If I were an artist, I would like to draw a picture of Christ, so lovely and beautiful, that no one could resist it, but would be drawn to Him—a picture with features so pure, serene, full of grace and kindness. I would give this picture to you, so that you could take it with you wherever you go. Then you would not only glance at it and forget Him, but instead you would keep it near you whenever temptations and trials surround you. One look at this picture would dispel your fears, and calm the storm in your heart.
Then I would like to draw another picture of Satan, so vile, deceiving, and evil, that it would make you shudder, and you would turn away from it. Then I would give you a choice, which one of these two pictures would you like to take with you? Would it be a difficult choice? I think that you would choose the picture of Christ.
Every day we must choose between Christ and Satan. We must choose the company with whom we want to spend time. We must choose the food we want to eat. We must choose the books we want to read, and we must choose the music we want to listen to. It is sad that most people choose what Satan is offering, rather than what Christ is offering.
What if we try to serve two masters? Is it possible? “Half-and-half service places the human agent on the side of the enemy as a successful ally of the hosts of darkness. When men who claim to be soldiers of Christ engage with the confederacy of Satan, and help along his side, they prove themselves enemies of Christ. They betray sacred trusts. They form a link between Satan and the true soldiers, so that through these agencies the enemy is constantly working to steal away the hearts of Christ’s soldiers.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 94
If you decide to choose Christ as your Master, you must choose His life. You must follow Him, and His example, “Who went about doing good.” Acts 10:38
Many are drawn to Christ from selfish motives, to get something from Him; they want protection, His blessings, and atonement for their sins. They want heaven and eternal life, but they do not love Him. They are not attracted to the lifestyle of Christ. They see no beauty in His sacrifice, nor His self-denial, and they have no desire to copy His example in this respect.
Paul writes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1–5. Here Paul writes a description of many professing Christians who expect to be saved and to have eternal life.
David was drawn to the beauty of Christ. He had only one thing that he desired. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4. Yet when Jesus came to this world, many saw no beauty in Him. Some even hated Him.
Isaiah writes a prophecy about Him, ‘Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” Isaiah 53:1–3
For centuries, the Jewish people had waited for the Messiah to come. Finally when He came, they did not want Him. They were not attracted to Him. They saw no beauty in Him, therefore, they did not love Him.
Yet, there were some who did love Him, who were attracted to Him. They saw a beauty that they had never witnessed before. There was a sinner from whom Jesus had cast out devils, whose many sins Jesus had forgiven, she was called Mary Magdalene. Her past life seemed to her as something ugly and evil. She was now drawn to Jesus. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious ointment and bathed His feet with her tears. It was Mary who stood beside the cross to the very end, and followed Him to the grave.
She saw beauty in His dying form that she could never forget. Now she understood how Jesus could say, “Thy sins are forgiven.” Sunday morning, while others were still sleeping, it was again Mary who was the first one at the tomb. It was Mary who told others of a risen Saviour. Mary understood the meaning of the word, “He is despised and rejected of men, He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. He was oppressed, and afflicted, and He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and made His grave with the wicked.” Isaiah 53:3, 5, 7, 9. Mary had found the pearl of great beauty, the hidden treasure, for which she gave up everything else.
The thief on the cross had been seeking happiness and satisfaction in a life of sin and crime without finding it, until finally at his dying moment he saw something beautiful that attracted him. “But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Truly I say to you today: You will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:40–43 (verse 43 from Aramaic English New Testament—a translation of the Eastern Original Aramaic New Testament Peshitta Text)
He saw in Jesus the Lamb of God, giving His life for the sins of the world. The words, “Remember me” were an expression of love and friendship. He saw in Jesus a beauty that he had never known before. As a criminal he had taken by force from others the things which he wanted, but now he saw something opposite, something different—One freely giving His life for others, to make them happy. How ugly his own past life of dishonesty seemed now, compared to the character of Christ. Therefore he said, “Remember me.” “I want to be like You are,” was his desire.
The Roman Centurion had executed many hardened criminals. He had seen their evil features, listened to their swearing and cursing. Now he looks upon One, so pure, kind, and peaceful, while suffering upon the cross. He hears the words, “Father, forgive them.” The centurion knew human nature; this was something he did not know was possible, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Matthew 27:54. He saw beauty beyond human nature, beauty that the Jewish leaders did not see.
Paul had first seen no beauty in Jesus. He had hated His followers, and persecuted them. Paul was like the other Jewish leaders who saw only something dangerous and bad in Christ, and in His followers. Then one day Paul met Jesus on the way to Damascus. “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” Acts 9:3–5
This touched the heart of Paul. After he had been persecuting Jesus and His followers, there was no anger in Jesus, no hatred towards him, only love and kindness.
Suddenly Paul saw a beauty that he had not seen in himself, nor in the Jewish leaders, in the Pharisees and scribes.
He saw Someone that could love His enemy. From this moment on, the life of Paul changed. He had seen something more beautiful and attractive, so that he called his past life and attainments as a loss compared to it. Now Paul had only one important thing, only one message to proclaim to the Jews and to the Gentiles. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1–2
There is a strange attraction in the cross, and Paul was drawn to it. Paul saw in the dying form of Jesus, a beauty that he could not forget, and a great desire aroused in his heart to be like Him; he found the secret on how to become like Jesus. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
Then Paul tries to describe the beauty of the Lord. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5–8
It was not His fair countenance, but His meekness that attracted Paul. Compared to the pride and self-exultation of the worldly rulers, kings and great men, especially of the Jewish people, Paul saw the greatest of all, the King of kings, the Creator, taking the form of a servant, and humbling Himself before men.
Paul continues, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
These words, “For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”, have two meanings. He could have had joy in heaven, but for our sake He left it, and chose to endure the cross. And the other meaning is, the joy of seeing the redeemed host in His kingdom made Him endure the cross.
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
This is beauty that is not seen in the world. This is an example of love that we should learn in order to be like Christ. Paul learned it; he became poor for Christ’s sake.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loveth me, and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Paul lived to be a partaker of Christ’s suffering and death, this was an honour to him, and his glory.
The work of our Reformation church is to draw men and women to Christ. Our lives are to be a picture of Christ, of His love and sacrifice. Our words that we speak, our countenances, need to show the purity, serenity, peace, forgiving love, and kindness—all that Christ had. Only then can we be true Reformers, and our work will be successful.
Behold the beauty of Christ and it will become your beauty, and love to Christ will fill your heart.
We sing in our gospel hymn, “There was One who was willing to die in my stead, That a soul so unworthy might live, And the path to the cross He was willing to tread, All the sins of my life to forgive.” AMEN.