In Part 1 of this series, we considered the significant place physical beauty has in our lives. I suggested the overemphasis of physical beauty is unwise, especially if it leads to the neglect of our hearts. Several of your comments defended physical beauty, suggesting it’s OK to make an effort. I agree; men and women should enjoy the physical attractiveness God has given them with gratitude.
But the challenge remains to live in a culture that worships and even perverts beauty. As with all God’s gifts, Satan has found ways to turn the gift of physical beauty into something offensive and repulsive to God. From pornography to vanity, the abuse of beauty abounds. As we strive to live holy lives in a warped culture, my desire is that we understand biblical beauty.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for all those who would come to faith through their ministries. He prayed for you. He prayed for me. With His suffering only hours away, Jesus made public petitions to God the Father. John 17 records His prayer — one of my favorite portions of God’s Word. Jesus prayed:
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, … I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed (John 17:1, 4-5).
As Jesus prepared to lay down His life, He prayed about glory. He asked God the Father to restore Him to the glory He had before creation. Later in that same prayer, Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The same Jesus who Isaiah prophesied would have little or no physical beauty on earth (53:2-3) desired that His eternal glory be restored and shine brightly into the lives of His followers.
Philippians teaches that Christ emptied himself of His eternal glory when He took on human form (2:5-8). Jesus humbled himself for His earthly ministry and was now asking to be restored to the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus in His glory is the most beautiful, desirable and satisfying being we will ever set eyes on. All the beauty of earth is a drop in the bucket compared to the ocean of Christ’s glory.
One of the reasons we must be careful to keep physical beauty in check is that we were made to enjoy something greater than physical beauty; we are intended to be satisfied in the glory of Christ. Jesus knew the greatest privilege He offers His followers is beholding Him in His glory. It is foundational to the Christian life that we pursue a deeper experience and knowledge of the glory of Jesus Christ.
However, glory can be a difficult concept to get our minds around. While a full explanation is outside the scope of this post, suffice it to say, glory is anything deserving praise and worship. When used to describe God, glory conveys His eternal greatness, His infinite value and His cosmic renown.
This includes beauty. God is appropriately described as beautiful, but His glory is much more than His beauty. The glory of God includes all of His attributes: His holiness, His might, His wisdom, His justice and on and on and on. God’s glory includes everything He has ever done and everything He will ever do and deserves the continuous worship of all creation.
One of the greatest opportunities and challenges of our lives is to see Christ’s glory by faith in this world (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus desires that you and I see His glory, and there is a day coming — a wonderful day — when we will see Him face-to-face. We will see His glory! But in the meantime, we must strive to see His glory by faith. Until we see Him, we must press on to know and experience the glory of Christ by faith.
I believe Satan is aware of the great power we have through faith in Christ’s glory. I believe that ancient enemy works to coerce us to prefer the visually stunning to faith. By design, He has clouded eyes of faith with eye candy. Satan wants you to believe this world has enough beauty. He wants you to prefer your HDTV and retina display to things that nurture your faith. Satan hates when we behold the glory of Christ by faith. Unfortunately, his strategy seems to be working. Many today are more prone to enjoy the beauty of this world by sight than enjoy the glory of Christ by faith.
If you are hungry to see more of Christ’s glory, here are a few suggestions. First, spend regular time in God’s Word. Open the Scriptures on a mission to see the glory of Christ. Let the gospels show you the glory of Christ in His authoritative teaching, compassionate healing, powerful miracles and humble sacrifice. Let the Old Testament show you the glory of Christ in the promises, prophecies and predictions about who He would be and what He would accomplish. Let the rest of the New Testament show you the glory of Christ in His compassionate love for the world and glorious mission for His people.
Second, spend time alone with God in prayer, pleading with Him to increase your faith and show you more of His glory. Create regular space and time to think about and meditate on the glory of Christ. I have enjoyed times when I’ve prayerfully set my heart on God’s Word, enjoyed more of Christ’s glory and been swept up in joy unspeakable. I want more of those moments, and I desire them for you as well.
In closing, consider this encouragement from the writer of Hebrews. After commending historic heroes of the faith like Enoch, Abraham, Moses and Rahab, chapter 12 begins:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As we strive to think well about challenging topics like beauty, let us first look to Jesus and consider Him who suffered in this world but then returned to His full glory and is seated at the right hand of God. May God graciously protect us from anything in this world that might cloud our faith in the glory that awaits us in the next.