Daily Christian Life in a Picture
Over the past few months I’ve created a series of YouTube videos called, Theology Behind The Imagery. These videos are my attempt to explain some of the biblical and theological underpinnings of specific scenes in my animations. I want to do something similar to that in today’s blog post. The picture I want to examine is from The Supremacy of Jesus Christ- Part III and is one of the more theologically dense images in the trilogy. We’ll move through the picture section by section and look at the relevant biblical teaching as we go.
Standing on Grace
The most prominent feature of this image is the crimson ocean of Christ’s blood which symbolizes the accomplishment of Christ’s death in light of His resurrection. As with the saints in this image, the Christian’s entire existence is lived out on the basis of and in the context of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as Paul has said:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3-4
“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…” Romans 5:2
Through Jesus’ death, we—Christian—have died, and in Jesus’ resurrected life we—Christian—now live. Just as the people in this picture stand on the cross and are being carried over the ocean of Christ’s atoning blood, so the Christian stands in a context of blood-bought grace before the Father. A Christian is not someone who has washed their hands in Calvary’s fountain and moved on….a Christian is not someone who goes to the spring in Christ’s cleft side only to wander back into the waterless wilderness….No, praise God, if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ as savior, we are surrounded by His grace, drowning—as it were—in an ocean of His mercy, carrying out our day-to-day to day lives as those who are hidden in, bound to, surrounded by, and standing upon the dying and rising love of God in Christ. This is both the reality of which a believer is a part, and the call upon our lives…..may we live in accordance with who we are!
Beauty the Breaks Idolatry
There is more to this imagery. Not only are the saints surrounded by and standing on the completed work of Christ, it is also significant to note that the ocean of Christ’s blood has destroyed the idols that once held sway over the hearts of His people. As the full animation makes clear, beneath this scarlet ocean is a graveyard of dead gods. This was an attempt to show that Christ’s death and resurrection (symbolized by the blood) not only purchase the forgiveness and righteousness of His people, but that it also reveals to them a glory that breaks the alluring power of idolatry.
Paul calls the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection the “gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). In other words, the heart of the gospel is the glory, the beauty, the communicated fullness of Who God Is in Jesus Christ. The bearing of our sins, the pouring out of His life, the atoning work of His death, the vindication of His resurrection, the continual work of His ascended and enthroned intercession, all of the truths of the gospel serve this one great end: to make known to us the “glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
We have truly received the gift of eternal life only when the facts of the gospel are supernaturally illuminated so as to reveal to us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And when we have seen the beauty of God in Christ crucified and risen; when we have looked—by faith—on the love-marred hands and side of Immanuel and said, “My Lord and my God!”; when we have perceived the glory of YHWH in Lamb who was slain….then the idols and gods and trinkets and allurements of the world that once held our hearts in thralldom will be broken and thrown down.
It is the grace-given, Spirit-illuminated sight of God’s beauty in Christ that severs the root of idolatry in the lives of God’s people. And so in this image Christ’s blood destroys and buries the false gods because the idol-toppling glory of God is communicated with greatest clarity at the cross.
In biblical terminology, the “heart” is the command center of a person’s will and desires, and another important symbol in this picture is the red cord wrapped around the heart of the saints. Earlier in the trilogy there was an anchor tied to the man’s heart, representing the sinful, God-opposing desires that are—by fallen nature—rooted in the heart of every human being (Ephesians 2:1-3). Though we were made for God and cannot be satisfied apart from God, at the deepest part of who we are, we want “not-God” rather than God (Romans 1:21-23). And there’s nothing that we can do about it. This is what it means to be born spiritually dead in our sin (again, Ephesians 2:1), and this is what I was trying to communicate when I pictured the animation’s protagonist with an anchor-chained heart.
However, upon regeneration (a work of God promised as far back as Deuteronomy 30:6), the human heart is remade and enabled to perceive as beautiful and desire as good, that which is truly Good and Beautiful, namely, God Himself as revealed supremely in His Son. And as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:18, this regenerated sight of God’s glory in Christ is not merely an aesthetically pleasing experience; it is the engine of the Christian life.
We see this practically explained in Galatians 5:16 where Paul describes the day-to-day Christian life as “walking by the Spirit.” When he says this he doesn’t have in mind some sort of mystical experience or on going, step-by-step conversation between the believer and the Holy Spirit, rather he is talking about the role of desires in our daily life:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…” (Galatians 5:16-17).
When our heart is regenerated by the Spirit and awakened to the beauty of God in Christ, we are given a new spiritual “taste,” a “sixth sense” that is now able to perceive and desire the holiness of God as supreme good. In the past we could not taste His goodness and so followed the desires of the flesh like mules in a wagon train headed over a cliff….but now that we are alive, now that the Spirit of God lives within us and enables us to desire the things of God, we are to be led by Him, that is, led by His desires. To walk in the Spirit, then, means to be moved by the desires of the regenerated heart, desires that reflect God’s own desires.
The regeneration of the saints’ hearts means that they now desire what the Spirit desires (chiefly to see, savor, and sing the glory of God in Christ through self-giving love). This is why the red cords (red representing the work of Christ) are tied around the hearts (the wellspring of human desire) of the saints and are being carried—as is revealed in the next scene of the animation—by the Holy Spirit to the shores of the New Heavens and Earth.
Living as a Christian
All in all, this image is my attempt to symbolically depict the Christian life. We are surrounding by and standing upon an infinite ocean of blood bought grace, the former idols of our hearts have been drowned in the torrent of God’s beauty made known to us in Christ crucified and risen, and our regenerated hearts are being led by the Spirit from one degree of glory to the next as we—by faith now and by sight soon—behold the joy of all our desires: the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. May it be ever increasingly so, amen.