Spoiled Masterpieces

Down through the centuries—in fact, over five of them now—the human race has heaped up praises for what Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of that Sistine Chapel. "Magnificent" they call it; "colossal"; "unprecedented", "the only one of its kind", and...

...are you ready for this? 


I know. I know. It shocked me too. But there really was no denying it. People admired the great theme of the work—The Creation of Adam—marvelous! They admired its form and its structure and its symmetry and, of course, they admired its message, but no one had much to say about its colors. Why hadn't Mike done a better job with his colors? It almost looked like an old black-n-white and with the "white" not faring too well, come to think of it.  

The thing was just plain dingy! 

But then one day, back in 1981, two experts in art restoration took a cloth, dabbed it with a bit of special solvent and gently rubbed a tiny corner of one of the chapel domes. 

They were immediately stunned by what they saw! The most beautiful, vibrant colors jumped out at them: azure, rose, lavender, topaz, Vermillion! It looked like the work of a recent artist! The more they rubbed, the more beautiful it became. It was utterly stunning! It was also quite a revelation: that "dinge"  had never been Michelangelo's fault! It was time! Weather! The world! Of course! Why, after all, had they suspected anything else? It was nothing but life taking its usual toll! The artist had created a beautiful thing with wonderful colors, but with the passage of time and the dinge and the grime, people just must have forgotten! 

That was the beginning of eight years of work—twice as long as it took to paint it!—as these two great "restorers" gave the entire ceiling a thorough renewal, restoring it to the masterpiece it was always meant to be! 

That, by the way, is a very enviable profession—don't you agree? It must be a wonderfully aesthetic line of work, to be a restorer of spoiled masterpieces. Surely the final product brings a deep sense of satisfaction. 

You know what I think? That is precisely our Savior's line of work! That is what God is doing, right now, in the life of every believer: restoring the masterpiece that time—and life—has spoiled.  Restoring each one of us to what we were always created to be: holy and upright and pure and righteous.  

But—my goodness!—what an unpopular subject that is. Start preaching on holiness and purity and God's righteous standard, and someone is bound to label you "judgmental", "puritanical", "legalistic" or "a bigot". 

You know what's sad? Our generation has grown accustomed to the spoiled masterpiece! We now live in a generation in which nothing is holy. Nothing is sacred. We've scuttled every standard of God's creation to excuse our own lusts and desires. We've been hearing, for decades now, the constant refrain: "There are no moral absolutes, you know?" "There is no such thing as wrong behavior, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone." "Since no one has the right to impose his values on anyone else, there is no point in even discussing right or wrong."

 Listen, dear ones! The Scriptures are insistent upon holiness as the only standard. The Bible talks about this one subject more than any other, and you will find it from Genesis to Revelation: "'Be holy, in all you do, for I am holy,' says the Lord." 1 Pet 1: 15-16 

Jesus Himself taught that God's holy standard was not even open to negotiation. (So why do Christians try to do that?): "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law." Mk 5: 18

And here's a sobering statement from Scripture: "Strive after holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord." Heb 12:14

That's quite a thought, isn't it? 

Listen: here's the bad news about all of this: we cannot do it! We can't bring back the purity we have lost! The Bible tells us that "all have sinned"; we've all"fallen short of the glory of God"! This has nothing to do with "self-reform"; or "patching things up" or "getting your act together! No! The "masterpiece", if left in our hands, is spoiled beyond repair! 

But praise God! There is a Restorer! He's an absolute Master at making "all things new"! Rev 21:5 You can place that old spoiled canvas in His hands! And He will restore you to glory! You can't do it. But He can. And He will!

"For the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  1 Pet 5: 10

Looking forward to Sunday. 

See you there!                                  RAS

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