Pretty pictures? Or lies.


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Deuteronomy 4 

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons;

10 Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

11 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.

12 And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

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Are images of Jesus idolatrous? I have been thinking about this for a long time. Today, most teaching on idolatry centers on Paul’s statement that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), or condemns the exaltation of anything in our lives that takes the place of God. But what about the literal making and using of images of Jesus?

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Jesus Christ

isn’t an illustration in a Children’s Bible,

a doll in a manger,

a flannelgraph, stained glass,

statue in a cemetery,

actor,

or appealing sketch of a laughing man.

He isn’t even the central figure

in an amazing mural

in our nation’s Capitol.

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All of these things are lies.

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Many Bible-believing Christians are using so-called pictures of Jesus everywhere – on blogs, in videos, movies, emails, and even T-shirts. Please study the issue and pray. It’s not a trivial matter. My question is: Are we truly Bible-believing? May the Lord never say this about us: 

Hosea 4:17

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

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Being Biblical

So then, what does God’s Word teach? Here are truths revealed in a few important passages:

We are not to make images and likenesses. Exodus 20:4-6 

Whoever keeps the whole law, and yet offends in one point, is guilty of breaking the whole law. James 2:9-11

Obedience to God is love for Him. John 14:20-22

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:22-24

We walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 

(In preparing this, I came across a blog that leveled a very old charge against anyone who opposes images of Jesus. The charge is this, that if we say that He should not be depicted, we are denying His humanity. But we affirm that Jesus Christ came in the flesh – that He is God in the flesh – and affirm that since images of God are forbidden, and since Jesus Christ is God, that therefore images of Him are forbidden. )

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Being reasonable

1)     We can’t know how Jesus looked during His earthly ministry. Isaiah, and John in the Book of Revelation, described some of Jesus’ characteristics. Here is Isaiah’s description. It reveals only that the Lord wasn’t handsome, as so many images depict Him:

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Isaiah 53:1-3

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

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John described Jesus as He is now, after rising from the dead and ascending to the Father; not as He looked when He fed the 5,000, or walked on the waves of the sea. (Seeing the Lord as He is now would make us fall at His feet as if dead – just as John did.)

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Revelation 1:13-15

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

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2)    Particular depictions of Jesus may appeal to us, but not to others. Do we want to repel people for whom He died?

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Having concern for the lost

You probably don’t worship images, kiss them, or bow before them in prayer – but some people do and they think that this is right worship. Do you want to stand with them in darkness, or be a light to them? Do you want to preach Christ crucified to them, or offer them a lie?  

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1 Peter 1:8-9

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

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Being honest

I have tried not to be discouraged by the blindness of Christians to the demands of the second commandment. But it is difficult when even mature Christians disobey. After studying and praying, I believe that there is no ultimate argument that will convince them – only the Lord can do this. May He pity us! May He help us to get ready for His return! And may we find comfort in the knowledge that someday He Himself will destroy these things.

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Isaiah 2

17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.

18 And the idols he shall utterly abolish.

19 And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

20 In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats;

21 To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

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Isaiah 33:22

For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

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For further study

Idolatry Condemned“J. Vernon McGee on Pictures of Jesus and Idolatry”

IdolatryCondemned YouTube channel  – “On God’s Covenant to Save His People From Idolatry”

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35 thoughts on “Pretty pictures? Or lies.

  1. I hope we can remember this when the new ‘The Shack’ movie comes out. In this, they will be depicting God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus as human beings, and two of them will be women. I remember when the movie Jesus of Nazareth came out and how dazzled I was as a young teenage girl by the handsome actor who played Jesus. When I found out that the actor was an atheist I was completely disillusioned, but it was good that I was. These kinds of movies may purport to be encouraging Christians, but what they are doing is bewitching us with images we don’t need in our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anita, about The Shack. Not long after it became so popular as a book, a friend asked me – a little hesitantly – if I’d like to read it. She is a mature Christian who attends a Christian Missionary Alliance Church that used to be our home church. I said no, and she said she understood, but that there were some good things in it, and that another acquaintance from this church, someone who had also walked with the Lord for years, recommended it to her. To me this shows that any of us sheep can be drawn into an interest in things that are not only not edifying but just plain wrong – obviously wrong.
      You wrote about the moview Jesus of Nazareth:
      “These kinds of movies may purport to be encouraging Christians, but what they are doing is bewitching us with images we don’t need in our minds.”
      Yes, the images are bewitching. We watched Mel Gibson’s movie. I was bewitched by the portrayal of the relationship between Jesus and His mother. My husband disliked the movie a lot. As usual, I was somewhat of a waffler. I watched it again at home – but never will again. It was wrong to think that in a sinful human being, I could see anything of our holy Lord.
      Once an image enters our minds, it’s hard to get rid of it – so to deliberately entertain something questionable is a huge mistake. It will defile us. Our hope is that when we confess our sins to Him, He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness!
      Thank you for bringing up The Shack – I’d forgotten that this movie will be the next thing coming down the pike to add to the confusion, draw people into delusion, and obscure the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What would it be like to go to our local theaters and give out copies of John’s Gospel, or Matthew’s? I wish that I had the courage.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I don’t know a lot about this.
      However, a few things that I’m aware of: in Philadelphia (where I grew up), a group from a local church was arrested for handing out tracts and peacefully witnessing at the city’s gay pride parade. (Take note: while the pastor was fairly young, many of the people who witnessed with him were seniors.)
      Here where we live? I don’t know. The only ministry I’m aware of that does this is the “Fair missionaries” who rent a booth at our county fair each summer. They do the fair circuit in many states. I’m not sure about a permit, but they probably paid rent to the county for the booth.
      Sad!

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    • Anita, here is a link to a clip from a Baptist church’s street witness in Belfast at a gay pride parade. Most of the preaching is some of the best I’ve heard. Mature believers. You can watch all four clips at their channel. Arann Reformed Baptist Church of Dublin:

      Another group – Ex-Catholics for Christ, out of the UK (this is a wonderful encounter):

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  2. Pretty good piece.

    “But we affirm that Jesus Christ came in the flesh – that He is God in the flesh – and affirm that since images of God are forbidden, and since Jesus Christ is God, that therefore images of Him are forbidden. )”

    One note: Exodus 20 says any image.
    “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:”
    Some commentators say this means “any idol.” Maybe it does. They point out that the Israelites had images of cherubim, the brazen snake, etc. They neglect to point out that God Himself ordered these images made and that they had a purpose which God clearly stated beforehand.

    I enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it is “any graven image, or any likeness of any thing.” Commentators make this difficult subject more difficult. Isn’t it a matter of faith – to hear and obey?

      Oh, yes! I’ve heard the arguments harking back to the temple furnishings and brazen serpent. You’re right, I believe, that people who use them “neglect to point out that God Himself ordered these images.” I must go back to the text to see what you’re saying about the Lord’s clearly stating the purpose beforehand. One thing – not sure it’s that important, but it may be – worshipers didn’t get to see the ark with its cherubim. It was in the Holy of Holies and only approached by the high priest once a year when he brought in the blood. Did he even see them? Or were they hidden by the incense and the cloud of God’s Glory?

      Jeremiah, I’ve come to the conclusion that this refusal to obey is unbelief. Very sad to say! We are so far from Biblical faith:

      the Jewish youths were being forced on pain of death to worship an idol and refused to
      we are deciding how far we can go, and still be Biblical, in making pretty pictures

      I appreciate your reading this and helpful comment. It has made my day, because I know your desire to honor the Word of God.

      Thank you!

      Maria

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  3. Maria,

    That’s great…. To God be the glory!
    Anyway,

    “One thing – not sure it’s that important, but it may be – worshipers didn’t get to see the ark with its cherubim.”

    True enough. But for years, the children of Israel all saw the cherubim when they were being made and afterwards, when the Ark was carried from place to place before the Temple was first built.

    “Jeremiah, I’ve come to the conclusion that this refusal to obey is unbelief. Very sad to say! We are so far from Biblical faith:”

    Amen!
    There is a great gulf between what many say with their lips and their every day actions.

    It’s one thing to struggle against sin–which all believers do. It’s another thing to rush headlong to embrace it, which believers will not do. I hear people enslaved by sin claim that they are Christians, but if they are enslaved by sin, sin is their master, not Jesus.

    Again, believers will sin, but they should be fighting against it and not be willing participants.
    Thanks again,.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you’re right, at times they had to be seen, by the craftsmen, etc.
      The gulf between what we say and do is always there. We must remain prayerful, serious, vigilant – as you know, this isn’t a game but life and death. May the Lord Jesus Christ be praised that He is able to save to the uttermost! May we trust Him!

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    • This idea of loving Jesus and continuing in sin is something that young people are especially tempted by. When I was young, I didn’t walk with the Lord because I didn’t know Him. Now, I see young people in our family making professions of faith, walking with the Lord for a while, and then living in sin while saying they still love Jesus. Time to pray and time to be honest with them.
      God bless you!

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  4. Pretty pictures are always around us to demonstrate and tempt our weakness. We must strive to be strong as the world falls apart around us. Jesus is our strength, our all. Thank you for your thoughts and words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • William, yes, they are a temptation – but Jesus is our strength as you have testified. We love Him and rejoice in Him, and one day will see Him as He is. Thank you for stopping by and encouraging me as I labor for Him! I want to encourage you too!
      Maranatha! Amen, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!

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  5. The „classic“ long-haired „christ“ is someone else. That refers back to Nimrod´s Babylon, aka Zeus, aka Jupiter, the idol of forces (Daniel 11:38, a flase image of son-idol-god, antichrist).

    > The Bible debunks the false images of the lord Jesus Christ ( http://youtu.be/aE_V3XBdhNY )

    “From the Chaldean Mysteries, extreme unction has obviously come. Among the many names of the Babylonian god was the name “Beel-samen,” “Lord of Heaven,” which is the name of the sun, but also of course of the sun-god. But Beel-samen also properly signifies “Lord of Oil,” and was evidently intended as a synonym of the Divine name, “The Messiah.”…. And for the same reason, no doubt, it was that at Rome the “statue of Saturn” (note: > Satan) was “made hollow, and filled with oil” (SMITH’S Classical Dictionary).” (The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, 1858, PDF side 137)

    Rome is the so called town of Saturn and full of such images, statues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheep Alert,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for giving valuable information from Hislop’s The Two Babylons! Last year I read it. I’m a born again Bible-believing Reformed Christian, who was raised in the Catholic system. The book was especially instructive for me, and very sad. Hislop stated that he was concerned that the Protestant church in England was being deceived and taken over by Rome; and that is what we see today, not only in England but everywhere.
      My focus in this post and others I hope to write is to argue from the Word of God for a pure Biblical faith.
      Thank you for the YouTube link – I will view this!
      God bless you!
      “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

      Like

  6. FTA: You probably don’t worship images, kiss them, or bow before them in prayer…

    IMO, if you pray and picture an image of “Jesus” in your mind, which I have done and, sadly, occasionally still do, you have bowed down to the image and worshiped it. Thank God for His forgiveness when we do this and don’t want to! Its hard to remove such images once we have seen them!

    These images made by man lowers our God to our level and that is profane. I’ve heard many say that when the Anti-Christ comes, he will look just like these profane images and that will be one of the ways he will deceive people into thinking he’s the real deal. Could be true!

    God bless!~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherry, I’m glad you brought up the problem that Christians can have when we pray and these images come into our minds. You said, “Its hard to remove such images once we have seen them!” This is so true and I’m still bothered by them, so I tell the Lord (often) that I just want Jesus Christ of the Bible – no pictures! But our minds are influenced by what we’ve seen – even glimpsed, and yes, we can bow down to images in our minds. So, right, thank God for His forgiveness! I’m thinking that we are not alone in this problem. Jesus Christ is being replaced in our minds with another jesus. To me it’s monstrous, and when we pray we must remember, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
      God bless you too!
      Maria

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a simple question of why did God disallow images isn’t it? It’s so we can learn about and see His character and nature. He is Holy and Righteous, full of Grace and Mercy. If we can see these things clearly without leaven in our lives then how can we not glorify and worship Him as we become more and more obedient to Him! Praise His Holy Name Glory in the Highest!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Al, you’re right, it is a simple question – why did He disallow them? Yes, so that we would know Him. And our response to His commandment is simple too, obedience. Thank you for reblogging this. I will visit your blog.
      Amen! Praise His Holy Name!
      1 Peter 1:8 whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

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  8. I just read a blog about the trend in the 21st century where preachers and others are telling personal stories of their own conversions with the hope of converting others by that testimony. They cannot be a true witness because they eyes have not beheld him, nor have their hands handled him, nor were they with him from the baptism of John (Acts 1:21-22). In the same way, we have been following teachers who show pictures or icons of Jesus when they have no idea what he looked like. They always make him have long hair (likely because they mistakenly think he was a Nazarite as well as a citizen from Nazareth), but they cannot answer why the Apostle Paul (who was taught by Christ) taught against long hair for men (1 Cor. 11:14-15). Children are often confused by all these pictures. Why not let the Lord describe himself? Why not read the words he taught and let his heart and character show through? Is it his physical body we should try to emulate or his inner man? We should desire to have the heart and mind of Christ and not be concerned about his bodily form.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth, thank you for commenting at length. I appreciate this. Yes! The testimony of the apostles, preserved in God’s Word, is what we are to speak of to others. What happened to us when the Lord found us is precious and good, but in speaking about it, we may add things that are not strictly true. This is not a criticism of our experience, just an understanding about human testimony about it.
      What you’ve said has added a lot to this. May I quote you sometime?
      Maria

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