roll on.

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FOOD FOR LIFE

“I am the living bread…anyone who eats of this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I offer so the world may live, is my flesh” – Jesus

Our basic human right.

When we’re talking the most basic rights, sufficient food and adequate water supply is deadly important (literally). Forget other social issues that the media like to give more weight to. Food and water is the most basic, necessary, vital human need.

Now we’ve got to understand some context. Bread was to the Jews what rice is to Asia. Their staple diet. The food most routinely eaten. It took up a dominant portion of their regular food consumption, providing the required energy needs to that certain group of people.

So by equating himself to bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. A basic human right that all people should have access to. Vital in growth and development.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above) aims to understand what motivates people.

His theory was that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on. The needs start at the very basic level (Physiological) and work up to the top (Self-Actualisation). Some pyramids add another level on top, Transcendence, which is essentially seeking to help others reach their potential.

Many people have often labelled life as The Pursuit of Happiness.

For the most part, I think it’s pretty spot on. We generally try to fill our lives with things we enjoy. I doubt many people leave home each day intentionally looking for ways to increase their sadness. We all have a deep need for belonging. Good friendships, relationships, family. We try to fill our lives with things we enjoy doing. Activities that are fun. Things that challenge us.

Essentially, we are up in the top three tiers of the pyramid. Satisfying the needs that only privileged people can reach. But these are all secondary issues

Jesus saw a people starving themselves spiritually. He saw a people that thought pretty highly of themselves, yet bypassing their most basic needs. Avoiding their basic need for him whilst trying to climb to the top of the pyramid.

I’ll say this once: we are never going to reach the top of the pyramid without a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). All we have worked for, that pyramid we climb, will come crashing down at our final breath.

Death puts an end to all pursuits of happiness. Mankind has its fate sealed. Everything we enjoy now is just temporary. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and death separated us from God.

Morbid stuff.

But Jesus had intense compassion on the human situation (John 3:16). He saw a people doomed for death and chasing secondary issues. He loved the world so much that he provided the solution to our mess.

Himself. 

“Give us today our daily bread” – Jesus

This was pretty cheeky of Jesus.

The disciples had just asked Jesus how they should pray. He responded with what we affectionately know as The Lord’s Prayer, which includes the words “give us today our daily bread.”

Some might have (justifiably) thought Jesus was talking about actual, physical bread. But Jesus wasn’t talking about actual bread here. He was referring to himself.

Jesus was essentially rehashing the same awesome message: I am your staple diet – come to me regularly. I am your basic human right, let me grow and develop you into the person you were made to be. I am the provider of all the energy and motivation you could need. I am the solid foundation that your life needs to be built upon.

I am.

Jesus provided himself as the bread for all – that we could be completely satisfied through him. Whoever comes to him will never hunger again (John 6:35).

That through him we would have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

It is no coincidence that God uses bread as a symbol of his provision throughout history.

The feeding of the 5000. 

People have flocked from everywhere to see Jesus. To hear his teachings, talk or be healed by him. Everyone just can’t get enough of this Jesus. Time passes. The huge crowd eventually grow hungry. The disciples, seeing the obvious dilemma regarding the food-to-people ratio, suggest Jesus should send the people home so they can buy their own food.

Jesus, not known for following the rules of physics, feeds the thousands with just five loaves and two fish. Just another day at the office for the Son of God.

The disciples and the crowd are obviously amazed. Gobsmacked. Somehow Jesus managed to feed a huge crowd from an extremely little amount of food.

What was the creed behind Jesus doing this?

On this particular day, Jesus was providing for the people’s physical need for bread. But through this situation, Jesus calls all people to a type of bread that doesn’t perish (John 6:27). That doesn’t make them hungry again. He is the bread that gives life, that truly satisfies.

Jesus doesn’t just call himself the bread of life and then fail to provide bread. What a massive disappointment that would be.

Jesus demonstrates here that there are no limits to his provision. There are no limits to his power. Everyone can eat of his bread and be satisfied.

Heck, there are even leftovers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Jesus

Cast your minds back to the Snickers commercial.

We have a big jump ahead of us. Life. We try to satisfy our lives with all types of things. Relationships. Good times. Success. Everything is going great. We start revving our engines towards the ramp. Everything is cool. Everything is under control.

Until we actually hit the jump.

The jump proves too big for anyone to make. Humanity always falls short of the mark.

Forget climate change. Forget the economy. Forget equality. The biggest problem the world faces today is death. Nobody avoids death, everyone falls victim to it. None of us can build a ramp and jump over death. Everyone that tries ends up face-planting into the ground. Confused. Angry. Hurt. Dirty. Hopeless.

Enter Jesus.

He finds humanity in its mess. Caring so much for the world he comes and extends a hand to us. Offering life. Full of compassion he meets us in the dust. Expressing his deep longing that we stop filling ourselves with that which only he can satisfy.

And when we take up his offer, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become like a new person. We take part in the greatest testimony anyone could ever have: that we are not saved from death, but through it.

That ramp which once limited us is now not even an obstacle. The gap has been bridged.

Jesus: eternally satisfying. 

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Just the rubber band

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Each day looks very different for me. Take a few weeks ago as an example.

I (just) finished 3 assignments and sat an exam for university. That took up most of my week. But I also worked in a fruit stall at my local markets. I helped lead at youth group. I caught up with my church. I worked as a dishy in a restaurant. I went for a few bike rides. I went hiking with one mate, had coffee with another friend, and saw another mate in hospital.

But it’s so easy to forget God in the chaos. With so much going on, I regularly need to be reminded and encouraged of my purpose here on earth. Each day looks vastly different, but I need the same reminder each day to keep me on track.

And I use a rubber band on my wrist as this reminder.

Why?

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Rubber bands hold and contain things. Often I find rubber bands lying at the foot of letterboxes. They are most often used to hold a bunch of letters, pamphlets or magazines together until they reach the destination (letterbox).

Breaking news, I know.

However, the rubber band has almost no value. Heck, a whole bag of these rubber bands only costs a couple of dollars. Once used, they’re discarded onto the ground. Most people walk past or on them without noticing. They’re pretty insignificant.

What makes the band significant is the message it helped deliver.

We as Christians are the rubber band. Like the rubber band, we hold and contain an awesome message to tell the world. We are called to share the awesome message of complete and utter forgiveness, unfailing love and ridiculous joy through Jesus. Eternity and perfect community with him and his people.

But like the rubber band, we aren’t very valuable in ourselves. Sure, you and I are OK at some things. But we aren’t hugely significant in the global context of things. In the history of the world, our lives aren’t exactly bookmarked.

However, we take on tremendous value because of the message we carry.

‘God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…’ – 1 Corinthians 1:28

So when others point out our flaws and failings, we can confidently agree with them. In fact we can boast in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The creator of the universe chose us, insignificant and flawed, to contain and proclaim to the world his message of hope. His strength where we are weak – now that’s something to boast about.

All glory to him.

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“I did not come with eloquence or wisdom… I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” – Paul [1 Corinthians 2:1-3]

Paul understood being a rubber band well. He told everyone he wasn’t a crash-hot speaker. He let everyone know that he didn’t have amazing wisdom. In fact, he told the crowds that he was weak and scared.

Paul realised he wasn’t significant to the message he was giving.

All he really understood was that he had to deliver the message he possessed. Nothing would stop him. He understood the significance of what he contained, and despite knowing all his weaknesses and failings, put pride aside for its delivery. God worked through the flawed, weak, not particularly intelligent man that was Paul – and did amazing things through his life.

What a testimony.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of his booklet. Our identity with Christ and his message of hope is what gives our lives meaning beyond the grave. Nothing else. May we never lose sight of the significance to this message we contain.

I leave one challenge to all the rubber bands reading this:

In humility, stretch yourself

God’s Masterpiece

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When you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

Maybe you see it riddled with mistakes. The lines might not be straight. Parts of the drawing have gone outside of the lines. The paper is torn, dirty. Stains splattered across the painting serve as a constant reminder of past mistakes [1]. People in the painting are blurry, once good friends have become un-recognisable.

No form of eraser or glue can fix the mess which you’ve created.

What would you give to start again? How much money would you pay to have your messy, torn up canvas turned into a masterpiece?

For we are God’s masterpiece.’ – Ephesians 2:9

We don’t become God’s masterpiece after we have fixed up the canvas of our life. Not God’s masterpiece once we’ve sorted out those messy lines and torn edges.  We are God’s masterpiece. Not in a few weeks, months or years. We already are.

His prized possession.

Saying “we are God’s masterpiece” is one thing, believing it is a whole new beast. But living in knowledge of it, for many people, is one hill too many.

And it’s something I struggle to actually believe and live out too.

Surely we all see flaws in our character and faults we’ve made in life? Maybe it is just me. I can recall numerous times when I’ve taken a step back to look at my canvas and not been all that proud.

This struggle brings me to a few questions:

  • Considering my past, how can I still be called a masterpiece?
  • What does it mean to live knowing I am God’s prized possession?

Let’s paint a picture of what it looks like.

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THE ILLUSTRATION

mona-lisa

When I think of a masterpiece the Mona Lisa comes to mind, the world’s most famous painting, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. So for the sake of discovering what being God’s masterpiece implies, we will use this as our analogy.

A painter or sculptor puts a lot of time into making a piece of art. Some sources say that the nose of the lady in the Mona Lisa took 12 years to paint, although I tend to question Leonardo’s potential procrastination tendencies. But you get the idea I’m sure – a masterpiece is not made overnight.

Often a painter will base their picture off an image of sorts, either through a small picture or a model sitting in front of them. Leonardo Da Vinci used a model in front of him – and his attempt to re-create the image of this person is depicted in the painting.

A painter develops a lot of pride for their painting. Once completed, many present their piece of art in public places. It brings joy to see the amount of time and effort put into the painting was all worth it.

The Mona Lisa is completely and utterly a reflection of Leonardo Da Vinci. When experts comment on the painting, they direct all praise to him, the painter.

A piece of art cannot boast of itself – it can only boast of its creator.

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON 

God put a lot of time and thought into creating us. God says even before he made the world he knew and loved us (Ephesians 1:4). I don’t know about you – but that’s really knowing your creation. That before he made us, we were known by him. He specially made us, knitted each of us together in our (respective) mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

God doesn’t mass produce his pieces of art – he isn’t required to meet a quota each day. Each piece of art he creates is special. We are all unique, known by him.

We are the workmanship of God himself, made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Essentially, God has created us to look and be like him. Let that sink in. God himself has created us to resemble him.

The Lord takes pleasure in us, his people and his creation (Psalm 149:4). Just like a painter takes pride in his piece of art, so too God genuinely loves and cares for his creation. How awesome that is!

Therefore, as the masterpieces of God, we cannot boast of our good aspects of character. We cannot boast of our good skills/characteristics in certain areas. As his masterpiece, all praise and glory should be directed to our great artist.

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SOMETHING TO BRUSH OVER

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ – Ephesians 2:10

Through death and resurrection, Jesus claims to have carried all of our mistakes. He carried the collective, the whole world’s canvas – riddled with mistakes and errors – and provided for us a clean sheet. God has created us anew in Christ Jesus. Through him, we can claim the beginning of his work in us – to becoming his masterpiece.

But don’t hear me wrong in this. There is no doubt our mistakes have human consequences, and becoming a Christian doesn’t just wipe them all away from having happened in the first place. Stating the obvious I know, but important to say regardless.

Rather I believe we can suffer, recover and learn from our mistakes, whilst knowing we are completely forgiven of them through Jesus. My point, and what God has told us through scripture, is that we are already his masterpiece because of the image we were made in – and that was of God himself. Nothing we do can separate us from that.

Furthermore, as God’s masterpieces we were not made to just sit on a mantle and be admired (this is where the analogy gets a bit dodgy). As highlighted above in the bible verse, we have been made new so that we can do the good works he planned for us.

Therefore we are advocates for the living God (2 Corinthians 5:20). I’ve always hated the word responsibility – it usually implies me doing things I don’t want to do – clean my room, do the dishes, be an adult, etc. But this responsibility is different. What a massive privilege, yet huge responsibility we have to represent our awesome creator!

play-your-role

Hawthorn Football Club’s motto is to ‘Play Your Role’. Everyone plays a different role and position on the field. Yet when each part is executed correctly, the whole team can (and has proven to) be successful.

It is the same for us as people scattered throughout the world. We are all placed in different situations. We serve different roles and positions – some of us may be pastors, others may be teachers. Some may work at their local shop, others may be homeless.

As individuals, we are just one piece. Yet we all play a part in God’s big jigsaw (plan) – in the workplace, sports, school and social arenas. One piece in a jigsaw is insignificant, somewhat useless. But together, have the potential to create an awesome picture.

Let God work out the puzzle – whilst we stay present in his house.

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THE FINISHING TOUCHES

‘They took the thirty pieces of silver – the price at which [Jesus] was valued by the people of Israel’- Matthew 27:9

30 pieces of silver was the same price used as compensation for a slave’s accidental death (Exodus 21:32). Significant however, is this payment for Jesus wasn’t made after the event of death, as compensation for some sort of accident. It was made prior to Jesus death. The people were signalling their intentions, essentially saying “this man is dead to us.” 

Here we have Jesus, the Son of God. His own people and creation valued him as nothing. To them Jesus was as good as a slave, dead to them (Mark 10:44-45).

But despite the world completely rejecting him and treating him as nothing, Jesus knew his value in God. That despite being whipped, spat upon and taunted by all, Jesus’ self-worth was not based on other people’s opinions.

His identity was found in God. 

When we find ourselves against the world, the subject of ‘persecution’ of sorts, we need to realise our worth in our Father’s eyes. When others point out the flaws and mistakes on the canvas of our life, we can confidently redirect them to the clean canvas that Jesus has given us access to. And in that, we can truly begin to become the masterpiece we were made to be.

“How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he should give his only Son, to make a wretch his treasure”

So I’ll ask again: when you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

You may see a mess, nothing is even remotely close to perfect. You might only see the broken pieces of mistakes and flaws in your life.

But our broken pieces have been made a mosaic.

Re-assembled in him.

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REFERENCES

[1] Skit Guys, S 2015, Our Mess, God’s Masterpiece, online video, December 27, accessed 27 April 2016, <https://skitguys.com/videos/item/our-mess-gods-masterpiece&gt;.

[2] Gibson, T 2013, ‘God’s Masterpiece’, Image, 5 February, accessed 15 April 2016, <http://www.lightbearers.org/gods-masterpiece/&gt;.