This book considers the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit as he transforms the cracked canvases of our lives into becoming living portraits of grace. Jesus did this with his disciples while he was here on earth and his Spirit continues to do this now that Jesus has ascended to heaven. Once we realize just how committed God is to paint grace in our lives we discover fresh hope. We may have thought that we would have to figure out the Christian life on our own. But now we discover that God has never left us alone at all. In fact his Spirit's work in us has guaranteed that the portrait he is painting will reflect his presence forever! We also realize that there are countless others who have also been called to be part of God's living portrait. He is painting in all nations on the earth and one day believers will join the hosts of heaven who have cheered us on since God first took up his brush to paint in our lives.
Christians have no problem understanding that they were created in the image of God. They read the first few chapters in Genesis and realize that man was uniquely created to fulfil God's purpose on earth. But for that to happen it required that they clearly see the portrait of grace he has painted in the pages of Scripture so that they understand what glorifying God looks like.
The Old Testament is a record of what happens when men choose to either follow God's painting or ignore it. In that record it also shows the consequences of either experiencing God's presence or of what happens when men choose to ignore him and strike out on their own. And if the latter choice is made it always results in an ugly portrait of sin, self-interest and death. The colors go from bad to worse until hardly any colors of life remain. The dark colors of sin have tainted the original colors that God painted as his image in man. Without grace being painted man can be hardly recognizable as man at all. But God is not deterred in his painting through men reject him and his artistic call to life.
In the New Testament we see how God continued to paint with Jesus in the centre of the canvas (Hebrews 1:1-4). He is the One in whom all the promises of God from the Old Testament are fulfilled. It is through the crimson colors of Jesus' blood that the worse canvas we could ever paint is mysteriously transformed (Isaiah 1:18). It is as if there were no stains on our canvas at all. But we know better. It is much harder for us to forget the stains that plague our memories than it is for God to remove them from his (Psalm 103:12). And if we were to be brutally honest about what God had done for us in Christ we would never complain about anything else again. We would be speechless as to any reason for him to paint in us at all (Romans 3:19). But at the same time we would be so profoundly grateful that he did (1 John 4:19).
Yet as marvellous as all of this is...it is only the beginning of what Jesus is painting. The portrait was begun before the foundation of the earth so you wouldn't expect that it would end with Jesus' time on earth (Ephesians 1:4). Many portraits have already been painted over the years of Jesus and his earthly ministry. These are classic and inspired masterpieces describing in great detail his life and the impact of his ministry while here on earth (Matthew 1:18; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:1-4; John 20:30-31). These portraits are full of artistic realism and glory. But what is often forgotten is that Jesus is still painting now from heaven (Acts 1:1-5).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven he made sure that his disciples understood that they were to continue his painting for him. This was to happen as they continued the work of making disciples. Essential elements of this portrait required that they paint by their "going, baptizing, and teaching" as he directed them (Matthew 28:19-20). Yet it was not enough for the disciples to simply know what to paint and how to paint. If that was all there is to painting a God canvas it would be much the same as painting by numbers. You would end up with a picture and could have even done a reasonable job with it, but in the end everyone would know that it really wasn't the work of an artist. It was just the work of someone who followed a painting program.
Jesus told them that there needed to be a living quality to the portrait. But he also told them that they could not bring this quality to the portrait themselves. To insure that the end result would be just as powerful and persuasive as any portrait Jesus painted in the disciples lives, he told them that he would send his Spirit to empower them to paint the way he had painted in them (Acts 1:8).
He even told them that some of their portraits would be more powerful than the ones he had painted. And as hard as that was to believe...it was true (John 14:12). When the disciples realized this, it was not so hard for them to wait for what Jesus wanted to paint through them. They wanted their painting to actually be God's. They wanted their brush strokes to actually be the ones God's Spirit had made by controlling the very movement in their lives. They wanted their portraits to be full of grace and alive with the presence of God.
This book considers how important the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit is in that portrait. It is the Spirit of God who has continued to paint the living portraits of grace in the lives of God's people. And it is through our discovery of what that picture looks like that we also begin to see our place on the canvas.
We will discover that we have become part of the portrait that God has been painting from the beginning. This will be achieved by our considering various portraits painted on the pages of Scripture as we reflect on snapshots from Adam to Moses, from the Psalms to the Prophets and from Jesus to the Spirit's outpouring at Pentecost. And we will no longer feel alone because we will realize that their story has become part of ours (Hebrews 11:39-40).
There are countless others from all nations who are experiencing God's painting in their lives (Psalm 87; Matthew 28:18-20). They will also experience more grace than any of us could have imagined (Ephesians 3:20). And one day believers will join the hosts of heaven who have cheered us on since God first took up his brush to paint in our lives (Hebrews 12:1). May God give us eyes to see a glimpse of his portrait of grace in us so that we can stir the hearts of others who long to know that he is still painting in them (Ephesians 1:18).
Donald A. Broadwater has served congregations in both the United States and Australia. Having graduated from both Covenant College and Westminster Theological Seminary he has combined his teaching gifts with a passion to communicate the Bible in practical ways. This has included his speaking at the international "Fire on the Mountain" Conference on Mount Tambourine, Queensland. www.journeyinjesus.com
"Someone has said that the church is often 'like a radio with the batteries gone dead.' Read this book and you’ll see why and what God has done to fix it. What a great book! Donald Broadwater writes with clarity, Biblical insight and great power. It the power of the Holy Spirit of which he writes so eloquently. Read this book. When you do you’ll 'rise up and call me blessed' for recommending it and Donald Broadwater for having written it." Dr. Steve Brown, Professor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida and Bible Teacher for Key Life Network.