Friday, 4 February 2011

Lost Portrait

For an English assignment at school, when 16 years old, I was asked to discuss the thought that “Inside each one of us there is an evil monster struggling to get out”. I used as my main resource The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. For those unfamiliar with the story, a handsome young man Dorian has a portrait painted which perfectly captures his beauty. In an act of vanity, he sells his soul to the devil so that his physical beauty will never fade, whilst instead the portrait changes to reflect his decay both physically and morally. The portrait grows increasingly hideous and vile as the story progresses and eventually has to be kept hidden in the attic out of sight, covered up, as it becomes too shocking to set eyes upon.

As a Christian, I have been lugging this vile portrait around with me. As my understanding of God’s holiness has grown, so has the ugliness of my portrait. Any time I dared to peer at my portrait, I would recoil in horror at what I saw there. Exhortations to test myself to examine whether I was in the faith literally ended in despair when confronted by my portrait.

I was the Romans 7 Christian. “What a wretched man I am!” (Rom 7:24).

This week, as I tried looking for this portrait, I realised with some shock that it has gone. Completely gone. God has taken it away. I no longer carry it around with me. I am free from it. Praise God!

This Romans 7 Christian has, by God’s grace, been brought into the full truth of the gospel gloriously set before us in Romans 8.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:1-2); “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba’, Father”. (Rom 8:15); “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).

The presence of sin in my life is as much a reality as it has ever been. Daily I wrestle with it, I abhor it, I mourn over it, I seek to put it to death, I long, oh how I long for that day when I shall finally be free of it! But I no longer identify myself with it. I count myself dead to sin (Rom 6:11), my sin nature does not have power over me because it is not my master, for I am not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14), it is truly a defeated foe.

The Bible is quite clear as to our position outside of Christ. We were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1), deserving of God’s wrath (Eph 2:3), ungodly (Rom 5:6), enemies of God (Rom 5:10), controlled by the sinful nature (Rom 7:5), slaves to sin (Rom 6:20), living in darkness (Eph 5:8), alienated from God (Col 1:21) separate from Christ, without hope, and without God (Eph 2:12).

BUT NOW, IN CHRIST, all because of His grace, not because of anything we have done, we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), justified by faith (Gal 2:16), redeemed, forgiven (Eph 1:7), saved (2 Tim 2:10), sanctified (1 Cor 1:2), sons of God (Gal 3:26). We have been marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13), we have been given righteousness (Phil 3:8), freedom (Gal 2:4), grace (2 Tim 1:9), joy (Phil 1:26), peace (Phil 4:7), and fullness (Col 2:10). We are raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6)!

Christ has accomplished so much for us, won so much for us, bought so much for us through His perfect life, His obedience, His death, His resurrection and ascension. Gift upon gift upon gift. And as my understanding of the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints has increased, I see the finished work of Christ on my behalf and I shout in triumph rather than cry out in despair.

The Picture of Dorian Gray has been on my mind for some months. I was toying with the idea of writing a blog post just a few months ago testifying to how my portrait was growing in all its horror as my understanding of God's Holiness and Glory grew. I pray that it gives God a greater glory to testify that instead, He has taken it away.

And I can’t thank Him enough that He has taken it away.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Cor 1:20).


  1. By having reposted this post on my wall, that should tell you what I think!

    This is THE gospel...the fullness!

    "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." -Colossians 2:9-12

    The Truth has set us free!

  2. "I see the finished work of Christ on my behalf and I shout in triumph rather than cry out in despair." Amen, Diana! What a beautiful portrait of the whole gospel truth! You shine in Christ's righteousness most beautifully! And the last scripture verse is one of my favorites! Love and blessings to my beautiful sister!

  3. Elizabeth –I confess to some initial resentment/fear/suspicion when it became apparent you carried no portrait around with you. Now I can only testify that you are “a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor 2:16), as you have held out the “fullness of the gospel” to me. I continually thank and praise God for what He has worked in your life, and am confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php 1:6).

    Petra – so glad you are shouting in triumph too! Your blog shines out like a star as you hold out the truth in Christ, and I am so thankful for you! Love to you.

  4. Diana this was spot on! I have carried my "portrait" around for years. Slowly I have learned to trust God enough to put it down a time or two, and after prayerfully learning over the years that God is God, he's in control and I cannot do anything to mess that up. No matter my earthly parental relationship, God is not like my Earthly parents and He does not expect me to jump through hoops to earn His love or approval. Jesus did all that and the fact that I trust my life to Him changed everything. I am slowly learning to believe it, and I am glad that you are too. I know that every time I rely on my own observations or emotions it's sinning, and that's a bit hard to take but it's the truth. I love you Dear Sister and this post was a wonderful blessing!

  5. Teresa, so grateful for your comment. You’re absolutely right, God does not want us to jump through hoops to earn His love or approval, His love and approval is based solely on us being found complete in His Beloved Son. I am so thankful that you are learning to believe this. I pray we can encourage one another to go on believing this.

    And as for sinning when we rely on our own observations/emotions – hard truth, yes, but truth. And I’m battling with this as much today as any other day. I’m having to read my own post in fact, to remind myself of the truth that God has won for me!

    Teresa, I thank my God for you. Christian pilgrim, keep on running the good race!

  6. Allelujia! What a great post!

    It is an amazing thing when God wipes the "shame" and the "disgrace" away and replaces it with His honor and dignity. RANSOMED!

    If you get a chance, read Isaiah 54. This was one of the first chapters in the Bible (not THE first, ONE of the first) that God made absolutely alive to me.

    God bless you my sweet friend! I love you dearly!

  7. Christina - I confess I still get surprised that people are confirming and identifying with what I've written here! This "new discovery" is so new to me - honestly, it's been 20 years that I walked with that portrait, and only, what, 3 months that it seems to have gone. So I can't tell you enough how much it means to read encouragement such as yours.

    I love your shout of triumph. Honor, dignity, RANSOMED! Amen! And I am reading Isaiah 54 right now. What a compassionate God we serve! He is our husband, Redeemer, the God of all the earth - so how can there be shame and disgrace? Wow - I see what you mean!

    Thank you Christina, you have really encouraged and blessed me this morning! Love and blessings to you x

  8. I really liked this post, and the comments that followed. We are indeed sojourners with a lively hope!

    I have a little trouble posting comments on these blogs. I click on Wordpress but it always tells me I did something wrong, so that is why I come up as anonymous. For some reason that is the only way I know how to do it. :)


  9. Hi Anonymous Theresa (!) Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such encouragement :) That lively hope as you put it (love that phrase!) is definitely growing daily, how we need to have hope! I checked out your blog earlier, and listened to you singing Evidence of Love :) Lovely voice :) Blessings to you.