Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

Why Not to Give Up on Your Acrylic Portrait Painting

It’s easy to get frustrated in the middle of painting an acrylic portrait. Possibly your skin tones aren’t looking natural, or the values are off. Maybe the portrait just doesn’t look like the person you’re trying to capture. When you’re going for realism, and it just isn’t happening, what do you do?

Although you may be tempted to give up, don’t.

I want to give you 3 reasons why:

1. You will save time, paint and materials.

Let’s face it. Painting is a labor of love. As artists, we could choose more lucrative jobs, where our exchange of time for money paid better. But we put a lot of hours into creating a high-quality unique work of art.

So if you have put several hours into a painting only to scrap it and start over, you lost that time. In addition, you lost money with the cost of canvas, paint, and wear and tear on your brushes.

Now, even if you paint just as a hobby, it’s frustrating to take the time to create something and then have nothing to show for that time you allotted in your busy schedule. Finishing the painting makes sense then, even from a purely material standpoint.

2. Pushing past a difficult point in your painting will build your resilience and grow your “artistic muscle”. 

It’s easy to give up. Sticking with something when your thoughts and emotions are screaming, “This looks terrible…I’m done with this!” is way, way harder.

This is similar to weightlifting. Serious bodybuilders know they won’t get great results unless they push past the pain. As they break down their muscle tissue, they also break down barriers and limitations they previously had. With that, their muscles grow larger and stronger, because muscles don’t like to be in pain. Endurance and stamina increases.

Several years ago, I created a portrait to celebrate my pastor’s 80th birthday. It was a portrait of him and his wife, a 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas. During a certain point in the painting, it looked pretty bad. My wife came upstairs (where my art studio used to be) and peered in to see how I was doing. She said, “That just doesn’t look right. I don’t know if you can pull it off.”

Umm…thanks!

I thought for a moment, “Can I pull this off?” Well, God helped me to “pull it off” many times. He wasn’t about to quit now. I ignored the doubt and kept at it.

I figured I had a photo that shows me what it should look like. I had a roadmap, a blueprint to tell me how to get there, how to build. And even if I took a scenic detour for a bit, I’d get it where it needed to be, eventually.

A painting is never ruined. It’s just that it might take longer to fix than you would like!

3. You will learn ways of resolving issues in your painting that you can use in future paintings.

In the case of this particular portrait, I learned that even though mid-stage during the painting process, the likeness of the subject may be off, I can correct the facial features with additional layers and it will start to look like the person.

Here is the portrait in the beginning stages. Early on, there is a lot of excitement in creating a painting. I had great expectations for how it would turn out, and I cut myself a lot of slack, because I knew I just started it.

 

fine art acrylic portrait painting

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 1

But then as I invest more time into it, I expect that a painting should start “behaving” and looking pretty good, for all the time I put into it. However, that doesn’t always happen. In fact, for me, it usually doesn’t.

fine art acrylic portrait from your photo

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 2

 

Somewhere around these two stages. the painting looked pretty goofy, and it’s about at this point where my wife remarked, “I don’t know if you can pull this one off.” She said that the pastor’s wife looked like some weird “california girl.”

Even though I was tempted for a moment to give up, I thought something along the lines of, “I know what this needs to look like in the end. I’ve got my reference photo next to me. I’ve got some paint and a palette. Sooner or later, it’s going to look like it should and it will turn out alright.”

 

Acrylic Portrait on Commission by Artist Matt Philleo

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 3

 

After a few more hours, the painting started to turn the corner. Even though I think I had painted certain areas of the faces a bit too dark, I was able to layer over them with just the right mix of colors to adjust what was off.

When you are establishing values and colors on your faces, sometimes the accuracy you had in your sketch will be thrown off. Capturing these shadows are vital to making a person’s face look like the person you are trying to capture. Since shadows describe the contours and shapes of eyebrow ridges, noses, cheekbones, jawlines, and so many other parts on a human face, it’s important to realize that during the in-between stages, you won’t have an accurate likeness. It’s like a sculptor who has to chisel off many fragments of marble or wood to get the beautiful sculpture that was hiding inside the whole time.

Soon enough, I could see the likenesses taking shape.

That excitement of certain areas of the picture starting to look great then compels you to work even harder to get to the finish line of a signed portrait.

 

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo, Step 4

There was still a lot of detail work to do: many nuances to add in the clothing, details in the face and bricks in the church sign. It took a lot of patience, but it paid off. After about 35-40 hours, I had a finished painting!

Realistic Acrylic Portrait by Matt Philleo

Portrait of Pastor & Mrs. Philip Palser, 16 x 20, acrylic on canvas, 2005 by fine artist Matt Philleo

I presented this to my pastor and his wife at his 80th birthday party. They loved it. That was 12 years ago, by the way. He is now 92, and still preaches (although not as much as he used to) today!

So again, I want to encourage you: if you are painting a portrait in acrylic, the next time you feel like giving up at a certain part in the process, push past it and keep going. Continually refer back to your reference photo, and paint exactly what you see. If you don’t give up, you will have the confidence knowing that you can finish what you started, and your paintings will never get the best of  you. But you will give your paintings the best, and have something excellent to show for your efforts.

I’m writing this post on Good Friday, and this whole idea of finishing what you started, pushing past the difficulty, and seeing what good can come as a result, makes me think of Jesus’ passion. He could have decided as the going got tough–incredibly tough–knowing in advance what He would endure on the cross, to abandon his plan of providing salvation for the world by dying on the cross for our sins.

But instead, he headed for Jerusalem, knowing what would happen to Him there.

In the garden of Gethsemane, when it would have been easier to turn away from the preordained plan of experiencing God’s wrath for sin and even having His relationship with His father broken for a time, he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

And three days later, we all know…”the rest of the story.”

Portion of “Perfect Servant,” acrylic on canvas, 2002, by Matt Philleo

All this to say, there is great reward for not giving up, both in this life and the next. Happy Easter…and Happy painting!

–Matt

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A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

A Smoldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out, Part 1

What do you do when you feel like you are at the end of your rope?

I recently finished a painting called “Smoldering Wick,” which I’ve shared on Facebook a little bit, and many people have asked what it is about.

Even though I just finished the painting just at the end of last year, the idea came to me several years ago. I was feeling discouraged about certain things in my life that weren’t measuring up, my failures and mistakes glaring me in the face, and I wondered if God could forgive me.

Many times when I feel this way, I get on my knees, open up my Bible in front of me and ask God to speak to me out of His word. Although I know God is forgiving and that He also will help me in all my discouragement and difficulties in life, I want to experience this forgiveness and goodness from God.

I want to know He is right there with me.

Some people may be able to, but I have a hard time shutting of the floodgate of my feelings. When I feel down, I can’t just put a smile on my face and pretend everything is OK when, inside, I feel like I’m drowning.

And I’ve found from experience that nobody knows me like God, not even myself.

And nobody cares to listen to me pour out the bitterness of my soul like God.

And nobody has the answers that I so desperately need like God.

And so this is what I do. I seek the Lord until He comes and reigns His righteousness on me. I know if I spend enough time there before Him, sooner or later, He will break through the hardness of my heart, or mind, and unbelief will melt away, and His light will cascade down upon me, breaking through the darkness.

And this all comes through His word, in the Bible.

So it was that one day, that I sought the Lord in my time of need, and I came across this promise in Isaiah 42:

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, Jesus

Isaiah 42:3 ” A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

 

In another translation it says, ” a bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out…”

As I came across this verse, my heart was lifted up with joy. I felt the presence of God right there with me!

I knew that if I had even a flicker of a flame left burning for Him, He would not snuff it out.

In context, this verse, written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 B.C. was speaking prophetically of Jesus, who would be that suffering servant, God come in human flesh, the One would know what it was like to experience our pain, and could sympathize with us when were weak and beaten down.

And that’s exactly what I felt that day. It didn’t matter what I was going through, really. The trial that brought me up to this point, even if it was my fault. (Which it probably was) All that mattered was, God was in the house! God was in the room with me! And in experiencing that intimacy with Him: of His love, His faithfulness, His mercy, His gentleness, His kindness–I had everything I needed.

And so I wanted to commemorate this moment. Back in the Bible times, when God showed up, the ancient Israelites would put up a monument or a memorial stone to help them remember what God did for them. And so in the same way, I wanted to paint a picture to commemorate how God brought such encouragement to me! Also, I thought, “this may bring encouragement to someone else, if they get a glimpse of how kind, how patient God is with us.”

So I sketched it out. The title “Smoldering Wick” came right away. And then I thought, “I need to pick a time where they would use kerosene lamps to illuminate what they were trying to see,” so I picked the Victorian era.

Isaiah 42, the suffering servant, sketch

Original pencil sketch for “Smoldering Wick” by Matt Philleo

The servant would symbolize Jesus, who shows compassion on us when we are discouraged.

I wanted the pose of the man to communicate that feeling, with his hand on his master’s shoulder. The man would be obviously distraught, but reading the Bible for comfort.

Because I wanted this to be a large painting with a ton of detail, it wouldn’t be started for another couple years after doing this sketch. I was still working part time at delivering newspapers and later working at a local recycling facility, and between that and commissioned artwork, I didn’t have a lot of time to work on one of my own paintings.

But I had the sketch, and the idea was recorded. When the time was right, the next step was to get together the photography for the painting, so that it would look realistic enough to convey the emotion and the concept to whoever looked at it.

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The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

The Light of the World Shining in Our Darkness

Several times, I have wanted to give up being an artist. The end of last month was the most recent time.
After Thanksgiving, we had our “Small Business Saturday” sales event at Artisan Forge Studios.
But the day before I was very discouraged. The month of October and especially November were slow months, with not a lot of art sales or commissions.
Rent was overdue.  Our landlord called, after getting a partial payment on rent, and he wanted to know when we would bring our account up to date. I didn’t know the answer to that question. I didn’t know what to do–and I had already tried everything I knew. I felt like throwing in the towel.
Sharing these sentiments with my wife, she matter-of-factly and truthfully advised:
“God has always provided. He’s not going to stop now.” 
Feeling just a tiny bit better, I went to bed.
Artisan Forge Studios, a place of collaboration, painting, sculpture and more!

Artisan Forge Studios, 1106 Mondovi Rd, Eau Claire

The morning of the show I prayed, “God you’re a big God, so I am going to pray a big prayer. I pray that I would sell ‘Smoldering Wick’ (my biggest and most detailed painting, a 30″ x 40″ ) today at the art show.”

 

There was only a trickle of people that came in. But I smiled even though I didn’t feel like it and talked about the painting and the message behind it to whoever showed interest. During the middle of the show, two middle-aged men came in, and drawn to the painting, they asked me what it was about. They listened openly to the spiritual message behind it, and although they didn’t seem to quite share the same perspective I had, they loved the luminosity of the brushwork and the compassion portrayed by the people within the picture.

 

Then, out of the blue, one man said to the other, “So, do you want to get it?”

 

My ears perked up. And I thought, What did I just hear you say?

 

And they discussed where they were going to put it, and if I took credit cards. I told them I could take their card on the spot with Square. So we rang up the sale and it went through! “Congratulations!” I told them as I shook their hands.

 

After they left, I prayed “Lord, what did you just do? I asked for that painting to sell and you answered!”

 

Well, needless to say, my family had rent money.

 

I later learned that the collectors of this painting  just happened “by chance” to show up at Artisan Forge Studios that Saturday, the day of the show.
Acrylic painting of realistic figures in Christian inspirational art

“Smoldering Wick”, 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas, 2016, by artist Matt Philleo of Eau Claire, in collector’s home.


The Lord has done this many times for us. You would think I wouldn’t worry, but I still often do. But my faith is growing little by little, and I’m amazed at what God does. And so, yes, it isn’t easy being a full time artist in some ways, but it’s an exciting ride! This is what I’ve been called to do. So I’m just stubborn enough to stick it out (with some encouragement from the right people) when many people maybe think I should have packed up my brushes a long time ago, and given up on the fantasy of being a full-time artist.

Although I’ve already posted some images of the painting on Facebook, I’ve had a lot of people ask what the painting “Smoldering Wick ” is all about. I will share more about that and the inspiration behind it down the road, but for now, I want to say it has everything to do with the “the Light of the World.”
Jesus is the “Light of the World.”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (Isaiah 9:2)
All of us were in darkness before Jesus came. Darkness in our sins, darkness in ignorance, or even willful disobedience. In my predicament here with the financial problem, I was in darkness. Not just the darkness of not having enough money to pay rent, but the despair of the feeling of hopelessness.  A lack of faith.
I think Jesus may have said to me, like He said to Peter, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”
Nevertheless, He answered my prayer. I didn’t feel so confident when I prayed it. But God, in His mercy, answered it. 
Now, should I have had more faith?
Yes.
But, God still answered my prayer, even with the little faith I had.  And so it gave me more cause to thank God for how kind He had been to me, as I realized I got far more than my feeble faith deserved.
My wife, who teaches the children’s Wednesday night Bible class at church, used a line as a metaphor for faith. She shot out a line with a sticky end and reeled in the object she desired as the kids watched. As long as she continued to reel, she would get what was attached to the end of the line. But if she set down the line, because reeling it in (or trying to get the object to stick) was too hard, she would never get the object at the end.
This is a powerful picture of faith and I still remember it.
It doesn’t take a rope to reel in a big fish. You just have to keep reeling it in with the line you have and not give up.
But, now, I want to say more about the object of our faith: there are many objects we want to pick up at the end of that line. But whatever the object is–maybe a better job, a nicer car, a relationship restored, healing for a disease, even forgiveness of our sins–and these all  may be good things to desire–ultimately the goal of receiving these transient things is to receive the true object of our faith, Jesus Christ. In other words, when we see how good He has been in answering our prayers and providing for our needs in the midst of the struggle, we will see Him more clearly. His generosity, His kindness, His consistency, His love, His power to deliver, His glory will be unfolded to us. When we see Jesus for who He is, we will be amazed. Our natural response will be to thank Him, to praise Him. And I don’t think there’s anything that pleases Him more, than when we rejoice at who He is.
Smoldering Wick, Bruised reed and the suffering servant,

“Smoldering Wick” 30 x 40, acrylic on canvas by painter Matt Philleo, with Isaiah 42

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4-5)
None of us have ever seen God, but we do “see Him” as we experience His truth in the Bible, coming alive as we read, believe, meditate upon, and live it out. We stand upon His promises and we watch them come to pass.
Jesus said as recorded in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus will breathe life into the smoldering wick: the soul with a flickering flame that still yearns to burn brighter.
May God’s riches blessings come to you this Christmas, as the Light of the World shines brightly upon your path!

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If you have any comments or questions about what I wrote, please leave me your feedback below at the very bottom of the page! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!
Just Passing Through

Just Passing Through

On my way to band practice at church last Thursday, I saw a vehicle with its flashers on.
Instinctively, I pulled over and asked if the motorist needed help. Apparently the clutch went out on his car, and to top it off, his cellphone didn’t work! So I let him use mine. He wasn’t able to get a hold of someone to help, and since he was on his way to work, he asked if it wasn’t too much trouble if I could drop him off.
 
“Absolutely,” I said. 
 
During our brief drive I got acquainted with him a little more. He was effusively thankful that I took him to work, even though I was supposed to be at band practice. He apologized that he caused me to miss my appointment.
 
“You are more important than that,” I shared. “God has been good to me. And so I just want to show that love to other people.”
 
As I chatted with this man, I discovered he was a Muslim. I briefly shared with him how I came to know Jesus (Isa is what Muslims call Him) and why I know I’m going to heaven not based on anything good I have done, but because of what He did for me. 
 
We did not argue theologically at all. He just listened to me share, and then he shared a bit about his beliefs, and about his job. And by that time, I dropped him off at his workplace and he thanked me again. 
 
“I want to let you know I love you, and may God bless you.” I added, as I shook his hand. “Call me if you need any more help.”
 
“Allah bless you, my new friend said, “and may he repay your kindness to me.”
 
This man did not have three heads. He did not cry “Allahu Akbar” and try to chop off my head. And yes, as a Christian, I do not agree with the teachings of Islam, since they do not acknowledge the deity and salvation of Jesus Christ. True, there may be a day–following the current trend–when America could become a Muslim nation. I’m not clueless about that. And of course we as American citizens should be able to protect ourselves at the moment where our loved ones lives may be in danger.
 
But how will I see these people today?
Middle Eastern man walking, public domain photo

Middle Eastern man walking, public domain photo

 
Will I see people different from me as a group first to fear and then to hate, or will I see them as people just like me…people who need the Lord?
Many Muslims are born into their religion, not knowing anything different. They want to have some assurance of heaven or paradise, like most people do, and they are taught that the only way they can possibly get that is through a lifetime of good works, or instantly through a martyr’s death. By contrast, Christians depend on the certainty of righteousness, given as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ, by His completed work on the cross.
The truth is, Muslims, like the rest of the lost world, are in the dark and need the light shined on them.
 
Recently, a guy I was chatting with mentioned how he was listening to a talk show that was talking about Muslims taking over our country, and he is prepared to get a gun and start taking them down.
 
Really?
 
You have to be careful what you listen to. 
 
American Flag, public domain photo

American Flag, public domain photo

 
As a Christian, I am not in the business of trying to save America. I’m trying to save–or rather let Christ in me–save people who live in America.
If America as we know it goes down, it is not the end of the world.
In the Bible, you don’t read Paul admonishing the Christians in Rome to rebel against the tyranny of Caesar, to look up to Rome as a shining city on a hill, or to keep the Empire from being overrun by pagan barbarians. No, he said pay your taxes, fear God, honor the king. Christians can lose their purpose and weary themselves out in trying to prop up a decaying system and culture. The culture will always be threatened by outside forces, often beyond our control. But regardless of the culture, people can always be reached.
 
All I know is I loved this man. Moments before, I was listening to a sermon on the radio, where the preacher said you don’t have to necessarily feel love. You can just intentionally choose to love. I asked God to help me with that. A moment later, He gave me an opportunity. And I believe, by faith, Jesus loved him through me.
 
He is not one of “them.”
 
He is a human being, created in the image of God, and should have every opportunity to be saved, just as I am, by God’s grace. He should be the recipient of mercy and love, just as all of us are.
 
And who can say that God hasn’t allowed Muslims to live in this country, even the large influx of recent refugees, so that the Christians in this land would reach out to them and share who Jesus is?
 
Please pray for this man to come to know Jesus. From what I understood in our brief conversation, there are others reaching out to him as well. 
 
"Passing Through," 15" x 30", Acrylic on Hardboard, by Matt Philleo

“Passing Through,” 15″ x 30″, Acrylic on Hardboard, by Matt Philleo

 
In the end, America is not my home. I’m on my way to a better country.
That’s what this painting, “Passing Through,” illustrates. I created this back in 2004, depicting a man who is obviously out of place, riding on a camel through a Midwestern town. If you are a Christian, you are just passing through this world as a traveler, on your way to your permanent residence in heaven!
 
I thank God for all the blessings I have in this country, but if every one were stripped away, I would still have my relationship with Christ, and that would be more than enough. And I want to others to enjoy that relationship with him too, whether they be called Catholic, Protestant, Jew, atheist, Buddhist or Muslim.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!
 
 
 
Father and Son Reunion

Father and Son Reunion

Will we get to see our lost loved ones again after we die?

This is a question that has both haunted and comforted humanity for thousands of years. The answers people have given to this question have caused the rise and fall of empires from ancient Egypt to the schism in the Catholic Church during the Reformation.

No book discusses this issue more plainly than the Bible. In its pages, you can find the meaning of life today and discover amazing hope for the next life as well. The Bible teaches clearly that all who believe in Jesus for salvation will get to see their lost loved ones, who have also believed, after death. It will be a glorious, happy reunion, where God promises to wipe every tear.

Here is what Jesus said about it in the book of John 11, verse 25:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”

Custom commissioned pencil portrait sketch, a memoriam, by artist Matt Philleo, completed in July 2016.

Custom commissioned pencil portrait sketch, a memoriam, by artist Matt Philleo, 16 x 20, completed in July 2016.

Earlier in the month, I finished this commissioned 16″ x 20″ drawing for a lady named Karla I met on Facebook through a mutual friend from church. She went through the unfortunate, tragic event of her husband disappearing almost four years ago and being declared dead. Then her son, who had special needs and health problems, died several months ago.

What incredible suffering and loss to have to go through! I could scarcely imagine it.

She asked me if I could draw a portrait of what their reunion might have been like in heaven.

I was thrilled to be able to draw this for her, to capture that special moment when her son, in the presence of Jesus, completely healed, jumped off his wheelchair and ran to see his daddy.

Here is what she wrote when I sent her the proof:

“I have not been able to stop crying….you captured something I cannot even explain!  I have never seen Jacob standing like that, so that REALLY got me and the look on Dave’s face is SOOOO spot on.  I can honestly picture this as what happened.  The joy for both of them must have been unreal.  Thank you so much!!!  I have time on Wed. all day if we could meet. Otherwise, just let me know what would work!”

Karla
And then after she received the actual drawing, she wrote this to share:
Commissioned pencil portrait by artist Matt Philleo, 2016, detail

Commissioned pencil portrait by artist Matt Philleo, 2016, detail

 

Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo's client, Karla, holding a drawing he did of her late son and husband in July 2016.

Pencil portrait artist Matt Philleo’s client, Karla S., holding a drawing he did of her late son and husband in July 2016.

My Mural and the Easter Story Part 3: “Alive with Him”

My Mural and the Easter Story Part 3: “Alive with Him”

Although this post is getting out a little late, seeing that Easter is already passed, I’d like to finish up on this series about the mural my friend Dave Mattison and I did. I saved the best part for last.

In the previous post, I showed you the image of the cross of Christ, and people stained by sin, desperately climbing out of the mire to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. All of us are in that predicament, and if all of us seek after God, we will find forgiveness flowing out from Calvary.

If we trust in the finished work of Christ–that He alone can save and wash away our sins by His blood, His death being the payment that makes us right before God, we are forgiven. The debt has been paid.

But God doesn’t stop there.

Why?

Because Jesus didn’t stop there. He died, but He didn’t stay dead in the tomb. He rose again. The stone was rolled away and the bones are not in the grave.

By the way, the historicity of Jesus resurrection is vital to the Christian faith. Jesus said He would rise again. His resurrection proved the claim that He is the Messiah who came not only to deliver the Jewish people but the Gentiles (most of us) as well.

Bethel Mural: "The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation" by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4' x 28", acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Bethel Mural: “The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4′ x 28″, acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Like the Paul the apostle said, “And if Christ is not raised, your faith is futile. You are still in your sins.” (I Corinthians 15:17)

Fortunately, proof of Jesus resurrection, although denied by some groups today, can be backed up by many accounts in the Bible, as well as a few outside the Bible, and by applying simple logic. I’m not going to go into depth on that in this post. If you want to read more on that subject, check out “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.

I want to write about the fact that Jesus’ resurrection gives us power to live a life free from the control of sin. Notice I did not say a life free from sin. I do not believe in sinless perfectionism. Some believe that once you become a Christian, it is possible to never sin again. If you are one of those people, tell me your secret! I haven’t found a person like this yet.

But if we are Christians, born again and bought by the blood of Christ, we are new creatures–alive from the dead, just like Christ is alive from the dead. We don’t live the way we used to.

As Christians, we live a life free from the control of sin.

I still have an old Zenith CRT television set in the living room–with the big glass front–you know, the “old school” TV that you often see sitting next to people’s garbage by the curb. My wife says I can’t get rid of it until it dies. I’ve had this thing since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1998! Unfortunately, it just keeps on going.

My Zenith behemoth of a TV.

My Zenith behemoth of a TV.

Fortunately, I do have a newer Vizio high-definition LCD in my upstairs room that I can use to watch the Packer games. Now imagine if I use the remote control for my old Zenith on that new Vizio. It’s not going to work. It’s not compatible with that TV. Even if I tried to program it to work for the Vizio, it still wouldn’t work, because the old remote doesn’t have the code for a new Vizio TV.

In the same way, as Christians, the old remote control of sin just isn’t compatible with who we are. Neither do the features of the old compare to the new.

We’re a completely different model.

I used to work at Sears as an electronics sales associate just when the new high definition flat screen TVs were hitting the market. The difference between the old and new technology is like night and day.

Sure, I can take my old analog Zenith, and hook up a converter box to it so I can still watch digital broadcasts, but it’s just not the same. The picture is downgraded and fuzzy. (I can’t even make out the scoreboard in a Packer game!) It’s not even close to the clarity you get watching a high-definition broadcast on a high definition TV.

To get the full picture, to get the benefits of being a Christian–peace, joy, a life free from the control of sin–I’ve got to be living like I’m a new person.

And if I am born again, I am a new person, a new creation in Christ and I have those benefits available to me. Why would I want to enjoy the show (live my life) on the old set when I’ve got the new?

But becoming and living as a Christian is more than just a choice that we make. It is a work of God, transforming us from something dead into something alive. And no, this is not like Frankenstein’s monster, who was an hideous amalgamation of body parts stitched together from various corpses, animated by a massive spark of electricity. We are beautiful, a unique masterpiece created by God!

As an artist, I can appreciate that. I tell you what, in the middle of doing a painting, sometimes it looks pretty sketchy. My wife has peeked in on me while I’m working on a portrait, and said, “Matt, it doesn’t look like them. I’m not sure if you can pull this one off.”

Um, thanks.

Well, she knows I can take it! It’s a work in progress. With God’s help, sooner or later, I almost always “pull it off.”

Before and After: Portrait of Pastor and Mrs. Palser, acrylic on canvas

Before and After: Portrait of Pastor and Mrs. Palser, acrylic on canvas

Now think about God–the master artist. How much more is He going to be able to “pull it off?” I tell you, He’s going to be able to finish the work He started in you, every time. Just don’t be a canvas that runs away out of the studio! Let the Master do His thing.

“And He died for all, that those who live, should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

Are you a part of “all”? Then this applies to you too. When we are trust in Jesus, have faith in Him, and are born again, because of the work God has done in us, we won’t even want to live for ourselves. Our natural response will be to live for the one who gave us life, out of gratitude, not out of begrudging duty. God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us to follow Him too. In the mural, that is symbolized by the dove. The Holy Spirit is gentle and yet very powerful. Jesus gave Him to us as a gift.

Bethel Mural: "The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation" by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4' x 28", acrylic on panel, Panel 4 and 5

Bethel Mural: “The Gospel from Genesis to Revelation” by artists Dave Mattison and Matt Philleo, 4′ x 28″, acrylic on panel, Panel 4, detail

If you’ve been a Christian for a while like me (15 years now) you can lose the spark you once had as you begin to think you have to do certain things to keep yourself saved or acceptable before God. You may find reading your Bible, praying, going to church, talking to others about Jesus is not exciting or even interesting like it once was.

There is only one thing that will truly motivate you to live a life pleasing to God. Remember what Jesus did for you on the cross, and thank Him. 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

When your world is falling apart, remember that Jesus has risen. Out of the darkness and despair of of the crucifixion, Jesus arose, emerging out of the tomb, like a conqueror, with his foot on the neck of Death. He will enter into your life if you let Him, and light will arise in the darkness!

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