The Beauty of the Lord
Jesus said that no one had ever seen God except him alone. Could there be a more reliable witness of what God looks like than the only person who ever saw him? The apostles make the case repeatedly that they saw Jesus. But not one of them gave us a physical description of him. Paul does not tell us how tall he was. Peter does not reveal the color of his eyes. Could it be that to the eyewitnesses, these details were patently unimportant? The glimpses of Jesus are packaged in his words and actions, both windows into his spirit. The Holy Spirit enters the process and ensures that eyewitnesses keep out their biases, memory lapses, and other cognitive distortions of the truth. Only then can we who have not seen him be blessed by the description of those who did.
So, what did they see? What did they see when they peered into his soul and searched his spirit? They said he was able to feel the full range of our emotions. They painted a picture of a man who had a single focus. They describe one whose words could pierce one soul but not another. They reveal a tough gentleman, a fearless doctor, a solitary yet gregarious figure. He laughs and cries. He walks away and takes a stand. He rushes and takes his time. He gives and takes. He listens and speaks. He cares little for what anyone but God thinks, though he cares deeply whether a single soul believes in him. He insists that the dead bury their dead while taking care of his mother before he dies. Sometimes he wants to eat, and other times he has food no one knows. Yet, he never forgot who he was, why he was here, and where he was going. He knew who sent him and who he represented.
He touched innocence and evil. He spoke publicly and privately. He could stay up all night and sleep through a storm. Demons did not scare him. Unappreciative lepers disturbed him. Sacrificial widows impressed him. Seekers encouraged him. A wilderness preacher was honored by him. He gave a prayer that has been on our lips ever since. He preached a sermon on a mount that has been re-preached worldwide. He stood on a mountain with dead men sent back for a summit. He knew long before anyone else knew how and when he would die. He knew when and how the great city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. He understood his first mission to save and his second mission to judge, and he did not confuse the two.
Occasionally he could not heal because of unbelief. Other times he could heal when there was no belief. He listened to petty arguments. He endured ensnaring questions. He messed with the apostles to make them think. He put his confidence in men but never entrusted himself to men. He let them arrest and crucify him and let them think they were in charge. He made a clear distinction between what was clean and unclean, and it was not what others thought. He campaigned for caring for the elderly, for children to be protected, and for women to be respected.
He was a master storyteller. He could slip a point in before you knew what hit you. He was not impressed with what impressed man. His focus was always heavenward. He never failed to face the day. He never got ahead of himself. He never received an award on earth other than an occasional thank you. He never got stumped by a question he could not answer but never responded to a question he did not want to answer. He knew what people were thinking before they opened their mouths. Some he pursued when they left. Others, he just let go. He got excited over genuine faith. He got angry over stubborn unbelief.
Jesus was indeed the most amazing person who ever lived. His true beauty is revealed in what he said and did, but that beauty can only be fully appreciated when we ask the most important question, why?
What wisdom informed him about the right thing to do or say on every occasion? What was his thought process that led him to act one way and another at another time? What was he thinking the second or two before he opened his mouth? What was he seeing when he was silent? When he looked at a person, what did he really see? Could he see their spirit? Was their confusion crystal clear to him? Did their evil desires smell funny to him? Was he fully conscious of his Father every minute of the day? Did he strategize? Did he plan? Did he make to-do lists in his head? Did his conscience inform him that he was being tempted? Did he ever have to figure anything out?
If I am to have the mind of Christ, can I know his mind? How does a character trait give birth to an action? How can his beautiful wisdom be infused into my spirit so that I act wisely? How can his beautiful compassion be ingrained into my spirit so that I act compassionately? How can his beautiful love be infused into my spirit so I behave lovingly? Only if these things happen can the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
The matter of transference is paramount in the sanctification process of the Christian. God fathered us. His spiritual DNA is our DNA. Just as a child takes on the characteristics of their parents, so we should look like our heavenly Father. We stand over the newborn, looking for hints of resemblance. "He has his father's ears." "She has her mother's mouth." "I see a little bit of Grandpa in him." We search for evidence that this child carries in his appearance the parents' physical traits. As the child matures and their personalities emerge, we begin to speak differently of them. We still look for physical characteristics, but other features become evident. "He has his mother's stubbornness." "She has her father's even temper." We seem obsessed with identifying and pointing out the similarities and differences between the child and her parents. Why do we do this? It seems like a universal activity.
Could it be that we know that we have a kinship with that new arrival, that child who has burst into the world, that alien? But could we be seeking validation that our feeling of closeness and love is rooted in reality? "This is my boy!" the father says proudly. There is pride, no doubt, and expectation. From then on, the father lives part of his life through his child. Their accomplishments become his accomplishments. Their failures become his failures. The link has been established and is not easily separated.
Is it any different with our Father God? He creates us and recreates us in Christ, and lives his life through us. Our accomplishments become opportunities for his glory, and our failures become occasions of grief. How our Fathers looks intently into our faces to see his traits manifested there! How he longs to see, us living out his perfect characteristics of love, peace, and hope!
Then, there are mutations. Something goes wrong within the cell. It changes due to toxic influence. The normal, natural process of growth is altered. Deformities result—the propensity to disease increases. Often the mutation renders the person unable to reproduce. This perfect parent now has less-than-ideal offspring. The child is no less loved but requires special attention and care. The traits of the parent are obscured.
Add to this self-destructive acts, accidents, and attacks by others, and you have the many ways a person can be negatively changed so that they do not appear to be of the same family as the parents. For example, a parent might say in anguish after a late-night trip to the emergency room, "I hardly recognized my son."
Could this be how the Father feels after sin has gotten a hold of us? "I hardly recognize my own son." It seems fitting that the Only Begotten Son of God was marred beyond human resemblance after the beatings and the crucifixion. Could it be that the Father looked down on Jesus as he carried the sins of the world within his being and exclaimed, "I hardly recognize my own son?" All the human mutations, self-destructive acts, accidents, and attacks by others were demonstrated within the body of the Lord to the extent that the Father could not bear to look at his own Son.
Amid all this reality, God desires that his beauty be manifested in each of his children. Could anyone seriously think that we could make ourselves beautiful? Pull out the makeup. Call in the makeover artists. Draw my bath. Replace my wardrobe. Cut my hair. Trim my nails. Whiten my teeth. Call in the plastic surgeons. Put me through the same routine that Esther went through. Call the fashion consultants. Get me a dietitian, a personal trainer, a massage therapist, and a diction coach. I want a greater transformation than "My Fair Lady." I want my family to cry joyfully when they scream, "Move that bus." Buy the 100th self-help book. Go to another workshop. Find one more co-dependent person who really wants to fix me. I can make a "Rocky" style comeback. I will hear the victor's music play. I will step out on the stage and "wow" the crowd. I will hear the roar of applause. I will show you!
Then, we wake up, look in the mirror, and climb onto the scales. Finally, reality smacks us in the face, and we sigh a sigh of despair. Is God-beauty even possible?
No more outward makeovers. No more quick fixes. No more masking the problems. No more pretending we are more beautiful than we are. Admit it. I am fat. I am out of shape. I am losing my hearing and eyesight. I am turning gray or turning loose. I hurt a little more each day just from getting out of bed. My teeth are loose. Going to bed at 9:00 PM is looking better all the time. But all these outward signs of weakness are nothing compared to the realities of the spirit.
I have not fixed my impatience or anger. I have not made myself more loving and sacrificial. I have not contributed much to the beauty that God wants to see within me. I have not made myself righteous, holy, or good. I have not attained redemption or forgiveness through human effort. I have not produced peace and joy. I am not the architect of self-control and discipline. I have worked hard and manufactured little.
God screams out, "Your beauty is my job." The only two beauty consultants you need are the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son will give you his righteousness, peace, and holiness. The Spirit will help you live out your new gifts' realities. The process of beautification is internal, spiritual, and mysterious. Yes, I must cooperate. I must trust my handlers to make me beautiful. I must allow through faith the Son to recreate me and the Spirit to mold me into the likeness of the Son. I must submit and let go. I must trust.
How can I have the mind of Christ? How can His characteristics be mine bringing forth righteous acts and words? The power for such is in the gospel. I must accept my sinfulness and helplessness. I must receive his righteousness through faith. I must appreciate my freedom from sin, law, and death. I must die with and be raised with him through baptism into the newness of life. The truth of the gospel must be injected into the pours of my spirit, permeating every cell of my soul. Every thought must proceed from the pure gospel of Christ. Every act must express some reality produced by the gospel. The simple truth that Jesus died and arose must touch everything I do and speak.
Then, having submitted to his process of renewal and beautification, I must practice the disciplines of the spiritual life that will keep my heart open to his work of making me beautiful. Those disciplines include prayer, meditation, Bible study, fasting, confession, worship, and service. Of course, the mere practice of these disciplines does not make me beautiful. They merely make it possible for him to make me beautiful. Otherwise, I might trust in my prayer, meditation, Bible study, fasting, confession, worship, and service to make me more like Jesus.
The inward beauty God desires can only be a work of God, who is the Spirit upon the human spirit. The Spirit touches spirit. There is transformation within the touch.
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