Elder's Prayer - March 17, 2019
Please find below the notes from the Elder's Prayer this past Sunday.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been considering ways in which God glorifies Himself through ways in which He reveals Himself…. He reveals Himself through His word, yes, but He also reveals Himself through the medium - the “stitium”, if you will - in which He has placed us. These are Creation and Reality. All of creation declares the glory of God!
When God finished creating, he stood back, he looked, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” - Genesis 1:31. And at that moment, every subatomic particle in the universe, every thought that could be conceived, every movement in time, every conceivable facet - every conceivable esthetic - was focused on one thing: glory for God. Infinite truth, infinite goodness, and infinitely perfect beauty in every esthetic of creation...!
And then…. A discordant note was heard. Dissonance. Sin. And it broke into this perfect harmony of creation because of man’s bent for man’s own will. And beauty was altered…. The perfect beauty expressed in every esthetic of creation was changed.
What is beauty...? Have you ever considered that? Does beauty have meaning, and what purpose does it have…? We describe certain visual appeals as ‘beautiful”. Sounds and harmonies can be defined as beautiful. Smells, textures, and tastes can be defined as beautiful. Words, individual thoughts, philosophies, virtues, movement, every conceivable esthetic of God’s creation can be categorized with some degree of “beauty”. But how do we measure beauty…?
Analysis is always shaped by moral perspective. And for those whose perspective is purely amoral, for the naturalist, there is great difficulty to describe beauty in any meaningful way. One atheist describes beauty this way, “Beauty is for beauty’s sake. Beauty is the… meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference.” For the one whose moral perspective describes a godless universe having accidentally burst into existence, beauty is arbitrary, beauty is a fluid list of criteria, its definition is determined by the whim of changing personal or social opinion. If an esthetic meets a certain list of requirements, it is beautiful. If it does not, it is not beautiful. But in the end, there is no purpose for beauty, and there is certainly no meaning to it...
But for the believer, beauty is meaningFULL! Every esthetic is in some way beautiful! Every food and drink that we consume; every color, smell, and sound; every thought, every word, every virtue conceived has the capability of being beautiful! Because each esthetic was created by THE perfectly Beautiful One. And it was created to glorify Himself. There is no esthetic within this reality that does not, in some way, glorify its Creator, therefore, there is no esthetic that does not in some way have the capability of meeting the standard of being beautiful!
But is beauty objectively determined? Or is beauty relative? Is it subjectively defined? Does beauty differ from the eye of one beholder to another? Is beauty defined only as what is perfect, or what is heavenly, or what is pure…? I asked this last week of a scholar that I know, a philosopher in esthetics. She said this to me and pointed me to a verse in Ecclesiastes. She said, “Defining beauty is like trying to define the infinity of God. Like trying to work out the tension between the deity of Christ and his humanity. Beauty is mystery! And we revel in the mystery! Yes, the classic definitions of perfection, truth, and goodness are beautiful. But everything that glorifies God is beautiful! And all of creation glorifies God! Including the not perfect…. The forest ravaged by the catastrophe of fire possesses the potential of beauty. The dilapidated, overgrown house at the end of the street possesses beauty. The sudden death of a husband after a year of marriage, the prodigal and broken child, a severed relationship, a missing leg, scars on a face, the horrifying scene of the bleeding, torn flesh of a Savior on a cross…. These are beautiful as well. There is dissonance. There is imperfection. There is fallenness. But because of God's infinitely sovereign wisdom and ability, because of His love, and because of their potential for His redemption, where there is submission of will, there is beauty! And God weaves for himself a product that is glorifying to himself and is ultimately beautiful.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 - “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Are you one who is crushed? Has what glory you thought you possessed departed? Have you been broken even because of your own sinful choices? Do you think there is no hope for you to ever again express beauty…? Ecclesiastes 3 - “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Because where there is submission of will - where there is redemption - there is beauty. And God graciously redeems!
Do you think there is no hope? Are you certain that God has no use for you because of your repeated failures? Are you at your end...? Our infinite God has NO end… And Ecclesiastes says you cannot know “what God has done (has already done!) from the beginning to the end”. But this promise remains - “He has made everything beautiful in its time”. There is hope, there is beauty, and there is glory for God because there is redemption by an infinitely loving and beautiful God through the beautiful but crushing death of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Will you not repent from your sins? Will you not submit your will to the will of Jesus’ redemption in obedience to Him as your Lord and Savior? Be redeemed! And be beautiful and glorious to Him today!
Father, how often it is that we fail to see your omnipotence, your omniscience, and your beauty in all of creation around us. We fail to see your goodness and grace in every place and at every time in our lives and in all of reality. We observe the beauty in your holiness, we observe your purity, your sovereignty over all, even your love, but we often fail to see how your love can be displayed through our imperfection. And we fail to yield our will to yours...
Yet your Son, Jesus, was found in the form, the shape, the physical manifestation of God in our reality and he became a servant, one of no reputation, a man of sorrows and one who knew grief. He became comely. He became dissonant. He became sin for us… And he beautifully humbled his will to do your own will, and he was torn and he died for us…
But he was redeemed! And you do redeem still through the death of your Son. Where the godless world perceives meaninglessness, where they see ugliness, and smell death because of your Son, you produce beauty, infinite meaning and truth, and you smell the pleasing aroma of life in us because of Jesus’ death. You give beauty where there are ashes, the oil of joy where there is crying, you give a garment of praise where there is sadness, you plant forests in empty places that you might display your beauty and glorify yourself!
Be glorified in us! Make us willing accomplices in your redemptive plan, whatever that is, for creation and for eternity. Give us humble hearts, submissive hearts, to sing praise to your holiness, to see beauty and sovereignty in your process, and to live dependent upon you. Forgive us our sins and failures. Make your will known to us and redeem us to do your will!
All this I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.