Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what does this mean? Is appearance everything? Are the glamour magazines to be believed? No, beauty comes in many different shapes, sizes, and proportions. God has made everything (and everyone) beautiful in its time. The discerning eye finds beauty in every form. We know this instinctively. Yet, we don’t believe it about ourselves.
Our fallenness has given us a creaturely discontent with the Creator’s genius. But who are the most beautiful people you know? And why are they beautiful? Is it the proportion of their face, their coloring, or the shape of their features? No, their beauty appears by contrast — kindness when others are cruel, resilience in the midst of adversity, joy when sorrow is the order of the day. Beauty radiates through contrast not conformity. God delights to create beauty through contrast.
He created a world of contrasts. Contrasts which give, even this fallen, groaning, creation a beauty that leaves poets speechless. He began with light and made the world responsive to it. Light creates color and contour, clarity and, yet, concealment. Lighting gives everything perspective. And changing light reveals something new in the familiar. Lighting and contrast are foundational to visual beauty. Through lighting and shading artists breathe life into their work.
But as with all things God made, sensory experience has an analog with spiritual truth. Spiritual truth in scripture is often taught by way of contrast. The Bible tells the triumphal story of how God rescues us from sin, self, and Satan. But the story only becomes compelling when we realize our desperate condition. Until we grasp how bad we are, we cannot see how good the good news is.
The Fall plunged us into irrecoverable ruin. And until we are convinced of this, we will never seek Christ and find redemption. The beauty of the gospel can only be appreciated in contrast to the ugliness of our condition apart from Christ. Our forefathers expressed it this way in the Westminster Larger Catechism.
Q. 27. What misery did the fall bring on mankind?
A. The fall brought on mankind the loss of communion with God and his displeasure and curse, so that we are by nature children of wrath, slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all the punishments of this world and that which is to come.
Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as a blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God on the creatures for our sakes, and all the other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, states, relations, and employment, together with death itself.
Q. 29. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
A. The punishments of sin in the world to come are everlasting separation from the comforting presence of God, and very grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in the fire of hell forever.Westminster Larger Catechism in Modern English
Our condition is stark. Our ruin is total. Every faculty of our being, every dimension of our life, every moment of our existence from now until all eternity is utterly ruined. We go through life with a nagging sense of misery. We try to cover it with fig leaves – experience, pleasure, education, accomplishment, possessions. We know, instinctively, the truth of our forefather’s words. But misery is not the last word.
The first chapter of Ephesians is a literary masterpiece. In one long breath, Paul extols the beauty and richness of God’s grace to those who are ‘in Christ.’ The Ephesian church faced severe crises internally and externally. False teaching and persecution were leading many to ‘abandon their first love.’ So, God pulls back the curtain to show them the truth of their situation ‘in Christ.’ And to drive the point home, he reminds them of what life was like outside of Christ. In this great contrast we find a clear and concise picture of our lost condition.
Join us this season as we walk through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 19-23, and consider, ‘why and how Jesus became man in order to save us from ourselves.’ This week we begin in Ephesians 2:1-3, 12 by examining the misery of the condition into which the Fall and our own sin have brought us.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube