The most amazing thing has happened to me in the last month that truly shows how God makes beauty out of ashes!! A series of events took me down a path I never saw coming…
Like the farmers we need to plough and prepare our hearts, weed out sin and tend the seeds of the fruits of the spirit. But it is God alone who provides the growth. We need to put in time, effort, and be disciplined as we work to pursue Gods heart. We need to be continually removing existing sin from our lives, striving every day to be a little more like Jesus, not to sit back, complacent, believing we have done enough or have now arrived. Our hearts desire should be to be like Him, exhibiting Him increasingly in our daily lives.
One of my favourite places growing up was the Manchester Art Gallery. In there you’ll find a quote plastered on the wall in large print by the man who started it, Thomas Horsfall, saying:
“If we have a strong love of beauty, the most beautiful things we see become a part of ourselves.”
The quote comes from a paper called The Study of Beauty, where Horsfall talks about his ideas on the moral and educational role of art in society. The essence of his argument was this; seeing, experiencing and valuing beautiful things on the outside can make us more beautiful on the inside.
We live in a world where the ugly is easy to find and sometimes hard to tear your eyes away from. Sometimes we may not even want to, such is the state of our hearts. Proverbs 12:27 says:
“Whoever seeks good finds favour,
But evil comes to one who searches for it.”
Once, when I was coming out of a valley in my life, I decided to make a list of things that might bring me some enjoyment, a list of things to do that might lift my countenance. I thought about the time I visited Fyvie Castle. We were in the big hall where there’s a grand piano in front of big majestic window and a stranger sat down and started to play. I have absolutely no idea what the song was called. But as he played the notes I stopped in my tracks and couldn’t move an inch whilst the music washed over me. For a moment, I was captivated by something for the purest reason: because it was beautiful, and I could not help but stop and absorb that beauty until the moment had passed.
God makes beautiful things, and because we are made in His likeness, we need beauty in our lives. It is a very part of us and without it our lives can become a canvas full of grey scenes; a lost sailor in a coracle drifting between islands, surrounded by lonely rocks who give nothing and receive nothing. God brings light and beauty to the landscapes of our lives and we should pursue and chase such things without ever giving up.
Several times a day I take time to think about our Lord and what He has done for me, I often get to thinking about the cross, about what it means.
The cross is the symbol of our faith, it’s often found at the altar or head of a church building, on walls in people’s homes or even around the necks of many believers; but what does this symbol mean?
Around Easter time we often hear the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, how he went to the cross of his own choice, willingly enduring the pain, humiliation, flogging and punishment of a criminal whilst being completely innocent, the only sinless man to have ever lived; and often we get so focused on this part of the story we can overlook the most important aspect of this!
It is not in the death of Jesus that our hope lies, it is in his resurrection.
It is not in His ministry before he went to the cross, it is in the LIFE of Jesus after the cross.
You see the cross is EMPTY.
Jesus is no longer there.
Let’s put aside for a moment all of Jesus ministry, put aside everything He did before the cross, put aside the teachings and theology. Instead pause for a few moments to think about this simple aspect.
But He is not DEAD
If Jesus had gone to the cross and paid the price for sin, if Jesus had taken all the punishment owed to us and then stayed dead where would our hope lie?
He would still be dead, and we would still die too.
No, He rose again.
He didn’t just take our punishment, He then went on to conquer death so that we too could rise and be with Him, to give us a sure hope in a future we never had, in an eternal life with Him; to show us He loves us and wants us to be with Him.
This should be our focus.
Lately we have been going through a series on the Parables and are often thinking about discipleship, how to be one and the cost of discipleship to us. To fully appreciate the cost of being a disciple, to fully understand how to be a disciple, we need to be eternity focused and not earthly focused.
Our pastor Vijay recently spoke briefly about the rich young ruler, this man was earthly focused, and his love for the earthly treasures he possessed had clouded his sight. In the eternal scheme of things this life is but a brief moment, if your sight and heart are focused on eternity then earthly treasures should not compare. This is the challenge we all face as disciples as the world continually works against us, tempting us to shift our focus from eternity to this life, to move our hearts away from Jesus and on to earthly treasures.
But Jesus didn’t just rise and go away, He didn’t leave us to flounder along alone or try and follow in our own strength, No, He rose and gave us the Holy Spirit, He rose and gave us promises, He rose and gave us help and strength, He rose and gave us each other.
Let’s be clear about this, despite all our weaknesses and sins and failures, Jesus WANTS us, Jesus LOVES us, and WE need Him; that’s why He has done such an incredible thing when we ourselves cannot.
That is why Jesus came. That is why Jesus Died. And that is why Jesus rose again.
Set your sight and focus in the right place. Set them on the Risen Jesus.
Luke 24:5-6 “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Jesus Rose! The Cross is EMPTY!