Self Portrait of God


What might be a self-portrait of Rembrandt has been discovered hidden under another one
of the Dutch master’s paintings. By using advanced scanning techniques, scientists
investigated a Rembrandt painting titled “Old Man with a Beard” and much
to their surprise, the scan revealed that another painting was underneath–one
that might well be an early, unfinished self-portrait of the artist himself. It
seems as if Rembrandt had begun a self-portrait, then later used the canvas to
paint the “Old Man with a Beard.”

The story reminded me of the way most of us think about God. We often think of him
like the second painting – an old man with a beard. After all, that’s how religious
artists usually portray him. So we grow up thinking of God as an old, distant, and
rather threatening figure–stern and quick to anger if we fail to live up to his
impossible standards. But, this way of thinking about God obscures what God is
really like, just as the painting of the old man obscures the self-portrait beneath

To get a true idea of what God is really like, we need to look beneath the layers of
the popular concepts about God, by looking to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
When we do that, a true and undistorted understanding of God emerges.

“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus explained. Only Jesus shows
us what God is really like. Our God–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit–loves us
unconditionally and will never let us go. God is not out there, somewhere in the sky scowling at us, ready to pounce and punish. The Bible tells us that it is the Father’s “good
pleasure to give us the Kingdom,” and that God is not “willing that any should
perish.” It tells us that God sent Jesus into the world because he loves
the world – not to condemn humanity but to save it (John 3:16-17). Once you get
past the layers of misunderstanding, the true picture of God is one of love–much
greater than we can possibly imagine.

Through Jesus, we are shown God’s true heart toward us–we see him as he really is, not as
a distant figure who is mad at us and unconcerned about us. In fact, he is
right here with us, ready for us to turn to him and receive his loving embrace.

Don’t let other images get in the way of who God is or how God feels about you. Look
to Jesus, who alone is the self-portrait of God.

By Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.


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