One New Year, Two Portraits

by Barry Newton
“Begin with the end in mind” remains a well-worn and worthy proverb. If each of our lives could be displayed as a portrait, how would we want this new year painted on the forthcoming New Year’s Eve?
If the apostle Paul were the artist capturing the essence of our lives, his Ephesian letter suggests he would splash ink pigments creating forms and lines on a canvas in fundamentally one of two ways.
Although Paul’s brush was a quill and his paints the arrangement of words, nevertheless his portrait of the ungodly life is clear and stark in that ancient letter.
Paul’s portrait of the pagan life reveals a life driven by an internal sense of purpose built on the transitory, such as seeking enjoyment from life. Yet, the bright lights of God’s studio expose the insatiability and futility of the pursuit. Dark muted colors convey a life being hopelessly lived out in ignorance of the reality of God’s judgment and salvation.
The apostolic alternative portrait utilizes a canvas that has been divinely scraped removing the pagan remnants of a former life. Using the bright colors of Jesus’ light, Paul conveys a divinely created portrait infused with the purpose of emulating God’s righteousness and holiness. This is a life empowered by the mindset of Christ. Such a transformed life seeks the well-being of others while conforming ever more closely to the image of Jesus.
You can read in Ephesians 4:17-5:14 all about Paul’s portrait of the pagan lifestyle contrasted alongside of a holy and faithful person who serves Christ.
Self-portraits may not reveal much truth about one’s own life. What matters is how our lives measure up to eternity and reality.
In which style would we want Paul to paint our life this year?

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