Finally, the painting is complete. I'll probably still fine-tune it, but overall, I believe it's done.
The question is now, did I accomplish the message I was hoping to convey? What is the message? you may ask. The message is God's grace bestowed, overcoming the absolute inability of man.
My intentions were to paint a portrait of God's grace. What would grace look like? Contemplating this, my thoughts kept returning to the lost sheep who Jesus came to find and bring home. I hope we'll see several key doctrines in this painting:
1. The Absolute Helplessness of the Sheep. Notice the sheep is on a narrow protruding rock with a deep chasm between him and the Shepherd. By the looks of his setting, he is completely unable to help himself. This is also man's plight. Man is absolutely unable to save himself, "with man this is impossible" Mat. 19:26.
Every aspect of his being whether his mind, will, heart, etc...has been affected by sin and he is a slave to his own sin and devices. "Whosoever committeth sin is a slave to sin" John 8:34. He is controlled by his fleshly and carnal nature and is void of any spiritual comprehension (1 Cor. 2:14).
2. The Direction of the Sheep. Notice the direction the sheep is facing. He is not looking toward his only Savior. This is also like man. "There is none that seeketh after God.", Romans 3:11. Man's natural tendency, while an unregenerate sinner, is to run from the Light (John 3:19). Man seeks after God the same way a thief seeks a cop...it doesn't happen. Darkness has no fellowship with light and the sinner seeks to hide from God in his own sin rather than come to the Light to expose his wickedness.
3.The Initiative of the Shepherd. Even while the sheep is completely helpless and not looking for a Savior, yet in grace, the Shepherd seeks the sheep. Had it not been for the seeking Shepherd, the sheep would never have been delivered. The only reason we love God is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Even while we were dead in sins, Christ made us alive together with Him (Eph. 2:4-5). He came to seek and to save the lost, even though the lost were never seeking Him.
4. The Effectual Work of the Shepherd. Notice the Shepherd is reaching out His staff to draw the sheep to Himself. He will accomplish His work. "Thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He SHALL save His people from their sins.", Mat. 1:21. Notice there is no "maybe's" or "hope-so's". No, He SHALL save His people. John 6:37 and 6:39 make it very clear that all that the Father gives Him SHALL come and He will lose NOTHING. If John 6 isn't clear enough, Paul reiterates this security in Romans 8:30. Those whom He predestinates, He calls...Those He calls, He justifies...and those He justifies, He will glorify. There is no room for man to thwart God's sovereign plan in any of these verses or to break this golden chain of redemption. To say that you can, is to simply and erroneously add to God's Word.
Some say, "God's done all He can do, the rest is up to you!" Can you imagine the Shepherd coming up to the sheep with staff in hand, while looking at the helpless ruined sheep, proclaiming, "I've come this far and found you, but it's up to you now to jump on my shoulders!, I've done all I can do!" This is absolutely absurd and degrading to the sovereign power of God. No, He came to seek and to save that which was lost. If you're relying on anything you've done to save you (repeating prayers, altar visits, "asking Jesus into your heart", or going through any ritual or good deed as a means of regeneration and justification) then, you're not relying on God's grace through faith. Salvation is not based upon a prayer or a magic phrase, it's based upon a Person, Jesus Christ. Many evangelicals incuding baptists have become almost catholic in their extra-biblical traditions...so much so that they have adopted these traditions as church doctrine. May we examine and adhere to the preaching of Jesus and the apostles and stay with biblical terminology to avoid these damnable errors.
5. The Means of the Shepherd's Work. The Shepherd is lovingly using His staff to draw the sheep to Himself. In Psalm 23, David mentions thy rod and thy staff, they "comfort" me. In the New Testament, Jesus promises a "Comforter" who is the Holy Spirit. In order for any to be born again, it is by a supernatural union of Spirit and water. The water is typical of the Word of God (Ezekiel 36:25-27, John 3:5, Eph. 5:26) and is used in accordance with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit germinates the seed of the Word of God and produces a "new birth" or regeneration (Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:23). This, of course, is all a work of the Spirit and His will according to John 3:8, John 1:13, Rom. 9:16 and James 1:18. God's gift and His Gospel is freely offered to every man. However, only those who are thirsty and hungry will come to Him. The only way this sheep will come to Christ is through the drawing power of the Shepherd using His staff.
Notice also the horn hanging from the Shepherd. This is His oil that is used for anointing and healing of the sick or wounded sheep. Oil, also typical of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the sheep. So, not only does the Shepherd deliver us from our place of bondage and ruin, but He gives us His Spirit to seal us, heal us, and grow us in santification.
6.The Place He Leads Us. Notice the area to which the Shepherd is drawing the sheep. It's a place of lush grass, flowers, trees, and springs of water. It's a place of the living. This is what it means to walk the Christian walk. It is a place of true satisfaction, where we no longer care for the lies and false pleasures of the corrupt world system. Even though the sheep own nothing, yet the Shepherd owns them and provides all that they need.
So, what is man's responsibility in this whole scheme of salvation? You must repent and believe the Gospel. Has God performed a work in your heart that you now hate the sin that you once indulged in? Do you now see the Savior as your only hope? Has the God you once ran from made Himself beautiful to you and a source of your all satisfaction? If this is you, come to Him, He will never cast you out (John 6:37) He has paid the penalty and taken the wrath of all who will believe (Romans 3:24-26). He offers you life, receive Him today.
To see more of Jeremy's work visit http://www.jeremysams.com/