From the Pastor

Made in the Image of God

October 24, 2013

When God made human beings, His purpose was to make us in His image:

Genesis 1:26-27Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

In what way did God create us in His image? Some people point to the fact that human beings – unlike the other creatures – have reason, self-awareness, creativity; and therefore this reflects the image of God. This is true – but it is not the whole truth.

If we are to understand what His image looks like we have to ask what is God like? Fundamentally, God is love – and therefore to be the image of God means to love as God loves. God is not only love. He is also joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and goodness and self-control (Gal. 56:22-23). If we are to reflect the image of God then we must also reflect these characteristics.

We read in Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

When God created Adam and Eve, He created them very good. They were not just good-looking, but they were created good. They were created to live in relationship with God, who is good. They walked together and talked together with God in the garden (cf. Amos 3:3). They lived in union and communion with God.

But were they perfect? If they had been perfect they would not have sinned. God is perfect. And God says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). That’s the standard! Were Adam and Eve perfect? No, they weren’t. They sinned! If they were perfect like their heavenly Father they would not have sinned, for God cannot sin (Titus 1:2).

They were tempted by Satan. In this they did not reflect the image of God either, for God cannot be tempted (James 1:13 – “... For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone”).

So, we see that Adam and Eve, while they were created in the image of God, did not yet fully reflect the image of God. They were still able to be tempted. They were still able to sin. God had determined that He would not complete the process of creating them in His image without their consent and participation. He wanted mankind to freely choose to live with Him in a relationship of love and obedience. In order to give them a choice, God set two trees before them. They could choose to eat of the tree of life and live in obedience to the will of God, or they could choose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and live their life independently of God – choosing for themselves how they would live.

In choosing the Tree of Knowledge Adam and Eve rejected the completion of their creation in the image of God and chose to do what was right in their own eyes. They chose to seek what they saw as best for themselves. They began to live the way of “get”, of selfishness and self-interest, the way of greed and competition. They rejected God’s way, the way of loving, giving, sharing, of sacrificing for the welfare of others. They marred and
disfigured the image of God in them.

There has only been one human being who has perfectly reflected the image of God. And that was Jesus Christ. He is the perfect image of God because He is God – God in human flesh. Jesus not only reveals to us who God is: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9); He also shows us our true humanity. He is what God intended us to be when He created us – to be the image of Himself. We are to be without sin – as Jesus was without sin. We are to resist temptation as Jesus resisted temptation. We are to lay down our lives for others – as Jesus laid down His life for us. We are to reflect the image of God by living the way of loving, sharing, giving. We are to be perfect as Jesus was perfect.

How can we do this? This is way beyond our human ability. No man or woman can perfect himself or herself. No matter how hard we might try we cannot transform ourselves into the image of God. Rather, it is God who seeks to conform us to the image of Christ (Gal. 4:19). Only the God who is holy can make us holy, and He does this by uniting us to His Son. Through our union with Jesus, God is at work conforming us to His image. As Paul writes:

I Corinthians 3:18And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

It is the Holy Spirit that is at work in each of us conforming us to the image of Jesus. It is God’s work and He will complete it. But He does not do it without our cooperation. He wants us to choose the Tree of Life, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to offer ourselves up to Him as living sacrifices, to say no to self and yes to Him.

We continually fall short of our high calling in Christ. But in spite of this, God is able to accomplish what He has set out to do. This is why we look to Him, and not to our efforts. There will come the day when we will stand before Him without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Philippians 3:20-21 “... our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

We will be conformed to His image. The apostle John says the same thing:

I John 3:2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

And John goes on to say, “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (I John 3:3). If it is God’s desire and purpose to conform us to His image – if this is His focus in our lives – where is our focus? Is our goal to see God’s purposes fulfilled in us, or are we more focused on our own comfort and well-being. Are we more concerned about the things of God or the things of this world? We need to all strive to be more consciously aware of why we are here and what God is doing.

I Thessalonians 5:23-24May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

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