Made in the Image of God

Created in the Image of God

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[1] The imago Dei has been a doctrine of debate for many years. “Theological anthropological claims were derived by applying the general account of creatureliness to human creatures in particular, qualified by the claim that what distinguishes them as specifically human is that God creates them into the image of God.”[2] Throughout the centuries, people have been in many discussions and studies about what it means to be made in God’s image. There are many theories from being made in the image of love, to being a good and moral person, to having the creative ability to steward and care for the earth, to…I’m sure many other ideas. All of which point to the character and personhood of God. Just what is the image of God? What does this mean for humankind and its identity? What are the implications for salvation and life everlasting?

For a while, I have fallen into the camp of saying God is love and we are created in the image of love, but I have come to better understand this is true, yet not a complete understanding. Why? Because of the way love is defined in our current culture—more dealing with feelings than as a way of life. Another way I have understood the image of God is we have morality within us. It is true humanity has the moral law written on our hearts. This is why we can determine what is right and what is wrong. Duane Stephen Long writes, “The moral life has its origin in our creation in the image of God and its end in our restoration and return to that image.”[3] But I have some reservations about this. Is the imago Dei “just” about morality? Are we not considered “moral” when we move on from this life? Or does “morality” take on a new meaning, or dimension, when we transition into the next life?

Now we come to, what I think is, the real issue—who is God and what is God like? I also believe how we live out our life shows what we believe about the nature and person of God within us. When we take the time to study, reflect on, and pray about who and what we are, we can begin to understand our purpose in this world because we understand there is a deep level to goodness there is within the world, and within the nature and character of God. “The triune God is complete goodness…the triune God is the perfect fullness of being…God loves his own goodness such that he seeks to share it. This occurs through the second person of the Trinity, who is the image of God.”[4] Our entire life should point and be directed to the Son, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ to best understand the image of God.

To this end, I am concluding the image of God is about relationship. To be made in God’s image shows we can have a deep relationship with the creator, other people, ourselves, and creation. One of the things to understand is God is in relationship with Godself through the Trinity. The Trinity, the relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, show us it is possible to live in perfect harmony and peace with others. I believe this is God’s intent—we live, with the Spirit of God dwelling with us, in perfect harmony and peace with everyone and everything around us while we take care of and tend to the created order, as God would do here since we are the image-bearers of God and God’s representatives here on earth. As Stephen Fowl writes, “In creation God freely wills not simply the existence of humans created in the image of God, but God also desires fellowship with humans, offering them a share in the divine life. This is both the intention with which God created and the end for which God created.”[5] And everything was all well, and good, until, free will got the best of humans and the divine image within humanity became marred through the entry of sin and evil in our world.

Image of God Broken Within Us

Humanity was created to be God’s image-bearers on earth and take care of the created order. “The issue at stake, rather, is the theological account of the specific relationship of two causalities to each other—the triune God, creator and redeemer, and the human being, created in the image of God and existing under the condition of sin.”[6] Now that we understand this concept, we have to take responsibility and respond to God. We can either accept gratefully this image and task, or we can reject it. When we reject God, this response, “may take the form of efforts ‘to be self-constituting and isolated being’, i.e. the form of sin that distorts the image of God vertically and horizontally.”[7]

Because of sin, we easily lose our divine purpose, within us, and end up making ourselves made into the image of anything else that makes us happy. Thus, idolatry, greed, murder, thievery, adultery, etc. become the “gods” we seek after to fulfill us and we have allowed these other “gods” to lead us to live a life for us rather than the life God created for us. We continue to mar the image of God within us by reshaping our lives by the relationship(s) we have with other entities we feel are more valuable than the life of God within us. We miss out on living out the divine relationship of the Trinity in which we have been created. Why? “Sin obtains, with the consequence that the entire relations that constitute persons is distorted or ‘fallen’”[8] meaning we have lost our way, our purpose, and our identity. Unfortunately, because the reality of sin and evil, has entered into our world, and every human, there is nothing we can do, on our own, to change our relationship with God and restore us to the divine image.

What happens next is humanity will begin to seek after other things, people, statuses to believe they have found who they are and what their purpose is for life. Idols and idolatry now come into view, which distorts the vision humans have of themselves and the created order even more. We think we can “fix” this problem on our own, so we will do everything possible to try to “earn” God’s favor and acceptance, but we can end up making things worse because our focus is not on God but on ourselves and how we want God to fix us so our lives are better. It is too easy to treat God as our magic genie, who works for us, and expect God to do our bidding, thus attempting to make God an idol who works for us. We need the grace of God. We need God to do something, to intervene in our lives to make this change for us. We need God to remind us who we are and replace the image of ourselves once again with the divine image to restore all relationships in this world.

God Reveals Himself

Due to the fall (sin and evil becoming attached to human life and existence), humanity had lost so much of its identity concerning how to be in relationship with God, others, self, and creation, that is it impossible for us to restore the relationship status we were created in without any assistance. Therefore, God sent the Son, Jesus the Christ, as the one who would save and atone for the sins of the world. What this means is God descended from heaven to show the people of Israel (eventually the world) what it means to be human and live into the divine image. To best reveal himself to the world, God sent Jesus, the human revelation of God in flesh. Jesus is the way we can experience a restored relationship with God, others, self, and creation.

Before Jesus came, humanity did not have a full revelation about who God is and what God’s nature is like because God revealed small amounts of the divine character at different points in history (see Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets). Humanity was not able to grasp the richness and deepness of God, so God needed to send a full representation of himself to show the world who he is and what his character is like. Jesus is this revelation for humanity. In Colossians 1:15, the Apostle writes out a hymn and confession of faith that was taught to teach about who Jesus is. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”[9] The revelation of God has been made known through Jesus the Christ. Without Jesus, God would still be unknowable, in the manner we can know God today. Therefore, humanity would not know the divine image given to humanity at creation. It is also through the Holy Spirit, within us, we can more fully understand who we are because of the image of God by leading us to Jesus Christ. “The gift of the Holy Spirit invites us to participate in the life of God by drawing us into the life of the Son.”[10]

Made in the Image of Christ

“As a human person who is the image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ is not merely a spirit or soul but an embodied human being.”[11] Jesus is the way humanity can personally know God—who God is, what the character of God is like, and thus who we are, as people. “To know who God is, the theological virtue of faith is necessary.”[12] To be restored to the image of God, God allowed humanity to have faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…”[13] Jesus tells his disciple, Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”[14] To know Jesus is to know God. To know God is to know who God is. To know who God is reveals who we are. To know who we are reveals the divine nature within us. To know the divine nature within us reveals how we should live, in relationship with God, other people, ourselves, even the created order.

Jesus has been made known to the world, and now humanity can know what it means to be made into the image of God by being recreated, reformed into the image of Christ because of God’s grace through our faith we direct back to God through Jesus the Christ. The image of Christ does everything possible to proclaim and connect the world with the already yet coming kingdom of God. We can see how this is carried out within the pages of the New Testament.

“In the New Testament the imago is identified with Jesus…the imago was not fulfilled at creation but rather is a divinely given eschatological destiny. This destiny is fulfilled by the eschatological Spirit, who, transforming human beings by incorporating them ‘in Christ’…drawing them into participation in the divine life.”[15] One of the ways we can see this lived out and practiced is in the letters of Paul to the people at Corinth. He writes, “Follow [imitate me] my example, as I follow [imitate] the example of Christ.”[16] To fully live into the divine image, we (humanity) need to follow the example of and imitate the life of Jesus. It is in Jesus Christ the image of God is fully lived out. We, humanity, now have the chance to display and live into love, morality, joy, peaceful relationships, etc. because this is all part of the divine image, the imago Dei. This is all possible by placing and grounding our faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith, in Christ, is where this transformation begins. “Persons are re-created, the image of God restored, when they are conformed to Christ.”[17] “The theological virtues, gifts, and beatitudes restore us into the image of God, Christ, whose life is the foundation for this restoration. Through his incarnation and its meditation through the church in word and sacrament, we participate in his righteousness.”[18] This kind of life leads us to the gift of salvation and understanding how we should live, in this life, and in the life to come.

Salvation and the Goal of Salvation

For people to fully realize a life lived in and with the imago Dei, humanity needs to be recreated into the original image God intended. Nothing will be set right, no relationship will ever be peaceful or just until the imago Dei is fully restored in the life of the follower of Christ. This begins a process of being recreated, being made new in Christ. In the process of being made new, being recreated, this does not take away our uniqueness, it simply means the essence of who we are (our motives and focus in this world) will be recreated and re-centered around the God who created us. “Re-created persons truly image God. Thus personhood is inherently centered outside itself. Since, as created, personhood is already intrinsically related to God, God’s relating to re-create does not threaten person’s autonomy and subjectivity.”[19] All of this is made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul reminded the people of Corinth, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here!”[20] Humanity can, and will be recreated into something new, something that God intends, something that will allow humanity to dwell and live with God in life everlasting, or as N.T. Wright says, “life after life.” This is the goal of salvation–theosis.

Theosis (divinization) is not, of course, a ‘becoming God’, but being made into the ‘likeness’ of God, which means being drawn much more deeply into the relationships in which God exists as a Trinity of love…salvation is a ‘coming closer to God’ or an ‘ever intensifying relationship.’”[21] What this means is humanity moves closer and closer to the original design of perfect relationships whole, at the same time, moving away from the relationship and damage of a life guided and lived under the curse of sin.

One of the beautiful aspects of salvation is the past, present, and future aspects of the working of God in our lives. We have been saved. We are saved. We will be saved. God’s act of salvation is constantly moving us closer and closer to the divine and deeper and deeper into the divine relationship. With each act of God, we realize more and more of the divine image within us and we can see how God, because of the work of Jesus Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit, is moving us to live into more of the divine image. Forgiveness of the sin nature within us is transforming the marred part of us and transforming the sin nature back into the imago Dei.

What Does This Mean?

Restoring the divine image within us, transforming us into the image of Christ, means God is making us whole. We will not have to think there is something we’re missing out on because we find our completeness in the presence of God. After all, we will find God’s image within us and working through us. It is our relationship with God that makes us whole. Being whole means we see how we are set apart—made holy. This is the goal of reclaiming the imago Dei in us. We become a set-apart people shining forth God’s light, love, and character into the world. We live into the Great Commission (going, teaching, baptizing, making disciples) because this is who we were created to be and because we have a deep longing for others to know, realize, and live into the divine image within themselves too. How cool is it, God gave us the Holy Spirit to know God personally and to know God is guiding, directing, encouraging us each step of the way to not forsake or quench the Spirit within us, but to become more and more into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ? This is the image the world needs today and what the world needs to see so transformation can take place and we can visibly witness the kingdom of God reigning and ruling in this world. We become, by the grace of God, new creatures, transformed into whole and holy people doing the work, and living the life, God originally intended for God’s people.


[1] Genesis 1:1a; 26a, 27 New International Version

[2] J.B. Webster. The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 122

[3] Ibid, 460

[4] Ibid, 460

[5] Ibid, 348

[6] Ibid, 291

[7] Ibid, 132

[8] Ibid, 132

[9] New International Version

[10] J.B. Webster. The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 460

[11] Ibid, 75

[12] Ibid, 460

[13] 1 John 5:1 New International Version

[14] John 14:9 New International Version

[15] J.B. Webster. The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 129

[16] 1 Corinthians 11:1 New International Version (my addition of imitate)

[17] J.B. Webster. The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 132

[18] Ibid, 461

[19] Ibid, 132

[20] 2 Corinthians 5:17 New International Version

[21] J.B. Webster. The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 176

REDEEMED: The Unfamily Becomes Family

Last week, I invited you to think about your faith story and how you are different because of the grace of Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t for his mercy and his grace, we would not be able to experience hope, joy, love, and peace in this world. We would constantly shift from emotion to emotion. That kind of rollercoaster emotional ride is challenging. But because of the firm foundation Christ’s grace can and does offer, we are able to experience the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

As you think about your life before and after Jesus Christ, think about how powerful it is to have gone from not knowing the family of God to coming into full knowledge of what it means to be part of the family of God. We really go from not feeling like we belong to realizing that through God’s grace we can become his children and have a Father in heaven we belong to (John 1:12).

The story of Ruth is a great story of redemption. Throughout this season of Lent, we have been examining and discussing our redemption through Jesus Christ. I invite you to read this week’s passage, Ruth 4:13-17. To put this passage into context, feel free to read the entire book (it’s only 4 chapters long).

Ruth decided she was not going to leave Naomi, her mother in law, as she was going back to her home land. Naomi had lost her husband and her sons, so she had no more family ties where she was living. Naomi was lost. Ruth, a Moabite (foreigner), her daughter in law, said she was not going to leave her. Naomi told Ruth to stay and get a new husband. Ruth did not listen to the request, and went on with Naomi.

I wonder if you have ever felt like Naomi at times. Walked through times when it seems like no one else would be there for you. Even wondered whether or not you belonged. In times like this, we would try to turn down the offer of our friends and family to be with us because we would not want to burden them.

But, aren’t you eventually glad there are people who stick by us even when we don’t want them to, or ask them to? We should be joyful we have people that want to be with us in times of grief, despair, loneliness. However, there are times when it just feels like we don’t belong.

I am sure there are people who might read this blog post today who find themselves in this situation. I am sure there are people who are wanting and are trying to show their friends they are loved, they belong. These are people we should keep in our lives.

See, when we read the story of Ruth, we can see how Naomi lost her family and Ruth was not part of a family (after her husband died). This can leave us in a pit of despair. But God. Those two words change everything about our lives and our circumstance. But God used Naomi’s one of relatives (Boaz) to restore their position in society and put them back in relationship with a family. Ruth bore a son. It is through her lineage that came our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Just like Naomi and Ruth finding a new place in a family, we find that Jesus Christ brings us into his family. We are grafted into the family of the King of kings. We belong. As we look at the cross, we see just how much Jesus wanted to have us know the love and grace of God.

You belong. Trust and know that God loves you.

If there has been someone who has walked with you through hard times, I invite you to find a way to say “thank you.”

May the joy of the Living God continue to fill you life with a sense of joy and of belonging.

NOTE: This is based upon a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

“Prayer and Praise Week 1”

Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love endures forever.” ~1 Chronicles 16:34 CEB

November is the time that giving thanks, or at least these words, are at the forefront of our conscience. We tend to be thankful for all we have, all we have been blessed with, and the people in our life that we like. These are all great things to be thankful for. God’s presence in our lives is another thing we give thanks for.

This year, we should challenge ourselves to giving thanks for what have have and what we experience beyond our preferences. The season of Advent begins in 29 days. Advent is the time we prepare our hearts for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, God in flesh, in our lives and within us. To help with this, let’s have 28 days of “Giving Thanks.”

This will be a different way of giving thanks. Instead of pausing each day to say thanks to another person, or to God, we get to give thanks for how we are able to be present in the lives of those around us, even “those people” we don’t like, or think are not good enough. When we do this, we have great opportunities to show the world God working through people. We never know, exactly, how what we do impacts another person.

So this week, we challenged to do the following:

  1. Ask your restaurant server, or cashier, what you can pray for them. Then pray then and there.
  2. When shopping, tell the cashier “thank you for your work.”
  3. Tell a family member how much you appreciate them and what you appreciate about them.
  4. Tell a friend what you appreciate about them.
  5. Write and mail a handwritten note to someone you haven’t seen in awhile.
  6. Invite a friend, or someone you talk to while running errands or at work, to join you in worship to have a chance to experience God through Jesus Christ.
  7. Take time to thank God for being in your life, through the joy, sorrows, frustration, times of plenty and times of lacking

These are much more than simply random acts of kindness. After each day, spend some time thanking God for giving you the opportunities to help and be present in another person’s life. We give God glory and praise when we are present and helping the last, the least, and the lost in the world and thank Him for the blessing in our life, which involves the opportunities to show God in the world.

Will you take this challenge? I pray you do.

Assurance of Life

Mark 10:29-31 Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.”

Each day this week, we have been talking about letting go of what we’re holding on to that keeps us from truly experiencing grace. This passage today is one of the reasons Jesus is appealing to me. He shows that we shouldn’t have to worry about what position we have in this life because in the eyes of Christ, it’s not that important.

We can have may reasons why we should be in a certain position and placement. Jesus is basically saying here that we should not think higher of ourselves than we should. Jesus is with us in this life, and the next life. This is something incredible!

Becoming a Christian and believing in Christ means that we will have some separation from our “old” way of living to the way we are now called to live. This can and will feel painful to our human side; but there is so much more after coming to faith in Christ. We do not have to worry about what we have left behind because the life Christ lives with us now and the life to come is so much better.

Yes, there will be challenges and people trying to make us drop our faith; but Christ is with us. Hold on to this as you journey through your life! Jesus is with you and will not leave you!

Next week we begin a new five day series on Mark 10:32-45. The sermon is called “Being Great.”

Have a blessed weekend!

Ministry

images

Colossians 1:24-29 Now I’m happy to be suffering for you. I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body. I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory. This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ. I work hard and struggle for this goal with his energy, which works in me powerfully.

Working in the church is hard work. Being in mission and ministry with people is tough. It can often feel like we are the ones suffering. Even though we are the ones walking with those suffering, it can be real to us. We also may really be suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally. However we view the work, one thing is certain: it truly is a joyful thing to be in the business of God and of people.

Not all of us may be pastors, but we are all ministers and missionaries. We are ministers because we can walk alongside people through life in any situation. We are missionaries because we are all ordained to take the message of Jesus Christ to all we encounter. We do not have to go out of town, out of state or even out of the country to talk with people about Jesus Christ. We can do that right in our own homes, neighborhoods and businesses. We may be harassed because of our faith or because of our views; but we should still be joyful in delivering the message of God’s grace through Jesus Christ to all we encounter, no matter how they react.

Sometimes it may seem to other people that we are carrying a “secret message” from God. The reason, I believe it is a secret is because heart may not be open to hearing and receiving the message. So what do we do? We pray for God to act. God acts. We work where God is working because God is working everywhere and we have prayed to have open eyes and hearts to see what God is doing where we are.

Ministry is hard work; but it is also very rewarding spiritually. We’ll end this post today with the last verse of this chapter: “I work hard and struggle for this goal (teaching and warning people) with his energy, which works powerfully in me.”

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Grace With You

grace3

Ephesians 6:21-24 Tychicus, my loved brother and faithful servant of the Lord, can inform you about my situation and what I’m doing. I’ve sent him for this reason—so that you will know about us. He can reassure you. May there be peace with the brothers and sisters as well as love with the faith that comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ forever. 

Paul always ends his letters with a statement of grace. Even though there are times when he had to scold the congregations he planted, he wanted them to know and live into the grace that God was giving. I believe we could take the example of Paul and be sure to send people who will keep information correct about us, but also be there to support and build up the community.

These are trusted people by Paul and he knows their gifts and graces. Paul sends Tychicus because he knows the job he will do and that he will be able to reassure the people. Can you imagine what it would be like to have you leader thrown in jail and you are carrying on after this happened. What must have been going through their minds. But Paul is as calm as he can be and find great excitement in showing people the love of God in all his words and actions. This is Paul’s purpose.

He also longs for there to be peace among the brothers and sisters because there can be strife; but Paul wants the people to live in peace because this is the life that Christ calls us to. Peace even when everything seems to be going wrong around us. This peace is not just everything working out; but it is an inward peace which we have opened ourselves up to to show we are trusting in the Living God. This peace and faith comes through Jesus Christ and is offered to those who love the Lord Jesus Christ forever.

Paul’s salutation is full of life and grace. Is this how we leave people when we’re not around them? How can we work with God toward bringing the message of peace to those who need it most?

#TheGospelChangesUs

Family

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Galatians 3:25-29 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.26 You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. 

Here is one of the things I love about the letter to the Galatians. In Christ everyone is equal. What an amazing thought. Those who do not have are equal with those who do have because of Christ. Those who are uneducated are equal with those who are educated because of Christ. Those who are ___(fill in the blank   are equal with those who are        (fill in the blank)   because of Christ.

When we are baptized into the faith, we have been clothed with Christ. What does this mean to be clothed in Christ? Colossians chapter 3 gives a good definition of this. 12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.”  And because we have been clothed in Christ, we are reminded we are children of God along with the people we may not like or agree with.

Another thing that I find amazing, again, is that when we are baptized into the faith, we join all of the other believers through history, even down to Abraham and Noah! We are part of a huge family of God. We do not always get along with our own family members but we can still love them and do what we are able to to guide them in their life and faith.

Let’s see this verse again (which also appears in Colossians 3): There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female; Aggie or Longhorn; black or white; purple or gold; American or (other country), for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

God’s family is bigger than we sometimes want to think about. But we are free to live as a family, especially as a family of God.

#LiveFreeInChrist