God’s Portrait of Peace- A Complete Masterpiece

God's Portrait of Peace- A Complete Masterpiece
Philippians 4:1-7

Today, I want you to use your artistic ability. (Now, no groans or sighs, please!) What I want you do is relatively simple. I want you to paint a mental picture — a picture of peace. Close your eyes if you wish, and start thinking of something peaceful. How does it look? Perhaps it’s a portrait of a white-sand beach next to a calm ocean of blue. Maybe yours is a portrait of faces, of family and friends.

As you had those peaceful thoughts, did you think to include yourself in the picture? That’s a crucial part of the image, you know. The apostle Paul explains this in our text. For us Christians, peace is an image in which we are included. Keep this in mind, as today we consider: GOD’S PORTRAIT OF PEACE – A COMPLETE MASTERPIECE. 1) Made Vibrant by the Gospel, and 2) Highlighted with Joy.

1) Made Vibrant By the Gospel

It’s no surprise that God talks about joy, and rejoicing, as part of his spiritual masterpiece. The canvass on which God paints this masterpiece is the human heart and mind. The Lord dips into his palate of colors, and, with mighty strokes, he adds vibrancy and vitality to the heart and mind.

Now, the Holy Spirit is the artist directly responsible for this masterpiece. The colors at his disposal are of his making alone. His palate is the Means of Grace; the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. These are what the Holy Spirit uses to transform the heart and mind. The good news of Jesus Christ splashes over us with warm hues and shades. The Spirit is busy creating his masterpiece. He leads us to the Word again and again, covering and coating us with the promises of God. With heavy strokes the Holy Spirit layers us in mercy –“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him –and with a gentle touch, the Spirit applies his grace –“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

The Spirit of God intends to paint a picture of joy, which involves peace of mind. Yet, this is not an easy canvass on which to work; this stubborn, fleshly heart and mind of ours. Time and again, it wants to spurn those warm colors of grace, and reject the Spirit’s gentle touch. Consider the portrait we see in the letter to the Philippians. This was intended to be an image of unity and peace. Now, the integrity of that portrait was threatened. Two individuals, Euodia and Syntyche, were suddenly at odds with each other. We don’t know the exact cause of the trouble. We do know that, at one time, they were enthusiastic helpers in the gospel ministry. They were energetic and talented, a blessing to the congregation. Now, some disagreement had arisen between them –perhaps it was the result of jealousy or envy – and where there once was harmony, there was now friction.

What was happening is that the strong colors of sin were threatening to overshadow the colors of the gospel. This canvass – the heart and mind – is not blank or empty. It is painted heavily with sin. What’s worse is that those dark undertones of sin keep threatening to bleed through and cancel out the warm colors of the gospel. Our sinful nature keeps trying to undo the Spirit’s good work. The basic problem is that this canvass, our hearts and minds, wants to be the artist itself. Deep down, we have the desire be in control. We want all the credit and attention.

This leads to people who are coated in dissonance, not harmony; to people petty and selfish. We are sinful. What was once a picture of joy is transformed into one of gloom. The colors of sin threaten to clash and dominate. Sharp words. Hurt feelings. Grudges. Bitterness. Resentment. Envy. Jealousy. These are the colors on sin’s palate, which try to destroy the Spirit’s masterpiece.

Yet, notice that God is persistent and faithful. He clashes sin with grace. He combats sin’s murky undertones with the vibrant colors of his love. The apostle Paul knew the riches of grace that are in Christ Jesus, and he dipped into the Holy Spirit’s palate, the gospel, and applied it to the people’s hearts and lives. He says: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Paul doesn’t sink to name-calling or slander. He trusts that the Holy Spirit has not given up. He trusts that God is not willing to trash the canvass and start fresh. The Lord alone is able to transform sin’s ugliness into something truly beautiful.

This is something God accomplishes in his realm, his art “studio” of sorts. This transformation from eyesore to masterpiece takes place “in the Lord.” Paul encouraged these two ladies not to base their value or worth in themselves. Rather, they were to find their worth in that they belonged to God. This meant that each one was equally a work of art in God’s eyes. There was no need for competition or envy.

This applies to us today. We cannot paint ourselves into God’s masterpiece. We cannot transform ourselves on our own. We cannot airbrush away our imperfections. If anything, we cause our spiritual ugliness to stand out. Christ Jesus makes us God’s own. His blood covers over all our sins. It purifies our hearts and minds. It cancels out the stain of sin. God declares us to be innocent and clean. We are no longer headed for the trash heap. Because of Christ Jesus we are worthy canvass; worthy of the Spirit’s artwork.

2) Highlighted with Joy

The good news of the gospel transforms our lives into a portrait of joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul uses that phrase again: in the Lord. Joy resides in God’s realm. Joy is part of the Holy Spirit’s palate. God paints joyful masterpieces in his studio. And he uses peace to do it. Peace is the brush God uses to paint and highlight joy into our lives.

Peace means to have assurance. We have this. God assures us that our sins are forgiven because of Christ Jesus. We now have peace with God. We are assured that he loves us and will continue to be with us. God fills our hearts with peace. And it shows in our lives. We are joyful. Joy is the prominent mark of a believer. It’s a unique mark of the Holy Spirit’s work. If I were to hold up a portrait by Pablo Picasso, you probably would have no difficulty recognizing it, because of the artist’s unique style or technique. It’s the same with the Holy Spirit. Joy is the result of the Spirit working faith in our hearts and minds. Joy is the result of knowing that Jesus is our Savior.

Sometimes joy doesn’t seem reasonable or right. At times, we are tempted to think there’s no possible way we can be joyful. Often we find ourselves faced with trials and disappointments. We tend to be frustrated with each other and ourselves. At those times, our lives don’t seem like any bright, colorful masterpiece. Our lives often seem to be more like a sketch in charcoal, than a portrait in pastels. It’s exactly at those times when God comes along and splashes a fresh coat of his grace on us. When worry or grief threatens to whither joy from our lives, God recreates us. He renews and encourages us by reminding us of his faithful love in Jesus.

With broad strokes, God’s grace transforms our hearts and minds. We are led to realize that God has painted us with the bright colors of his love and faithfulness. We know true joy. And we are now able to see each other as “fellow works of art.” When God mixes those bright colors of love and faithfulness together, the result is peace and hope. This combats any despair or disappointment we might experience.

With broad strokes, God’s grace transforms our hearts and minds. We are led to realize that God has painted us with the bright colors of his love and faithfulness. We know true joy. And we are now able to see each other as “fellow works of art.” When God mixes those bright colors of love and faithfulness together, the result is peace and hope. This combats any despair or disappointment we might experience.

We’re able to look up, not down. The peace we have in Christ affects our attitudes. Our inspiration comes from the Lord, and not ourselves. God helps us to keep things in perspective. As the apostle says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In other words, we are to put ourselves in God’s hand and know we are safe. We’re his work of art. The wonderful thing is that God knows all our wants and needs, our fears and troubles, without us praying about them. Yet, he encourages us to bring all our concerns to him and know they are in good hands.

This leads us to be thankful. As we look up to God, and not to ourselves, we do find answers to sin. As we look to God, we find strength to bear up under our problems. And as we look to God, we find out how faithful he has been, and continues to be, and we are led to be thankful. That’s peace—being joyful and confident to able realize it.

There’s a story told about a man who sought the perfect picture of peace. Unsatisfied with what he had seen, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. Portraits of all sorts were submitted and judged. Eventually, the contest narrowed between just two pictures. As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd. It depicted a mirror-smooth lake reflecting lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep lay undisturbed. Surely, this was the winner.

Then the second portrait was unveiled, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace? A turbulent waterfall cascaded down a rocky cliff. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightening, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power. A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. There she was completely content.

Now, unveil God’s masterpiece and you see a portrait surpasses them all. Really, it’s a myriad of images. In one glance, we see a man, the Son of Man, beaten, forsaken and slain. In the next glance, there is a glorious figure, shining in the brilliance of victory eternal. Glance again, and we see a familiar image, a face –yours and mine — basking in this supernal glory. Joy radiates from this portrait. There is peace.

Now, we might feel the disappointments of a world crashing around us. Yet, God is with us. He will not forsake us. In fact, he has painted us into his masterpiece with great precision and care. This is not an abstract piece of art. It is obvious that God knows who are his own. Because of Jesus Christ, we are God’s priceless work of art – body, mind, heart, and soul. We have been painted by his grace, and we shall be his forever. Amen.

This message from Pastor Edward Frey is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On Project ,  You can read more at:  Sermon Central