The Masterpiece (Romans 1:20) – Austin Gonzales

At last, the Artist had finished laboring. He took a step back and surveyed His work. Completely satisfied, He said, “It is very good,” then He rested for a day (Gen. 1:31-2:2). Within this masterpiece are many smaller works – each one a masterpiece in its own right. I am one of those privileged to observe some of these every day, as the Artist
continually touches-up and cares for them. Some of my favorites are “Water,” “Flora and Fauna,” “Sky,”

“Chemistry,” and “Music.” “Chemistry” is the medium that the Artist uses to mold his masterpiece. Within “Chemistry,” I consider Elements, which struggle together as small teams cooperating and building upon each other to construct the entirety of the vast masterpiece, as the Artist directs (1 Cor. 12:12-31). I also observe Fire, which He uses to refine various parts of His masterpiece – eradicating great stains and smears through much toil and patience, as well as strengthening the mold (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

“Flora and Fauna” illustrates the delicacy of the masterpiece. From this we can see how such art owes its existence to its Creator and to the Person who preserves it and cares for it. It is a beautiful creation – filled with untold complexity and variety that give us just a taste of how intelligent and wise the Maker of this masterpiece must be (Rom. 11:33-36). Moreover; through examining the intricacies of the relationships between “Flora and Fauna” set pieces, we discover amazing jewels like care and protection (Matt. 6:25-34).

“Sky” makes use of the Artist’s full palette of colors, patterns, and lighting. The dominant feature – Weather – is a constantly changing canvas. Weather portrays, at times, immense power. At other times it portrays peace, or anything else in-between (Mark 4:35-41). Another feature is Sunrise, sometimes called Sunset. Sunrise is a live exhibition portraying the Artist’s emotions in color. This fascinating display of emotion continually changes as each moment passes. But even when it disappears from view, it’s still there – bleeding, growing, mourning, smiling. Though many parts of the masterpiece fade away after a time, Sunrise never ceases to be. It is at the Beginning and, as Sunset, it is at the End of the masterpiece (Rev. 22:13).

“Water” is the shading technique that connects all of these masterpieces to each other in a pure hue. It sometimes acts as an eraser – cleansing and shaping the foundations for the masterpiece. At other times, it gives life to the masterpiece (John 3:5; 4:13-14): “Sky,” “Chemistry,” and especially “Flora and Fauna,” could not be what they are without “Water”, and wherever “Water” is not, there is instead a blemishing agent called Death.

“For the invisible things of him, that is, his eternal power and Godhead, are seen by the creation of the world, being considered in his works, to the intent that they [men] should be without excuse:” (1599 Geneva Bible) (Brackets added for clarification, based on context)

Art is a way of expressing oneself. The Artist desired to express Himself – His personality – to His masterpiece. So through art, as well, we can see the personality of this master Artist displayed. Through music, we can see harmony – the idea of multiple parts working together as a whole – much like Elements. Through smithing and pottery, we can see His method of refining and strengthening through toil and pain – much like Fire. Through score composition and architecture, we can learn about the mathematics, complexities, and other such evidences of this Artist’s intelligence – much like “Flora and Fauna.” By studying colors, patterns, and lighting – as seen in “Sky,” we can learn a great deal about sin and righteousness (1 John 1:5-10), and about human emotion, a gift bestowed by the Artist upon His portrait “The Likeness of His Image” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Even in the use of our cleaning materials when the work is done we can observe the pure, cleansing nature of the Artist – like that of “Water.” We can observe how they may be used to both erase and create, to make the artwork exactly what the Artist wants (2 Cor. 5:21). Even more; we can observe how, without the proper cleansing Agent, the art may remain blemished or covered up, but never restored – much like those marked by sin, for Death. The Artist can only use the proper cleansing Agent to restore that precious gift of Life to His portrait and make it again, truly, “The Likeness of His Image” (John 14:6).

The Bread & The Water

From an early point in the history of man, bread has been known as a basic food item. The term “bread” has even taken on the representation of a meal in its entirety. It’s often heard that we “gather together in fellowship to ‘break bread.’” That is to say we are enjoying each other’s company and sharing a meal. It’s true that such a simple item is composed of simple ingredients, but the significance of what bread symbolizes to humanity exceeds a concoction of basic ingredients. The same type of mindset could be applied to water.

Because these two seemingly elementary things have been so well distributed and manufactured, the significance of their existence may be overlooked by modern society. In the past, if a man had bread and water, he had enough to provide for himself a meal and not worry about going hungry. For a man, during a time such as the one described, to offer a food that would never perish and keep one from going hungry would seem impossible. Yet, in John 6:35, we read of Jesus offering such a bread to the crowd, and in John chapter 4:13, we read of Jesus offering a water that would inhibit thirst from happening again.

John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” This verse is what follows a conversation between Jesus and the crowd that witnessed Him feeding thousands of people with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. In previous verses, Jesus declares that the people who had followed Him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the city of Capernaum had done so only because they had been fed. Their reply to Jesus started in verse 30, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Although Jesus had just fed thousands with a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread, the people were still wanting proof for what Jesus was claiming! He goes on to reply in verse 33 that the bread of God is what comes down out of heaven to give life to the world.

It is somewhat obvious to a reader that Jesus is referring to Himself when He says this, and the same could be said for when He compares what He offers can be likened to that of eternal water. In John 4, because the Samaritan woman was so focused on the physical aspect of the water, she had missed what Jesus was teaching. Similar to the Samaritan woman, do we often put too much focus on things that pertain to the world? The church in Colossae needed to be reminded of this, and Paul gave a helpful statement in Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

It isn’t uncommon to notice that people tend to miss the basic concepts of things sometimes. As Christians, our goal is to strive for the spiritual food that Jesus speaks about, and spread the news that the food is free to all! If you’re feeling a little malnourished, just take a bite out of the Word of God! If your’e feeling thirsty, take a sip from the life-giving water that Jesus came to this earth to share. The message of Jesus and His sacrificial love has proven to be something that never grows old and will always appease your appetite. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This verse applies to His promises and news about how the feast has been prepared for us. All we need to do is believe Him and commit to partaking of it one bite at a time.

Come, See For Yourself!

In the forth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. The very fact that Jesus—a Jewish male, would talk to her—a Samaritan female, gets her attention and causes her to realize that there is something special about this man.

In the course of their conversation, Jesus reveals that He knows all about her life, and about her five failed marriages and her current unholy relationship. To this, the woman replies, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

As their conversation continues to progress, Jesus finally reveals Himself to her as the Christ, the Savior of the world. When the woman says, “I know that Messiah is coming…” He responds to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

This experience at the well with Jesus must have made a huge impact on the Samaritan woman. Surely His demeanor and countenance must have communicated to her great depths of knowledge, wisdom, spiritual insight, and godly love. She had every reason to believe that this was the Son of God.

The text tells us, “the woman left her water pot, and went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?’ They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.”

Notice what the woman did not say: “I found a man who I know for a fact to be the Christ. If you don’t believe it, you’re going to hell.” “It is so painfully obvious that this man is the Christ, you’d have to be an idiot to miss it!” “You must not question what I am telling you, He is the Christ. End of conversation.”

Instead, the woman invited the people to come to Jesus for themselves, and have their own unique experiences in His presence just as she had. She invited them to take up and explore the question of His legitimacy for themselves.

The outcome of this woman’s evangelism was very great: “Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

Will we learn from the example of this woman when we seek to bring people in our life to Jesus?

When we discourage the asking of questions, we stifle the personal experiences of discovery and genuine learning in those who are seeking for answers.

When we respond with shaming and disdain towards those who question what we should believe, we miss an excellent opportunity to say “let us reason together… turn with me to this passage, what does it seem to be saying?”

Often, when we become angry or upset because someone has challenged what we believe, we betray the reality that our own faiths are shallower than we would like to admit. We may need not only to invite our children, friends, and neighbors to come see for themselves what God is like and what His word truly says, we may need to go and see for ourselves all over again as well.

May we learn, like the Samaritan woman, to invite the people around us to evaluate the evidence for themselves and come to their own conclusions. Memorizing correct answers is not the same as true learning. True learning must take place in the individual.

What do we Know about the Holy Spirit?

We MUST have the Holy Spirit

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

God Gives the Spirit to us

Those who ask:
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

Those who repent and are baptized:
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38)

Those who obey Him:
“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32)

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points… so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:15-16)

“…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

“…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” (Romans 8:26)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Let the Bible Speak for Itself about Baptism

Recently one of our bulletin articles was titled “Let the Bible Speak.” Sometimes instead of giving our opinions, it is wise to simply read the Bible, without adding or taking away from what it says. With that in mind, consider several Bible passages that mention baptism, without any emphasis added, and in the order they appear in the Bible:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

 “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’” (Acts 2:37-39)

 “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” (Acts 8:12)

  “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)

 “A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.  Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’” (Acts 22:12-16)

 “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:25-27)

“…the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:20-21)