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Is it a sin to have a picture of Jesus?

Currently I’m preaching through a series called “Live the 10; God’s design for true life." It has been a convicting series on the 10 commandments and we’re only on week three.

Anyhow, this past Sunday we looked at the second commandment which says “You shall not make for yourself and idol in the form of anything in the heaven above or the earth beneath or the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”  Exodus 20:4-6.

In this blog post I don’t plan to repeat the sermon (if you want to listen to it go to the right God, the right way), instead I want to respond to one question in particular that keeps popping up in response to the sermon.

I’ve had a number of conversations coming out of Sunday and most of them boil down to some variation of this question:  "I have a picture of Jesus on my computer screen saver, or on the wall of my house, is this a sin?"

In preparing for the message last week I read a chapter in the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer (A great read BTW). I really like what Packer says about the problem with pictures and other man-made images that are used for devotional purposes.

“. . . as soon as the images are treated as representational rather than symbolic (symbolic here meaning that the image points to God and representational meaning the image represents God), they begin to corrupt the very devotion they trigger. Since it is hard for us as humans to avoid this pitfall, wisdom counsels once more that the better, safer way is to learn to do without them. Some risks are not worth taking."

In other words, rather than see how close we can get to the line of sinning against God by worshipping a false image of him, Packer says, and I agree with him, don’t even go there. Get rid of the picture or statue or icon (and not by selling it on E-bay). Wouldn’t it be better to throw it out, rather than run the risk of it becoming a representational image of the Triune God thereby distorting your view of him and robbing him of the glory due his name?

Remember true worshippers, the kind the Father is seeking, worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). This means we don’t need or use visual aids to worship the Triune God. We worship the one, true, living God by faith, not in what is seen but, based on God’s revelation of himself in his Word – the Bible.

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