Christianity: Pursuing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful

What does it mean to be a Christian? We don’t smoke or chew or go with girls who do? The short answer is that we have accepted Christ as our savior and seek to live like Him. That sometimes, in certain situations, seems hard to do. On one hand, most decisions are easy to make in the realm of ethics. We know X is wrong. We know Y is right. Many of them, like murder, are so obvious that even unbelievers recognize what is right and wrong. I am aware of no society that has not recognized murder as wrong. Likewise, they recognize that loyalty is a good thing.

Now, the Bible turned parts of society on its head. Christians changed their culture in many ways. For example, as long as there have been human records, there were references to owning other human beings as property. Exactly two religions, Buddhism and Christianity, have eliminated it. Christianity recognized the image of God in all people and how slavery marred that image in both the owner and the owned. Beginning with St. Patrick in Ireland, Christians actively fought to end slavery.

Obviously, if God has stated that a certain act is right or wrong, that settles the question. But what about things that aren’t explicitly stated? Is computer hacking a sin? What about arson? What about the science fiction or fantasy genres? What about rap music?

Times have changed and technology progresses. God’s word abides. Instead of giving us dot-to-dot books for Scripture, God gave us a mind to work from His eternal truths to present situations.

How do we make Christian decisions in those middle areas? We do so by pursuing what Christ has put in this world. Since Christ is truth, lies will never serve Him. We serve God by pursuing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Scripture Introduction

Let’s look at several passages related to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, in each section.

The True

John 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.”

God is truth. It is central to the character of Father, Son, and Spirit. On the other hand, John 8:44 says, the Devil was “a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Romans 1:18,19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

Paul goes on to say in verse 25 that those who abandon the truth of God for a lie, worship the creature instead of the Creator.

Never in Scripture does God command a lie. He sometimes tells a prophet to hold back part of the vision, but never does God command his people lie. He is truth. He is light. There is no darkness in Him at all. The word “truth” appears 201 times in the New American Standard Bible.

Hypocrisy, saying one thing while doing another, offers unfettered freedom but at an exorbitant price. Evil wants hypocrisy. Evil people live in it. They thrive in it, but it also drives them mad! Fighting reality tends to do that. Reality is that which cannot be denied.

Every day, we are inundated with lies. Remember how CNN and other networks dog piled Nick Sandman, showing only a few seconds of video where he “smirked” at a native American? And they received death threats, some from the media. Yeah, there was additional footage, which they possessed but refused to show, that demonstrated Nick Sandman did nothing wrong. He and his schoolmates were the ones obstructed and mocked by the crowd. They did nothing.

You might remember how eight years ago, NBC edited the 911 call regarding George Zimmerman to make him appear guilty. Just last week, you may have heard about the Columbus officer shooting a black girl trying to stab another black girl. NBC edited that 911 call to remove “trying to stab us” and then edited the cop’s body cam footage so viewers didn’t see the knife. They worked to make the cop look guilty of a racially motivated shooting. I could multiply examples all day. Oddly, people have asked why I actively distrust the mainstream media and assume that anything they say is either 1) a flatout lie or 2) twisted to present the truth in a way that turns the reader from it.

Pursue truth! Following lies is not of God.

For decades the church has sat back and waited on… something! I don’t know. We’re afraid of being called names, so we stay silent. The government said, just before Easter 2020, the holiest day for Christians, you need to shut down. Instead of telling the state to keep separate from the church, we replied, “How long, O Lord who grants me tax-free status?” Now, for the first time in a very time, the majority of Americans are not members of any church. We scream about it. We shake our heads about it. Do we have anyone but ourselves to blame? We just spent the last year telling people—and very few churches fought this—that church attendance is not essential to life. I contend that Church is the most essential service in the world. Singing over Zoom is not the same. Praying together over Teams does not have the impact of laying on hands which tells the receiver, “I am with you. I stand beside you, my brother, in this trial.” And I think I have the mind of Christ in this, for did the Spirit not inspire that we “not forsake our own assembling together”? Did the brother of our Lord not command we gather and lay hands on the sick?

We let down He who is Truth. Instead of crying, “God wills it!” and rushing headlong into the breach, we quaver and shake our heads. We draw back from the fight.

Our spiritual forebears were willing to face the lions rather than shirk their Christian duty. We didn’t do that.

The Good

Genesis 1:31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.

Matthew 3:10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire

Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil

Hebrews 6:5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

In any given situation, we must ask what does Jesus want us to do. That is a telling question and a good one. Our reaction to the answer often tells us something about ourselves. Does Jesus desire we be nice or that we be good? I contend that He who made a whip of cords on site and chased the money lenders out of the temple was being good but not nice at that point. I contend that when He called the Pharisees “sons of the Devil” and told them they were hellbound, He was being good but not nice.

There are certainly times when being good and being nice overlap, but our question revolves around the two of them conflicting. Be good. That doesn’t mean be rude or inconsiderate, but be aware of the larger aspects of Christ’s goal in your life and the other person’s. Sometimes, the not nice words are the good words.

For both the Hebrews and the Greeks, goodness and beauty were entwined. They are words used to designate when something is so distinguished among similar objects that it is pleasing, either physically or spiritually. Excellent in nature and characteristics, it surpasses others of its kind. It can mean “pure,” it is used of fish that you keep when fishing instead of throwing back.

Actions can be like that. We must pursue morally upright action. We must long for and desire to be where God’s goodness pours out. At the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” he isn’t just saying, “Yipee! I’m glad we’re here!” He is saying there is nowhere else he wants to be. Right there, with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

In Genesis, as God creates the world, He keeps declaring it to be “good.” It is pure, untainted. It is beautiful. When you watch a sunset or gaze upon the mountains, you’re seeing God’s goodness in creation. When you help your neighbor, you are making goodness in the world.

Hebrews tells us that God’s good word brings forth power and miracles. Aren’t we Pentecostal? That’s what we believe in. If our churches aren’t seeing the miracles, could it be that we aren’t pursuing the Good?

What then are we pursuing? Is this what happened to the prior miracle movements? Perhaps. What I know is that our movement began with an intense emphasis on moral strength in the members so that they could pull out those around them. The movement began in a time when the moral authority of Scripture had been undermined and complacency had set in. It was thought in the late 1800s that proper education would eliminate crime, and an emphasis on the social gospel replaced preaching of the true gospel. The revivalists wanted to correct that. The revival preachers in the holiness movement knew that if you educate a thief you just get a better thief. The heart has to be changed before the actions will change.

How would pursuing the Good change your actions?

The Beautiful

Zechariah 9:16-17 And the LORD their God will save them in that day As the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land. 17 For what comeliness and beauty will be theirs! Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine the virgins.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your adornment must not be merely external– braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Of the three, goodness, truth, and beauty, this is the one that we must be most careful of. It is very easy to be subjective here. We can too easily conclude that if something is beautiful on the outside, it must match on the inside. As I mentioned, both Greek and Hebrew can use the same word for moral actions and outward beauty.

How do I define beauty in an objective fashion? Our age says that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning it is subjective. That’s nonsense. If true, if beauty does not exist except in a person’s mind, then we all hallucinate. Are we, truly, all insane? I counter that beauty is something that draws us out of our self absorption and renders us breathless. One does not need beauty to survive, but one may not enjoy life without it.

Here we come to an oddity of the modern, western world. Why is our time the only time in the history of Christianity where the fine arts have not been cultivated? Why do we have no Michaelangelos or Raphaels working to create and retain beauty in the public eye?

Some may say that we are an age that believes in utility and practicality above all things. The problem with utility and practicality is they don’t work in the long run!

Similarly, the emphasis on STEM; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is no emphasis on beauty. Now, they’ve tried to make it STEAM. ART is now worth 20% of the others. Yeah. The humanities are what set us apart.

Therefore we leave our homes unadorned and plain. We have few statues of heroes in our squares. The art we do have in buildings is ugly and meant to turn people’s eye from it. Artists say they do it to rebel against the system. Can’t you do that with beautiful art? Can’t you point out the ugliness of the age by showing beauty is still possible?

I believe, however, there is more to it than that. The Devil hates beauty. He has a foothold in this modern age that he has not had in ages past. The destruction of beauty goes right along with that. Because if you make a people who do not know the heroes of their past, they will not—cannot—become the heroes of their present. In the Devil’s scheme, everything must be torn down. We cannot have heroes in the Christian life or secular sphere.

Let me give you an example from a movie series that is all but ruined now by the modern writers. For my generation, there was no greater hero than Luke Skywalker. He went from an orphaned, farm boy to overthrowing a tyrannical empire. I’m sure you’re familiar with his hero’s journey. How he simply did not stop, how he stumbled and faltered, but in the end overcame his flaws and showed his father how to return to the light. This movie encouraged a generation.

What do we have now, thanks to Disney Wars? We have a Luke Skywalker who, when faced with a much lesser challenge than an evil emperor, cut and ran to hide far away from everything and everyone. The man who lay down his life because he sensed the light could still burn in his father, tried to kill his sleeping nephew because the nephew had a glimmer of darkness within. Luke then lived alone, far from those who needed him, drinking green milk from bloated sea cows. He failed at everything he touched. Even when he tried to burn the ancient, Jedi texts, he failed. Disney did everything they could to tear down the hero. Mark Hamill hated what they had done to the character.

But that longing for the hero still exists. Recently, an episode of the Mandalorian, set long before the Disney movies, featured Luke in his prime acting as all knew he could. Being the hero George Lucas wrote him to be. Grown men in the audiences cried. Women screamed in joy. Just as much as the Devil wants to destroy heroes, every generation longs for heroes. It is the spark of God within us, recognizing that we are meant to be more than we are, that we can grasp the beauty within.

The attack does not end with modern heroes. Think about the heroes you learned about in school. Students today don’t learn about Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Jason, Ajax, Lancelot, Arthur, and Gawain. The stories that shaped our civilization are being ignored. And kids will not know

Our generation needs beauty in what we see and what we hear. Modern secular music knows nothing of beauty. On the other hand, I cried a few weeks ago when I listened to Richard Wagner’s Flying Dutchman Overture for the first time. The music is stunning; it lifts the listener to heights unknown. The music wasn’t written to shock the system but to build up the soul of man. Similarly, Bach wrote not only stunning church chorals but popular music for the coffee houses. And I bet his throwaway works, the coffee cantatas, sound better than anything on the Billboard Top 40 today.

Did you know that Russia originally became Christian because of the beauty of the Orthodox worship services? The service revolves around beauty and giving it all to God. When Christianity was on the rise in the regions around Russia, the Russian king sent ambassadors to observe the Eastern Orthodox services. They reported back, “The service was so beautiful that we could no longer tell if we were in Heaven or still on Earth.” The king converted from beauty.

Beauty comes out of acting according to nature. If something goes against nature, it cannot be beautiful. If it makes your gorge rise, that’s a warning. Beauty comes from emphasizing what God has done already. Beauty comes from embracing what God has given you. A beautiful spirit makes the rest of you beautiful.

Zechariah tells us that in the glorious Kingdom, all will be comely and beautiful. Everyone will embrace their God-given nature.

Conclusion

Ethisists like to write very long books where they talk for pages on end about how difficult moral and ethical decisions are. That’s not the case. As long as you pursue the Good, True, and Beautiful, you will make ethical decisions. God has given us a conscience and the Holy Spirit to lead our actions. We know right and wrong.

Take some time right now to look into your life to see where you have not pursued the Good, True, and Beautiful. We all falter in this run. The opposites of the Good, True, and Beautiful are evil, falsehood, and ugliness. Those who embrace the Enemy must pretend that evil is good, falsehood is truth, and ugliness is beauty.

Starting today, right now, I want you to pray that God enhance the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your life. That may be as simple as eliminating a source of ugliness, evil, or falsehood. Find it in you and have God improve you.

You may pray where you are or come to the altar.

About frankluke

Professionally: pastor, programmer, writer. Personally: husband, father.
This entry was posted in Assemblies of God, Christianity, nonfiction, sermon and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Christianity: Pursuing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful

  1. Pingback: Christianity: Pursuing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful - SuperversiveSF

  2. Pingback: Christianity: Pursuing the Good, the True, and the Beautiful – Postcards from the Age of Reason

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