(2012 January RE:NEW Magazine)
I believe God has given me talent and skill in the arts, with a mind bent toward creativity, eyes that appreciate beauty and hands that I love to use to create new things. One of the ways that I love to worship God most is when I revel at the beauty of His creation and just how complex it is. I often see details that other people don’t see and think of solutions or ideas that are different and unconventional.
It wasn’t until college that I learned that creating and enjoying art can be a very intimate way to experience and worship God. I never deliberately tried to separate the two but the two never really seemed to come together very naturally. Some of the reasons might have to do with the fact that I didn’t know many Christians who were interested in art, and though art was never discouraged at church, it also was never really encouraged or talked about as a form of worship expression. The only kind of Christian art I knew was art that was either old or literal and that was some sort of depiction of a Bible story. Christianity also has a very interesting history with art, which may be a large reason why art as a form of worship is just now slowly being understood. Before college, I thought art was just an extra hobby, an irrelevant piece of my life as a Christian.
What I have learned, to my great joy, is that this conclusion is far from the truth. And this truth has opened up for me the knowledge of who God is, my passions and desires, and how they coincide with His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom.
I want to share two truths that have greatly impacted my life, not just as a Christian artist, but also overall as a follower of Jesus:
The first is Christian Hedonism. Hedonism itself refers to the idea that pleasure is the highest good. Stick with me here! Christian hedonism, however, defined by Pastor John Piper (Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is “the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Therefore, if we are going to glorify God as we ought, the pursuit of joy is not optional—it is essential. We not only may, but ought to pursue our maximum pleasure—in God.”
What does this mean and doesn’t that sound wrong?
Some people believe that Christians are supposed to look for God’s will and that seeking His will is different from going after something they love. What makes what the Bible says different than worldly pleasure-seeking is not that what the Bible says is boring and duty-driven, but that it is interested in greater and purer things. Christian Hedonism is biblical because it recognizes that obeying God is the only route to final and lasting happiness (adapted from Piper’s message on Christian Hedonism).
If creating art or experiencing art gives me pleasure, it can and does go back to the source of ultimate joy, which is God. This frees the Christian artist to know that the gifts they have are not for temporary purposes! Art is not superficial and does not stop at its physical form. Art can be a vessel and a means to give thanks to the Lord, rejoice in His creation and experience a glimpse of His beauty. God created the very desires you have within your heart and He longs to use them for His glory! When I look at a beautiful sunset and watch the colors of red, orange and yellow melt together and wait for streaks of blue and turquoise to settle in I can delight at the vastness of God’s beauty and creativity. When I pick up some clay and shape it with a potter’s wheel I can rejoice at God’s gift of touch as I enjoy the sensations of wet, slippery grains slip between my fingers. When I admire a building, a tree or the ocean I can marvel at God’s hand in giving us the gift of architecture, of life and ponder the thoughts of eternity. My dear artist, you have been given a unique gift! Use it to worship Him.
Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 10:31 states “Whether, then, you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This verse takes center stage in an article by Piper titled ‘How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.’ In this article, he beautifully illustrates how Christians can do seemingly mundane or irrelevant every day things to do the glory of God. Apart from God’s saving grace, everything we do that is not for the glory of God is sin because everything we do is morally ruined. However, because we are saved, “we have escaped by his grace from the total ruin of all our deeds” and can do everything to the glory of God. How? According to scripture, “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:4-5).” We can do it when we do things with a heartfelt gratitude to God, from a heart of faith.
To the Christian artist, the thought that art is separate or disconnected from God can be a very painful thing. By His grace our Father gives us good gifts, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). The Lord is found where there is joy— let us paint, cut, sew, shape, draw, carve, create to the glory of God!